Aug 28, 2015
THEME: Point of View, Workplace

What I Did on my Summer Vacation: Five Observations on the Intern Experience

Every summer, dozens of interns come to Perkins+Will’s 23 offices to develop real-world skills that take the knowledge gained in college and university programs and apply it to the design challenges facing architects today. A few of this year’s crop shared observations on their experiences, with lessons for anyone looking to jump into the world of architecture.

Connect the Dots between School and Work

Amanda Alexander, an intern in our Houston office, quickly jumped into a new research center project. Making the leap from academia wasn’t as hard as one might typically expect. “While studying architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for the past four years, science and technology have formed the foundation for many of our studio projects.  From my experiences at school and working here, it is apparent that these types of projects are at the forefront of today’s architectural practice.  I am thrilled to be interning at a Perkins+Will office that specializes in science and technology design, exposing me to the real life process of producing innovative spaces for learning, discovery, research and healing.  My university’s most cherished and practiced motto is, ‘Why not change the world?’  I can confidently say that I have been afforded the opportunity to implement this motto every day of my internship this summer.” Take some time to reflect on how the education you’re receiving is not simply an exercise in abstract theories, but an applicable skill that can help solve problems.

The Software is Your Friend, Eventually

Even if Grasshopper or Dynamo aren’t your strong suits, an internship can afford you the chance to flex your skills while growing as a technician to implement them later on. Seize the opportunity to improve your software skills.  Cameron Erskin, in Houston, described it thusly: “My colleagues have been patient and taught me a lot of things I did not know. The real world experience was a real eye-opener. I have taken in so many things that I will apply in my studio classes this coming semester. Working in Revit and learning how to maneuver through the program has probably been the one of the biggest assets thus far.” Kaitlyn Lydecker in Dallas added, “Despite occasional roadblocks with Revit, I was able to learn the pace of working in the ‘real world,’ and what is expected of us from a client.” Practice makes perfect, after all.

All Work and No Play? No Way!

Sometimes you need to take a holistic approach to the intern experience, both within the office and outside of it. In Los Angeles, Sierra Peterson waxed warmly about the office’s Engage LA program that seeks to connect the our colleagues in the City of Angels with the larger community. “Through this program I was able to witness and explore parts of LA that I would not have otherwise been able to on my own, and I was able to connect with my coworkers on a different level. The program engages once a month, and during my time with the office I was able to visit Koreatown (including participating in karaoke), Olivera Street, Chinatown, and an LA Dodgers game! Outside of work, I was able to use this summer to grow on a personal level. Having never even been to the West Coast before, everything was new to me. This was my first time really being away from home and living on my own. I used this time to gain independence.” Ball games, boat tours, and picnics are not uncommon at Perkins+Will in the summer – remember to have fun!

Embrace the Experience With Open Arms

Jessica Palmer, an intern in our Dallas marketing team, had plenty of enthusiasm for marketing and communications but had never been in the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) world. “I was a little intimidated preparing for my first day because I knew nothing about architecture. As a marketing student, walking in and instantly being surrounded by architects and interior designers was like entering a foreign country. But, I quickly became inspired by the people in this office. In just two months Perkins+Will has opened my eyes to a new career path in design that I have already come to love. This experience has not only developed me as a professional but it has guided me in a new direction as I begin my career.”

Don’t Limit Yourself

You may go into an internship thinking one thing and leave totally transformed. In New York, Kela Bogaard shared, “There are countless career options in the design profession due to the wide range of skills and knowledge that are required. While many of us may want to apply to an entry level design position, there are positions throughout the business and design worlds that may draw on your unique talents as an individual in a more successful way. Each contact is a chance to pursue a career, and each opportunity is enhanced and multiplied by globalization.” Determining your own goals is essential to making the most out of an internship. The world, after all, in your oyster, you just need to determine how you’d like it served.

For more on careers at Perkins+Will, click over to our website. 

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