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My Internship at Palm Beach County Parks & Rec

Name: Austen Cabret

Hometown: Pembroke Pines, FL

Degree/Major: Landscape Architecture

Where did you intern? What did you do there?
For the past two years and three months, I’ve been an intern at the Parks and Recreation Department within the Planning Division of Palm Beach County. During my time there, I created graphics, contributed to designs, completed a park directory, and even regularly attended the county’s social events.

How did you get your internship?
I had been interested in participating in an internship for over a year. I thought it would be a way into the industry. However, landing that first job proved to be more elusive than I expected. I applied to many jobs of all kinds but the only ones that would reply with offers were in fields other than design or my major. So, I worked as a barista at a Starbucks, as a secretary at an architecture firm, and a geographic information system (GIS) intern for Wellington.

While employed by Starbucks, one of my brothers in FIU’s architecture fraternity mentioned that he was graduating soon and would be taking a momentary leave from his position with the county. He also mentioned that they would be interested in filling the position. Of course, I was all over the opportunity.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process?
In the beginning, I think the most important thing to do is to display your effort. When an employer attains a new hire, (s)he takes a large risk. New hires must be trained, given benefits, paid, it’s a lot of investment on the employer’s part. They know this too, but they don’t mind because they believe it will pay off in the future. The best thing us new hires can do is convey to our companies that we understand the burden on the employer’s end. If you do this correctly, you’ll establish confidence in you with your superiors. Keep an open mind and always ask “What more can I do for you?” (as opposed to “what more can be done for me?”).

What projects did you work on?
My first assignment was to design a concept for a playground. Next, I was to make concepts for additions to Carlin Park, a beachfront, community park with sports fields, an amphitheater, a café, a walking trail, and a water channel. I really appreciated this assignment because it was the first time I was able to go through the process of ideation to construction.

During this time, I collaborated with my senior Landscape Architect, Casey Pranckun, met with the construction company Wynn and Son, and even pitched my idea to a county commissioner. After Carlin, I helped design several more playgrounds. I then made a map, which can be seen in Okeeheelee Park South or on my Instagram. At one point, we were applying for a grant, so I was asked to illustrate a graphic of Ocean Inlet Park. For several months, I solely created a park directory and documented the histories of every county-owned park.

My favorite project was Oswego Oaks. Oswego is a neighborhood park with an amphitheater and space for food trucks. Its construction will be finished in August. It is special to me because instead of being an addition to an existing park, Oswego was created from scratch. I got to play a key role in its design and the final product is very similar to what I originally intended. I consider it my baby and am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity!

My last assignments were three planting plans with details sheets. This involved visits to the parks where plants were proposed, accurately identifying and drawing existing plants, and collaborating with my other senior Landscape Architect Rick Hedlund.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework?
At FIU, I took a class where we learned to identify plant species. FIU is also where I learned to use Autocad, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, the programs I used regularly during my internship with the county. The construction methods class I took with Professor Ebru Ozer also helped when I was asked to make construction detail sheets. Five years of design studio also instilled the graphic and design principles necessary to contribute to the county’s work.

What was the coolest thing about your internship?
I’ve always had a hard time of choosing favorites…I like that during my time at the county, I met so many people, participated in so many projects, attended training seminars/staff meetings, was treated with respect and had such great coworkers/supervisors. The coolest thing that happened had to have been realizing Oswego Oaks (the project I mentioned before).

What did you like most about your experience?
When my Alpha Rho Chi brother finished his leave, we got to work together – which I enjoyed. Other enjoyable aspects include Taco Wednesdays, driving the county cars, sarcastic yet competent coworkers, park visits, and events like Halloween costume competitions and Father’s Day fishing trips.

What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that my lack of experience led me to undervalue myself. After working with professionals, I’ve come to understand that everyone has a base of knowledge and individualized set of skills. In a lifetime, one person cannot specialize in everything. That’s why synergy and teamwork are essential.

How did the position increase your professional confidence?
Before the internship, I had zero work experience as a designer. Working in an environment that encouraged me to make recommendations boosted my trust in my team. To know that they thought I could contribute showed me that they value me. Not only this, but there were so many times when the leads would go out of their way to teach me something. It really showed me that there are a variety of work cultures out there. I now will forever desire one like what I found in the county.

How did you expand your professional network?
During my time, I met landscape architects, directors, contractors, commissioners, as well as many other types of people. I didn’t try to only talk to designers or those who would help me in the future. I was just friendly and enjoyed each day as it came. By doing this, I would just stumble across friends.

Being an infant in the world, I still haven’t solidified my career path. I don’t know what my contribution to the world will be. I do know that I like technology, music, art, and architecture, however. So, you can bet that my future will contain all types of people from these fields!

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?”
By staying in the internship for 2 ½ years, I believe that I demonstrated to future employers that I can responsibly maintain a position. As well, I now have a handful of projects that I can show my contributions to.

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