Study Abroad

The Origin Story: Part 2

When I started telling people I was going to Buffalo State College, the first question they would ask was,

“Why are you going to Buffalo? They get so much snow!”

Now, imagine that! A young girl who just spent the past two years taking standardized tests, visiting and applying to colleges, getting rejected from colleges and then finally; “Yes!” Getting accepted and choosing the appropriate school. The whole process was hard enough, I didn’t need that extra dose of self-doubt people! That question made me feel my college choice wasn’t up to par.

Why did I choose Buffalo? Well, being the third child with two siblings in private schools, my parents politely asked me if I would consider a SUNY school. I obliged, and started shopping around in-state. My heart was set on New Paltz, but after that rejection letter, the game plan changed. Buffalo State College was the only SUNY school that had a volleyball team, the three majors I was considering and wasn’t in New York City. I’m not a city girl, but Buffalo I can handle. Yes, there will be snow, but I “ain’t-a-scared” of no stinkin’ snow!! I hail from the Adirondacks for pete’s sake!

By late August 2010 I was enrolled in Fashion Merchandising, moving in three weeks early and practicing volleyball 2-3 times a day. Once orientation rolled around, my schedule seemed to be the opposite of the other students and I found adjusting to all the new people around me difficult. Luckily, my roommate and I met on our initial college tour and formed a bond prior to moving in together. She would make sure to fill me in on who was who and what I missed. She even started doing my laundry for me while I was at practice so I had one less thing to worry about when I was running back to do homework. FOREVER GRATEFUL KATHLEEN!!

Fast-forward to junior year, where I was ready, willing and able to embark on the ultimate adventure. Studying abroad in Florence, Italy at the Florence University of Art! In January 2012, I set out across the country, by myself, with a stomach full of butterflies and my heart on my sleeve. When I signed up for classes, I was instructed to choose 8 difference courses and then a system would choose 4 of them for me. The system had spoken and my class index was Italian, digital photography, fashion photography and event planning. At first, I was apprehensive because I was hoping for accessory design, fashion business or even wine appreciation, but ok, yes I do love photography too and I’m in Italy, so I’ll be taking millions of photos anyway,

“quit yer bitchin’”! I tell myself.

I loved walking down those ancient streets. The same streets that so many souls before me passed through. I could literally feel the history. Florence was like no place I had been before. The locals, the food, the art, the artitecture, the espresso. I could go on forever. The city was easy enough to navigate and after settling in (and adjusting to the uneven sidewalks), I could get from place to the other rather quickly on foot.

On the weekends, friends and I would travel and I promptly became the designated photographer, snapping endless candids and landscapes all over the world. One of my favorite weekend getaways was with my blogger friend, Moti from The Metro Man. He’s an influencer now, but back then his blog was just starting to take off. He worked his magic and got himself invited to a couple of fashion shows during *clears throat* Milan Fashion Week. That’s right!! Needless to say, I was impressed and delighted that he asked me to be his personal photographer. I jumped at the chance and then we headed off, arms linked, into the wild world of Italian fashion.

This travel experience was a defining moment for me. It gave me the opportunity to explore new boundaries, test my limits and ultimately discover parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. I became more appreciative of learning and realized the magnitude of education. I gained new perspective about life and its purpose, my purpose. At the end of my studies, I was ravenous for more knowledge. I wanted to learn more skills and push myself even furthur. That’s when I decided to take on jewelry again. The summer after Italy, I didn’t go home. I stayed in Buffalo and re-established myself. The following semester at BSC, I committed to a minor in jewelry design.

Life in Buffalo was different, it was fun. It was a melting pot of creativity, diversity and spontaneity! A large city with a close-knit feel. Living there gave me my first sense of community. And I remember the exact moment I felt it. I was walking down the sidewalk on my way to work, waving and smiling at familiar faces, thinking about my daily tasks when I realized… I’ve built something here. People didn’t know me because of my parents or my siblings, they knew me because I am an active member of their community, our community. That fuzzy feeling enveloped my body and made me feel supported.

In 2015, I graduated cum laude with a major in fashion merchandising and a minor jewelry design. I stayed in Buffalo for a few more years, working at a fabulous consignment shop called Second Chic and then in jewelry production for a well-known local designer, Alexis Russell Jewelry. All the while making my own jewelry on the side. However, when my hands weren’t needed at AR anymore and my passion for fashion was starting to dim, I knew I had to make a change. Alas, after many moons spent away from home, I heard the mountains calling me back and I finally stopped resisting, and listened.

Check out my photos from

Milan fashion week & fashion photography class.

 

Thank you for reading.

Our Holiday Gift Guide will be published Wednesday, 12/12/18 @ 2pm EST.

The Origin Story: Part 3 will be published in 2019 @ TBD.