I awoke with a start to the sound of my alarm clock. As I lay back, grumbling, I heard the familiar words I so dreaded: “Alex, time to get up!” my mom shouted.
“Okay, I’m awake!” I replied, assuring her I wouldn’t fall back to sleep - not today. I was going to the Fashion Institute of Technology to start summer classes in fashion and accessory design. I hurriedly dressed and left with her.
During the long ride down the Westside Highway, I remembered my parents’ original reaction to the idea of their daughter being alone in the city.
“Don’t talk to any strangers or walk down any deserted alleyways,” warned my mom.
“Don’t leave the FIT grounds under any circumstances,” my dad had said. My parents didn’t really think anything would happen to me, but I was still nervous. What would happen if I went to buy lunch and lost my way, or if someone tried to mug me?
Eventually my mom and I arrived on Seventh Avenue, or Fashion Avenue as it’s called. Excited as I was, it was still scary knowing I’d be in the city on my own. The concrete walls didn’t look too inviting, but all the other people seemed very excited about starting classes, so my nerves were eased a bit.
I was allowed in the building, but without my mom. So, I waved good-bye and followed the other girls into the auditorium for the introductory assembly. As we waited for it to begin, all sorts of teenagers passed by. Many were older, which was a bit intimidating. There were some boys too, although most were female. I saw some girls with spiked hair, some wearing expensive designer boots and handbags, and younger teens like me who seemed nervous and excited.
Soon the head of the Fashion Institute arrived to address us. She wished us a fabulous time at FIT, and then sent us to our classrooms. My teacher, an older woman with short hair, glasses, and a wise look, led us to our room. It was a large space, half of which was devoted to industrial sewing machines. On the other side were wooden tables and stools. There were paint spots and bits of fabric and other trimmings covering the tables and floor, which showed how hands-on and creative this course would be. Various projects hung on the chalkboard: a cell phone case, a tote bag, a make-up bag and a portfolio. These were the projects we would make during the three-week course.
We all listened as the instructor introduced herself and explained the course and what we would be making. Then she took us for a ten-block walk uptown to buy fabric. Along the way, I experienced all the familiar sights of New York: the taxis with their horns honking, street vendors selling foods and knock-offs, and countless subway stations. I began to talk with three other girls with whom I became good friends. As we walked, I realized that this experience wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be.
By the time we got back to FIT, class was over and it was time for another assembly before my afternoon class. This course in fashion design wasn’t as hands-on as my accessory class and involved more drawing: learning how to draw a fashion figure, various clothing items, and rendering different materials.
My instructor had us draw a human figure to get an idea of our ability. As I drew a young girl with a pretty face, long, wavy hair, and an outfit similar to the one I wore, I couldn’t help but feel as if the other girls were more artistic. They were all older and seemed more experienced but I continued with the class, and in the next three weeks I grew as an artist and improved my drawings.
My summer experience at FIT allowed me to grow artistically, make new friends, and conquer my fears. Although I was scared and overwhelmed at first, I truly enjoyed the experience. I learned how to use an industrial sewing machine, create countless handbags and zipper cases, and draw a fashion figure in clothing I had designed. Doing what I was afraid of allowed me to realize that I can do anything, as long as I am able to conquer my fears.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.