Samantha Raburn is a newly licensed architect at Stantec Architecture in Plano, Texas. Her blog, The Aspiring Architect, recounts her journey to become qualified and acts as a guide to future architects.
Architecture school is rough, no matter what. However, there are definitely ways to make it a bit easier and more enjoyable. Here are my five tips for surviving architecture school:
1. Make friends with your studio mates.
My class went from being over 100 students my first year down to just 21 during grad school. Needless to say, the 21 of us that stuck it out for five years became very close. You will spend so much of your time in studio working on your projects, it really does benefit you to befriend the people going through the same issues.
Your late nights will become fun and entertaining, you’ll have people to make those 4 a.m. snack runs with and you’ll create lifelong friends in your industry. Along with the fun times and crazy stories, you will also learn from them. Studio mates easily become one of your best resources for new precedents, software tips, project critiques and studio advice.
2. Take some time out from your project.
One very valuable lesson I learned during my five years of studio projects is that sometimes you need a bit of separation from your project. There will be times when you get stuck on a problem: Your structural layout may not be working out correctly, your concept may be a bit fuzzy or your computer software will just not do what you tell it to. At those moments of sheer frustration, it is best to just take a step back and take a short break.
When you come back, you will be refreshed and able to look at the problem from a different perspective. I remember so many nights during my first three years that I would just sit and waste hours trying to solve one problem. Once I learned to just step away from the problem and revisit it after a while, my time was much more productive, and the break rejuvenated my creativity and enabled me to solve the problem.
Image via Sverre Flack
3. Practice prioritizing — in school and in life.
You will learn early on that architecture is all about prioritizing what is most important and using your time wisely. Many people have the misconception that if you choose architecture for your major, you can’t enjoy anything else in college. I loved my college experience; I still played intramurals, joined a sorority, participated in and ran multiple organizations and had a decent social life.
Did I sleep much? No, but I trained myself to prioritize what needed to get done and by when. I made lists and schedules, lots of them. If I spent too long on one thing, I cut myself off and moved on to something else. And learn to say “no.” That was always a struggle for me, but “no” is part of life and about choosing what is absolutely necessary. Time is always of great value, so make sure you are spending it wisely.
Image via Dave Brenner
4. Leave your work at work and home at home.
A great piece of advice given to me by an older student during my first year was “Leave your work at work and home at home.” I started to appreciate the sentiment more the older I became. In college and in your career, it is vitally important to keep your work life separate from your home life.
I learned quickly that bringing my studio project home to continue working on it always left me feeling tired and unproductive. It was like that because everywhere I went, I was always thinking about my project or actually working on it. When I finally left my studio work at studio, and left my home at home, I was able to give a clear separation between the two. I could actually relax when I went home and felt recharged when I returned to the studio with a fresh, more productive mindset.
5. Keep the bigger picture in mind.
You will have at least a few experiences during architecture school that will make you feel like it is the end of the world. That’s normal. Everyone has those dark moments. This lesson I learned during my fourth year and still applies to my everyday life: the fact that things can always be worse. When your computer gives you the dreaded blue screen and all of your work is lost, remember, things can always be worse. When you have a terrible critique of your project and you think you may fail studio, things can always be worse.
These are the pitfalls of an architecture student’s life, but no matter how bad things may seem, it’s minuscule in the bigger picture of life. You can always redo the work or repeat the studio. It may be terrible, but you can do it. People always have something going on in their lives that you may not know about — someone in the family is sick, they may have lost a job or may be struggling to put food in their stomach — and there will always be something worse for someone else that will most likely make your computer crashing seem not so catastrophic after all.