The LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture has a long-standing tradition of facilitating internships for undergraduate students. Undergraduate students are required to participate in internships during the spring semester of their fourth-year of study at the school; they earn six hours of course credit and many of the participating firms pay their interns, as well.
Semester-long internships are beneficial as students are given the time to become fully immersed in the work environment, and they become more involved in projects at the participating firms. In addition, students are often asked to remain as interns throughout the following summer, and they can pursue internships that take them farther afield—say China, for example.
Evan Peterson, a fifth-year landscape architecture student at LSU, recently returned from his internship at Leedscape in Beijing. Evan has graciously provided a summary of his internship experience in Beijing.
One of the most common questions I answer about my internship in Beijing is “Why did you go?” There are many answers; however, the main reason I went to China—as well as why I came to LSU’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture—is best answered by a proverb attributed to Confucius: “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.” The meaning is evident: knowledge gained from foreign experiences is invaluable.
China is a country experiencing rapid growth, unprecedented in human history. Working and living in Beijing one can see this growth daily, and at times the production speed can be stressful. However, the country’s growth presents professional opportunities that would be much harder to find elsewhere. In addition to urban growth, rapid growth of the tourism industry in China creates a sudden influx for hospitality projects.
Throughout my internship, the main project that I worked on was a ski resort currently being built in the northwestern area of Hebei Province. Working for Leedscape, I represented our company at weekly meeting with clients and Design Workshop, the international office leading the project. In addition, I was a designer and sometimes served as assistant project manager. I gained an immense amount of knowledge about ski resort design and significantly enhanced my professional experience.
I also worked in Qionghai, a prefecture city located in the southernmost Hainan Province, which has experienced more than 40% growth in each of the last four years. The nature of this growth brings economic promise but also fear of rapid urbanization. This growth, in some cases, has scarred China. A current government initiative, “Socialist New Villages,” aims to create a new form of decentralized planning that protects agriculture and existing villages. Leedscape was chosen to participate in the closed competition for the Qionghai New Socialist Village. A colleague (an American intern from the University of Kentucky) and I were the two lead designers on the project, and we operated within the loosely-defined “Socialist New Villages” initiative. To our surprise, our conceptual master plan won the competition. It’s exciting to think that within the next three to six years there could be an 80,000 person city with a layout designed by our team’s original principles.
Over the course of my internship, I kept in contact with some of my professors in Baton Rouge, one who—Max Z. Conrad—informed me that he would be teaching a two-week studio course in Harbin at Northeastern Forestry University. With his support, the university invited me to assist Professor Conrad in teaching his course. It was great to give back and share my knowledge with other students who are as eager to learn as I am. Teaching also gave me a new-found joy and could be a future possibility. All of these experiences, along with previous ones provided by the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, have shed new light on the profession and my place in its future.
Our world is rapidly globalizing, and the field of landscape architecture must as well. Whether working in domestic or international situations, we must be able to apply our design abilities to many cultural, environmental, and social issues. As I enter my final year, I’m confident my experiences at LSU will provide me with the design skills necessary to succeed.
For more information about the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture internship program, visit landscape.lsu.edu. Read more first-hand descriptions of student internship experiences at rrslainterns.blogspot.com, the student travel and internship blog.