How Google Landed Me a Summer in England

Written by Lilly Schmitz

Ever since I can remember, my energetic, vivacious, and spunky mother would always tell me stories about her time spent studying abroad in Europe. She told me about navigational mishaps, learning from her Spanish host mother how to cook Paella, the excitement she felt when she visited the Prado Museum for the first time, walking through buildings and churches built hundreds of years ago, and the sense of pride she experienced when she finally began to comprehend and converse in Spanish with her host family and friends. My mother’s bold sense of adventure and exciting stories inspired my desire to travel all over the world.

My own chance came this past summer in a different capacity than I imagined it would.

Inevitably, as the middle of the spring semester comes around, Hillsdale students begin to ask one another, “What are you doing this summer?” At that point in March, I was embarrassed to admit to many of my friends with secured internships or plans to study abroad that I had no idea how I would fill my time. And so, I did what anyone would do in this situation: I turned to Google.

Some of my greatest passions include classical ballet, visual art, and clothing construction. I danced classical ballet from the age of three to twenty. I also began taking sewing lessons at the age of eight and continued to design and create during every school vacation. I never thought I could combine these two passions.

It was the adventures of a few friends who have interned abroad with fashion designers as well as those of my mother that inspired me to Google, “classical ballet tutu apprenticeship.”

Before I could blink, my desperate Google search landed me an apprenticeship with three costume designers in a quaint country town called Wotton-under-Edge in the Stroud district of Gloucester, England.

It was an incredibly demanding experience. I spent eleven hours a day for three weeks learning the ins and outs of classical ballet tutu design and construction. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I was expected to work with extreme accuracy and speed as I cut, dyed, and pinned fabric, crafted beading designs, measured the ballerinas to ensure the proper fit, and made adjustments to patterns to fit the needs of the dancers. There was no room for mistakes, as the materials we used were quite costly, and the deadlines hung heavily over our heads. This sharpened my attention to detail and caused me to identify ways in which I could be more efficient in my work while producing high quality workmanship.

My experience working with the tutu designers is comparable to my academic experience at Hillsdale. The rigorous core classes and demanding—yet gracious—professors have ingrained in me the importance of meeting every challenge, whether it’s related to academics, an apprenticeship, or any area of life, with a smile, diligence, and perseverance.

When I completed my first full tutu, the realization of all that I had accomplished with the skills and techniques I had learned swept over me like a tidal wave. I felt an enormous sense of pride in my work. I can only imagine that this is how my mother felt when she held her first full conversation in Spanish without any help from a dictionary or a friend. Sometimes all it takes is a simple Google search. But more often than not, it is the ability to work through the challenge with dedication and joy.

Lilly Schmitz, ’20 is a junior studying Politics with a minor in graphic design. She enjoys photography, sewing, sipping earl grey tea, and cuddling with her dachshund puppy, Phoebe.