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Natalia Zurowski

October 5, 2011

The Best of Both Worlds: Modelling While On A Student Exchange

Natalia Zurowski
Chantale Nadeau's Natalia Zurowski
Female Brides Magazine (Singapore)
Many models face the same decision each passing year: Do I go to college or university now? I am guilty of having faced the same decision. For those of us who do choose to continue our post-secondary education, we are granted only four months of summer holidays. Although this is technically a generous period of time to allot students for vacation, in terms of modelling, only four months out of the year to travel for work is often not enough. Modelling careers today are often quite short lived. Once the ball starts rolling, many models choose to continue modelling in fear that their time as a model could be 'up' at any given moment. As ridiculous as that may sound, it is the harsh reality of the situation and industry as a whole.  

The high supply of models today does not nearly correspond to the demand for them. Although there is still work to be had, new faces are coming out faster than Twinkies off a factory conveyor belt. Many models choose to put off their education until they feel 'ready.' Although their logic is understandable, a model does not necessarily have to choose either one. Why not do both for at least a semester or even year? Consider it as a test or trial run if you will, for you to see if the modelling world is something you really are interested in pursuing more of in the future. If anything, you can always get a deferral and can feel confident in knowing that you made an educated decision.

By going on exchange to another country, you are able to benefit from the best of both worlds: continuing your post-secondary education AND building your portfolio and experience as a model.

Let's take a closer look:

The PROs:


  • The City
    The modelling market in Canada is concentrated primarily in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. For those students who attend universities or colleges in smaller cities, like London, Hamilton etc., the modelling opportunities are not large enough; and often, the commute to and from these major cities is quite far, tiresome and costly. By going on exchange to a major world city like Paris, Milan, Hong Kong, Singapore etc., you will be able to work in an International market. In doing so, you will be exposed to a host of new opportunities you otherwise may have never had and in turn, your experience as a model will grow exponentially.


  • Agency
    When you go away to another country for a modelling contract, you arrive at your destination and are already set up with the agency who offered to take you on via sent photos and videos from your mother agent. This time, the tables turn. A key benefit of going on exchange and living on your own terms, is that you are costing the agency virtually nothing for them to represent you; minus the cost of comp cards and website fee (if applicable). Agencies will be less likely to be hesitant to take you on board because they will have seen you in person already. Not only that, but as previously mentioned, you are staying in the country on your own terms. You may find that several agencies will actually be after you and you will be the one to get to choose which you think would best represent you. How's that for awesome supermodel?


  • No Expenses
          With an ever-increasing surplus of models with a non-corresponding demand, modelling is getting to be a more difficult business to find success in. As mentioned above, your expenses will be minimal, with only the cost of comp cards and website fee if that. Thereby, increasing your possibility of making money, despite the ever present competition. For those models that have travelled internationally, expenses can be quite high and a real pain. But this way, you can get more money in YOUR pocket, now how awesome is that? Got change for a hundred? You probably do! 


  • Extra Income
          Pursuing an overseas education by going on exchange can be expensive. Although international student fees are levied, many students still have to work themselves to pay for such an excursion. Here is where modelling overseas can be an additional bonus: Models can potentially make some extra cash for themselves that they can then use to pay off their school or even just to seek comfort in knowing they have money to spare.  


  • It's all about YOU
          Not only will you learn in school while you are modelling, but this newfound freedom will teach you a lot about yourself as a person. By going away on exchange, you will become more independent and you will learn to fend for yourself. Not only that, but you will become more open-minded about the world around you and see life in a whole new light. Consider it not just a trip abroad, but a voyage of self-discovery. 


  • Investing in Your Future
          Your ability to multi-task will also look very impressive to potential employers. Some of you may laugh at that; oh you work and go to school? You are so special! This is different. In the world of modelling, your day is not your conventional 9-to-5 Saturday job at the mall; you are always on call and must always be on your toes. Punctuality is a must. You have to always be ready and be prepared; portfolio, heels, hair washed, nails clean etc. and you better bloody shine. Sometimes your day can even last up to 12 hours depending on the job. During your time away, you are also learning to communicate with people from another culture and where English is not the first language. You are getting firsthand knowledge and experience into learning to work and interact with others who are from different backgrounds. For example, you are a model from Canada, the photographer is from Paris and the production crew is from Spain; you have all come together to work with one another as a team to create that fantastic campaign, editorial etc., all the while maintaining positive social interactions to create a relaxed and warm working environment for everyone involved. 


  • Portfolio Development
          You will be able to meet a host of new and talented photographers, stylists, MUA's etc., from outside of Canada. Each of them will have their own distinct and unique methods of photography, styling etc., that will differ from the works of photographers back in Canada. As a model, your portfolio is your number one tool to show clients why they should book you over other models. By working with creative teams from outside of Canada, your portfolio will have a diverse mix of photos from different artistic teams that can assist in showcasing your versatility as a model. Also, going away elsewhere can help you obtain those sought after lucrative tear sheets. If you only stayed for a two month contract, you may not get the chance to get as many tear sheets as you would like. Since a typical exchange is four months, you will have more time to try and get tear sheets and not feel as much pressure. You can really use this time away to develop a nice, new portfolio that will help you advance your career. Consider it as an investment: A portfolio with tear sheets and good quality photos can help you secure higher paying jobs and increase your rate as a model. 


  • Get Involved & Network
          In staying in one place for a long time, you have the opportunity to work with many of the same photographers, stylists etc., on more than one occasion. The world is a small enough place as is and the fashion industry is even smaller. Get to know the clients, stylists and make some friends in the industry. There is no stronger medium than word of mouth and if people hear you are a good model; chances are more job options will come your way. Leverage off your stay and make the most of it by befriending others. Not only will your stay there become more enjoyable, but you can make the right connections that could help you later in the long run. Just remember to be professional, punctual and have a positive attitude. Modelling may not be that typical 9-to-5 job, but at the end of the day, it is still a job so do your absolute best.


  • Travel
          If you choose to go on exchange in either Europe or Southeast Asia, you are setting yourself up for a chance to test out other markets. For example, if you were to study in Germany for a January-April semester, you could use your remaining four months of summer vacation to go to another country or two for contract. Whether it is Greece, Italy, Spain etc., you are already in Europe and travelling to nearby countries is very cheap so you should take advantage of the opportunity. Agencies would also feel more so inclined to take you on since advancing your flight ticket will not be too expensive. The same goes for if you were to do an exchange in places like Singapore. Hong Kong, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur are all other close-by markets worth considering! If all goes well, perhaps you could consider even returning to the market for another contract in the future!
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