Interview with French Student Laura De Rojas
A Magazine sat down with Laura De Rojas, a textile engineering major from the French school ENSAIT. She’s spending the semester studying abroad in Hong Kong. We talked about her favorite things in the city of Lille, finding an internship in France, what her classes are like and her personal style.
A Magazine: How did you decide to go to school for fashion?
Lauren DeRojas: It wasn’t an obvious decision at first since I was studying engineering in school. I have always been interested in clothes, because my mother sews along with my grandmother. I was interested in fashion during high school, but my parents didn’t want me to pursue a design degree. I like fashion, but I wasn’t really involved with it and my studies were more science based, so I naturally followed the engineering track for school. So I chose my major, textile engineering, as a way to get into fashion, but not through the arts. To be honest, I like the science aspect much more than if I was on a creative track.
AM: What are some of the projects you’ve done?
LD: Last year, we worked on a project with a fashion school in Belgium. We were matched with design students, and we helped the Belgian designers source fabrics for their accessories; it was fun.
AM: Do you ever get to be creative in some of your classes?
LD: Not really, the teachers don’t mind if you’re creative artistically, but it’s not expected. The students in my major are asked to be more creative in a problem solving way.
AM: What are some of your favorite things about your city?
LD: Lille is such a nice city; I love it, because it’s young. And there’s great nightlife and people are not arrogant, and it’s good for beers. The center of the city is quite beautiful, and it has a rich feel with all the boutiques. We don’t have a lot of brands in France; we have some like Zara, Mango and H&M. But we have far fewer than the United States.
AM: Do you think there are more boutiques than chain stores in France?
LD: Yeah, I like it better this way though. I mean chain stores provide jobs for people, but the money doesn’t go back to the people or the city in some way. It just goes to the big boss while the profits of boutiques are really for the small business owner, and to me, it seems more human. Also, the products are not mass produced clothes, which promotes buying quality over quantity. So hopefully there is less of an impact on the environment. Customers will ask for good quality and low environmental impact, because in France, we are really sensitive to the environment. But then sometimes you just want a 5 euro t-shirt from H&M.
AM: What are some of your favorite things about Hong Kong?
LD: I really love Hong Kong Island. It’s beautiful, and it has the finest buildings. I also love SoHo, because it’s full of French expats. There are so many boutiques, bars and cafes. But I feel like I’m getting a little bit of an ego because the locals seem to like French culture a lot here. I think that has been the most surprising aspect of my stay.
AM: What type of job do you hope to get once you graduate?
LD: I say buyer, but I don’t really know what I mean by that most times since it is so broad. Maybe also a project manager. I hope to find a good internship this summer to help me decide.
AM: How do you find a good internship in France?
LD: You can apply online for some, but it’s difficult. It’s based more on who you know. I’m not saying it’s impossible to find one if you don’t know anyone, but it helps a lot. But now I’m reaching out to everyone I know in the companies I’m applying for. I just feel like people are more willing to hire those that they know than a total stranger. And if your internship is longer than two months the company has to pay you minimum wage, if it’s less than that then they won’t pay.
AM: How much work do you usually do?
LD: Around 40 hours a week. I’m looking for an assistant engineering internship, so I may end up working more because engineers don’t have normal hours. You can work whenever you want as long you meet your objectives. And that could be good or bad depending on how long it takes for you to meet your goal. You almost always end up working more than the labor workers.
AM: How long will your internship last?
LD: 6 months. For my final year of schooling, I will take classes for 4 months then work at my internship for 6 months before graduation.
AM: What is your personal style, what do you think about fashion?
LD: Now that I’ve been in Hong Kong, I realize I dress very French. In France, I thought I was different from my peers. I usually dress in a lot of neutrals with minimal pops of color. But I like to dress different than my fellows. I don’t like to follow trends, but I like things to be beautiful and elegant too. There are some things that are really stylish, but I don’t want to wear them because they aren’t elegant and elegance is really important to me. It gives you power and confidence. But sometimes it can be a bit boring, because you feel like you’re always wearing the same colors.