Started From The Bottom, Now We’re Here

These days, the idea of graduation is looming over my head- will I go back to school? Will I do another internship? Am I ready for a real job? Should I take a graduation trip? Gathering from June’s first year in the real world, it doesn’t sound scary, in fact, it sounds informative and exciting. But am I ready to reflect on life lessons I’ve learnt in architecture school? Are my days of an intern numbered?

So I’m not ready to reflect on life lessons from architecture but it is my last co-op work term and here 5 things I’ve learn from each of my experiences.

If only I’d known then what I know now..

1.The first internship

My first internship was an interior design team of 5 people. We worked hard and well together being such a small team. Perhaps it was my first internship and that’s why it felt like I learnt the most. I was responsible for answering the phone, interacting with the sale representatives, and a little design work concerning finishes and materials. I strived to impress and I wish I was less timid to offer my ideas.

Make mistakes.

It was a steep learning curve on my first internship, and I always had the “I can do everything” mindset, which meant I didn’t always respond to failure well. But knowing now how much you can learn from your mistakes really pays off to understand that sometimes you just need to get over it.



2. Second time’s the charm?

My second internship I decided to take it international and return to Hong Kong. It was a 10 people architectural firm that focused on pop-up shops, residential units, and installations. By my second internship, I’ve recognized the type of work flow expected of me since my first experience and found myself confident to be quite capable.

Every office is different.

Maybe it was the cultural difference but they definitely expected much more than my previous team. I got to handle a project individually since my supervisor took a one week vacation. I was a little overwhelmed (understatement)! I didn’t know how to manage contractors and clients especially in another language! Although I wanted to seem capable I recognized I needed to ask questions, and ask for help.



3.Third time must be the charm

My third internship was in the summer, and I wanted to take full advantage of the warm weather. I got a job at a 25 people architectural firm that focused on schools. This time, prepared previously from such intense responsibility, it was quite the contrast. I twiddled my thumbs while the manager decided what task to give me.

You have nothing to do but wait…

I consistently asked what I could help with and it’s important to take initiative and prove you’re willing to help but sometimes you just have to wait. Maybe read something beneficial? Catch up on old projects? Set your own internal goals! & Always do mundane tasks with good grace!


4. Where I burnt out

By my fourth internship, I had a really hard time getting a placement because I was applying abroad. By the time I found the job, I had spent 2 months sending out countless resumes and participating in multiple interviews.

Know your strengths and know your weaknesses.

This interior design internship was one of the hardest: long hours, tough work, and an impersonal experience being 1 of 100 coworkers. But with so many co-workers it was easy to ask for feedback.

5. The Final Stretch

A month into my last co-op term, I am working with a team of around 30 people, a mix of urban planners, and architects. So far, I’ve enjoyed learning and working on urban projects rather than architectural.

Seeing the big picture.

The timeline for urban planning proposals tend to be quite long, I’ve learnt, and as such, it really takes the time to hone in on the big little details. Ie. Landscaped boulevards on a corridor really does make the city more enjoyable. While in the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like much, it does add up!




Would I say after 5 internship experiences, I am ready to graduate and join the work force? Maybe. Or, alternatively, would I say after 5 years of school, I still want more education? Perhaps. I guess we’ll find out soon.


Author: Crystal Yung

Hello! My name is Crystal Yung and I am an undergraduate student studying architecture at the University of Waterloo. Please feel free to check our my online portfolio of my works:

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