my life as an intern

So, this wasn’t supposed to be a food blog, but it’s kind of turning into one. I can’t help that it’s honestly one of my favorite things to talk about, take pictures of, and share with people, but I thought it might be nice to take a little break and talk about me instead of what I’m putting in my mouth.



After all, I have been doing a lot more than eating. Like I say in my lame “About Me” page, I’m here in Chicago interning at architreasures, an arts-based community organization, and STR Partners, an architecture firm. For the past nine weeks I’ve been learning so much about how to apply my skills in the real world (which has some similarities and differences to stoodio lyfe). For all you archi-majors, here are some things that I’ve noticed:

1. Non-profits work longer hours than architects. No, seriously. I thought I was going to be working major overtime for STR, but at architreasures I ended up staying late a couple days a week to finish a project, and I often volunteered with their workshops on Saturdays. Now, the fact that architreasures only has 5 full-time employees and 3 summer interns compared to STR’s 20-member full-time staff does make a difference, but working on weekends and being in constant contact with artists, volunteers, etc. seems to make the two organizations very different.

2. There are a lot more limitations while working in a real firm. Namely, money. Because STR designs for public schools and other academic buildings most of the time, there are a lot more rules about what you spend money on and how creative you can be with your designs and use of material. I like to have some restrictions as a challenge, but I can see why using linoleum flooring and CPS-designated paints in every project could get a little old.

3. Expect to do the same thing more than once. Not because you screwed up, but because documents get amended, added onto, or deleted after the architect meets with the client or the contractor. Even though it would be nice to draw everything perfectly and understandably the first time, I’ve realized that this NEVER happens. Ever.

4. It’s a lot quieter here. As opposed to studio, I mean. Whereas in school people are blasting dub-step from their computers as they work the night away or shout across the room (thus disturbing “studio culture”), the offices I work in are nearly soundless. People rarely talk above a normal speaking voice and use headphones if they need to listen to some jams while they work. It’s so quiet most days I can even here the kids at the day care below us playing and shouting (for awhile I thought there was an animal or an abandoned child beneath the floorboards…not kidding).

5. People still say “fuck” when they fuck up. For some reason I was surprised by this, but I guess it’s a hard habit to break. It’s also quicker and easier than crying wen you slice your finger with an Xacto or accidentally print on 8 by 11 instead of 11 by 17 FOR THE TENTH TIME.

6. Successes are celebrated in the best way possible. As in, with a party and/or alcohol. And snacks.

7. Lunch & learns/workshops = FREE LUNCH. Although I though L & Ls were only at school, I’m so glad that they are present at work too. L & Ls give you the opportunity to learn about new architectural products (lighting, structural systems, furniture), all while stuffing your face.

8. Macs aren’t THAT bad. I know, I thought I’d never be saying that either. Even though I think Apple products are kind of pretentious and force you into buying extras like card and disc readers, I’ve grown used to Macs since I have to work on them every day. Even though I don’t think I’ll give up my PC anytime soon, I’m glad that I’ve at least had this opportunity to become fluent in both platforms and learn two new computer programs (ArchiCAD and PowerCADD) in the process.

Aaaaand….hopefully I don’t sound to preachy here, but I’m about to give some advice:

9. Network. I volunteered weekend time and after-work time to help architreasures with their fundraiser and got to meet members of their Board, many of whom are architects. Even when an opportunity may not have anything in it for you, still go for it! You never know who you’ll meet or what other opportunities may stem from it. That being said, once you’re at said event, talk to everyone and let them know who you are and get to know who they are. You’re wasting your time if you just hang out in the corner. On the other hand, don’t be too desperate or needy. Even if you’re a recent graduate and haven’t found a job yet, resist the urge to shove 20 of your business cards into people’s hands and beg them to hire you with, wide, bleary, puppy-dog eyes. Please no. Be cordial and try to have a real conversation with them about their work. Exchange information if you think it’s appropriate and just enjoy the time spent talking with them, especially at a casual or social event.

10. Ask questions. I never do this enough. I do about 10 Google searches and follow twice as many tutorials before I may ever ask a real person a question. I sometimes see asking questions as a weakness, something that pinpoints me as being foolish or even stupid. However, I found this to be a major misconception when my boss told me she actually gets worried when people aren’t asking any questions. If people aren’t asking questions, they may be making false assumptions on projects or even delaying the project’s completion because they are unsure of what to do. Of course, you could just be perfect. But I’ve also noticed that people in the office generally ask each other questions just to double check or get their input on something. Even the partners ask questions! Seeing this has really made me less self conscious about approaching people with my uncertainties. I’ve even developed the habit of preparing questions to ask each time a project is being explained to me or while I am working on one. Still, their are such things as stupid questions. In order to avoid asking the same question over and over again, get in the habit of taking notes as well. You will thank yourself and your supervisor will thank you.


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