Tips for your Year Abroad!

If, like me, you have to do a year abroad as part of your degree, or even just want to take a year out, here is a post with all the info on how I got to South America & found my job out there, including some general tips and tricks!

From day 1 of my degree, my heart was set on going to South America for part of my year abroad. When given the opportunity to spend 6 months outside of your own country, why wouldn’t you want to see a totally different side of the world?? To that end, I saved and saved from the beginning of my time in Sheffield, managing 2 jobs and dedicating my summer to working hourly-paid jobs. It wasn’t until I started looking for placements that I decided on Colombia.

The difficulty was that I was originally set on Buenos Aires; however with the ownership of the Falkland Islands currently in debate, I decided it might be safer to look elsewhere. I was lucky enough to already have contacts in the industry (fashion) by having my own popular fashion blog in association with Cow Vintage and a couple of fashion editorial roles under my belt when I applied for a position in Medellín, Colombia. Originally, the position was for a Press Analyst at the largest fashion and exports company in South America- Inexmoda. I soon turned this position into that of International Press Manager after a couple of months wherein I was given charge of inviting international media to fashion week in July. It certainly wasn’t an easy or low pressure job (especially when my manager decided to go on holiday for 3 weeks, leaving me in charge of the press department!).

My day to day life in the office meant starting at 7.30am and not finishing til 7 at night (minimum). I would be corresponding constantly with press in the US, Brazil, Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Italy, France etc. in multiple languages, even on my days off (which without my Modern Languages degree, I wouldn’t have been able to do). Even higher pressure would be when corresponding with mediums like Vogue, GQ, WWD and Cosmopolitan on behalf of the company- not an easy day in the office! The good thing about the environment that I was in, was that everyone in the office was very kind, attentive and helpful- a nice change from working in fashion in the UK!

TOP TIPS FOR GETTING A JOB IN FASHION PR ABROAD

  • Get some solid experience under your belt: be it editorial, marketing, PR, interning however and wherever you can get it!
  • Practice speaking about fashion in different languages: this can be done with native speakers, on forums, over social media, or even on your own blog.
  • WRITE A BLOG: I can’t express enough how much this stands out when applying for a job in a creative industry. I currently manage several blogs including my year abroad one (wheres-alexandrawaring.co.uk). If you want any help email me at hello@alexandrawaring.co.uk.
  • Follow trends, bloggers and popular topics in foreign magazines: this will help you no end when you´re abroad. A large part of my job was finding bloggers in the US from different cities- something I wasn’t familiar with at all!
  • Monitor your own progress: once out there, make sure you jot down things that you learn and do every day including key vocab, skills, contacts etc. I had a little black book that served me no end and saved my skin on more than a couple of occasions! It will also act as a great aide-mémoire when applying for jobs post-graduation.

I was also lucky enough to get some time off to work at the Archery World Cup which was being held in Medellin. I was the only person (seemingly) in the city that spoke any Russian, so I was promptly recruited for the position of attaché and translator for the team- directly from Russian into Spanish which I had never done before!

It certainly was a baptism of fire, but one that I would repeat in a heartbeat.

GENERAL TOP TIPS FOR YOUR YA IN SOUTH AMERICA

  • Get a current account with Norwich & Peterborough. No charges on your card abroad whatsoever- only catch is that you have to use it 5 times a month or get charged 5 pounds.
  • Have several copies of all your important documents and make sure to always carry a copy of your passport with you wherever you go.
  • Buy a cheap digital camera to document your time abroad. I got one for 50 pounds from the local supermarket in Medellin and its saved my skin- no need to whip out your iPhone or iPad and attract unwanted attention.
  • Learn to speak very quietly in English when out and about and NEVER talk on your phone when in the street. You’re going to stick out like a sore thumb anyway if you’re as English-looking as me, so try and help yourself out with this one.
  • Work work work all your contacts: you never know who could help you out with a job offer, voluntary position or just a night out on the town.
  • Say yes to everything (within reason). This will mean that you will do things and meet people you’d never thought you’d be able to, a year ago.
  • Write a blog or travel journal. Some of my friends also took a picture a day and put it up on FB- it will act as the best memento for your amazing time abroad and will help you reflect on how far you’ve come.
  • Don’t always opt for the cheapest option- sometimes this can really backfire on you safety-wise and impact on your time abroad. Forking out a few extra quid won’t hurt you in the long term, especially if it means your safe/happy/healthy etc.
  • Make sure to save up as much cash as possible that you won’t mind dipping into occasionally. I worked 2 jobs whilst at uni and dedicated my summers to working at festivals: it doesn’t come easy, but you want to make sure you have the funds to do everything you want to during this year. Nothing sucks more than missing out due to lack of money.
  • Let go of your preconceptions as soon as possible. You’ll learn more, be more open to opportunities and won’t get culture shock!

If you would like to get in touch or want any more information sensitive to fashion PR abroad, send me an email at hello@alexandrawaring.co.uk.

Check out my year abroad diary including first-hand experiences from Aurora Fashion Week (St Petersburg, Russia) and Colombiamoda (Fashion Week in Medellin, Colombia)>>> wheres-alexandrawaring.co.uk

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