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International Coop Profile: Zoe Hochstein-Morran

Name: Zoe Hochstein-Morran
Class Year: 2018
Hometown:  Medford, MA

Zoe Hochstein-Morran is a fourth year student in the Urban Landscape program. Last year, after spending a semester in Berlin, she decided to take on the challenge of doing an international coop. We caught up with Zoe to learn more about her experience.

How did you go about securing a coop in Berlin?

I sent out a lot of emails to various firms based in Berlin, some on recommendation from my studio professors from our semester abroad in Berlin.

Did you have contacts abroad to help you?

My professors in Berlin and Jane Amidon, the director of the Urban Landscape program served as my contacts during my search and those connections enabled me to secure the job. Now after working abroad on coop, I have expanded my professional network a great deal.

What was hard about looking for a coop in Germany?

Sending out cold emails was definitely not easy, because you have minimal control over the situation.  But in the end, its just part of what you do to find opportunities and certainly helped me grow and gain confidence.

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Where did you work and what type of firm was it?

I was working with TOPOTEK 1 in Berlin.  It’s a landscape architecture firm whose work encompasses both architecture and urban design.

What was it like working in a Berlin office and how did it differ from working in the US?

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There were obviously differences in language and culture.  The firm was actually a very international one, with employees from at least 5 different countries.  So we definitely bonded over being ex-pats and the struggles in our day-to-day lives with miscommunications etc.  While people often characterize German people as being withdrawn and uninviting, I certainly felt included in the office culture and found my co-workers to be friendly, kind, and pleasant.

Where are you living while on coop?

I lived in an apartment in the Neukölln district of Berlin, right of the Tempelhoferfeld in the southeastern part of the city.

How did you experience in the studio prepare for your coop experience?

Studio obviously exposed me to the design process and a variety of software packages that are used to produce drawings and visualizations in professional firms.  Through studio I was also prepared to discuss and critique design, which is very important in a professional setting, where you are always in communication with other designers.

What has been your favorite project you have participated in on coop?

I worked on a project in Gothenburg, Sweden where we were turning an old port into a gigantic swimming pool and beach while developing a master plan for the surrounding commercial and residential district.  It was a really funky project and the first project where I felt my firm really trusted me and gave me significant responsibility in the design process.

How do you think your coop experience will influence you back in the studio?

It has definitely taught me about teamwork and time management, which are skills that are always applicable to studio work.  Additionally, I have learned a bit more about how to use the various design software packages, as well as how to more effectively communicate my design intentions to others.

Tell us about the location of the firm. How is that influencing your design thinking or your approach to your work?

TOPOTEK 1 is  located in the Mitte district of Berlin, which is the city center.  It was great to be in such a lively part of town, because after work there were always an abundance of arts and culture events happening.  In general, Berlin is a very art-centered city, with a plethora of things to see and do.  Also, Berlin as a whole has a lot of public green space, so it was nice to always eat lunch in the park with my co-workers. The people are really creative and interesting, and take the time to really interact with you, rather than live off of their phones and stare at the ground when you talk with them.  It was really nice, really refreshing to be there.

What are the fun things you have been able to do?

While there, I spent many summer afternoons and weekends grilling in the park with friends and co-workers.  I also participated in this extreme sport called orienteering with a co-worker.  People all meet up in more rural areas outside to city to run in the forests and fields.  You’re given a course map and compass, and have to navigate with only these two tools to get to the finish.  I’m not particularly athletic but it was nice to get involved in the activity community and see other areas outside of Berlin.  I went sailing on the lakes at the edge of the city a few times with co-workers as well.  Independently I did some additional traveling around Europe to see friends who were also studying abroad. I also had the opportunity to host my friends who came to visit.  Some of these friends I haven’t really been able to connect with since high school because they went to other universities, so the reunion factor made these traveling experiences even more rewarding.