April 3, 2019

Mark in Malta

My plan was always to take a year out from university to do a placement abroad. Not only would a placement year look good on any CV, but one overseas would set me apart. That’s why I’ve spent a year in Malta during my BSc Architectural Design and Technology degree course at Cardiff Met.

After applying for internships in different countries and getting no replies I was pointed towards the direction of the University’s International & Partnerships Office who offered to send me to Malta and provide Erasmus funding, which was great. To be honest I wasn’t too sure where Malta was, so I did my research!

My first sight of Malta!

Malta is a small island approximately twice the size of Cardiff. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean just south of Italy, I’m sure you can imagine what the weather is like. 

I arrived in September and was greeted with 30-degree weather which was a big contrast from the Cardiff weather I’m so used to!

Malta in the sun
It’s a little sunnier than Cardiff!

When I first arrived here it was a massive culture shock. The people and the way of life were completely different. When I first arrived I was in an apartment provided by the agency that has links with the university. I was living with people from different countries that I had never met, so it almost felt like being back in Halls again.

After a month, two of my friends from the Architectural Design and Technology course at Cardiff Met also jumped at the opportunity of a work placement abroad and joined me, which was great – having a couple of familiar faces around has made my time here a lot easier.  

We were lucky enough to be able to rent out a Penthouse for a good price, which is ideal as living costs in Malta are pretty steep – food and water are quite expensive. 

The view from our penthouse

In terms of architecture, in Msida, the student area I’m in, there are a lot of unfinished buildings. Everything here is made from dense blocks and concrete making it fast and cheap to build. Which is what is needed for the fast-growing population of Malta. 

In complete contrast to this is St Julians – known for its stretch of bars, restaurants and beautiful bays like Balluta Bay and Spinola Bay. This area has lots of modern high-rise buildings.

Malta at night
Spinola Bay at night

Valetta, the capital city of Malta and named the European Capital of Culture in 2018, is different again. The buildings here are more like what I expected from Malta; there’s lots of Baroque style architecture with some English and Italian influences. Most interesting of all are the colourful wooden protruding balconies with incredible detail.  

Maltese architecture
More traditional architecture in Malta

My placement is with Carter Architectural Studio. We’re currently working on a large luxury accommodation project called “The Shoreline” located in an up and coming area of Malta, Smart City. CAS has been appointed to deal with the Interior architecture of almost 370 units spanning 8 blocks.

Render of a dining room
An example of a project the studio has worked on

On my first day it felt like I was being thrown straight in the deep end. Luckily, I’d had some experience with the software, so it was easy for me to get stuck in. My day to day consists of working on floor plans for each of the apartments, including finishes, lighting arrangements, electrical plans and even plumbing. 

Mark at work
Work selfie time!

When we had other interns, I was also put in charge of supervising and checking their work, which was great experience. It’s been rewarding being able to use what I’ve learned on my course to help with certain drawings and writing documents. 

In my 6 months working here so far, I’ve learned much more than I thought I would, including things that aren’t covered at uni. The people I work with, including my mentor, have been great at guiding me in terms of showing me how an architect would deal with certain situations and problems.

Render of a room
I’ve learned so much since I came to Malta

Although I still get things wrong and make mistakes, my colleagues are supportive but they don’t let me forget about it due to their high standards! I’ve gained so many useful skills that I will hopefully bring back for the final year in my course. For example I’ve been creating renders using software I’ve not used before, dealing with the Bill of Quantities, writing material specifications and drawing detailed floor plans.  

It hasn’t all been work though – during the summer I spent most of my spare time exploring the beaches around this beautiful island and snorkelling in crystal-clear water. It’s hard for people at home to not get jealous! 

Blue seas in Malta
I had a great summer exploring the crystal clear waters

It’s also been nice getting to know people from different countries – Malta is home to many other nationalities, as many students decide to come here to learn English, so I’ve met a lot of interesting people from around the world. 

It’s a little colder this time of year, so it’s been nice exploring places like Mdina and Valetta. They have amazing spots for sketching, which after my Urban Sketching module at uni, I’ve been able to continue as a hobby. When I’m not out exploring, I spend my time working and researching for my dissertation. My goal is to finish it while I’m here so when I’m back it’s one less thing to worry about. 

I have a lot planned for this summer – there are a few festivals happening here and I also want to visit some beaches that I haven’t had the chance to check out yet.

A bay in Malta
There’s still so much to explore before I come back to Cardiff

I would recommend taking a year out in industry abroad if you have the opportunity, but make sure you’re ready and can support yourself – the university can only do so much.

Even if a year abroad is not for you, you should certainly visit Malta anyway – it’s a small country but it has a lot to offer! I’m looking forward to the remaining months I have here before coming back to sunny Cardiff.