La Vie Parisienne

Author: Randi McQueen

Thanks to a bit of communication with a professor in Rome and the extensive Notre Dame alumni network, I am interning with ARCAS Architecture and Urbanism in Paris for the summer! It has been a goal of mine to intern in Paris since I was captivated by its patisseries, outdoor cafes, and elegant flare back in the summer of 2014. Since then, I have returned to the City of Light on multiple occasions, but I am over the moon to finally spend some extended time here.


This trip was possible for me thanks to the generosity of the Nanovic Institute of European Studies at Notre Dame. After applying back in January, I received a Summer Internship Grant, which was enough to cover my airfare from the United States and my apartment cost for 9 weeks in Paris. While interns at ARCAS do receive a monthly stipend, the goal of this internship is primarily to gain professional experience.

Arcas Interns


Despite my eagerness, my first weekend in Paris was no walk in the park. Last Saturday morning, I arrived in Paris exhausted, after flying from Indianapolis to New York to Dublin followed by a final connection to Charles de Gaulle Airport. After slowly making my way through border patrol, I arrived at baggage claim only to realize both of my bags had not arrived. Panic soon ensued.

Fortunately for me, Aer Lingus recovered my baggage, and I was able to pick them up the following day from the airport. Thank goodness I had something to wear to work!


Monday morning, my first day of work, it was pouring down rain. So there I was, trudging through the cold, wet streets, without an umbrella, on my way to the Luxembourg metro stop. As I struggled to navigate my way through Montparnasse, the neighborhood where the office is located, I noticed my heels were bleeding! I was so distracted by everything going on that morning I failed to realize that my heels had begun to blister already.

At the office, I jumped straight into work after meeting each member of the 10-person firm. Maurice Culott, the owner of ARCAS, assigned me to sketch two perspective drawings based off of plans and elevations of a community of social housing in Trouville, France. I was nervous to begin, but once I started drawing, I was able to finally relax.


The rest of the week proceeded with ease. Each day I improved my sketches with the help of Maurice and Matthew Brown, the Notre Dame alumni I contacted for the job. I’ve already begun to develop relationships with other members of the firm, as many of us eat lunch together in the office. Working with three other Notre Dame students has made the transition into the workplace even easier.  Many of the French members are newly graduated, and they have given us countless restaurant and shopping recommendations.

Arcas Luxembourg


While everyone in the office communicates in French, many of them are also fluent in English. Because I am also pursuing a major in French and Francophone studies, I try my best to practice my French whenever I can. So far, it has been a tremendous learning experience listening to everyone and attempting to decipher their conversations.


After three years of undergraduate architecture school, including 4 semesters of design studio, I am accustomed to spending long hours in the studio, so I wasn’t concerned about working all day at the firm. However, working from 9:30 to 6:30 straight, with just a lunch break, has been more difficult than I anticipated. It made me realized that I take many breaks when I work independently at school!


On Friday afternoon, Maurice brought us a large box of pastries to share to celebrate our first week in the office. I was wonderfully surprised, and the treats were just as beautiful as they were delicious. When we left, he thanked us all again for working for ARCAS and helping out every day.


Arcas Pastry

Despite my mangled feet and the torrential rain, my first week at ARCAS was a great learning experience in numerous different ways. I am eager to see what new experiences and opportunities the rest of the summer will bring!