3 Tips for Enriching Volunteer and Internship Experiences

Jiawei Xia
Jiawei Xia

Jiawei Xia, a current MS in Marketing student at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, is passionate about leveraging the power of technology to create and deliver better value for humans. Majoring in chemistry and marketing during her undergraduate study, she applied the knowledge gained to the development of Neverland Project that helped residents to transform banana leaves into mushroom planting fertilizer, and facilitated the commercialization of lab technique by product design and market analysis. In addition to science and reason, her hobby in photography and design enables her to view things aesthetically.

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My first and most thrilling impression of fashion came from Craig Green, an avant-garde designer and a namesake brand, who used fence parts as accessories for men during London Fashion week in 2013. Years later, I built up my interest in a related field: photography. It was at that time I came to realize the power of fashion elements.

So when I heard that New York Fashion Week (NYFW) 2018 was recruiting volunteers, I immediately applied for the position. Two Chinese brands Hot Now China and Bosideng were invited to NYFW, and volunteers were responsible for assistant jobs throughout the whole procedure of model casting, model fitting, and the final runway show from September 5th to 12th. The jobs included language translation, clothes sorting, dressing, photo taking, and file management.

Though volunteers seemed to have limited functions, I sought out every opportunity to explore. I define success as the ability to tell a unique story after an accomplishment. With that in mind, I would like to share how I found ways to enrich my experience as a volunteer at New York Fashion Week 2018.

Communicate with others.
Communication can happen with everyone: directors, designers, and our peers. Sometimes an extended communication may inspire unexpected sparkles. I never expected to become friends with a brand designer, but when I was dressing the models, the designer of the Yu brand came by, and coincidentally I was sorting the clothes of Yu. We naturally talked for a while about the Chinese style designs and how it fitted with western faces. And I learned that she was from my hometown Guangdong. I guessed she might love my easygoing approach, so we exchanged contact information, and to this day we keep in touch on social media. I can see from her posts that she travels to several places for design inspiration and she likes my photos of life moments.

Demonstrate focus on details.
While the claim of being “detail-minded” may be a cliché, the requirement for details may vary in different situations. In this case, I believe that one important detail is my own expression of fashion—clothes, accessories, and shoes—demonstrate my passion for the fashion field, which helps to convey my credibility to other professionals. As a result, my supervisor told me that she would reserve the volunteer position for me next year if I want it.

Don’t be constrained by the “role.”
Some volunteers merely waited for the tasks to be assigned to them and more than once they complained to me, “It was boring to keep doing the same thing!” Although the role of volunteers was supposed to be “passive”—after all, we came here voluntarily to support someone else’s work—we could also seek out what we would like to do instead of reluctantly accepting jobs. For example, I loved taking photos and I observed that the staff only had a small camera to shoot the fitting process. I happened to mention my skills and passion for photography when chatting with supervisors and directors. When there was a shift of staff, they saved me from several hours of dressing—which was tiring and repetitive—and asked me to take photos. If I had remained silent, I would have never secured such a chance to take over the photography jobs. By acting as a photographer, I was able to take photos for models, celebrities, and designers backstage and during the show. That was a valuable experience.

Besides work, I was grateful to have a chance to attend a real fashion show. When the music was on, I was quickly immersed in the solemn atmosphere. When the models showed up, I was amazed by their perfect look. When sitting in the area for photographers, I was shocked by the buzz of the crazy shutter sounds. Finally, it was thrilling to see celebrities and top designers. Alexander Wang was invited to the Hot Now China fashion show, and if you had attended the Bosideng fashion show, you would have had the chance to stand beside Anne Hathaway.

Like many, if not most other people, I used to think that fashion was a kind of niche art accompanied by unnecessary confusion and exaggerated impracticability that was largely irrelevant to ordinary people. Unsurprisingly, the “irrelevant” attitude is relentlessly yet precisely criticized by Miranda Priestly in the well-known movie The Devil Wears Prada. Fashion is relevant to everyone, since the core driving force of fashion is the design that has extensive connections with normal life. On the day of my volunteer experience, the resonance with beauty, spirit, and virtue conveyed through design work convinced me that she was right.

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