Author: Elisa Ynaraja Rodriguez -
Working for a whole year in the middle of your studies? It can sound great and daunting at the same time! How can I be expected to work for an engineering company if I haven’t even graduated yet? Am I well enough prepared to enter the working environment? What if they ask me to do something I don’t know how to do? These are questions probably everybody asks themselves before going on placement or even when considering the option of doing so. Well I am living through it at the moment, and let me tell you, it’s not as scary as it seems! It’s also perfectly doable and actually quite a rewarding experience! I’m not saying it isn’t challenging, but where would the fun be then?!
To answer these questions and give you an idea of what doing a placement is like let me tell you about my experience.
My name is Elisa and I’m studying civil engineering. As I’ve mentioned I’m currently in my placement year and mine is actually a little bit unusual because I got the chance to do it abroad! I’m working for Arup at their Amsterdam office and it’s been a crazy experience so far. I moved to a new country and to a new city, started a new job, met so many new people and learnt so many new things (from Dutch to programming)!
The Arup Amsterdam office (made up of roughly 250 employees) is very friendly and welcoming, I felt included from my first day here. They organise a lot of events such as lunch lectures and even quizzes and Christmas parties, so it’s quite a social office! The kind of work they do is very interesting with a wide variety of projects due to the many different departments, such as Acoustics, Building Physics, Infrastructures,... My placement is within the Masterplanning and Computation team and I’ve also been involved in projects outside of it, mostly due to my interest and skills in programming. The multidisciplinary aspect of Arup and this office in particular is something that I find very advantageous and that I feel like I was prepared for from our first-year project with the architecture students. I have also been involved in some projects within the Masterplanning and Computation department and these have taught me about how varied the civil engineering sector is and how much it interlinks with other disciplines.
At the moment the biggest project I’m working on is called ‘Digital Twin’, it basically entails having a virtual model of a real-life physical building in order to monitor and control it. My involvement in it is to do with python (programming) and creating QR codes to tag equipment and update the virtual model of changes to the real-life building. What I love about Arup is the importance it places on innovation; this project is an example of that as this hasn’t really been done before.
Placement year is the perfect introduction into the working world. You get an insight into what real-life practice engineering is like which, in my opinion, is something that you can’t learn at university since you have to experience it to understand it. It’s also a reminder of why we learn what we learn at university and a great way to figure out how to apply that knowledge to the practical world. I found that the experience is a great opportunity to grow professionally but also personally and is very useful in getting a clearer idea of what kind of subject you would like to specialise in once back at university.
Another benefit of placement year is that once you leave the office your time is all yours! A good piece of advice I received from my peer mentor was to find a hobby. This helps you distract your mind from work, now is the time to get into something new or keep up an already existing interest. I found a dance studio near my house which I now go to three times a week and I’m also planning on joining an analogue photography evening course, something I had always wanted to do but never really found the time for. Look up activities going on around your area and find something that you’re interested in to fill your free time with! This is also a great way to meet people and make friends outside of the office.
All in all, going on placement can be daunting but it is 100% worth it!