Part 2: College, Internships & Starting my Business

I always say it's the hardest thing to pick a college and a major. How do you just KNOW what you want to do for the rest of your life? I feel so lucky to have known fashion was going to be my path for such a long time.

As you can see from part 1, fashion has been a big part of my life for quite a while. Since I was young, I was always learning and trying to figure out where this passion would take me. When applying for colleges I never imagined not getting into a school. It was more of picking what school I wanted to attend. I felt that my passion and what I did throughout middle and high school would be enough to prove that I would be a good student. I wanted to learn; I was eager to learn. I knew I had a lot to do, but I would do anything to get it done.

As I mentioned in last week's Mama Monday video, I started looking into colleges in high school. We visited SCAD and FIT in NYC. As soon as we visited FIT, I was hooked. I just knew that was where I needed to be. We walked the halls and met with other students, toured the dorms, and picked out books from their bookstore.

I remember getting the packet of requirements to get into the Design program. SIDE NOTE: FIT has a ton of majors to choose from. Fashion Design is one of THE most difficult to get accepted into. I looked through the requirements with pure panic. They wanted a full on portfolio, with sketches, designs, etc. Isn't this what I would be learning AFTER getting accepted?

After the panic, I had to remind myself, while I wasn't the best at sketching, I did know how to sew. I had pictures of all of the designs I had made from start to finish. I put together what I thought was a design portfolio. I worked so hard on sketches, flatlays, pulling fabric swatches. I submitted everything I was required to, yet it wasn't enough. My high school grades were just OKAY. I'll be honest, I have never really enjoyed school. Now looking back there are so many things I wish I would have paid more attention to or tried harder at. They wanted more experience, higher grades; I wasn't a good fit.

Some of My First Sketches, submitted in my College Applications

As you can imagine I was CRUSHED. I felt like I should just give up, clearly I wasn't good enough. How was I going to learn to make a career in Fashion if I couldn't get accepted into a school who was supposed to teach me these things? I knew NYC was where I needed to be.

So, my parents and I started looking at other options. We found a scholarship contest for AiNYC. I decided to enter. I worked day and night to create the best design I could for this contest.

My entry was noticed and I was accepted into the AiNYC Fashion Design Program. This was by far the best thing that could have ever happened to me. While I was so bummed to not be attending FIT, I was even MORE eager to learn and to prove to myself that I was good enough.

I graduated from Middletown High School in May 2008. Then I moved to NYC and started my first college classes June 2008. I'll never forget when my parents dropped me off and left me in my dorm. I don't think I have ever been more afraid in my life. I fought back tears as they left; I didn't want them to see me upset or to think I was scared.

Watching them leave from my dorm room window, I cried like a BABY! It was time for me to figure this out, map out a "plan" and to not let them down.

After started classes in June, I knew I wanted to intern right away. I met with a student advisor and she was a HUGE part of my NYC experience, and I am so thankful for the connections she helped me make.

Fern Mallis, Creator of NY Fashion Week

In today's Mama Monday Video, I talked a lot about my Internships in NYC. I worked with Tommy Hilfiger, Fendi, dressed models at New York Fashion Week. I had an interesting experience with a design company, and my favorite internship was with a buying office.

Now that I have a boutique of my own, it's interesting to look back at my time spent with each internship and see the things I learned and use in my business everyday. I took away specific tasks from each internship that have helped me open and run a clothing boutique. I didn't realize how valuable those unpaid internships would be. I talk about the ups and downs of each internship in today's Mama Monday Video.

Throughout my time spent in the city, I kept a journal. Here I wrote about my internships, classes, good days, and bad days.

The last entry was on April 21, 2010. I wrote "I have been working on my website and ideas of how to market myself. I started a Facebook page and already have 320 fans in 3 days! I know that when I go home in August a lot of people will question why and will possibly think I have failed. To me this makes the challenge even better. It makes me want to work hard to make Nicole J a success." See more below.

I had no idea what was ahead, but I was eager and ready to learn and to grow. Little did I know the next year would be the most unexpected, and one of the hardest, yet best years of my life.

See you next week for Mama Monday Part 3: Becoming A Mama, Ellie Nicole!

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