The Importance of Exploring Your Options

Before I start, I might as well tell you a bit about myself first. My name is Hajar, I am Lebanese. To pursue a bachelors in interior architecture, I travelled to Istanbul back in September 2016.

When I started senior year, I decided to pursue a master’s of architecture right after graduation. I started hunting down the tests I need to take, the list of universities that I could apply for, the programs available, and whether I should apply for a scholarship. All the planning went steady for a while until the pandemic hit.

man leaning on wall

Everything went down the drain from there, as it did for most people. My former options were no longer applicable leaving me with only two choices. Afterwards, I was blessed to continue my studies at my alma mater. Nevertheless, I still question whether or not I made the right choice of pursuing my studies in the first place instead of applying for a job.

Of course, I should be grateful. The fact that I am continuing my studies (even though it is online) in the midst of these crazy events is blissful in itself. Yet, the occasional ‘what-if’ questions come to my mind. What if I honed my software skills instead? Learning Revit or Rhino could be a boost to my CV. What if I focused on learning the Turkish language seriously? It is necessary to practice architecture, even if it’s in an international firm. Master’s is a two-year commitment that would be the next stage of my life. I needed to be sure that I wouldn’t regret it.

I just wanted to tell you snippets of my story in case you can relate. But the actual reason behind this op-ed is to say this: if you still are a senior or a junior student and speculating post-graduate as a choice, I would like you to consider the following, as a piece of friendly advice:

Consider your interests when you want to apply

The point of pursuing your studies further is about delving deeper into the core of the topics that hit a personal note. Your pursuit of a post-graduate in any subject of your choice puts it all into an academic perspective. Being subjective as you make this decision is vital. You need to think about the bigger picture and whether the subject you want to study, in this case, Architecture is something you’re ready to commit to again. You might also have to think about other elements like whether it fits into your future goals, whether you can afford it right now and what you want to get out of it.

To make this easier, recall why you were interested in architecture from the start. A neglected white house in Beirut was my incentive to study architecture. I imagined that if those post-war houses and buildings are transformed, then they will be delightful sights of heritage value. Back then, I didn’t know that I was thinking of adaptive reuse. Now, I am planning to have my thesis inspired by it. Even more, I am searching for master’s programs focused on adaptive reuse as a subsequent step. Once you know your drive it becomes easier to start planning for and around it.

Do your research well

Explore all kinds of master programs there are. You can never imagine the number of programs that are opening up across the globe. You have got programs stretching from sustainable methodologies to restoration and digital fabrication. The list is endless. Don’t forget to also relate it to your initial interest. Your selections can be filtered accordingly.

So, make sure that you do not leave any potential topic out of your sight. Also, be thorough. For instance, know the difference between a thesis-based or a non-thesis based program. Be knowledgeable about both and look out for the outcomes of each that suit you.

As a visual learner, I relied on youtube videos to learn about diverse architectural fields. I will list below helpful youtube channels with a brief on their content:

  1. DigitalFUTURES World

Initiated by the Tongji University of Shanghai, this innovative channel broadcasts weekly talks on the future overlap of architecture, design and technology. Every episode has a different theme ranging from the use of AI, digital fabrication and computational design. Experienced professionals are invited to share their works and knowledge.

2. TEDxTalks and TED

Who doesn’t know TED? Its talks never ceased to inspire me. Whether it’s a personal or professional talk, every video I watch has a lasting effect. For instance, Micheal Pawlyn’s take on biomimicry and Maysoon Zayid’s inspirational story have different subjects and methods of delivery. Yet, both build awareness and apprehension. Ted talks can be a great source for inspirational leads.

3. The official channels of architecture schools & institutes

Architectural Association, Harvard Graduate School of Design and MIT Architecture regularly post their conferences, lectures, talks and student projects on their respective channels. Their educational material can enlighten you on topics you never imagined are currently being discussed.

Of course, you are not limited to any type of resource. A work of fiction like a movie or a novel can also do the trick. But the difference here is that it starts as a starting point, you then have to research, inform and enrich yourself further.

Asking friends and family about possible postgraduate programs can be helpful. Your closest people will be generous with their advice. They might see in you a talent that you are unaware of. They will help direct you to a path unknown to you that may not necessarily relate to architecture. Still, it can be a noteworthy and essential insight.

Now, If you already are a postgraduate student,

I advise you to not succumb to self-doubt. To compare yourself to your classmates who had past work experience, seem more knowledgeable and trained than you are, can be wearying. Try to silence those inner voices. I do that to myself, and I have resolved to stop comparing myself to anyone.

I know it’s not easy, but you need to. You can never know what can happen after you finish your studies and the pandemic reaches a halt. You might land your dream job right after. So, do not dwell on your lackings. They are bound to change. Meanwhile, improve your software skills, learn a new language or enjoy a hobby.

The trick about planning is that you deal with things you know. Be prepared for the unexpected. If this global pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that. And it may turn out better than you initially thought it might.

Your choice is dependent on you. Once you know the type of path you want to lead in the architectural field, you can decide whether or not you want a post-graduate pursuit at all in the first place. So, there is always a choice to not go for it too. It is not compulsory to go for a postgraduate. More importantly, your success is not tied to it. It all revolves around what you choose to do. The path you want to lead.

So, let those feelings slide down. They are bound to pass. Do what suits you best and without being pressured into doing it because no one knows you better than yourself.

written by

Hajar al Assi

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