Isabelle Rizo: The BellaVie

14 Jun

Isabelle originally reached out to me after hearing about the Eduventure 2012 project on Facebook. After checking out her site, I saw that we had similar interests, and that she herself was crafting much of her own higher education experience. I ended up interviewing her a week before she jetted off to China!

Isabelle, who graduated from high school in 2011, became interested in filmmaking early on in her school career. “I went to a public high school, but I was always DIY learning.” She owned a camera, and “I was always the person in charge of taking videos or pictures for family events.” She started becoming involved in the Youtube online community, and through vlogging she taught herself more about filmmaking and editing. When one of her teachers found out, he encouraged her to submit one of her films into a film festival, where it ended up winning an award. It was at this point that she began considering a career as a filmmaker. “I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I should go into this!’”

For college, Isabelle had applied and been accepted to attend a private college in downtown Chicago, and was planning on double majoring in social justice and international studies. She had spent a lot of time applying for scholarships, but was still going to have to take out several loans to attend the school. “Even living in the city of Chicago was going to be a whole other expense, and I couldn’t do that to my parents. But my parents were saying, ‘no, no, this is an investment in yourself!’ That’s what everyone was saying. But I just had this gut feeling.” Looking at the student loan papers, Isabelle thought to herself, “Oh my god, people are just signing their lives away!” So two weeks before Isabelle was supposed to start college she made a decision and told her parents that she wanted to save money and instead attend the local community college. For many of Isabelle’s peers, “there was still that stigma” around going to community college. “I had friends going to Cornell and Princeton and they would tell me, ‘no, don’t do that!’ and I would say ‘Well, I don’t want to have all that debt!’”

She was able to use the scholarships she had received to both cover community college tuition and to buy film equipment and other things for her learning plan. At the college, Isabelle discovered that the professors were actually “pretty fantastic” and helpful in pointing her to resources and internships, especially when they saw her passion for learning. “I didn’t see what the big deal was with the stigma towards community college.” Besides attending classes, Isabelle made a point to self-educate. “I literally lived at the library last summer, and I found all these books on DIY and indie filmmaking.”She also worked on developing other interests outside of film. After hearing about the TESOL certification for teaching English, Isabelle signed up to become certified, since she was interested in travel and working abroad. Social media has also played a huge role in Isabelle’s learning path, “I don’t think I could have the same resources and opportunities if it wasn’t for social media.”

Through the Uncollege community, she was able to find paid writing and blogging jobs, which also helped to build her resume. Socially, Isabelle was able to find community through Youtube and Meet-up groups. She is in China where she is teaching English and making a documentary film about entrepreneur expatriates living in the country, which she hopes to eventually screen at her high school and submit to film festivals. Isabelle hopes to inspire others and keeps a blog called The BellaVie, in which she interviews entrepreneurs, authors, and artists about how their work and how they got to where they are today.


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