Youth: Meet Saki, a Fashion Institute University Student in Los Angeles, CA

Interviewer: Nandini Daga; June 5, 2020

Interviewee: Sakhi Bhandaru, Student @ Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

The interior of the Fashion Institute (Architect Magazine)

Could you tell us about yourself and your university and major?

My name is Sakhi Bhandaru, and I am attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. I am currently majoring in merchandised product development and hoping to attain a bachelor’s in science and business management

How has COVID-19 affected the functioning of your college? What worries you most regarding the effect COVID-19 has/will have on your college?

COVID-19 has basically made spring quarter remote, so I am not in LA. I am at home in Washington taking online classes through remote learning that is mostly lecture based, with stuff on Canvas, and self-learning with help from teachers available. Fashion-related learning is very hands on, based on touching and feeling and seeing in person, but because of COVID-19 we aren't able to have that full experience. We’re not able to learn about fashion trends--at FIDM we had books and fashion trend resources and fabrics we could touch, all of which are an integral part of our learning, so not having access to those resources is difficult.

"Fashion-related learning is very hands on, based on touching and feeling and seeing in person, but because of COVID-19 we aren't able to have that full experience."

Is there anything that could be done to ease these problems?

Some colleges have reduced tuition because they are no longer providing the same level of resources as before--and some didn’t do it willingly, and needed more persuasion, we had to petition--but some did it willingly.

How is online college?

Definitely interesting, I have only one remote class where we are on zoom, for all the others the material is on Canvas. We go at our own pace and have everything done by Friday. The material is there but it’s a lot of self-learning, and we can reach out to the teachers but overall it is inconvenient.

Is there anything affecting your major specifically?

I’m still in my first year, so I’m doing mostly Gen-Eds which can be done online--required courses with repetitive content. But some of the core classes related to my major I had to switch around. For example, the sewing class I had in the winter quarter had a second part which I was supposed to take in spring, but I had to postpone it to fall. It isn’t something I can learn through a video; I have to see what exactly the teacher is doing. I was unsure about success online in such a visual class. So I feel both ways, that some classes are basic and doable online, but in some cases they have to be in person.

"I was unsure about success online in such a visual class."

How has it impacted your clubs and opportunities?

I am a board member of our honors society, Phi Theta Kappa (@fidmstudentactivites on Instagram). What we do is a lot of fun projects--FIDM is not a super big college, no sororities or big clubs and community involvement organizations. PTK combines them all, and additionally hosts socials to meet people from different quarters and new students. We do volunteer outreach events in LA, such as at Ronald McDonald house, beach clean-up, going to food banks, etc. COVID-19 has affected that part, so now we have to think about how to encourage that kind of activity in students’ own homes. It’s hard to figure out logistics and safety and think about planning so that meetings can still happen.

I am also part of a premier group, the product development premier group, which every quarter has three meetings with influential people, such as a buyer for Nike or a product developer for Abercrombie. They would come to talk to us in person--it hasn’t changed much, except now it’s on Zoom. We still hear from them and can ask questions. What is lacking is the personal connection, and in this industry you need those.

"What is lacking is the personal connection, and in this industry you need those."

So not being able to foster that personal connection and talk about your passions with them and become more than a name but a person is hard because of the limitations of Zoom. Nobody wants to ask a personal question for the whole zoom audience, and it isn’t possible to plan for one-on-one time for everyone.

Additionally, I am doing two virtual internships, one based in women’s empowerment through social media, which is campaign based, and another which is community based. (@covenmag and @mysocialcampus on Instagram!). They aid women in college, regardless of age or major. It is hard because everything can be done online, but again the personal connections are lacking, which is a big deal for me, as I love creating those connections.

Has your college/clubs/community provided aid in any way, through fundraisers or other methods?

My two internships have been doing outreach and getting our partners to look into national and local organizations, to sign petitions and donate money. The outreach has been for both the Black Lives Matter movement and for communities affected by COVID-19. It's a lot of outreach and trying to figure out whether it is working and encouraging participation through social media.

If you are willing to share, how has COVID-19 affected you individually and your family?

Individually it made me, not depressed, but kind of sad. There’s nothing to look forward to at the moment, and I can’t see my friends that I’ve been wanting to see for so long even after coming home. As someone who loves spending time with friends, being confined to a screen is hard, especially since I’m a very social person.

How was moving back home?

It feels nice to be with family in this crazy time, especially since LA became a hotspot of COVID after I left. It feels nice to be safe and away from it all, and not alone in the city and having to deal with everything myself. My mental health could have been a lot worse, it's not super nice, but it could have been a lot worse.