Four tickets to Hong Kong, please

Emily Inverso

Fashion students receive scholarships to study abroad

Along with textbooks for the semester, four fashion students may find themselves picking up a Cantonese dictionary to study, as well.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University exchange program continues its more than five-year history here by offering fashion students a chance to study abroad.

“What we’re looking to do is to have both cultural and educational experiences in a location that the students have never seen before,” said the fashion school director J.R. Campbell.

“We have expectations for them in terms of coursework and internships, and all of that is important,” he said, “but the most important rationale is to be open, serious and willing to take the opportunity when it comes.”

Juliana Jerse recognized the importance of attending one of the top 200 universities in the world last year when she spent her final semester at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She took her education seriously, she said.

“Hong Kong bases their education system on the British system, and the final exams were worth 50 percent of the grade or more,” Jerse said. “ I had to study so hard, but I got to take a really great class, Fashion Visual Merchandising, where we got to build a store window display and do many other projects in a group.”

Also available to students there is the Institute of Textiles and Clothing. When students leave to study in Hong Kong for the spring semester, the newest technologies are available for witnessing design and production outputs that are less common in the United States.

“Hong Kong is full force in design and production and consumption on a massive level because it is a much more populated region,” Campbell said. “There is a lot of import and export that we don’t see much of in the Midwest. Even just visual exposure to some of that equipment and the way ITC is using it helps to visually put it all together.”

This exposure does come at a cost, though. However, thanks to Bob Broadbent, that cost is cushioned for Kent State students. Broadbent independently funds two $3,000 scholarships for the Hong Kong program, adding two more awards this year to make four total.

“So much design and manufacturing is coming out of the Far East that it is important for us to have as many students in an exchange program as possible,” Broadbent said. “I think the more students we can get overseas would help to enrich their educational background.”

Students who attend Hong Kong Polytechnic University pay Kent State tuition rates, and housing costs approximately $1,000 for the semester, Campbell said. The students are also responsible for funding their own plane tickets. Such expenses have sparked a realization for one scholarship recipient this semester.

“This experience has been teaching me a lot about the value of little things,” said junior fashion design major Tiffany Hu. “It’s making me realize I really want to make the most out of this experience that has fallen into my lap, and to do that you have to save money, which is more important than that cute blouse at Charlotte Russe or those boots you’ve been eyeing at Aldo.”

Despite the sacrifices such an experience may require, Rachel Koester, junior fashion design major, said in an e-mail from Florence she was very excited to be chosen for the Hong Kong Program.

“My entire body turned to goose bumps, and I just ran around our apartment jumping and spinning; all while screaming ‘I’m going to Hong Kong! I’m going to Hong Kong!’” Koester wrote. “I felt as if I just got off of a rollercoaster I was so jittery, near tears and out of breath! I’ll never forget it!”

Shortly after, she said she realized she should probably start watching YouTube videos to learn some basic Cantonese.

Hard work to make such experiences possible will increase these students’ chances at securing a job, Campbell said. His hope, he added, is not for students to question whether they will study abroad, but rather where they will study before graduation.

For four fashion design students, that “where” is Hong Kong, and they will be there spring semester.

Contact Emily Inverso at [email protected].