My College/University Path

On Friday, I mentioned that I was thinking about doing a post all about the particular ‘College/University Path’ I took over the last four years. I often receive emails from people asking me about the different fashion courses out there and how to get ‘into fashion’ -so this is a post which will hopefully be helpful to many of you. Firstly however, I do want to stress that college/university is always such a different experience for everyone and what works for one person may not work for another -so the experience I’ve had might not be perfect for you, but hopefully it will at least provide you with some guidance/inspiration. During the past four years, I’ve been in three different colleges -so I’m going to go through each year separately so that you can get an idea of the experience I’ve had.
GTI Project Work
GTI Project Work

Year 1: 1st year Commerce and Spanish in UCC
When I was in my final year of school, I had really wanted to go on to study fashion, but the only options that were available to me here in Ireland (that I knew of at the time) were ‘Fashion Design’ courses. For those of you who know me really well, you’ll know that I struggle to draw even a stick-person, so fashion design was never going to go down well. I’d consider myself to be creative, but creative with a very business-orientated mind, so it was fashion business (marketing, buying, PR, event management) that I really wanted to study. I had always been quite academic and business & languages were my favourite subjects throughout school, so I decided to apply for ‘Commerce and Spanish’ in UCC in Cork. Even though I spent my year studying Commerce, I became heavily involved in the college ‘Fashion Society’ and helped to organize many events and shows throughout the year. I still stayed dedicated to my course and came out with good results -but I couldn’t’ help but think that my heart just wasn’t in it after I had completed the year. I met a friend while I was in UCC who had told me about a fashion business course in Galway which would just take a year -so during the Summer after my 1st year in Cork, I applied for the fashion course and started that September!

Year 2: Fashion Industry Practice in GTI
I’m not going to lie and say that some people didn’t try to talk me out of deferring my Commerce course -they did! I guess it was a bit of a risky move and definitely not the ‘norm’, but as I said my heart wasn’t fully in Commerce at the time or even in Cork -so I made the decision and moved to Galway. Looking back now (which I do so often) -it was undoubtedly the best decision I will probably ever make! I went into the fashion course with very little experience but came out of it a completely different person -much more confident, determined and more business-minded than I ever could have imagined. I studied Fashion Buying, Fashion Marketing/PR, Fashion Styling, Fashion Media, Event Management and Graphic Design and realized that the marketing, event management and styling aspects were the areas I wanted to pursue a career in. It’s the kind of course that will have you working 24/7 and I definitely had to put everything else in my life on hold for a little bit. But like everything, if you truly love what you’re doing and don’t mind getting up to go to college each day -life is a lot easier. You can see from the photos below that we did the most fun project work and as well as this, the course allowed me to gain experience in photo shoots, fashion shows and so much more! If you’re looking for a course to help you decide which exact area of the fashion industry you like best, you should definitely consider this one! Sometimes we all need that little push and this was definitely mine.
GTI Project Work
GTI Project Work
LOVE this!

Year 3 & 4: 2nd and 3rd Year Commerce in NUI Galway
After being immersed in the world of fashion for a full year, it definitely made me realize that the fashion industry is extremely cut-throat (to say the least) and in order to succeed, you need to be savvy, business-orientated and very knowledgable. I think that many people often forget that fashion is a business and along with all the creativity comes a need for a focused and business-orientated outlook on things. The fashion course in GTI, undoubtedly, allowed me to see what I wanted to do in the long-run and it made me realize that having a business degree along with my fashion experience was definitely the wisest option. So…back to Commerce I went! This time however, I continued my Commerce studies in Galway, where I have specialized in Marketing. I had deferred my course after 1st year in UCC, so I was allowed to go straight into 2nd year which was a little daunting as I didn’t know anyone but everything turned out just perfect and I’ve met the nicest of people since then. As I mentioned, I just never fully clicked with college in Cork and I think that this became even more apparent when I realized how amazing my time in Galway ended up being!

Work Experience
I often get asked what’s more important -qualifications of work experience? My answer -a mix of both. I’m a big believer in work experience and definitely don’t think it’s possible to succeed in this industry without it. During the past 4 years, I’ve had 6 internships (Styling with Georgina Vahey and Olivia Jade Horner, Event Management with Upfront Model Management, PR with Natalie B Coleman and Foundfuture (NYC) and NY fashion week intern with Whitney Port) which have taught me more than I ever could have imagined. It’s very important to put yourself out there and never underestimate the power of Networking. If you make a good impression, you never know where it will take you!

After 4 years of college, my main pieces of advice for you are:
-Never stick with a course/college that you don’t 100% love -there are always other options.
-Don’t commit to a course until you have gained some sort of experience in that chosen area.
-Put your heart and soul into whatever it is you are doing. There is never any point doing something only half-right. 
-Above all, enjoy it! It’s an experience that you will never forget and if you go about it in the right away, you won’t ever want to finish.

I really hope that this has been helpful for you and if there is anything that maybe I didn’t cover, feel free to email me at theretroflame@gmail.com. I have my final two exams this week -so it’s definitely a very bitter-sweet feeling to actually be finishing for good. After being in 3 different colleges, I’ve had the chance to meet so many amazing people and I honestly wouldn’t have done it any other way. It’s good to do things a little different, in my opinion, -it ensures you never get bored! And so the big question is: what now? I’m definitely not 100% sure where the next few years will take me -what job, what country, what experiences -but if it is half as fun as the past 4 years I’ve just had, I’ll be a very happy girl indeed!

Hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend,

Stylishly yours,

Erika x


  1. Great post, I’m not a fashion girl myself but beauty, I’m doing a voluntary placement at the moment to help me gain experience! It’s defiantly a mix of qualifications and experience! Xx

    gigglesandmakeup.blogspot.com

  2. Hi!

    8 May

    This is one of my favorite posts. I’m a PR & Events student too! x

    http://natashaswonderland.blogspot.ie/

  3. L. Figment

    17 May

    This is a super interesting article, even for someone like me who is doing a degree in science. :) thanks for posting.

    L. Figment
    Good Morning Angel.

  4. Grace McNulty

    30 June

    This is a fantastic post, really helpful & interesting! x

  5. […] in NUI Galway and looking back now, they were by far my best few years so far. If you’ve seen My College/University Path blog post, you’ll know how I ended up in Galway and exactly why I loved it so much. […]

  6. […] my (unusual) college path so if you fancy reading about it in more detail you can check it out HERE. Since finishing college in May, I’ve been working full-time on Retro Flame and other fashion […]

  7. […] industry here in Ireland. I spoke all about my college path (which you can read about in detail here), my internships, my experience working in New York, my plans for the future and of course, I […]

  8. […] to live here in New York for a year, my visa requires me to have a full-time job which relates to the degree/topics that I studied in university. Let me know on Twitter/Instagram (@retroflame) if you’d like to know more details about what […]

  9. […] Friday everyone! One of the main questions I get is to do with my career path & current job. Personally, I always seem to have a million & one things going on in […]

  10. Louise

    1 February

    This post is really inspiring! I can’t wait to start studying in September

  11. ridhima

    2 November

    that was very fascinating journey that you shared here it gives some good learning lessons for those who are willing to start in the fashion .thank you for it.

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