Internships are hard to come by and I was lucky enough to score one after my freshman year of college, which not many people even consider. The experience of being an intern after your freshman year is not what you think it will be whatsoever. You are new. You are freshly planted. You are an introductory subject. You know the bare minimum there is to know. And you will be treated as such.
I'm an Architecture major from the Northern Virginia area. Northern Virginia is one of the most diverse places in America, and I'm sure it falls somewhere along the lines of one of the most populated areas as well considering we surround Washington D.C. Well, known cities and areas are always the easiest places to find whatever it is you're looking for — so when I google searched "Architecture Firms Near Me", a plethora of firms ran down my screen. It's overwhelming, really.
Immediately I began going through each firms website, looking at their location, their size, and most importantly their projects. Now, up until this point, the process sounds pretty standard and is the same process that most students will undergo throughout their college years. But then, I emailed some of the firms that I was pretty interested in; I probably emailed upwards of twenty firms. I got five emails back. Two of which were to tell me they appreciated that I took the time to email them but they were not hiring interns, another two of which didn't really have a place for a first-year student, and one that told me we could set up an interview.
Now at this point, I'm doing fairly thorough research on the one, smaller, firm who seemed like they would have the least bit of interest in me. It wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't get an internship after my first year, but it would be damn good if I could get one.
After looking through their website a little more, I felt like it would be a good place for me to go and their projects were interesting. We agreed on a date and time to meet. I knew little to nothing about the reality of an architecture firm going in, so I was not expecting to be thrown into architectural projects as if I were an upperclassman. I mean, my freshman year I didn't learn much about architecture specifically, it was more of a general design education. So I really had no clue what to tell them when asked what I was looking for during the time I would be with them. Uh, I don't know, architecture stuff? Yeah, because that sounds really professional and intelligent.
I thought about bluffing and acting like I knew what I was doing — but that would have just made my death bed for me — so I was honest. I told them I was willing to assist in any way that I could and I wanted to learn as much as possible. They were eager to teach and I was eager to learn, and from there I became an intern.
The scene that always ran through my mind while thinking of myself as an intern is not the scene that happened during this summer. I always thought that during my first internship I would have this plethora of knowledge that would blow my superiors away and they would be throwing architectural drawings at me left and right.
This is unrealistic for anyone, no matter your age or major.
Mainly I ended up doing what I assumed I would be — helping with administrative tasks and observing everyone works on their projects; but, a few times here and there I did get to contribute to the architectural drawings. This was (and still is) a huge deal to me, it's a huge educational confidence boost. And administrative work and running an office is a vital part of any and all businesses and without the knowledge of how everything gets done, I would be ignorant to the entire process as a whole, I would only have known a portion of the process that goes on with a project.
I know that educationally I've gotten more out of this summer than a majority of my peers, which is also a confidence boost, and that I am a better design student now, all because this firm took a chance on me and for that, I am forever grateful to them.
Just because I didn't get to do an extensive amount of drawings does not mean that I did not gain an extensive amount of knowledge in every aspect of an architecture firm. If you're a firm with the resources and ability to take on a younger student, there's no harm in it. Someone may be passionate and eager to learn in any way they can, as soon as they can. If you're an upcoming freshman who wants to get an internship, there's no harm in it. Someone may take a chance on you and you will have a more rounded education of the process in your area of study than you would have otherwise.
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