In many ways, studying abroad provides a clean slate. You find yourself in a new city (heck, on a new continent!), thrown into an altogether new culture, surrounded by new people who know nothing about you. Life becomes very…new.
It's within this newness that our students find the space to reinvent themselves while studying abroad or interning, and one of the most common avenues for that reinvention is fashion.
In the spirit of Paris Fashion Week, we asked our Ambassadors to tell us how they experimented with fashion while studying abroad. Spoiler alert: We were struck by how many of them jumped to the opportunity to explore their identities in this way. Read on to find out what they had to say!
Exploring Fashion While Studying Abroad
John Cole | IES Abroad Shanghai
"Going to China allowed me to change up my look while still retaining some core elements of my wardrobe and style. As someone who normally likes to step outside of the box with my fashion, for example, adorning myself with jewelry (pendants and bracelets), I went even further with new options open to me in Shanghai. For example, at local markets I bought several rings and began wearing those. While traveling on weekends, I bought bead bracelets and necklaces from vendors in smaller cities or historic sites. I experimented with different colors and patterns on my clothing (particularly my shirts) that I didn't often see in China. Many people are focused on brand names, whereas I am focused on color and texture. In muted tones of black, white, and brown, I starkly contrasted with my bright yellow Shanghai Jiaotong University hoodie or patterned dress shirts and ripped jeans. Take your time abroad to reinvent yourself."
Charlotte Seay - IES Abroad Milan
"I have always enjoyed fashion and buying clothes, but my style has definitely changed while abroad. When I step out for the day into the city, I knew that I had to dress for the whole day. That means I couldn't walk out in sweats or pj's like a typical American. I have always put effort into my outfits, but I definitely began to incorporate more vintage and simple vibe. Something that I would feel stylish anywhere I would go. I learned how to pack better when traveling so I could still feel and look good, but not overdo it. I became more invested in accessories rather than clothing pieces. I feel like to spice up any fit, a necklace, hand-crafted earrings, or rings can make you feel and look different. I will truly miss all of the street markets and their wonderfully made accessories. Studying abroad pushed me break away from fads and trends and explore the fashion and beauty around me."
Lilliana Hatoum - IES Abroad Freiburg
"Going to a foreign country gives you a really cool opportunity to be a complete stranger. It can sort of act like a blank slate where you feel free to experiment with your style outside of the culture you are used to. I embraced the Freiburg low-waste lifestyle where secondhand and up-cycling rank supreme and found some funky pieces of clothing (at a thrift shop or on the side of a street) that I cherish because they remind me of my time in Germany. I'd encourage people to let this be a really freeing experience for your confidence and self-expression."
Alli Jones - IES Abroad Vienna
"I do think I had to explore with how to create new looks with the same few pieces I had because having to pack and travel limits your wardrobe options. I loved picking up random pieces of clothing from my travels or just from stores in Vienna, such as my pashmina scarf from Florence, Italy. I managed to make it seem like I had brought more clothes with me than I did, and I surprisingly didn’t get bored with the options I had. I would say my time abroad helped me to narrow down and refine what my personal style is and learn to embrace it and be me, even when that might make me stand out."
Lily Harwood - IES Abroad Santiago
"I was warned before going to Chile that the average dress code was a little different: usually, the most casual clothing people would wear in public were jeans and a tank top. Before I went abroad, I went shopping (a pastime I usually despise) and bought myself more jeans, a few fancy tops, some jumpers, and new shoes for the urban and soon-to-be summer environment I would be living in. I was so glad I went shopping as I quickly noticed and adapted to the well-groomed almost business casual society that I was studying in. On a normal day, I wore boot heels, a floral jumpsuit, and a cardigan, usually accompanied with bright lipstick and eyeshadow. I never wore makeup or bright patterns back home in the U.S., so these clothing patterns were uncharted territory. And while I was often scared about being overdressed or standing out in a crowd, I soon became accustomed to wearing what felt comfortable, fashionable, and relevant to the weather. I ignored occasional stares and my confidence boosted. I hope to start incorporating more of the fashion choices from Chile while at my home university."
Erin Cram - IES Abroad Paris
"I really embraced the sneaker lifestyle. I was hesitant about bringing different sneakers to Paris thinking that it wouldn't be dressy enough for day-to-day life there. In reality, I was inspired by the different ways young people dressed up sneakers with different outfits and mixed together comfort and trendy. It's almost become the item I base my daily style off of."
Hannah Strickland - IES Abroad Dublin
"I had always been told that most Europeans tend to wear dark clothes, but I was really surprised by how much people truly stuck to wearing black and gray. On days I wore brighter colors, I felt like I stuck out a bit. Children and tourists were the only people I noticed wearing bright colors. I found myself adapting to this color pallet for the majority of my outfits and bringing color into my outfits through accessories."
Tanner Smithson - IES Abroad London
"London is a very fashion forward city. Before I left the U.S., I was told that Londoners only wear black and white, which was simply just not true. Londoners express themselves every day in the clothes they inhabit. The shoes that the creates the perfect stride or the coat that has the perfect flow become inseparable from their wearers. The streets of London, constantly abuzz with style pioneers and couture experts, was the perfect hub to explore my wardrobe with bold statement pieces and classic European cuts. Having since returned stateside, I notice myself gravitating to my new sense of style and embracing it."
Faith Pesja - IES Abroad Barcelona
"I expanded my sense of style to the Spanish trends at the time I was abroad in Spring 2018. I tried wearing new pants and different shirts that I would see women wearing on the street. Barcelona is also very fashion forward, and everyone loves their sense of style as a way to express themselves so they are more bold and risky, which I grew to love."
After studying abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand, Mallory Rotondo (IES Abroad Christchurch, Spring 2014 | Purdue University) went on to become an early intervention speech-language pathologist. Read on to hear how this IES Abroad Scholarship recipient’s study abroad experience gave her the skills necessary to be a more understanding clinician.
Jeff Rosenthal (IES Abroad Madrid, Spring 1982), had an unforgettable experience studying abroad in Madrid, thanks in part to his warmhearted homestay mom, Señora Carmen. Jeff shares, in his own words, how he returned to Madrid to find his homestay residence was still the home he cherished and remembered.