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Internship at a Renowned Firm in Denmark or Entry-Level Job in US

vasufu

I am graduating with my B. Arch from a top 10 US school this December (in two weeks). For the last two months I have been searching for jobs all over the United States and was lucky to be offered a couple of options for Entry-Level positions and internships. I cannot seem to decide what is best option for me and wanted to find out if any of you had similar decisions in your career paths. 

The first offer was from a smaller residential firm (about 30 people) which does good architecture, but I wouldn't say it's great. Most people at this firm seem to stay there for a while and grow within it. This is not something I want to do and would probably end up leaving this firm due to the fact that I don't want to be practicing residential architecture and really want to explore bigger scale projects. Another reason I am not really sure about this firm is because all of my previous internship experiences have been in firms just like this one; small scale, local, residential firms of about 10 people. The offer they gave me does seem to align with typical offers people would get after graduating and this option would be the most economical and safe, especially during these uncertain times. One last reason I would probably leave this firm, is because of the city where it's located. Although it is a very affordable city to live in (even with an entry level salary), I could not stay there due to the climate, lack of significant architecture, and distance from other cities. 

Another offer which I got was an internship from a renowned firm from Denmark (not BIG). They do well known large scale architecture and as I understand I would primarily work on competition projects. The pros of this offer include having a great name on your resume; working on interesting projects; being surrounded by inspiring people; possibility of later working as an entry level at this firm; and making life long connections with the interns that work there. However there are some major negatives which I am considering, and these factors are not letting me make a final decision. Significantly lower pay, I could still afford to pay for housing in Denmark with this salary, however not much else. I do have a good amount of savings for someone my age and can afford to use those savings for the time being to balance out the costs. This internship would only be for a period of 6-8 months, thus I would have to look for entry-level jobs in the US again and knowing how difficult it was to find anything right now (with the pandemic) I am really worried that it will be even more difficult in the summer when everyone graduates. The last con of moving to Denmark would be the logistics of the move and the short time I have, I would have to leave my car (I can't sell it, as it is a really nice car which I just bought for my graduation), rent a storage unit for my furniture etc...

I really need someone's advice. Thank you for any help. 

 
Nov 23, 20 3:18 pm
Non Sequitur

Enjoy donating your time for the illusion of "investment" to your CV.  If an office is paying you near nothing for your time, then your time is not worth much and you will be replaced by the next wanker dumb enough to take near slavery-level wages.

You're far better off looking at established offices with long-term clients that invest in their staff.  That's how you build experience and that's what's important when you're fresh out of school.

Nov 23, 20 3:35 pm  · 
4  ·  1

I would go to Denmark, as long as they are paying you and you are doing work that get's published and you can add that to your portfolio as having played a contributing role. Europe and the Scandinavian countries have taxes that are high but the cost of healthcare and public transport is free or very low cost.  Housing in any city can be found that is not too expensive, take this opportunity to live out a minimalist lifestyle if you can leave behind the game counsel and TV.  The storage of your household and car is an pickle but reach out to friends and or relatives even professors who own a home, storing some stuff in a garage and parking the car on the edge of a driveway is not a big deal. In Chicago a 20'x10' unit rents for 200 -250 a month, and you can get a discount if you pay up front for 6 months.

At this early stage in your career all experience is cumulative and there is no harm in an 6-8 month stint abroad in terms of your career prospects.  

Don't settle for safe as there is no such thing. Denmark can be an incredible learning opportunity.

We are all jealous of this incredible opportunity.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Nov 23, 20 3:44 pm  · 
3  · 
apscoradiales

Agree! Foreign job experience is not just about a job - it's a whole life experience to see how the other world works. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in three other places...one wasn't anything to write home about in terms of work, but all three were eye popping experiences as far as culture and climate were concerned.

1  · 
TED

Agree - go to Denmark! Go into as a flatshare not on your own to save on buying things and meeting someone on the ground who can help you transition. Denmark is the most expensive country in the EU to live but that said - the happiest. Rather than storage in a rental unit - look to friends/family who may have an underutilized garage and pay them to store your bits or alternately loan furnishings to family and friends. In Oxford you can rent a garage for about £100 per month versus £100 per week for smaller storage - Also have a plan B. What you might do if you want to stay longer in the EU - When I moved to the UK I thought I would return but know it's not in my plan.

 · 
code

Go with the job in Denmark, you will learn more - what you are exposed to the first 1.5 - 2 years of your career shapes the rest. 

Nov 23, 20 4:34 pm  · 
2  · 
The_Crow

Assume you are at least getting paid minimum wage, go to Denmark. I did the same in Norway and it was a worthwhile investment for my CV.

Nov 23, 20 4:51 pm  · 
1  · 
archanonymous

You should take the job in Denmark. 


You can always get a job at good small firms, regional firms, or corporate firms afterwards, but you'll have very few chances to get jobs with the best design firms in the world. It will also be much more difficult to work in such a firm when you are older and need a higher income and a normal amount of sleep. 

Nov 23, 20 5:23 pm  · 
3  · 
thisisnotmyname

Take the job in Denmark.   The shitshow that is small-time USA architecture will still be here when you are ready to come back.   If anything, the job situation in the US will probably be better in 6-8 months.   Also, interesting work experience in your portfolio may give you a chance at some USA firms that are more in line with your interests.

Nov 23, 20 5:41 pm  · 
3  · 
sameolddoctor
Your experience at BIG will be enriching in every way, with great life experiences and people youd meet. This is something you would never get in a small scale US office.
That said, I’m not quite sure what the career pathways would be like when you return. You could slave away at a starchitect firm, or go corporate. Not sure if the small-medium firms will be very interested in you...my 2 cents
Nov 24, 20 6:04 pm  · 
 · 
randomised

Go to Denmark! The architecture climate is great, you can ride your bicycle to work and abortion is covered by the public health system!

Nov 25, 20 1:58 am  · 
 · 
apscoradiales

"Abortion is covered...", there we go - a major incentive to move to Denmark, Dunno whether I should laugh or cry...

 · 

Hopefully in 6-8 months the need for an abortion is never going to come up.

 · 
Non Sequitur

Everyone here is overlooking the fact that the OP needs to subsidise their living expenses with savings because the offered hourly wage is so low in the Denmark option.  This is why we can't have nice things.

Nov 26, 20 9:54 am  · 
 · 
randomised

Internships shouldn’t be for a full salary, a living wage, it is compensation while you are getting extra training by an employer. Training a school
they’re not worth it, they don’t get the response

 · 
randomised

Scrap the last sentence there...rain on my phone screen screwed it all up

 · 
Non Sequitur

Nope, disagree. No one should have to go further into debt for "work experience". It's not real experience if the employer does not value it enough to offer reasonable pay.

3  · 
whistler

Agreed. I left a job with a very significant firm in Western Canada after I graduated as I was slowly going into debt working there. Everyone one else was married to doctors and lawyers and could afford to hang in there but I was the only single white male trying to get my career going. When I told them I was leaving they were very surprised by my reasoning... they just did not understand the fact that I wasn't earning enough to survive. Offered me another $100/ month to stay.( I think of how little impact that would have been to the office coffers it is ridiculous) I found another job in a small firm that paid a living wage and ended up staying there for 5 yrs and gained enough experience to get registered.

2  · 
randomised

Should just see it as an outsourced semester in uni that you even get compensated for, people pay 1000s for their education, should see the bigger long term picture here...pennywise pound foolish. Recent grads don’t know shit about architecture, just read this forum, can’t expect employers to pay a full salary for employees that are ill equipped now can you? Here in NL you do your internship(s) while still enrolled at uni, don’t see anything wrong with getting compensation for learning the ropes.

 · 
whistler

Not sure if it's still a thing but I always looked for summer internship jobs. Didn't get paid very well the first few summers but as I got experience I received decent pay and got re-employed by older employers who gave me good project exposure and much better pay, even got part time work during the school year. Really good experience and over that time gained a good understanding of "work life" and "office culture". Bottom line is that I was able to market myself right out of school and had skills that employers could make money from and it wasn't just model making and managing the archives.

1  · 
Non Sequitur

Rando, again, strong disagree. Just because most universities don’t teach shit about how architecture is in the real world is no excuse to offer pitiful internships. This is a ruse to keep staff costs low and I seriously discount the value of such experience.

 · 
randomised

It is not a pitiful internship, the compensation here in NL is the same for students in all directions and it is illegal to do an internship when not enrolled. It is not a living wage, nor should it be because as an intern you don’t have the responsibilities of an employee, you are always supervised and need additional training that the employer is providing, you are a student out there in the real world, you don’t get paid to write a student paper when on campus either. Also look at it from a personal perspective, is it worth investing this extra half year in your education to gain valuable new insights and skills or should you settle for something safe you already know and did before? What will bring you further and provide the most growth as a person and professional? I know what I would do.

 · 
Non Sequitur

Rando, for comparison’s sake, what’s the $ difference between a typ intern stipend and entry-level full time staff? Also, just noticed my phone was set to French. Might explain some odd words in the last few days.

 · 
kenchiku

Also, what's the cost of education in the NL? In Canada we pay ~$5k CAD ($4k USD) a semester. Though not as bad as other places, students still have considerable debt by the time they graduated and a living wage is very necessary. After the basics of rent, food, and loan repayments its very easy to be looking at $2k+ a month in expenses. You're not even paying for phone, internet, heat, etc at that point yet either.

 · 
Non Sequitur

Ken.... $5k CAD per semester is cheap and you can easily make enough over the summer and part-time during school to cover tuition. Considerable debt is what our silly m'erican friends have when they argue 50K USD per year is an "investment".

 · 
kenchiku

Of course, I'm not saying it's impossible. But from a quick google search $10k CAD a year is 3x-5x the cost of what students pay in the NL (apparently grad school is $1.5k-$3k CAD/yr).

1  · 

I think the original post mentioned that this was a 6-8 month engagement. 8 months of low wages and higher living expenses is not going to make a huge difference in the amount of student debt, but the unique experience can help you climb the income ladder at firms a little faster.

1  · 
whistler

I have to say that in my experience short term work in a significant firm doesn't translate to greater skills or experience that you might otherwise learn at a small firm. Tendancy is that the tasks you are given as a newbie in any firm is limited. So if you got an internship at BIG / Foster / Piano etc you aren't stepping into your next gig lining up with the principle with the fat sharpie and waving yours hands and making major design decisions. I do agree that it is could be a unique experience, but what I wouldn't overlook is just the uniqueness of work in another country ... travel is a very overlooked growth experience, not necessarily something that translates directly to architecture but still a very worthy experience.

 · 
justavisual

Dutch law minimum wage is 1680 euro per month. Interns get around 500-800euro...but they need to still be in school (thus subsidized). Once you graduate its illegal to pay below the 1680 figure. And if you're foreign (ie US) then you need a work permit. You can't just "show up" for your internship.

 · 
randomised

Non, an entry level position is a job and an internship is not, you get a salary for the first and compensation for the second. It’s €2100 before taxes for the job and €550 compensation for the internship. As a student you get a governmental stipend of around €600 per month, which will be gifted to you after graduation, and you travel for free across the entire country either during the week to get to class or during the weekend to get home and do laundry at the parents...So that is €1150 plus free travel for a student per month, when doing an internship...which is more than minimum wage for 18-19 yr olds...

 · 
Non Sequitur

Fascinating, thanks for the info. 

The closest thing we have here are COOP terms (depending on University, these are either one semester to 1 year in length) and are optional for most schools (Loo being the one exception I'm aware of). Anyways, students doing COOP get an hourly wage here (or slavery stipend if they go outside of Canada) and in our office, they can expect $18 to $20 CAD an hour which is the range for an entry-level-no experience-can't spell autocad type position. Minimum wage here is 12ish or so per hour.  I think.

I don't think gov should be subsidising private business' staff expenses and I don't think students or fresh grads should accept nonsense $ simply for the "experience" of working in a name-brand shop.

 · 
kenchiku

Non, you don't think the Canadian government's grants they give firms to hire co-op students are a good thing? I know the number of available positions would shrink considerably for me and my colleagues if firms weren't being partially subsidized, and thus incentivized, to hire students. IMO it's a win-win. An employeer who maybe can only afford to pay something paltry like $12/hr gets a grant which allows for them to offer students a more reasonable wage such as the $18-$20/hr like you suggest. Speaking as a student, it also makes me feel less bad for not being able to jump right into a position knowing how to do things as the firm's financial commitment is lessened somewhat.


A few of note:
Student Work Placement Program (SWPP)
Venture for Canada 
ECO Canada

 · 
Non Sequitur

Ken, I am aware of this. My point remains that fancy-pants offices should not rely on discounted/subsidised/free labour under the illusion of experience. The COOP I mention above requires the employer to meet minimum standards. This is not something you can be assured of if you're working out massing studies at some big name joint for 70hrs per week for a set stipend. There is a difference.

 · 
kenchiku

Gotcha, 100% agreed. Here at Dal the co-op has the same requirements you're talking about.

1  · 
whistler

I think those grants were/are great. I actually talked my way into jobs by making the firms aware that they only had to pay me 1/2 the expected wage.....ie they only had to pay $3 of my $6 /hr wage ... yeah kids the early 80's were tough in Canada and 21% interest rates to boot! haha

3  · 
justavisual

As long as you have the necessary work permit for Denmark then I would go.

Nov 26, 20 11:24 am  · 
 · 
lower.case.yao

Graduated and still going for internships...he’ll probably regret not going, but compare fresh grads in banking and CS. Out profession really is a fucking joke.

Nov 26, 20 11:28 am  · 
1  · 
apscoradiales

"...Out profession really is a fucking joke..." Sometimes very much so. Funny thing, when I mention that, I'm told that I'm wrong, never seen it before, and that it's just me. Didn't used to be that way, but it gets worse every year. Articling lawyers go through same shit as young graduate architects...exploitation on a grand scale - really not a helluva lot different than slavery..."you're lucky to have a job, shut up and get back to your desk".

 · 
Non Sequitur

Aps, we’ve only corrected you when you make bad generalizations. 8-)

 · 
mmanyc

I'm 46. I hope to god you went to Denmark. When you come back, your cv will go to the top of the pile compared to recent grads with no experience, so don't worry about that comparison. Chances are you'll leave there with a recommendation to a firm in the USA, maybe a graduate or ally of the Danish firm. So you really can't tell at this stage how it'll affect your trajectory, but there is big potential there.

Forget about this notion that you'll get (or even should want) to make a final decision on anything. It's a bit of a red flag to me that you would even expect that at this point in your career. Take the job in Denmark, stay humble and be awesome and then come back to the USA and go for a higher prestige or maybe even higher paying job on the back of the Denmark experience. It's at that job that you can begin to be a part of making design decisions after a year or two of further humility and being awesome.

Dec 30, 20 3:44 pm  · 
1  · 

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