PMSA trip 2019: Sights, smells and photoshoots

Each week, Whitecliffe Fashion Tech students will have their unique PSMA Indian journey highlighted as they’re immersed in international issues and culture – this week, we feature Wellington student Michelle Israelson.


From the moment my fellow Whitecliffe Fashion Tech students and I set foot in India, we became super models. 

We have been hounded by the paparazzi (tutors, staff, students and strangers on the street) who go out of their way to procure our photo.  There is nowhere to hide.  We must look our best at all times as we never know when the next photoshoot will be. We must practice our posing and work it for the camera with dignity of course, so that we will always look amazing as we are representing our school.  We must cover our head, shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes…… oops, got carried away, just our shoulders, chests and knees as those are the rules here.

We are waited on hand and foot. We are fed five times a day (we’ve had to buy bigger clothes, any excuse for shopping). Our beds are made for us, our bedrooms and bathrooms, or should I say “bomb sites” are kept clean and tidy so that we may remain calm and relaxed. And there is always a bottle of water at the ready to quench our thirst.

Any other requests or needs we may have are met with a smile and the customary side-to-side nodding of the head, which is very catchy by the way and something most Fashion Tech students will have acquired as a habit before returning home.

We are becoming accustomed to “Indian time” which means that if we are told to be ready at 9am for a road trip, we will actually leave at 9.45am with a short stop outside the gate for the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (BIT) students that will accompany us for their studies.

Our bus rides are long and arduous and we must swallow at least an hours worth of dust and/or bugs coming in through the windows that remain open at all times so that we, the super models, may keep our bodies at an even temperature for the next photoshoot.  The local people in the countryside and in the cities provide an array of wondrous sites, sounds and smells to keep us entertained along the way.  A cacophony of scooter, truck and bus horns can always be heard serenading us on our journey, just like orchestral music in a play which is used to create the mood.  The play they put on for us is full of brightly coloured costumes made of exquisite silk, linen and cotton. The brilliance is sometimes mind blowing. The women wear their saris and/or salwar kameez (tunic and pants), and the men wear the dhoti (white wrap around skirt) or the lungi (the enclosed knee length wrap around pants) if they have not succumbed to wearing western clothes.

The backdrop and stage props always seem to amaze.  Elaborately coloured spotless buildings alongside houses made from palm leaves. Cows and goats wandering amongst the traffic, scooters as far as the eye can see, sometimes carrying the whole family at once.  People in the fields planting banana palms and crops.  Workers dangling from scaffolding made from bamboo tied together.  People threading flowers into decorations for your hair or house.  A beggar on the street who suddenly whips out a cell phone.  Sari/apparel shops everywhere with far too many brightly coloured choices for us Kiwis when we are only used to black, black or black.  We are slowly assimilating, we have purchased colour, yes we have.

Back to the bus rides.  We arrive at our destinations and adjust the clothing that still clings to our bodies – so unaccustomed to the heat – ready to absorb all the sites, sounds and experiences that they throw at us, for we are here to learn about textiles.

On our journeys out and back in class, we meet many wonderful people who are very accommodating and always have a smile to share. They are interested in us not only as Super Models but also as to what we can bring to the table.  We have learnt many things from the people of India – they are very humble and we could be less demanding and more aware of how we treat each other.  We must appreciate what we have.

Lastly, I will mention the food.  Now that our bodies are mostly accepting the fact that we WILL be eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we have come to realise that there is more than just chicken korma available and will go out of our way to try all the new vegetarian delicacies displayed before us.

On that note, it is time to eat – so I will finish by saying what an amazing experience it is here for us super models from Whitecliffe Fashion Tech and if ever you get the chance to come to India, you should take it, as it is an experience of a life time.

Read more from the PSMA India Trip 2019


Being awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia (PMSA) is a once in a lifetime opportunity, one which 15 Whitecliffe New Zealand Fashion Tech students are the lucky recipients of for 2019.

The level 5 Diploma in Apparel and Fashion Technology students, seven from Auckland and eight from Wellington, are travelling to Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (BIT) in India as part of their Indian Apparel and Textile Practicum. 

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