AMD student interns in South Korea

Zenobia Afeworki bonding with her new South Korean friends. 

Olivia Hanson

Zenobia Afeworki took a leap of faith last summer that landed her in Seoul, South Korea, for an internship at a fashion marketing company.

Afeworki, a senior in apparel, merchandising and design, initially applied for an internship in Seoul through International Studies Abroad (ISA) at the International Students and Scholars Office at Iowa State.

“The kicker of that program is that you may not end up getting placed, so for the months that I was waiting for a reply, it was a little intimidating,” Afeworki said.

After about four months of waiting, Afeworki got an interview with the fashion company Tailorable.

According to their website, Tailorable is a company that “provides clothing for men and women to the highest standards of fit, and finish.”

Soon after her interview, Afeworkri was hired.

“I was in total shock,” Afeworki said. “It seemed like I wasn’t going to get the opportunity to go the longer I waited for a response. It was definitely one of the best accomplishments from my time in college.”

For Afeworki, going abroad was not as scary because she had been overseas in the past. The thing that made her nervous was the language barrier, Afeworki said.

But after having experience abroad, Afeworki had a bit of hesitation because an internship is required in the apparel, merchandising and design department program.

“I wasn’t really sure… like is this really necessary to do? Maybe I shouldn’t go abroad right now because I already went abroad in the past. But I really did want to go to Korea. So when I got that opportunity, I took a chance on it,” Afeworki said.

Tailorable is one of “the most successful retail shops in Seoul,” Afeworki said. At such a successful company, she took on a lot of different responsibilities.

“I would help with meetings and obviously interns do the whole, ‘bring coffee and tea thing,’” Afeworki said. “I did a lot [of] emailing with international people from other countries, usually from Europe, and I would assist in photoshoots or Instagram. I was kind of all over the place because I guess that’s how it is when you’re an intern.”

Afeworki also handled international business on their website, translated blog posts, worked on editing issues, as well as sending out emails about potential partnerships with companies or order inquiries, she said.

“One of my favorite parts was that I got the chance to get to know some new people–all of my co-workers,” Afeworki said. “My co-workers helped me out a lot when I needed it and it was really fun to make memories with them.”

Another favorite part of her internship was getting a chance to observe part of the apparel industry she doesn’t often get to see: the design side.

Tailorable had two tailors in their shop who designed all of the company’s custom clothing, which was typically suits.

The most memorable part of the internship for Afeworki was when she got to meet Korean celebrities or business associates. She met Lee Soo Man, founder of SM entertainment, and Song Wook-hwan, CEO of Nike Korea.

“I think the most rewarding part of this entire experience was that I got the chance to be out in a professional working environment,” Afeworki said. “It is one of the first big steps we all take in our adult life, so I am happy that I am beginning to evolve.” 

As for the future, Afeworki sees herself continuing to pursue her fashion career in a big city and hopefully working for a luxury fashion company or a big fashion magazine publication such as Vogue, W or Harper’s Bazaar, she said.