There is a reason that professional careers are generally referred to as practices. Doctors, lawyers, architects – all of their careers are ‘practices’. Because constant practice and being in touch with their craft is essential for these professionals to sustain their careers. An architectural internship is but a window to such ‘practice’ – a taste of the real world and its challenges.
Architecture schools across the world insist on students undergoing a semester or two of training under practicing architects. But what do students learn during this training period? What can and should they expect out of the short tenures of work exposure? How can a student make the best use of such internships? Read on to find out…
Internships teach you method and order.
The first thing that internships invariably teach students is to find a method within the madness that is architectural practice. Be it filing hard copies of site drawings or adhering to systematic work schedules, an internship is the right place to imbibe work ethics and discipline which will stick with you for the rest of your life!
Internships teach you communication.
Negotiation, persuasion, inter-personal skills… If successful architects had to choose one trait that they could not survive without, it is this. Effective communication is what an architect’s profession is fundamentally based on. Communication happens through drawings given to the contractors and consultants; communication to the client happens through attractive presentations; communication to the vendor happens through clearly drafted BOQs. Training with the right architects, a student can learn this essential skill that can help beyond the profession too.
Internships teach you to stay calm in a storm.
There will be times when all hell will break loose for no fault of yours. Seniors may take out their undue pressures on you; a site supervisor may make silly jibes at your ignorance of basics; a client may expect you to change a design without your boss’s knowledge. These may be paralysing situations but you will learn that they are not the end of the world. You will learn to stay calm and handle stress. And you will carry this valuable lesson to your grave.
Internships teach you how to learn
A good internship will teach you things you did not know. A great internship will teach you how to learn them all by yourself. And that is an invaluable asset to possess as a professional. Securing a job straight out of college can be a blow in several ways – the most important being that you might seldom have a mentor to go to with your million questions. An internship is a prelude to this and a great way to ease into the professional track. You will learn how to unlearn and relearn complex concepts, new technologies and network-building.
Most students tend to get bogged down with drawings and fancy digital renders to impress the jury at the semester-end review. But the ideal way to go about an internship would be to take initiative and try to work on as many projects as possible, grabbing every opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade. Since most schools include just 6-month tenure of internship in their curriculum and this period may not be sufficient to engage with a project from conception to completion, a good idea would be to try and work on projects that are in various stages of execution. This will also give a clear insight regarding work-flows both at office and on site.
An internship is meant to be a period of aggressive learning and practical training. This is the time when you should actively seek out knowledge in all its forms and sources. Choose your internship wisely and make the best use of it.
Mira Ramakrishnan is an architect and interior designer based out of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. She adores the works of Loos & Kahn, and strongly believes that educating the client is the first step towards creating quality spaces. And her cherished tool is writing – about architecture, design and everything in between.