Thank You, Co-Op
08.29.12 / Katherine Murphy
I graduated in May and have been thrown out into the “real world” with the rest of my classmates to deal with finding a job, deciding where to live, and coming to terms with the insane number of loans that I will be paying back (for what seems to be the rest of my life). My coping method: go back to school to get my MArch and put all that off for a little bit longer. I loved the idea of not spending another minute wasting away in studio and starting healthy sleeping and eating habits that didn’t involve all-nighters and forgetting when I ate last, but that can wait one more year. However, looking back on my undergrad experience I think I’m a lot more prepared for the “real world” than I think, thanks in particular to the co-op program and all the firms that participate in it.
My first co-op was at ARC for nine months in 2010. For a while, I didn’t think I’d ever get hired anywhere since I was searching not only during a less than desirable economic climate, but also from Rome, Italy where I was studying abroad. I ended up having to move back home to Syracuse after Rome to continue a job search that I was certain would fail when not even a firm in Syracuse had a position. Then, through a friend, I heard about a marketing position at ARC and went for it. Days later, I had found an apartment in Boston and was starting a job that, I have to admit, I was pretty much clueless about. I had heard the word “marketing” tossed around quite a bit, my aunt even worked in marketing for Keds in 5 Cambridge Center when I was younger, but I couldn’t have told you what it meant (except that I got lots of free shoes growing up). Thanks to the great staff at ARC, I learned quickly and it didn’t take me long to become appalled at everyone who didn’t know what marketing was. I learned invaluable skills about making contacts, pursuing projects, and all the work that goes into PR – the lifeline of any successful business; all skills I have applied many times since the end of my co-op and that I will continue to use throughout my career.
My second co-op was at AXIS Architecture + Design in 2011: a four person firm in San Francisco. I was determined to get a job in San Francisco to make the most of my two co-op opportunities. It was far from easy and I found myself down to the wire without a job lined up… again. Luckily, it worked out and I had an amazing nine months working as a junior designer and exploring SF (literally… I had to move three times and had to help AXIS move once). By the end, I was dealing with clients and product reps and handling projects on my own, which was extremely nerve-wracking at first. However, after a bit of practice and guidance, I realized I could do it and that there were people to help me out when I needed it. Eventually, it became much more manageable and enjoyable and helped me to become more confident in myself.
It is strange looking back now on all of these opportunities and adventures I was able to have during my five years of undergrad, many of which I had been looking forward to for years. However, they were all so much more amazing than I could have imagined. Yes, I spent many hours throughout the past five years complaining about studio and my lack of sleep because of it (even though, I have to admit, it took 3.5 years before I had to pull my first all- nighter), screaming at my computer to please just draw a line in CAD without crashing, learning how to lug huge sheets of chipboard and museum board down Huntington Ave’s wind tunnels, and complaining during co-ops about being stuck at a desk all day when it was beautiful outside; but I wouldn’t give any of that up either.
I am so glad after all of my agonizing senior year of high school over where to go to college I chose Northeastern and was able to make the most of all the opportunities they offered. But, mostly, I’m glad I had the chance to have two very different co-op positions. Before I even graduated I started logging IDP hours, making valuable connections, and building my resume. So, when I graduated this past May I realized that I am a lot more prepared than I thought I would be.
Coming full circle, I decided to come back to ARC to help out in Marketing for the summer. I was happy to pick up right where I left off. My past training and the skills that I have gained at school and from my co-op experiences have been instrumental to my education, career and overall industry knowledge.
As I am nearing the end of my time here at ARC, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the firms that participate in co-op programs and dedicate so much time and energy into training and coaching students in their field. It not only gives us exhausted architecture students a chance to have a somewhat normal schedule, a mental and physical vacation from classes, and a real paycheck, but the chance to learn first-hand what can’t be taught in a classroom. These experiences have given us the opportunity to explore our major and find our passions and strengths within it, which, in my opinion, is what college is supposed to be all about.