Emoni Baffour ’18 had never traveled outside of the United States before. But when she saw the International Experiences & Study Abroad office one day at University Crossing, something told her to stop in.
Doing so changed her life.
Baffour decided to study abroad in London during the fall semester of her senior year. The experience not only convinced her to pursue a career in the fashion industry, it also inspired her to return to London for graduate school after earning her bachelor’s of business administration from the Manning School of Business.
“I had a really good feeling about being in England, just like I had about Lowell,” says Baffour, who transferred to UML in 2016 after two years at James Madison University in Virginia. Living downtown at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, she embraced city living, from coffee at Brew’d Awakening to strolls through Mill No. 5. “It was easy to find my fit here,” she says. “The campus and the city are so diverse and culturally aware, which is what I needed.”
Growing up in Cambridge, Mass., Baffour loved fashion. As a freshman in high school, she started her own online business, Selene (named for the Greek moon goddess). She designed homemade dresses and sold them on Etsy. “It was successful, but it was really hard to keep up,” she says.
So in college, Baffour decided to “play it safe” and pursue a career in human resources. She chose a concentration in management and worked in the Office of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Outreach.
And then she spent four months in London, immersed in the fashion world. She lived in a flat with five other American students, took business courses through a provider-led program, visited fashion houses in London and Milan and blogged about her experience for the Study Abroad office. She also took on a research project that looked at plus-size fashion trends in the UK.
“There have been major strides in America in the last five years, with the first plus-size woman on the cover of Vogue and these ‘beyond your beauty’ movements,” says Baffour, who was surprised to learn that wasn’t the case in London. She says confronting this “culture shock” head-on helped her grow as a person.
“I came back a lot stronger,” she says. “I’m more confident in my decisions and myself in general.”
Now, Baffour is back in London, pursuing a “managing in a creative economy” master’s degree (with a concentration in fashion) at Kingston University. She wants to go into fashion buying, hopefully with a “high-end company,” and can also see herself building her own business one day. She feels well-prepared with the foundation she built at the Manning School.
"The faculty are so supportive on a personal level, which I appreciate so much,” says Baffour, who credits Ralph Jordan, an assistant teaching professor of management, for inspiring her to live abroad for graduate school. “He helped me see that it’s better to put myself out there than to not try at all, which is so important.”
As an undergrad, Baffour made a point to share her story with students while working as an orientation leader and as an assistant in the Study Abroad office.
“I want to make a positive mark on the world as much as I can,” Baffour says. “And I can definitely say that I did that here in every way I could.”