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Olivia Mills stands in front of a crumbling castle in Ireland.
Senior architectural engineering major Olivia Mills completed a structural engineering internship abroad in 2022 in Dublin, Ireland. | Image: Courtesy of Olivia Mills.
Last year, one architectural engineering Aggie found herself amidst the storied green and gold lands of Ireland and marveling at the rich architectural history found in the Emerald Isle.
Olivia Mills is a senior studying architectural engineering in the Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering. She spent eight weeks in Dublin, Ireland, last year through Academic Programs International, an affiliate program associated with Texas A&M University and other national and international universities. The program assisted Mills with obtaining a structural engineering internship along with housing.
She chose Ireland for its rich culture and the opportunity to work and live near architectural marvels that she might not otherwise see.
"Architectural engineering focuses on everything to do with buildings, from the interior mechanical systems to the hundred-year-old walls that surround it," Mills said. "It was wonderful to gain this knowledge of architectural history alongside my technical knowledge of structures. It was an immense learning experience in an engineering setting that challenged me and helped me appreciate the surrounding beauty of the built environment."
During her internship, she learned how to read plans and building codes, communicate with architects and construction contractors and use AutoCAD, a design and drafting software. As an American student, she also enjoyed working alongside coworkers of various nationalities. The firm she worked for, relatively small with six to seven other employees, included professionals from Ireland, Argentina, the Czech Republic and South Africa.
Overall, Mills said her first internship was an exceptionally informative look at how the building industry works.
"With your first internship, go in knowing that you don't know anything, but be aware that the company knows that, too," she said. "Ask strategic questions. Be attentive, open to criticism and open to learning more."
One of Mills' highlights was a trip to the coastal Aran Islands, which she described as a window to the past – a glimpse through architecture and landscape of what Ireland used to look like. "We hiked to the highest point on the island overlooking the ocean. The islands themselves were golden, green and covered in wildflowers."
In the gray winding streets of Edinburgh, Scotland's capital mounted on craggy hills, Mills found an intriguing mix of medieval, Georgian and neo-classical architecture.
"Edinburgh is a marvelous combination of new and old," she said. "It's an interesting environment because Scottish hills surround the city, and Edinburgh has had to build on top of itself over the centuries. It was the pinnacle of my architectural experience while abroad."
Mills found her internship abroad a liberating experience in independence. "I learned so much about myself, my career aspirations and the world. I had the freedom to act as an independent, young professional in a foreign land while still having a network of support I could rely on."