MDes Talks: A Different Summer - Internship Experience

Saijal Sharma is in her second year, studying Urban Environments Design (MDes). She is a registered architect in India and building sciences, urban design, sustainable architecture, are some of her interests.

Summer internship for me was a unique experience that allowed me to synthesise a huge amount of knowledge we received from the classroom and apply it in the real world.

Tsim Sha Tsui and Chungking Mansions (Photo by Rikke FilbærtUnsplash)

How I landed an internship

I moved to Hong Kong in August 2017 to study Urban Environments Design (MDes), a 1.5 years full-time programme, which includes a summer break for self-study and research work amid the intensive seminars and workshops during the year. I am trained and registered as an architect in India, and I strongly believed that an internship opportunity to sample an urban design practice in Hong Kong would be valuable to my study abroad experience.

Internship is not compulsory within the curriculum; students would need to seek out openings by themselves. So I planned ahead of time to look out for opportunities: three months prior to the summer break, I researched for various design firms in Hong Kong and the kind of projects they have been working on through their websites. I had also taken some advice from professors and prepared my portfolio along with other required documents for job applications online.

Importance of orientation and teamwork in a large organisation

I was hired to work in an urban design team at a multinational engineering firm. This was my first design practical experience in Hong Kong, and I had been looking forward to finally see and experience it for real.

The first day I spent in the orientation, meeting with the team and getting to know what my responsibilities would be. This orientation was also a major reason that made the transition from student life to work life much easier.

The office was huge with hundreds of people working, but surprisingly, the teams were very close-knit and supportive. Someone was always eager to mentor, everyone was passionate about what they do, and the culture constantly motivated me to work harder. The team spirit has made tackling large-scale and complex projects much more efficient.

I was able to form meaningful relationships with co-workers in an environment that encourages communication and teamwork while working for clients and understanding the company’s dynamics and proposing design work. I developed many personal and professional skills, varying from communication, to presentation, to time management.

Challenges: Language barrier and work while studying

One of the challenges, however, was the language barrier. Since I was born and brought up in India and only living in the city for past one year, I am still not very familiar with the local language. Although a majority of my co-workers speak English, many clients do not understand English very well. Communicating the projects and learning their requirements can be challenging at times, but you always find different means to get through it all.

Managing the coursework on research on a self-study basis was a big task which almost gave me no free time on the weekends or weekdays post work. But on the bright side, work and study at the same time, pushed me to broaden my horizons and look beyond.

The culture of the firm was welcoming and amiable, which made me hard to say goodbye to everyone at the end of summer term in August.

The way forward

This progression has been a rewarding experience: I came across many new situations I would not have seen them otherwise and I was able to find creative solutions for both co-workers and clients. This summer internship has allowed me to feel simultaneously supported and independent, most importantly; it gave me a clear vision for my final year school project.

Photo Credit: Cover Image by Alex Mao/ Unsplash; List Image Photo by farfar/ Unsplash

About the Writer

Saijal Sharma - Born in Jaipur, India, graduated in Bachelor of architecture (BArch) and currently pursuing my master's study, Urban Environments Design (MDes). As an architecture student I have grown to love design, learnt to experiment with my space. Space has helped to build my own perception to things and lifestyle. My decision to move to Hong Kong came from the wanting to explore and gain exposure. Hong Kong is a wonderful city and this blog will play a part to document my life here.  

MDes Talks is a series of student blogs produced by current MDes students and recent graduates. For its third edition, the editorial team consists of writers from China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Mexico, France, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. They write about study life, living abroad, design, and what you don't know about PolyU and Hong Kong.