Skip to content

Laura Gomez
BS Architecture/Minor Sociology
Class of 2020
Home Town: Medellin, Colombia/North Bergen, NJ

How did you go about securing a coop in abroad?

I tried two approaches-reaching out to firms by cold emailing as well as reaching out to friend and family contacts. Cold emailing is not as effective of a strategy in many firms here, so eventually I focused more on the connections I was able to pursue through friends and family, talking to a couple firms and eventually finding what seemed the right fit.

What was hard about it?

The hardest part about international co-op was getting started with the application process. The internship process and culture is very different in Colombia, as people usually don’t start interning until the last semesters of their career. So finding firms that were willing to take in someone who is doing her first co-op, with less experience in school, was challenging. Communication, expectations, and culture in firms is also very different so making contact was difficult, especially with larger firms.

Where are you working and what type of firm is it?

I am currently working at Barrientos Arquitectos SA, a very small firm. Most of my coworkers actually work remotely, so the “office culture” is extremely different. We work on a variety of projects, ranging from residential to commercial and tourism, as well as some urban planning for larger projects.

What was it like working in an international office and how did it differ from working in the US?

I think the main difference I see working here is the office culture. Again, since most of the workers work remotely, it is not a typical 9-5 job. I sometimes get to work from home and whenever we need to come together to check over progress or start a new project, the people involved in the project meet at the office. I also feel like I have gotten the chance to work on some really interesting projects in very large sites that are not as common in some US firms.

Where are you living while on coop?

I am living with family in Medellin.

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

The programs we use in studio are very useful at work. My knowledge with the Adobe Cloud, Rhino, and most importantly CAD have been of great advantage since I can take on projects from the sketching phase all the way to final presentation products.

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

My favorite project so far was a proposal we put together for an eco farm/hotel in Armenia, Colombia. The project aimed to connect users with all aspects of their stay, allowing them to come in contact with and  to be able to pick out the fruits and vegetables that they would eat during their stay, as well as be able to come in contact with the production of other food products in the farm part of the project. I was able to be part of this project from the beginning, helping out with the research and concept. I think this has been my favorite also because it was my first exposure to a completely different type of architecture, one that is very native to Colombia, and it helped me connect more with my culture as well as expand my knowledge on alternative forms of architecture.

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

I think the most important lesson that this co-op has taught me is time management. The responsibility of sometimes having to work independently has pushed me to use my time more wisely and take care of tasks in an orderly manner. This will definitely help me out in studio, as will the little tips and tricks I have been able to pick up from my coworkers in both digital and traditional drawing methods.

Talk about location of where coop is and what is that like? How is that influencing your design thinking/your approach to your work?

My co-op is in Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, and a city with incredible urban growth. Seeing all the development in progress around the city has been very interesting and has served as inspiration in my job, as well as in my personal approach to architecture. A lot of our work is outside of the city, in more rural areas, or developing suburban spaces. The possibilities there have also been very interesting. Looking at how we approach a housing project in the mountains versus in a coastal town has allowed me to gain more knowledge about the versatility of architecture and the needs that each distinct circumstance has.

What are the fun things you have been able to do? This can be as part of the job or opportunities that have come from working there?

Rediscovering my home city has been the most amazing experience. I moved to the US 10 years ago, and even though I have visited since then,  the changes the city has gone through are amazing. I’ve really enjoyed exploring Medellin, as well as the surrounding mountain towns, to see all the progress. It’s great to see and study these changes in infrastructure and urbanism while I actively participate in the development of it.