PROFILE: Architecture Student Amanda Kain
Date: March 19, 2001
Builds Her Skills
By: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos by: Colleen Kelley
Archive: Profiles Archive
The University of Cincinnati proved a big adjustment for Amanda Kain when she first came to Cincinnati from the small town of Marysville, Ohio, after graduating from Marysville High School in 1996. There, she'd known many people in town.
But Amanda has also known since middle school that she wanted to study architecture. And that meant moving to Cincinnati, because UC has one of the nation's top-rated programs. (The year 2000 Almanac of Architecture and Design, ranked UC's architecture program as the third best in the U.S.) But after coming to Cincinnati, Amanda immediately set her sights on going even farther.
"When I first came to UC, we had orientation from the head of the School of Architecture and Interior Design, and he talked about opportunities to work all over the country and abroad (through UC's cooperative education program). Ever since, it's been on my mind," said Amanda who is a fifth-year student in UC's six-year architecture program.
Eventually, after working two cooperative education quarters in this country - one in Nashville and one locally - Amanda felt ready to go farther afield. She sought out Gayle Elliott of UC's International Co-op Program to find out how to prepare to work overseas, specifically Germany.
"I took Latin in high school. I'd never studied German," explained Amanda. "So, I enrolled in an intensive program that Elliott runs in the summer. It's six weeks of German for 7 hours a day. I did that during August and September of 1999 and continued with German classes after that. Then, I worked with architecture professor Wolf Preiser (a native of Germany) who helped me hone my resume and letters going to German firms he had identified for me."
In February 2000, a firm called Hans Gollwitzer & Partner in Deggendorf, east of Munich, agreed to hire Amanda. The firm had previously hired other UC students for cooperative education assignments abroad.
Amanda set off to Germany that summer, working from June to December 2000. Amanda says the best part was really being needed by the ten-person firm and feeling like she'd been adopted as a member of the family in the small town that reminded her a lot of her native Marysville. "In a way, it was like going back home," she said, adding that there were plenty of challenges too.
"I think the German classes prepared me as well as possible, but you have to go by the seat of your pants when going overseas. For instance, I went over not knowing where I would stay. I had e-mailed my boss to meet me at the train station, but I didn't know what to expect from there," she laughed. Everything worked out fine as her boss had arranged for Amanda to stay in a hotel for a few days. Then, an office staff member took her out, and they found an apartment.
Amanda remembers being very eager to tackle some tasks with teeth, but her co-workers were a little slow in giving her an opportunity. She explained, "Like anywhere, it's harder to explain something to a new person rather than do it yourself. Compounding that was that I was working so hard just to understand what people were saying ... I didn't have a computer so I would 'steal' time when people were at meetings or out to lunch. But pretty soon, they were giving me projects to do."
It took only a couple of months before Amanda could understand everything easily in terms of language and felt like a contributing member of the team, creating architectural models for clients and competitions as well as doing computer-aided design. She said, "They did an incredible amount of work for ten people which they were able to do because of teamwork. It woke me up as to what a real team can do."
Amanda liked many of the "simpler" aspects of her life in Germany. Since appliances like refrigerators are small, she had to go to the bakery every day for fresh bread. She recalled going hiking in the fall with her colleagues and traveling on weekends and other breaks throughout Switzerland and Austria and to such cities as Prague, Paris and Venice. "It's a great experience," she affirmed. "I encourage everyone to do it. It gives you new perspectives on yourself and your work."
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