High School Student Studies the Art of Perfumery in France

Cosby Award Winner Cathy '24 Studies the Art of Perfumery in France

The Cosby Award supports Grade 11 students to pursue their career interests in the summer before their graduating year.

The Cosby Award is a summer program award for Midland juniors to encourage active experiential learning in the field of one’s interest. Cathy, Class of 2024, spent the summer between her junior and senior year pursuing the art of perfumery in France at the ISIPCA Versailles campus which is about a forty-minute train ride from Paris. 

We sat down with Cathy to ask her about this experience and what it was like spending two weeks at a school dedicated to the science of perfume, cosmetics and flavor. 

What made you want to go to this program? 

Ever since I first heard about the Cosby Award, I really wanted to apply to go to this program. The summer after my freshman year, I took an online course on perfumery. I wanted to go to this specific program because of the school itself. After I go to college, I want to pursue perfume as a career. One way into the industry is to go this graduate school. There are not a lot of programs that offer perfumery. The industry is small and the school is selective. By going to the program, they give you an internship which allows for a gateway into the industry.

What did your daily life look like during the program? 

The first half of the first week, we spent learning about raw materials. We spent the time smelling different raw materials in the classroom. The rest of the time of the first week was spent in the lab doing different compositions. 

We learned about the three main types of perfume. These are called accords. The first type is chypre. Feminine perfumes tend to be based on this accord. The second type is called fougère; masculine fragrances tend to be based on fougeres. The last one is called amber orientale, this can be feminine or masculine and is more of a warmer fragrance. 

In the second week, we first learned about our sense of smell and how it connects to our brains. After that, we spent a day learning about marketing. This focused on how the industry works and how long it takes to produce a perfume that goes to the mass market. We spent the last day learning about functional perfumery used for room fragrances, candles, shampoos and soaps.

On the last day, we had an evaluation. We chose our favorite fine fragrance and everyone in the class smelt it and wrote down feedback. 

Photo by Pexels – Mart Production

Tell us about the other people who were in the program with you.

I was the youngest person in the course. Some were already in the industry already, but some were just interested in perfumery and pursuing it as a hobby. There were people from all over the world, people from Korea, Sweden, Brazil, Madagascar, India, and Pakistan were all in the class together.

How did such a multinational group affect your experience? 

It was very eye opening. It was interesting to see people who were from all over. People shared things from their culture and their languages. People started bonding as we spent more time together.   

What do you feel were your main takeaways from the experience? 

My main takeaway would be that I do want to go into perfume professionally. I’ve done online perfume programs before, but not in person. This was more in depth and it was a nice refresher.

How did this program inform your career path? 

On the marketing day, my favorite day, the instructor taught us many aspects. I want to do perfumery for the creativity of it. I want to focus on perfume design. In the industry, I can’t design whatever I want, I have to work with clients and design their vision.

Picture of strawberries, flowers, butterfly on a pink flower, campfire

What do you think of when you think about the scent of Midland? (Photos by Heather Carreiro)

What might you want to try with your newfound knowledge and skills? 

I would love to do a scent extraction for my senior project. I want to go around Midland and extract scents from natural materials.

I would like to extract five different Midland plants and put them through two different extraction  methods: distillation (rapid cooling and heating) and enfleurage (traditional method of layering fats and flowers and letting them sit for 24-48 hours to make an absolute scent).In the end, I would love to create the scent of Midland.

Do you have any advice for others interested in perfumery? 

It is very upsetting, but not everyone has access to expensive programs. If you do want to pursue perfume creatively, start training your nose. Start smelling things all around you. Everything around you smells. Once you start noticing the smells around you, it’s like a whole new world.

Thank you so much, Cathy, for taking the time to share with us about this amazing experiential learning program! If you are a Midland junior and want to apply for the Cosby Award, check out more information with the link below. 

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