I recently took part in an interview for my former university magazine about what it is like building my fashion career while living abroad. The reason I took part in the interview was because moving to Italy (and the extensive traveling I did before university) are some of the most important experiences I have had and have helped to shape me as a person. I hoped that by speaking about my positive experience it would encourage anyone considering studying or working abroad to pursue their dream, because it really can lead you to wonderful places. In the interview I spoke a lot about how studying abroad and afterwards moving abroad to pursue a career in fashion has changed my life and led to so many positive developments, both professionally and personally.
With this in mind I have decided to include on here a list of the positives and negatives of living and working abroad to give more advise to anyone who is thinking about making the jump. In regards to the ‘negatives’ section, I have included this because I think it is important to give a balanced description of what to expect when moving abroad. Generally my experience here has been incredible, but it isn’t always sunshine and fun, and so I think it is important to be real. I hope you find it helpful, and if you want anymore advise about building your fashion career abroad, please get in touch in the comment below!
- You can travel the world while building for your future. Living abroad allows me to experience life in a different culture, learn languages, try new food, see new places and meet amazing people. But unlike when I was backpacking in South America, I am also working everyday which means I am gaining invaluable experience as a Fashion Stylist, building my professional network and increasing my Styling portfolio. These are things that will help me in my future even if I decide to move back home.
- It can take you in any direction. When I moved back to Milan after university I knew I wanted to work in Fashion but I was torn between two area to specialize in. I arranged a meeting with an international Stylist to ask advise about breaking into the industry in Milan, one thing led to another, and I now work in Styling . It was something I was always considering, but following this career path was the best decision I could have made. I now spend everyday doing a job I feel extremely passionate about and love every minuet of. It was moving to Milan that allowed me to follow this, so you never know what opportunities might present themselves for you.
- Provides inspiration and develops creativity. Working in a different culture exposes me to different working styles and ways to be creative. It has also introduced me to many fashion brands, Italian style, photographers, artists, architecture, exhibitions and culture. All these things combine to provide me with new kinds of inspiration which develop my ideas and direction as a Stylist.
- When you have to travel for work, you also discover beautiful new places. On a few occasions I have been lucky enough to travel to locations for photo shoots. In the last year I have been to Venice, Cortina and rural Liguria for shoots and so, as well as doing my job, I have also been able to explore more of Italy.
- In your free time you get to be a tourist. When I am not working I use my free time to explore Milan, visit the sights and museums, try new food and study Italian. Its like being a tourist but its also my home.
- The language barrier can sometimes be tough. I arrived in Italy speaking only a little bit of Italian, so when I first started working it could be REALLY hard. Not only do I work flat out but also in a language that isn’t my own, which can be confusing/exhausting. I still have a long way to go with my Italian, but as I have improved, work has gotten easier. You just need to be prepared to work harder than those who are native speakers.
- Be prepared to work twice as hard to establish yourself. Being foreign sometimes does make it hard for me to establish myself. I don’t have all my contacts I made at university, I am speaking in a different language and I am new to the culture. For me, thats fine because i love to be challenged and I love seeing the positive results of my hard work, but be prepared to work twice as hard at everything than you would if you were at home.
- You leave your friends and family at home and it can be hard to meet new people. Especially in Milan, a city where everyone is trying to make it, it can be hard to meet people and make friends. Lucky for me I have made some amazing and welcoming friends here and make the effort to see my friends and family at home as much as I can. But at the start it could be hard. You just have to get yourself out there, join clubs & groups and speak to people even if it seems a bit scary at first!
But really, if you are thinking about moving abroad to work, whether in fashion or another industry, just go for it! For me the positives have always outweighed the negatives and working as a Fashion Stylist and living in Milan is one of the best experiences I have had.