A First Year Student Experience in Architecture

Hi everyone! I am currently in my 2nd year of Architecture studying at the Liverpool School of Art and Design – LJMU. Before coming to University, I attended Sale Grammar School Sixth Form to complete my A Levels in Mathematics, Physics and History, plus an Extended Project Qualification. 2 Years and a Results Day later, I was heading to Liverpool to begin my Architecture journey!

Despite really enjoying my 1st Year of University, I did sometimes find myself with sudden extraordinary challenges. However, this is a normal feeling that many students experience studying architecture for the first time. The majority of us come into university with little knowledge of what to expect starting the course. Suddenly, in a matter of months or even weeks, most of us become absorbed into this universal ‘Architecture Student Lifestyle’. Unfortunately, this is inevitable as Architecture is associated with long days, long nights, and many hours of hard work. However, how you manage this, can make what is considered to be an intensive experience; a fun and enjoyable one!

In this article, I will share what helped in my first Year of Architecture school; emphasising the importance in balancing academia with other aspects of university life. I hope this will be helpful for those starting university soon! I understand how both nerve-wracking and exciting this new beginning can be, especially if you are moving to a new city and living with new people. Hopefully, the following tips will give you a head start in terms of what to expect in your first year as an architecture student. 

  1. Prepare for Tutorials & Reviews/Crits 

Coming in straight from A-levels, tutorials and crits, were a brand new experience compared to the standard learning structure. Presenting ideas was something I did not do much before. However, it becomes a very frequent activity in architecture school so you eventually get used to it very quickly. 

Tutorials 🡪 A weekly session, where you discuss your project with your tutor. This is an opportunity to get feedback on your work, discuss ideas and ask questions. 

Review/Crits 🡪 This is considered to be the most important day in your design process. This is where you pin up your work and present your design proposal to reviewers, including guests (depending on the University). It can be considered to be a very formal and sometimes difficult process or a casual experience (the experience varies between design units and universities). 

Ultimately, how you come out of these sessions is dependent on the quality of work and preparations you have done. Before a tutorial session, be sure to prepare what you want to show to your tutor and list some questions you have, to make the most of the sessions. Before a review/crit, be sure to prepare a pin-up which showcases your hard work and understanding of the project. Prepare what you are going to say during the review/crit, even if that means writing up some notes and presenting to yourself in your room the night before.   

  1. Get to know studio mates 

These are the people who will change your experience in architecture for the better! Architecture is an intensive experience, but who you surround yourself with can make that experience enjoyable. During my first year, I was lucky enough not only to find a group of people who are passionate and good at what they are doing, but also, looks out for one another. You will find that people have different skill sets and are open to sharing opinions and tips. Be sure to get to know the older years as well! They are more experienced and are eager to help when you are struggling with something as they understand what it is like being in your place.

  1. Keep involved in your hobbies through University Societies, Clubs, or Personal

University is the perfect opportunity to either try something new or enhance skills you already have. Before coming in September, I knew that I wanted to keep fit and continue playing sports at university. Therefore, I attended badminton training sessions and now play for the university badminton team, as well as selected for varsity. 

I always tell people that balancing architecture and badminton was a struggle, which in most cases, it was. However, the pros outweigh the cons. Getting involved taught me to have a balance and to organise my time properly. This helped me become more productive and I found when I came back from training or competitions, I was refreshed, and ready to start work again. 

  1. Start early – Wake up early 

This was something I struggled with in first year. Waking up early to start my work was only achieved the day before a review/crit. This was so that I could do as much work in the day and prevent working through the night. Unfortunately, I failed to recognise just how effective this could have been if I incorporated it into my everyday life.

Waking up early is really efficient in terms of productivity. It allows you to get a lot more work done. This is definitely something I want to do more often, and I would encourage others to try and do the same. Start early, finish early, and then you are free to enjoy the rest of your day! 

  1. Take breaks 

Breaks are very important, both short and long. When spending a day in the studio, make sure to take breaks! Go on walks with your friends, go to the local café, or sit outside for a bit. This may sound obvious but remember to eat! The Architecture Society at my University did an architecture-type ‘Bingo’ and one box read ‘Forgot to eat all day because you were too busy doing uni work’. It seemed as though the majority of students from all years ticked it off, proving this habit to be quite common among Architecture Students. 

Lastly, breaks are important due to the fact that Architecture consists of many projects and reports. In some Universities, there are few exams, however for others, it may be 100% coursework. The fact that coursework is significant in Architecture makes the workload quite intense. However, do not feel as though you need to constantly work on your project from the day you have been given the brief, to review/crit or submission day. Manage your time properly, allocate breaks, even if that includes days where you will not do any architecture work. Be productive in a healthy way and remember: quality over quantity! 

The main point for first year architecture is to enjoy yourself! Especially for 1st years where the university experience is so much more than the course. It is about trying new things, getting to know new people, and enjoy exploring the city you are in. As you progress in your architectural studies, you will start to appreciate the architecture around you more. My perspective of Liverpool in my first month of living there compared to my last month has completely changed. I am really excited to continue my Part 1 Architecture degree there. Whether you will be starting architecture in Liverpool, a different city, the UK or a different country, I am sure the city you will be in, will be a city you love, and if not, you will learn to love. Best of luck this year, and be sure to ask me anything you are unsure about  🙂 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Elyza Yunus on our Writers page.

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