My STEP project was my summer internship in New York City with J.Crew. My project occurred from June to August of this year. I used my funds to live in New York and pay for rent, food, transportation, and clothing which exceeded the amount allowed because of the cost of living. During my internship I learned a lot about the fashion industry and how retail operates at a certain corporate level.
I was really excited to meet some passionate people in the retail industry and learn a lot. I interned in production which I had no previous knowledge of before the internship. Unfortunately, because of various factors including being put on a team that was not expecting an intern, I did not have the best experience relating to learning how the overall process works and how it all comes together. I always believed I was a very observant person regarding people and situations. I learned a lot after my experience such as trusting my instinct is usually right. I also learned to be more independent and be comfortable with being alone at times. The last thing I learned is the importance of budgeting (how can you not when you are living in one of the most expensive cities in the world!)
I did not click with the team I was on in the company and this made it difficult to have excitement to come to work everyday. Also, much of the work I did was explained and then not checked back up on or reviewed so much of what I did felt incomplete or insignificant. My gut instinct told me I should have met with my manager a lot sooner to review my progress but I did not do this and when we met to speak at the end she admitted to forgetting to sit down with me and explain the process of production and really teach me the business to the extent I could have learned it. I felt disheartened, but after speaking with friends and family they helped me realize all the learnings to take away from the experience and focus on the positives. These including being paid to work in fashion, making it to New York, getting my foot in the door, building my network, and taking a risk in life.
Moving to New York has been amazing, but also lonely at times. Although I do have a lot of family close by and I live with my brother, I miss my friends from back at school. I got so used to being at school and having a close friend in the next close, in the other bedroom, or waiting for me to join them for lunch on campus. Speaking with those people only every so often which was difficult to adjust to. I have learned it takes time to build a network of friends in a new place and living in a new city comes with challenges such as those. Luckily during my internship at J.Crew, I did make friends with the other interns and enjoyed their company a lot.
I do believe I have become a little more like my dad in the sense of money management. I was always a spender in Ohio because my parents were supporting me more and the cost of living in Ohio is around half the cost of living in New York. I always told myself that I would never be frugal in life because it was annoying when my parents did not want to spend money but now I understand. Sometimes life forces you to see things differently and understand why having a budget is so important. I have learned to eat out a lot less and really inspect the prices of everything I buy, and I am looking for a good deal and free events. It is not impossible to live on a strict budget, it’s just a big life adjustment than what I was previously used to. I have to say that for me at least, it is worth it to walk the streets of New York everyday and experience that rush even if I have to give up having Starbucks and Chipotle without thinking when swiping my card a few times a week.
All of these learnings I believe are very significant to me in my life right now. Looking back at my time in school, one thing I could have gained a lesson on was responsibility. Living in New York has taught me more of that in so many ways as well as given me a chance to see if the big lights and city is what I really want in life or not. I always pictured myself living in NYC for the long term but the choice becomes clear when you really experience it and weigh all the pros and cons.
I always saw myself as having a strong personality with valid opinions and a thirst for knowledge, but working on a team that does not feel right made me questions some things about myself. I also am a people pleaser and want to do my best all the time and sometimes I assume people know these things about me right away. I realized that sometimes I need to take initiative and push for my opinions to be heard and speaking up can be very important and really change how a whole experience plays out. I think I have matured a lot through my STEP experience and am already putting these life learnings into the internship I am currently in.
I decided to take off the semester and stay in New York. I am currently interning in supply chain for Ralph Lauren and it is an amazing experience. My manager is truly sensational and I believe this opportunity I currently have is pushing me to learn so much about the world of business as a whole. I am learning more than I thought possible in my current role and I am excited to finish my degree in the Spring and come right back to New York and truly start my career. I am more open-minded now than ever and cannot wait to see where life takes me next.