It’s December 2013 and I have just completed a six-month internship at Smashing Magazine. At the beginning of the year — fresh out of university, with a bachelor’s in journalism, specializing in communication design — I was filled with excitement and expectation about what my future holds.
The only thing was that, when applying for my dream job, I lacked experience in the industry. And that’s where Smashing came in to save the day. I had started working as a junior designer, designing magazine apps for Apple and Android devices, when I saw the tweet offering an editorial internship with Smashing Magazine in Germany. I applied, fully expecting that I would be one of thousands grasping for this opportunity. So, you can imagine that my jaw dropped when I received an email from the folks at Smashing inviting me to intern with them in Freiburg, with a “How soon can you get here?” attitude. When my friends in South Africa realized that I was talking about the Smashing Magazine, they were green with envy. What an opportunity! It was too good to turn down. A couple of emails went back and forth, as well as a Skype “interview.” And as soon as I could get my affairs in order, I was on a plane to Europe.
A Smashing Experience
This was my first international trip, but after dealing with the initial culture shock of being in a different part of the world and hearing an unfamiliar language, I settled into a trusty rhythm. Having said that, my introduction to the tram and train commute was a rude awakening. I had an opportunity to stay with a family living in Basel and decided to commute to and from Freiburg every day.
Before my official first day, I visited the offices in Freiburg. It was my first time in the city. Sure, I had Googled it and wiki’ed it, but it was still a whole new experience being in the city itself. Freiburg is a really beautiful and quaint city. I just love all of the history that European cities hold. In the summer months, I enjoyed taking breaks and just walking through the streets and discovering little new areas I hadn’t seen before. Many of the residents are students at the various universities in the city. Experiencing the cultural differences between Basel and Freiburg was also interesting.
The beautiful view from the office.
Working at Smashing has been a great experience, one that I will forever value and couldn’t put a price tag on. I come from a print background, working for magazines and newspapers, where everything is run on tight deadlines; this was a refreshing and interesting change of pace. Smashing’s office environment is down to earth, and all of the people are friendly, always ready to accommodate or lend a hand — you’ve only got to ask. They were always supportive and helpful with their feedback, and their intention was always that I learn something in the process.
What I really appreciated were the flexible working conditions; the hectic commute, traveling from Basel to Freiburg every day, was frustrating at times, especially in rain and cold weather. I always looked forward to the Friday lunches, though, when the whole office would gather on the second floor to share a meal. One day we would have sushi, another day Greek food. It was great!
Fun autumn decorations around the office.
I was given plenty of opportunities to hone my writing skills and to speak to different audiences. You learn a lot that way. I was allowed to have a bit of fun with my writing, because I wasn’t dealing with serious journalism topics, such as business, economics or hard news. I could develop my own voice, in line with the magazine. When compiling my Web design showcases, I had to tap into my own design knowledge and experience as a user. So many of the websites featured in those articles are brilliant, although I fear that many people visit them without realizing or appreciating the genius that created them.
At first, I was surprised and a little intimidated by Smashing’s vast readership from all over the world. But I also appreciated receiving feedback on my articles directly from readers, another difference between Web and print. Getting feedback and strongly worded responses on a personal level was a unique experience. I found it very helpful and, on the whole, rather encouraging. I also wrote pieces for the newsletter, which is mailed out every two weeks. I really enjoyed exploring and sharing new and sometimes quirky tools and other fun resources on the Web.
Time flies by when you’re having fun and working hard at the office.
I got to dabble in a bit of design as well. While I was disappointed that I never got round to submitting more wallpapers, I appreciated the opportunity to use my design skills where needed. One of my first tasks was to help condense and lay out the wallpaper submission guidelines. And I leapt at the chance to submit a redesign of the Smashing eBook covers and catalogue. I relished this opportunity to design and create something new in between writing articles. With this particular project, I was able to gain valuable experience working for a “client,” with very specific requirements and wishes for the final product. And although my design wasn’t selected, I learned a lot from the process.
Some members of the Smashing team behind the scenes at the Smashing Conference in September, 2013.
I was also able to participate in the Smashing Conference for a couple of days (we made a Facebook album). It was awesome to actually see and meet some of the Web enthusiasts who make up our readership and to listen to some of the people whose work I had been reading. To hear their points of view and hear what they are passionate about instilled in me more respect for and a new perspective on the world of Web design.
After all is said and done, I am so glad and grateful for the opportunity to meet and work alongside the people at Smashing. It has been a rich and invaluable experience that is sure to guide me in the future.