Sonja's (awesome) final day at the studio

Sandra Dsainbayonne | 21 sep. 2017

We've welcomed our first international intern this past Spring. Sonja is a 2nd year design student from Germany. On her last day, apart from having to organize her going-away party and wrapping up the amazing work she produced at Users', I assigned her a final task to complete: handing out her general feedback, her impression, whatever she feels would help anyone coming from somewhere else better understand what we're all about.

I expected bullet points — that would have been just fine. To my surprise, Sonja's feedback turned out into a fun to read #studiolife article. The kind of article I felt we should publish in its raw, unedited form, because I know you guys out there in design schools are wondering what we're made of, what we're all about and if you should apply… You want my advice? You should!

So here you are, Sonja, the floor is yours.

My name is Sonja and I’ve spent the last 6 months doing my internship at User Studio in Paris. Actually, I’m studying Interaction Design at the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd (if you’d like to know how this is pronounced, just ask one of the User Studio members, they’re experts now!) located in the south of Germany. After two years of studies my school sends us out to seek the real world experience and for me it was very clear that I would like to take the opportunity and go abroad for my internship.

Welcome Kit by User Studio

It took me not more than a Google search and design related keywords to learn about User Studio in France, an innovation and service design agency. Once I’ve seen their projects on the website I could relate them to my previous student works and knew that it was definitely my field of interests.

"Well, France", many people asked me "do you speak French then?". To be fair, I couldn't tell whether four years of school French were enough at that point but I decided I wouldn't let that intimidate me and applied straight away.

They responded and agreed upon having a Skype interview and after I’ve spoken to two of the three founders I received Matthew’s email offering me the position. Without further ado, I accepted and prepared for my departure to France.

I arrived in Paris knowing barely anyone. My brother lives in Lyon, so I wasn’t all alone in France but it was definitely a big step, especially coming from this small town in the German countryside to this huge and world-known metropolis. And it took me probably just one day to realise: No— four years school French aren’t enough to survive, as it has basically nothing in common with the spoken Parisian French…

So when I was told that I can and should speak English and, that in exchange, they would respond in English to me, it was quite a relief. It definitely helps to adjust to a new life in a foreign country when you can come back to something familiar like a common language. Saying so, the period of settling in wasn’t long at all and from the beginning on I worked on real projects for various clients, some of them on international level where it was even necessary to speak English. Altogether there has been a really international atmosphere at the studio.

Sonja can bowl (too fast for the camera)

Hence, my tasks were various as well and I could learn a lot from it. I gained an even more in-depth knowledge about all the programs and softwares, I deepened my experiences with HTML and CSS programming and moreover, I was able to participate in the studio’s own Research and Development (R&D). In the past few years User Studio has launched successful projects such as the DIRTI for the Centre Pompidou and has given a first inkling of how interfaces could look like in the future. A valuable lesson that I learned while working on these R&D projects was that it is us designers who are helping to invent the future and that we are the ones in charge of making sure it will be better, smarter and more human. And because design is so crucial, User Studio wants to bring their user centric design approach to their clients as well. The workshops that I prepared and provided during my time showed me once more how important it is that we raise awareness of good design within the companies. Through these workshops managers and company leaders can learn how to implement design thinking in their own processes to make sure their products and services become more user friendly.

It might not have been always easy to follow along in some situations and listening to French all day long can be more tiring than I have ever expected, however, I really enjoyed the casualty and the openness in the studio. It’s not like many other enterprises but more like a big family (and the Slack name is fully approved). I also enjoyed the little off-work topic discussions, the laughter and the cosiness of the studio. It is really enjoyable to work in such a positive environment. And if you have a problem, you’re stuck at some point or something else is bothering you, there is always someone you could talk to; or how Matthieu would put it: "We are at your service, just stay the same and become who you are."

So, if someone would ask me to sum up this internship in one sentence I simply couldn’t. I got so many new impressions, whether they were work related or part of the everyday life. I met a lot of great and inspiring people and I can now say with certainty that it is absolutely worth to do things out of the comfort zone. The first thing you will learn is that we all grow with our tasks and you can only benefit from pushing yourself further.