Learning With the Stars

By Matt Hawkins
March 6, 2014

Recent Bradley University students studying abroad stepped into the work world while studying in Florence, Italy. By adding internships to coursework, retail merchandising major Sydney Schneider ’14 built key relationships with industry experts and experiencing potential work settings.

These internships pushed Schneider into the hub of professional activity.

“I could not be more thankful for the time I spent studying abroad. I learned so much about myself and the world,” Schneider said. “Studying abroad, especially in the fashion industry, is crucial to future success. The fashion industry is a global business and by traveling, studying and working abroad, you gain an insight into another culture’s style, fashion history and economics in business.”

Schneider’s spring 2013 in Italy featured an internship with luxury boutique La Gare 24, where she learned how retailers and designers determine what clothing goes to stores. This requires heavy analysis of customer taste. She also went on inventory-purchasing trips.

Schneider chose the Florence program because of Italy’s historic and current prominence in the fashion industry. With that cultural backdrop, prominent Italian fashion experts — including a professor with ties to fashion giants Versace and Escada — taught her courses.

“If you want to understand the current atmosphere of the fashion industry, you go to the source of where it started,” Schneider said. “The high quality and artistry that is associated with Italian-made product is synonymous worldwide. The passion involved in making and producing not only fashion products but every type of product was infectious and inspired me to have more passion and to do the things I love.”

Italy’s rich fashion history came to life through field trips to places such as the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School).

“Being able to see students and professionals detailing the leather products and the amount of detail that went into it was incredible,” she said of the Leather School. “You cannot find that type of artistry and craftsmanship here in the States and I was very inspired by that.”

As Schneider reflected on her time in Italy, she realized the semester not only gave her career direction but also altered her perception of American fashion.

“I had a perspective change on how the U.S. fashion industry is,” she said. “I wish that we would take some cues from the love Italians have for life and fashion.”