Ren as Elsa from Frozen. The day this photo was taken, a young girl celebrated her birthday in the same park. Ren says the birthday girl and party guests were beside themselves to see their heroine Elsa in the flesh!

What do you do when your career path has been set for years and suddenly you realize it’s not for you? Ren Geiselhart knows the answer all too well. After an unhappy year in the architecture program at the University of Oregon, she had to come to terms with leaving a field her family had always assumed was her destiny (not to mention the fulfillment of a dream her grandfather was never able to realize).

“It took months for me to gather up the courage to tell my mom I didn’t want to do architecture anymore,” Ren recalls, losing her natural sparkle for just a moment. “But I love her. She just said, ‘Okay. That’s fine.’”

Then there was the little matter of figuring out what she did want to study. “It really all happened by coincidence,” Ren explains. “I went to an animé convention with my best friends and had so much fun! There’s just such a thrill in being somebody else for the day!” Ren purchased her cosplay costume for that convention, but “it didn’t fit at all.” She found that altering it was fun, however, and soon she wanted to try her hand at making a costume from scratch.

Before long, she had several elaborate Disney princess ensembles for herself and her friends, and Roger and Jessica Rabbit costumes for her parents. So far she has inhabited the characters of Cinderella, Elsa from Frozen, and General Esdeath from animé series Akame Ga Kill. (For Halloween she even went as a frozen Elsa, complete with make-up that looked liked she’d been frostbitten!) Right now she’s working on a Belle costume from Beauty & the Beast—“the blue one from the beginning of the movie,” she clarifies, “not the big yellow one. I’ve had enough of petticoats for a while!”

A self-taught sewist, Ren wanted to know more about the craft of sewing and decided to take fashion classes at Cañada College. She is currently enrolled in Flat Pattern and Beginning Construction, a winning combination for the skills she needs. “They’ve been really informative,” she notes. “I’m learning the language, and I’m picking up little tips and tricks like continuous stitching.”

Ren plans to take her interest in costuming to the next level at UCLA, if all goes well. (She’s hoping to hear back very soon, having recently interviewed with representatives from the School of Theater, Film & Television.) If that plan doesn’t work out, she may attend the Arizona Costume Institute or the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the UK. Wherever she gets her degree, she hopes to create costumes for science fiction movies when she graduates.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying her courses at Cañada, where she continues to be pleasantly surprised by the “super friendly environment.” That’s high praise, coming from a princess!