Participating in a Virtual Summer Internship

I was in the second semester of my sophomore year and had only had two jobs my entire life. Both of those jobs were not part of the fields within my major (Sustainable Environmental Design). I felt like it was finally time to try out something closer to my major and explore what was out there. I was always interested in studying abroad, so I looked into what they had to offer. 

Due to the Covid19 pandemic, many programs were being held virtually or were completely canceled for the time being. But then I remembered a newsletter I saw from my college about a virtual internship program offered at UC Davis and looked into it. After reading through what they had to present, I decided to participate in the Green Technology, Sustainability, and Environment Virtual Internship Program. It seemed to fit my field of work, and besides, I did not have many plans over the summer. What was really nice about this program is that it included both a course and an internship, so I received units while participating in an eight week internship. The paperwork for attending another university’s abroad program was hectic at first, but I got through it after various emails. 

Coming into the program, I had no real expectations or knowledge of the type of work I wanted to perform. My major is tied to architecture and city planning, so I picked that as the career field for my internship placement. To my surprise, my first (and only) placement was at an architecture firm in Japan. The surprise came from the fact that I was not an architect major and had no clue of the skills I needed to work there. During my interview with my placement supervisor, I was very blatant about my lack of experience. He was kind enough to offer me the internship opportunity under the condition that I learn how to use various 3D modeling software before the internship started. This included learning AutoCAD and SketchUp, which were two different drawing and modeling softwares. Remembering what my costume-making professor said about saying ‘Yes!’ to any projects, I took him up on that offer. That was where my internship experience began.

The month before my internship, I began learning the different software I mentioned earlier through online tutorials. I gotta say that I like AutoCAD more than I like SketchUp. During the last week before the internship started, he noted that they were introducing ArchiCAD to the company and that I should try and learn it too. I felt a bit overwhelmed at that point, but I was still excited to put my new skills into practice. 

Even though I was warned by the program advisors about time differences, I was still shocked by the 16 hour time difference between LA and Tokyo. When my internship started, I spent a lot of time developing a series of slide decks for different architectural topics like office design and layout to provide some guidance and inspiration for an upcoming office project. This was an understandable way to break me into the job. Still, suppose I had any questions while I was working, and because of that time difference, I could not exactly get an answer right away because my supervisor would be asleep. I spent a lot of time just interpreting his directions to the best of my abilities and leaving any questions I had for later on in my day. Communication was a huge part of this internship.

The time difference was made worse when I actually started drawing and modeling. The office project was a long-term project that I helped work on for most of the eight weeks I spent there. After the initial weeks, my supervisor gave me assignments on drawing plans and elevations on AutoCAD, which would then be 3D modeled using SketchUp. This made me panicked because I was still not very familiar with the software, and some of the drawings he instructed did not make sense to me. Likewise, I could not just ask him and expect an answer within the hour. I managed to get past it through sheer interpretation. On the bright side, my supervisor kindly told me that he would fix anything that did not work out, so that gave me some peace. At one point, I ended up working overtime to model some furniture pieces that he desperately needed. That felt a bit intense, but it was great for me because that was when I finally felt confident in the software. Throughout the internship, I was managing how to get through my tasks as efficiently as possible and became proactive about doing work even when my supervisor was not around to provide guidance or jobs. 

Other than my initial nervousness, I very much enjoyed the work I did because I got to research topics that I felt passionate about. It was also just great peeking into the world of architecture, seeing what was to offer there, and learning software which felt like an add-on skill that would improve my resume in the long run. It was great. It was not all sunshine and rainbows, but the skills I gained from this internship will stay with me forever.