By Yaseen Abdus-Saboor.
When leaving orientation before entering my freshman year at DePaul, my mother and I had blind faith that we would make my college career work without even having the expenses to pay for my tuition. Receiving the opportunity to go to Paris, essentially for free, at the end of my undergraduate career is something beyond my expectations as a young black man from Ohio. This trip was the perfect close to my college experience.
Nonetheless, arriving to Europe for the first time was astonishing to say the least. The separation of cultures was something that I have never experienced in my life before. It was beautiful to see how diverse Paris was when I first arrived. On the first day seeing beautiful black families and black people working around the city was shocking and amazing to me. This may be because of the perception America has of Europe thinking only of the French people that are native to France. Seeing all of the cultures in Paris was amazing especially the Muslim and black population. This soothed me being a Muslim-raised black American because it was like I was seeing my culture on the other side of the planet thriving. It seems like something so simple, but you never realize how engulfed in your own life and surroundings you are until you’re outside of your surroundings.
As far as the educational aspect of this trip to Paris, it was focused on understanding marketing in a luxury context. For the trip we met with six different luxury companies in Paris and learned about their practices and broke down what aspects of their practices make them luxury companies. The companies we visited were Fragonard (luxury fragrances), La Compagnie (luxury airlines), Left Productions (luxury production company), Fauchon (luxury grocery store), Galleries LaFayette (luxury department store) and Fondation Louis Vuitton (museum). This specific study abroad course was perfectly aligned with my interests because I am a fashion designer building my brand. And what better place to learn about marketing for fashion than Paris? The wide variety of companies we studied on trip gave me gems to hold onto while pursuing my ambitions of owning my own fashion label. Each ambassador of the company gave very detailed insight on what the company does, what makes them thrive and what makes them a luxury brand. A lot of the things we learned totally changed our false ideas of luxury. For example, the idea that luxury has to be expensive is not true. We learned this mostly from Fragonard and La Compagnie. Luxury is more about bringing a unique high quality product that serves a higher purpose than the functionality of the product to consumers. Along with the functionality, it must successfully accomplish a higher leisure goal for the consumer.
This study abroad trip was an amazing scope into a culture that is so different, yet so similar to American culture. Studying abroad was a goal that I made when I entered college and I am grateful that I was able to accomplish that goal in the timing that I did. I encourage every college student to study abroad if they get the chance because it opens your eyes to something you will never see by staying in your own environment. And, I can say that I am more at peace with my life’s journey after seeing another part of the world. This trip was my peace of mind before focusing on entering the work force. It helped me remove myself from my stresses in everyday life and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.