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How can I survive an unpaid internship?

After I graduate high school, my goal is to move to NYC and do 3-4 fashion internships, which I know rarely pay at all. I would really appreciate any tips about how to not go broke living like this! fashion intern internship summer apparel-and-fashion fashion-shows

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Daniel’s Answer

Great question. The fashion industry can be exciting and NYC is the fashion capital in the US. NYC is also one of the most expensive cities in the world! You will definitely a paid job to survive here in order to pay rent. You can still work as an unpaid intern to get experience in the fashion industry, but it will just have to be a part-time internship. This way, with the rest of your time you can work a part-time job that pays the bills! :) One idea is to work a part-time job in fashion retail (shops like H&M, Zara, or Uniqlo are popular in NYC) so you get also get relevant experience. I hope that helps!
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Sandra’s Answer

Love this question because I was an unpaid fashion intern and don't regret any second of it! Did it set me back financially, yes, but I got "paid" in experiences both professionally and personally.

However, not all fashion internships are unpaid! Sharing some links in case you find any interesting: https://fashionista.com/tag/paid-internships

If your heart is set on a fashion house that doesn't pay, don't let it deter you! Do you plan on doing a summer internship? If so, I recommend getting a part time job during the school year (if possible) and saving money throughout the year, so you don't have to worry about working in NY while interning.

When interviewing for an internship, ask how fashion houses can compensate if they can't offer pay (for example, can you get school credit? stipends? pay for lunch?). Other alternatives is to look into financial aid (to see if it's a right fit) or scholarships as well.

Other financial hacks to consider: Sublease an apartment in NY, find roommates, shop at Trader Joe's or Aldi and cook as much as possible (or get premade meals from Trader Joe's), take the subway often or walk (avoid cabs and Ubers as those add up).

Hope you find this helpful!

Thank you so much Sandra, this really helped me a lot!! Bella K.

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Maria Beah A.’s Answer

The unpaid internship will work as a "bridge" to the paid opportunities. So, keep this in mind and try to get part-time jobs and make some money while you are working as an unpaid intern. It will just be a matter of time to get the results. Try to imagine a recruiter taking a look at your resume with some experience instead of nothing else. You will stand out.
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James’s Answer

A lot of this depends on your personal financial situation and support network. NYC is a very high cost-of-living city but it is possible to live less expensively there (live with roommates, live outside of Manhattan and commute into the city, etc.)

Depending on how difficult or time-consuming your internships will be, you might consider taking a part-time job to be able to help pay the bills - I worked in the restaurant industry while doing internships to make some money since many of mine were also unpaid.

Also start to learn more about creating good personal finance habits - learn how to create/follow a budget and how to analyze your spending as this will become really important when you're trying to live on limited funds.
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