Denmark to Durham: Our Design Intern Reflects on Her Internship Abroad

January 30, 2015

DesignHammer recently said goodbye to our fantastic design intern of eight months, Astrid Waagstein. Hailing from Denmark, Astrid participated in a special abroad internship with us through International Arts & Artists, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts.

In addition to the internship serving as a cultural exchange, it was an opportunity for Astrid to work in a structured, supervised internship program in her professional field in the United States.

Astrid came to DesignHammer seeking to learn more about designing for the web, coding, and American culture. Now that she’s settled back in Denmark and on the job hunt, I caught up with her via email and asked her to reflect on her internship experience here at DesignHammer.

When you started the internship, what were you hoping to learn from it?

My hope was to gain more practical knowledge of web design and web development since my primary knowledge came mostly from school projects at my university. I specifically wanted to get better at HTML & CSS (and SASS/LESS), CMS customization, Photoshop & Illustrator, and web design principles (colors, composition, design conventions). All of these goals – and then some – were fulfilled.

What were some of your accomplishments while at DesignHammer?

A goal of mine for the internship was to contribute to client projects. One strength of the internship was having all of my work closely reviewed by DesignHammer staff, which provided me with supportive mentorship and assuring the highest level of quality. This close level of support enabled me to contribute to client projects. Working with the lead designer, I was able to accomplish this goal by assisting with design compositions for client websites.

I received a lot of hands-on experience with JavaScript when working on a project for the DesignHammer website: a new parallax page about DesignHammer’s sustainability plan, as well as designing and building out a landing page. The parallax sustainability page was a great opportunity to learn about different design and development techniques.

In addition to the DesignHammer web pages, I worked on internal print design projects, and learned about the website development and maintenance process.

Sample of our design intern's work

What new skills did you pick up during the internship?

I have…

  • Become much better at coding (HTML/CSS/SASS/LESS). I no longer have to look up every single line of code!
  • Improved my Photoshop and Illustrator skills markedly, and I feel a much more confident when it comes to web design and design principles.
  • Learned how to create wireframes and design compositions.
  • Learned how to build out design compositions in HTML and CSS without compromising design or technicalities because I now have the coding skills.
  • In general, I would say I have become much more technically skilled: I have an understanding of git now (source control). I use the command line tool and I have improved my understanding of PHP & MySQL. Also, I managed to learn some JavaScript during my internship.
  • Improved my English language skills significantly.

What did you learn about American culture?

During my eight-month internship, I learned a great deal about American culture, work culture, and cultural differences through everyday conversations and interactions with coworkers at the office. Each Friday, the staff goes out to lunch at a local restaurant. That was a great way to experience Durham, get to know my colleagues better, and try new foods!

Any final thoughts?

I would recommend doing an internship abroad — it’s an experience for life, and you will learn so much on so many levels. It will also be a challenge to understand and conduct work in another language and another work culture, but that’s also what makes it fun!

As far as for my time at DesignHammer, the internship was absolutely fantastic, and it has exceeded my expectations on so many levels: people, tasks, and work environment. The supervision and feedback from such a talented and fun group of people was especially valuable and rewarding.

Interested in a DesignHammer internship?

Join our team in Durham for the opportunity to hone your skills with a website design internship, website development internship, marketing internship, or a social media internship.

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