The day before starting my fashion internship in Paris, I decided the best way to prepare would be to watch “The Devil Wears Prada.” Thankfully, my supervisor is nothing like Miranda Priestly and I never experience the stress level of Andy, but I thought it would a fun way to commemorate the moment.
As a language student from Birmingham, Alabama, the fact that I am currently doing an internship in Paris alongside a designer seems a bit unbelievable. The official name of my major is Language and World Trade and in order to complete it, I needed to do an internship in an international setting based on my language of choice. This seems daunting in any circumstance, but COVID-19 made the situation especially more difficult.
After many stressful hours on LinkedIn coupled with a host of rejection letters, I stumbled upon CEA’s Paris Internship Program. The entire program felt like a godsend to me. Finally, I had someone helping me to handpick an internship based on my interests and experiences.
For those who are interested in interning abroad through CEA, I would say to trust the process. Blame astrology signs or my type-A personality, but I find it difficult to sit back and let things happen. I knew deep down that my internship coordinator and the CEA team were working hard to carefully handpick an internship that fit all my needs, but patience is a virtue I do not always possess. I had so many doubts in my head that something would go wrong or that I would not like the internship options, but everything worked out perfectly. It was a team effort between my internship coordinator and me to have meetings to discuss potential internships and then a continued effort to finalize the plans for the one I chose. Prior to this internship, I lacked authentic experience within the fashion industry, but CEA was able to find me a position that would help me grow alongside a small team to gain said experience.
When it came time to decide about my internship, it came down to a choice between two opportunities: one with a startup fashion app and one with a designer. I decided to choose the latter option because it seemed to be more of the Parisian experience I was looking for in an internship. In terms of specific responsibilities, my internship has been a gradual process of gaining increased responsibility as the weeks go on – or “petit à petit” as the French say. Specifically, I am in the boutique a lot running errands, sewing buttons, and helping customers. I also have done a bit of marketing research for the brand, and been able to attend a few events for the brand.
Thanks to this internship, I am already seeing more opportunities and doors being opened to me. One piece of advice I would give to any student wanting to intern in the U.S. or abroad is to utilize LinkedIn. It seems cliché and boring, but it has made my life and job search so much easier. This year I was even able to be a part of a Paris Fashion Week showroom thanks to my CEA internship abroad experience. There, I was able to be present for company meetings with international buyers, and meet a few European influencers!
I always believed that working internationally was out of the question or reserved for years down the road, but getting to live in Paris and with the support of the CEA staff, I have been able to lay true groundwork for my future career in fashion! While I have mostly positive remarks, nothing is perfect, and I have experienced moments with language and culture barriers – but the CEA onsite staff is always there for support and advice.
Mia Farris is the Spring 2020, Fall 2021 CEA MOJO Blogger in French Alps: Grenoble, France; Paris, France, and is currently studying at Samford University.