Though it may be a pain having to arrange a ton of visas on a yearly basis (Schengen applicants, we sympathize with your suffering), taking half a year out to do a placement year on a different continent is actually anything but a chore. Having interned at Marc Jacobs for six months, Eleanor O’Connor – third year BA Fashion design student at CSM – reminisces her six-month NYC placement year adventures.
Trying to describe what it has been like living in New York City, is similar to trying to explain a good dream. I can tell you things that I have done or where to go, but the explanation will never do justice to the real thing. New York is a combination of being in an episode of “Friends” and “Mad Men” combined with a land you never even knew existed. It is strange and exciting to live in a place where you recognize everything from films and television, but you still manage to get lost. I have lived in both Brooklyn and Manhattan and experienced both the hottest and coldest weather I have known in my whole life. For the majority of my time here, it has been freezing cold, with a combination of white powdery snow and ice rain: a huge contrast from the melting pavements and boiling heat of when I first arrived in September. Interning at soho-based Marc Jacobs, I have learnt so much from seeing everything up close, watching everyone in the studio working on their different responsibilities and asking lots of questions. There were points when I was working on a project and thought to myself, “Why I am doing this? It is so random…” but you have to trust the bigger picture. When you see the collection coming together, all of a sudden everything makes sense, from the images you have seen to the swatches of fabrics pinned to boards. All the designers and production teams are so busy making sure that everything will be ready in time. People are hand airbrushing ruffles for dresses; drawing, sewing and putting different pieces together to style the collection. Once you are at the show and the music starts, all the late nights and hard work seem worth it, because you get to see the final result of something you have been a part of from the moment the idea was first conceived.
The best thing about living somewhere for six months, is the luxury of time. You can explore the city at your own pace and go back to your favorite things over and over again. You may have moved to a city to intern, but you have also moved to a city to be a part of it. Embrace America, get the subway to Coney Island, go to the markets in Williamsburg, stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and eat burgers and pecan pie. Go to Katz’s diner to eat a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, pretend to be in “When Harry Met Sally”, and look at the photos on the wall of celebrities who have also visited (most of who are baseball players you will have never heard of, but it is somehow still exciting and exotic). Whilst you are in New York, if you get the opportunity, go and travel somewhere else. You made it across “the pond”, what is a two hour train ride, really?
Everybody knows at least ten internship horror stories, which makes it hard to know what to believe or where to go. My main piece of advice for anyone who is planning to do a placement year, whether it is an internship in London or abroad: don’t stress out about what other people are doing or thinking. Take advice from people you trust, choose what you want to do and go for it. Who cares what other people think? As long as you are doing something that is interesting and you are happy with your decision, that is all that matters.
It feels like time is playing tricks on me. On the one hand, I feel like it was a week ago that I was in my bedroom in Sheffield trying to fit as many clothes as feasibly possible into one suitcase. On the other hand it seems like I have lived here my whole life. My final piece of advice: make sure you take pictures and write things down to document what you have been doing, because it is scary how easily you forget everything, even when you’ve been having the time of your life!