International Student Part of NRF Foundation Student Challenge Winning Team
Born and raised in Malaysia, Etheline Ting came to the United States at the age of 19. She first studied Fashion Design at FIDM, and is now in the Design B.A. program, and is expected to graduate this fall. Along with Ellie Smith and Emily Wilken, Etheline was part of the team that recently took first place in the NRF Foundation Student Challenge. The winning team acted as entrepreneurs, establishing a small business venture and creating a set of modular sustainable furniture products for Target, “Home Planet x Target,” which they pitched to leaders from the retailer. We recently caught up with Etheline, who, along with her teammates, will receive a $6,000 scholarship from the NRF Foundation.
How did it feel when you heard that your team won first place? I was really anxious during the interview; I didn’t know what to expect as every team had done an amazing job. It was somewhat unrealistic at that moment, filled with happiness and excitement. I am glad that our idea and effort were recognized.
What was the most rewarding part of this journey? I think being able to partner up with two amazing teammates from different majors and learn from them [Ellie Smith, A.A. Merchandise Product Development, Advanced A.A. International Manufacturing & Product Development, B.S. Business Management; and Emily Wilken, A.A. Textile Design, B.A. Design]. I think teamwork is one of the most rewarding parts as working with people from different areas is what we will go through after getting into the work field. Though we had faced an increasingly complicated set of challenges, such as different time zones and not being able to meet up in person due to the pandemic, they have been very helpful and put up with me throughout the whole process. This is also the first time I could actually apply what I learn from the school as a real life experience and show people what FIDM Students are capable of.
Did you divide the work up or work on everything together? Our team made a to-do list every week after each discussion to make sure everything was done on time. I was mainly in charge of the 2D assembly instruction and furniture 3D design part while Emily was in charge of the pattern and the textile design. I would divide the list into smaller categories and give priority to works that had to be done. Some of the work could be done individually, like the background and the interior, but some have to be done together such as the application of the color and pattern. We would pass the file to other team members to make small changes, so the process was more like going back and forward to make sure the end product turned out like what we expected.
How did FIDM Instructors assist or help with your business plan? They have been great support for both teams. Both of the instructors had strong backgrounds and knowledge in the industry – they were teachers with passion and had shared many of their experiences with us. Although we all had different time schedules, they worked to keep up with our process and meet with us whenever we needed help.
What lessons did you learn while participating in this challenge? I think that the whole market is moving towards sustainability. The push for sustainability is evident; consumers are now conscious about the environment and what they can do to help the planet. When we were researching for the recyclable material, we realized that there are so many new technologies and inventions such as biodegradable plastic, recycled ocean waste plastic, and non-toxic dye that will provide us a greener future. Even if we are a small part of this planet, a little move will have a huge impact for the long term.
How will the $6,000 award help you? The scholarship is a kind of affirmation and also motivation for me to continue improving myself. My next step is to continue my education, perhaps apply for a master degree in a different program, and the award will definitely help me with it.
How is it being an International Student at FIDM? The first year might be hard as there are problems like the language barrier and also I am not an outspoken person. I am usually the kind of person that will avoid eye contact when the teacher asks who’s going to present next. I believe the first class that actually encouraged me to speak out is the Effective Speaking class. That class gave me serious pressure, but it does help me improve, now I can present comfortably in front of the public. Speaking about meeting with new people, FIDM communities are actually diverse, even if I was the only international student in class; I don’t feel isolated, the overall social environment was great so I was able to build up connections with people from different countries.
What are your ultimate career goals? I would like to pursue my career as a designer and continue to build up my experience. My hometown and ethnic background had a deep influence on me, and there are still some of the traditional handcraft techniques and beautiful fabric prints I wish more people could know. My goal is being able to show my culture in my future work, combining innovative technique and a sustainable approach.