Fashion students exchange Kent for culture, market of Hong Kong

Allison Tomei

After a few semesters in the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, a select number of fashion students can trade Kent scenery for Hong Kong.

In the exchange program, Kent State sends two fashion students in exchange for two students enrolled in the fashion program at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said William Hauck, assistant professor and assistant to the fashion school director.

This spring will be the fourth year for the program, which was started after a member of the school’s advisory board suggested the need to explore fashion opportunities in that area of the world, Hauck said.

Consequently, that member donated a large scholarship to cover travel expenses for the students selected.

Hauck said the chosen students pay Kent State tuition and housing fees, but the other “out-of-pocket expenses,” such as transportation, are paid through the scholarship.

About eight students apply each year, and Hauck said this low turnout is because Americans are very distant in terms of understanding Hong Kong’s culture.

“There is definitely a distance and fear of the unknown aspect that prevents students from applying,” he said.

Katie Hoecker, junior fashion merchandising major, was recently selected to study in Hong Kong this spring. She said she is not afraid of Hong Kong’s culture or being far from home – in fact, that is why she is eager to go.

“I am excited for the cultural things and being away from home. I have commuted my whole college life, so it will be different to be on my own,” she said. “It will definitely help me become more well-rounded.”

Hoecker said she hopes

to learn how other cultures run their markets, because today’s businesses are dependent on foreign aspects and globalization.

However, Hoecker has one concern about spending five months in Hong Kong: eating.

Other than the challenge of adjusting to Eastern food, Katie Rubenstahl, senior fashion design major, said her exchange experience in Hong Kong was “awesome.”

She said she was surprised to see how many people in Hong Kong were involved with exchange programs and how many people she met who were foreigners like her.

“There are different districts – some are heavily Western. We would go to bars where most of the people spoke English or were traveling on business.”

Rubenstahl said the Hong Kong trip allowed her to see how clothes are manufactured and how international businesses view the U.S. fashion business.

Contact School of Fashion Design and Merchandising reporter Allison Tomei at [email protected].