Diving Into Architecture, One Internship at a Time
Hotchkiss | Tessa Stern'23

Tessa Stern '23 values her real-world experience gained during two internships. Here, she is working in the SketchUp program at Churchill Building Company.

Imagine gaining real-world work experience before you even graduate high school. That’s exactly what Tessa Stern ’23 is doing. Since Hotchkiss architecture courses are open to upper mids and seniors, students have the option to undertake independent study senior year, so students like Stern have taken advantage of experiential learning through internships at two prestigious architectural firms.

Says Stern, “I have always loved design and I welcomed the opportunity last summer to intern at Kevin O’Sullivan and Associates in Bridgehampton, New York, where I learned about so many aspects of how architects work.” Wanting to dive deeper into this career option, she took an architecture course with Brad Faus, Marie S. Tinker chair, program director of studio art and art history, and instructor in art and design. He proposed the idea of working at a local architecture firm. Excited about pushing her boundaries, she landed her second internship at Churchill Building Company in Lakeville, CT.  

“I was exposed to many new architectural elements and office dynamics," says Stern. "My main project was to work on a garage that the firm was designing and building. The garage needed to hold a dozen motorcycles, a truck, and a car. It was my first time building a 3D model from an AutoCad file, and it was a huge accomplishment for me. There were certainly some frustrating moments, but the end result was the ultimate prize. 

“My internship definitely sparked a greater interest in architecture. One of the most amazing moments for me was taking a design that was still in its early stages and watching it come to life. This is one of the greatest parts of architecture: the process. It is thrilling to take an idea that lives in your mind and give it a place on this Earth, watching it evolve into a sketch, a model, and finally, a life-size creation.

“I came out of this experience with numerous takeaways. Not only was I able to dive deeper into the specifics of architecture, but I also experienced the dynamics of an office space. Being able to be part of a team in the real world has given me insight that I know I will be able to apply to various facets of my life.”

Stern maintains a busy schedule as a tour guide for admissions in addition to sitting on three boards (BlueStockings, the Women’s Affinity Group, and Blue and White). She is head of Banana Splits and the Booster Squad, and she is a member of the Library Student Advisory Council and the Campus Design and Standards Committee. 

When it comes to her plans after high school, she says, “I am sure design and creativity will play a huge role in my future. I’m so grateful for my time at Churchill and Hotchkiss, and I am excited to see what the near future holds for me.”

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