Courtney Wilkins - Creativity

Few people choose a career path as a child and follow it into adulthood. Graduating senior Courtney Wilkins not only followed her dream career into adulthood, she followed it all the way to China.

Last summer, Wilkins, a fashion design and fashion merchandising major, spent seven weeks working as an intern while studying abroad in Shanghai.

Wilkins, 21, is a native of Indianapolis, Ind. For as long as she can remember, she’s been interested in fashion and really interested in shopping. She got her first sewing machine at the age of 10 and started working as a personal stylist in high school.

“I’m addicted to shopping,” she said with a laugh. “Clothes make me happy.”

It is no surprise that Wilkins was ecstatic when she learned she could combine her passions for shopping and clothes. She made such an impression during her internship with textile design, manufacturing and sales company, Helena Forbes, that Wilkins has been offered a fashion merchandiser position in China upon graduation.

“I never thought in my life I would leave the United States. I was terrified,” she said.

It was the idea of living abroad and being so far away from her family that incited so much fear, not the threat of culture shock. She learned to deal with culture shock on U.S. soil.

“Coming to A&T was culture shock. I came from a majority white Catholic school, then I came here and it was so different,” Wilkins said. “A&T prepared me to not judge people and to get to know them for who they are.”

The biggest shock for her was being one of the only people in the country who looked like her, she said.

A simple commute to work or to a store turned could turn in to an ordeal as she was being watched and asked to take pictures and in some cases having her personal space violated by people touching her and her hair.

“It got to be overwhelming at times,” she said. That is one thing about China she’s not ready to go back to but she is using the rest of the school year to prepare herself.

“I’m more nervous than excited. It was different when I was there for the internship. I knew I was coming back in a few weeks. A year just seems so long,” Wilkins said.

While she is not yet comfortable with the idea of living in Shanghai for 12 months, Wilkins is more than happy about what this kind of experience can do for her career.

“To do fashion merchandising here in the U.S., you have to start in retail. I can be over there, work for year and come back here and get any job I want,” she said.

“My parents were nervous for me to go for the internship now they are pushing me to go back.”

Until she returns to China, Wilkins will spend the remainder of the school year focusing on her studies and her extracurricular activities that include being a School of Agriculture & Economic Science advocate, a member of Global Aggies, Fashion Etc. and the Family Consumer Science Club and volunteering at a hospital when she visits her hometown.

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