Q/A: Fashion merchandising senior shares journey to Seoul, South Korea in study abroad program

Moving to another country can be a challenge. Lamar University senior Denise Garcia saw it as an exciting opportunity. Garcia is now studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea — an epicenter for her passion in fashion merchandising.

Here, she shares her journey and how this opportunity will shape her future.

Denise GarciaQ: What is your name, hometown, major and classification?
A My name is Denise Garcia, I’m from Liberty, Texas, and I am a senior pursuing a fashion merchandising degree.

Q: Are you a first-generation college student?
A: Yes, I have overcome many hardships trying to break the barrier, but I am proud to say that I am a first-generation college student. Something I struggled with a lot in my first year was the feeling of not being able to identify with any group or create a sense of belonging. At times, I felt like dropping out because everyone seemed better prepared and had an extensive family history of higher education. However, as a Mexican American student, I felt less than my non-Latino peers and had an immense feeling of imposter syndrome. Having worked through it, I now know that I am worthy of partaking in higher education and I deserve the triumphs I have worked hard for. 

Q: What sparked your passion in fashion?
A: I have always found interest in fashion. However, the spark burned brighter when I realized no day will ever be the same. In the fashion industry, one day can be dedicated to creative design, the next day to numbers in sales, then to collaborations and even traveling to fashion hubs such as Paris or Milan. To be honest, I did not realize this spark until later in my degree. When I chose my major, I chose it on a whim, so when I began to formally study fashion merchandising, I was hooked. The flexibility the fashion industry offers and the cultivation of creativity are what continue to keep me enticed and excited for the future. 

Q: Why Lamar University?
A: I chose Lamar University because not only was it close to home, but it also offered a small tight-knit community and a growing HSI initiative.

Q: How has your experience been at Lamar University?
A: My experience at Lamar University has been very interesting. From being a Resident Assistant to an everyday student, there is always something to do around campus. 

Q: What clubs and organizations are you a part of?
A: I take pride in my cultural background and I am proud to say that I am a current member of the Lamar University Hispanic Society. I was also involved in housing as an RA for Gentry Hall this past semester and had the best time with the staff of housing.

Q: Where will you be studying?
A: I am studying abroad at the Seoul National University of Science and Technology — a mouthful — but SeoulTech for short. It is a university that specializes in the business of the science and technology industries. I will be finishing the remaining credits needed for my degree.

Q: What attracted you to this opportunity in South Korea?
A: With already being a Spanish and English speaker, I wanted to choose a partner university that offered a new language that would be useful for future endeavors. Majoring in fashion merchandising allows me to explore industries such as skin care, fashion and luxury markets, so when I saw that LU had a partner university in the capital of South Korea, I jumped on the chance. I believe that South Korea is at the intersection of all three, making it the easiest choice for me. I also chose this opportunity because it would lead to complete cultural immersion, making it easier to pick up the language. 

Q: What was the process of applying like?
A: The process of applying to study abroad is not as overwhelming as it may seem. When I initially told the people around me about my trip, many were shocked that all it took was a couple of meetings with the study abroad coordinator. It was also easier because I chose a partner university, making it a smooth process to transfer course credits and financial aid. The simple appointment creates a step-by-step plan of paperwork and a game plan for your time abroad. The Office of Study Abroad is super helpful in its careful planning and is always open to answering questions. However, on the other hand, the scholarship that funded this opportunity for me to be abroad was rigorous. The process for the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship consisted of three essays and meetings with the Gilman advisor, paperwork required from the financial aid office and the Office of Study Abroad. It was a lot of work! But the outcome was worth it. 

Q: What are you most excited about with this internship?
A: I am most excited about the cultural exchange and new friends! South Korea has a rich history, so I am very excited to see things from food, cultural sights and its natural wonders. 

Q: What has been your experience so far?
A: Having only been in Seoul for about two weeks, I can say that it is definitely a big learning process. Getting used to adjusting to a foreign country alone is stressful and overwhelming but thanks to new friends and an amazing international office, I am doing great. The professors are lovely and are always willing to offer their help and guidance. Courses are also held in English for all exchange students, making it easier to solely focus on the coursework. 

Q: What are your future goals and aspirations and how this internship can help you along your journey?
A: Once I return to the U.S., I will be graduating and hope to make my way to New York — the hub of skincare and fashion. My time at SeoulTech will be an experience that will prepare me for success in my eventual career path in luxury marketing/ fashion. The East Asian market within the luxury fashion sector is so large, so much that it is taught in its section or different course. Eventually, I want to make my way into luxury marketing, so knowing that the two will overlap make me grateful for my time in South Korea. I also aspire to develop my skincare label derived from Mexican flora that also focuses on eco-friendly ingredients. South Korea being the capital of skincare gives me hope to develop a strong business relationship with a willing Korean lab that would like to develop the line. 

Q: Would you like to shout out to any professors or mentors at LU that helped you along your journey?
A: I would love to thank our previous LU study abroad coordinator, Mary Haas, my Gilman Scholarship Advisor Nicole Kyles-Burton and my academic advisor Dr.Killough — these women have all guided me through this journey and no amount of gratitude can truly convey how thankful I am for their help.

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