Lea's Experience as an Architecture Intern in Chicago

4 minute read

Lea Scholze is from Switzerland, and is currently interning at an architecture firm in Chicago, IL. We recently checked in with her about her experience on the program thus far, and wanted to share her insightful responses!

Lea working from her Internship
Lea working from her Internship
Image courtesy of Lea Scholze

What first made you interested in pursuing a career in your chosen field?

“As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown.” – Norman Foster

Architecture can be considered as a field at the intersection of everything. Defining art, creativity, business and innovation. As an architect one needs to understand sociology and the development of civilization, its needs, predict its changes and demands. From the moment humans have begun to create some type of shelter, architecture has been present and since then has defined our environment. I have always had extensive interests spanning from arts over history and sociology to politics and the understanding of economics. I found it very hard to decide in which field I would like to pursue my studies.

Architecture can in one way or the other cover many of these interests which is why I decided to give it a try… A choice I so far have not regretted.

How has your experience interning through the Career Training USA program helped you to learn more about your field?

Studying a certain subject in university is one part. But often reality can be completely different. Once graduating rarely anyone can be certain of what to expect and what the future will look like. With the possibility of my internship with JAHN I have been able to receive a very interesting insight into the actual work as an architect. I have come to realize that the field of the architect is even bigger than I so far knew and the possibilities of working areas are close to limitless. With another year of my bachelor degree ahead and the decision on which program I should pursue for my master’s, the internship surely has shown me many different possibilities. It once again has assured me that this profession has been the right choice and I am looking forward to starting my professional life once graduated.

“I have come to realize that the field of the architect is even bigger than I so far knew”
“I have come to realize that the field of the architect is even bigger than I so far knew”
Image courtesy of Lea Scholze

Describe some of your favorite projects from your J-1 internship program:

During my J-1 internship program I have been part of teams working on interesting international high-rise projects in Shenzhen, China and Germany. Working on the actual plans, sections, elevations and details of buildings that will be built in the near future or are already under construction is a great opportunity to understand how processes work. From minor changes and clients’ wishes to communication and interaction with city officials I have come to understand how many steps forth and back, changes, meetings, processes, companies and individuals are part of the construction process. Observing any building it is hard to comprehend how much commitment and time has been invested by every participating individual into creating and realizing this project from the beginning to it fulfilling its purpose. Even though it will only be for a limited period of time, I very much enjoy being part of this process, seeing the projects developing and at the same time learning as much as I can.

What are your future career goals in relation to your current field?

After the internship I will return to Germany to finish the last year of my Bachelor’s Degree. With my first degree successfully completed I hope to continue with a Master next year or after a further year of working experience. The internship has shown me the variety of possibilities of the architectural field and I am looking forward to starting my professional life once graduated.

What advice do you have for young people looking to enter your field?

Architecture is a great profession. It requires a lot of commitment and often it can be extremely demanding. But never get discouraged.

It is not only about designing a building, there is much more to such a process. It requires creativity, logical thinking, some mathematical and physical skills, yes but also you get to work in a team of people from different fields, analyze society, people’s needs and wishes, create a space that suits the person you are creating it for and be part of shaping our future environment. You begin to perceive your surrounding in a completely different way, cities become buildings, individual characters that can give up so much information about their purpose and intentions. Architecture is a very interesting field and for sure will never become boring.

Signe Knutson By

Signe Knutson worked as an InterExchange Career Training USA Participant Services Coordinator from 2013 until 2016, after spending a year teaching English in China's Hunan province. She has a BA in Asian Studies and Political Science form St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

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