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Interning with Abu Dhabi UPC

After Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s (UPC) announcement to include university students in major projects, Lorraine Bangera speaks with graduating students to know the value of an internship in the GCC


In early August, urban design students at the UAE University were offered the chance to work on some of Abu Dhabi UPC’s upcoming projects. The collaboration between the two entities was established in order to set up a training programme for local students to enhance their young talent. The organisation is set to provide five annual internship opportunities, as well as the chance to work on some of its key planning projects.

As internships in the region gain more popularity, firms are buying into the strategy in order to hire the best possible talent. The challenge in hiring local talent, according to Abdulla Al Shamsi, executive director at the Stategic Affairs of the Abu Dhabi UPC, is a shortage of graduates and experts with an urban planning major. He says: “Many people come across as excellent at the interview, but when it comes to performing in the actual work environment, they are totally different or not up to par.

“This challenge is improved through the internship process because internships allow us the time and opportunity to assess and evaluate interns’ talents and their potential as permanent employees.”

Students speak out

Tamer Ehab Khalil, student at American University of Sharjah, views an internship as snapping out of a “dream zone” whilst in university. He says that it is important to be as creative as possible, however it is good idea to gain experience in the real world.

He adds: “Having an internship is very useful. First of all the students have the chance to interact with architects or designers rather than professors. Secondly, they might work with other interns and can share their experiences, and thirdly, it could even help them score a job after graduation.”

Arghavan Hatamabadi, another student at American University of Sharjah, says that internships are is a great experience to have in a fresh resume. Add a quote from him here or remove that line

Should money matter?

Most internships in the region are paid poorly or not at all, however, Shamsi says that even though the internship offered by UPC is a paid opportunity , other things are more important.

He observes: “Money seems to be a criteria for interns. However, gaining exposure to real life issues, working with experts in the field and building relationships with them is far more beneficial in the long term, therefore money should be a less important factor when applying.”

Students in the region seem to think internships could be useful in two ways, a way to earn some money or gain some experience. Hatamabadi says: “If I get an internship opportunity with a local well-known firm where I can receive guaranteed experience, money wouldn’t be an issue as the experience and knowledge gained would compensate for it.”

Khalil agrees and takes it a step further by adding that money shouldn’t be a criteria at all because the idea of an internship is not to be a “part time job”. He says: “The focus of any internship, in my opinion, should be education oriented. This should be understood by both the student and the firm.”

He says that it is important to have a mindset to learn and experience. While he also urges that it is important for firms to bring value to the experience as well. He says: “The firm should have a mindset of responsibility towards the future architects and designers and educating them as to how a firm operates.”
He explains that there is a tendency in the industry to “use and abuse” interns by making them do work that nobody else wants to do, and as a result the intern doesn’t learn from the experience.

Both students do agree that the opportunities for good internships exist in the region and it is up to both interns and the firm to make it a productive experience.


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