It seems as if every other day, another person I know is preparing to go abroad. Once October hits, the acceptance letters come streaming into inboxes and Facebook statuses are immediately updated in celebration.
Most people will tell you that the experience will broaden your perspective and strengthen your worldview, but can going abroad shape your style as well?
Katty Hargrave-Kerns, a senior in the School of International Service, went abroad to Kenya during the fall and spring semesters of her junior year. During her time there, she developed a love for the Kenyan culture, which she said she now conveys through her clothing.
“Going abroad to Kenya, we had a certain dress code deemed appropriate for the culture,” Hargrave-Kerns said. “Living there for 12 months definitely had an influence on my style. I began wearing flowy, harem-style pants and a lot more long skirts, and that laid-back look has stuck with me since.”
While Hargrave-Kerns found many style influences abroad, her most radical change did not happen within her wardrobe, but instead in her hairstyle. Following months of persuasion from her local friends, she decided to get dreadlocks.
“After years of growing it out and it constantly knotting, my hairdresser actually suggested it to me,” Hargrave-Kerns said. “I had always wanted to dread my hair but I never had the guts . . . Little did I know, it took a ton of effort and almost six months before my hair actually started to lock. But now I love my dreads dearly because their upkeep is so easy.”
Along with her unconventional locks, the assortment of bracelets Hargrave-Kerns wears serve as a daily reminder of the friends she made during her time in Kenya. Paired with playful Silly Bandz inspired by the kids she babysits, her “arm party” represents a union of the two cultures.
“The friends I made abroad all typically identified as ‘rastas,’” Hargrave-Kerns said. “They consistently made or brought home jewelry with the trademark rasta colors: red, yellow and green. My wrists are covered in those gifts as constant reminders of my time away and my friends.”
Hargrave-Kerns developed close friendships while in Kenya and got involved with several youth advocacy groups. After graduation, she plans to return to continue work for these organizations, but in the meantime, she promotes awareness for these causes on campus.
“I am currently selling a lot of handmade jewelry to profit a youth group/orphanage I worked for called Fruitful Kibera,” Hargrave-Kerns said. “The proceeds go directly to the orphanage, and the money is typically put towards feeding the 20 orphans they house.”
Although her abroad experience had a significant impact on her personal style, Hargrave-Kerns’ beliefs on fashion have remained consistent through her time at school and her travels.
“Comfort is key,” Hargrave-Kerns said. “I don’t just mean comfortable clothing, but if you personally feel comfortable and confident in what you are wearing that will shine through. I have never really paid that much attention to fashion, except my own, but when I feel confident in what I’m wearing is when I think I look my best.”