By: Rebecca Murray

This past May I celebrated my one year anniversary at StudioGC as an Intern Architect. Previously, I worked for two other firms along with StudioGC during the summer while completing both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. By choosing to work in the summer, my education continued both in and out of the studio over the past six years. In May of last year, I started as a Summer Intern with StudioGC. I worked full-time for 3 months before I was offered to continue working while finishing up my final year of the MARCH program at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Currently, I’m working towards becoming licensed and in order to do that I need to log AXP (Architecture Experience Program) hours in different categories within the profession. While some people attend school or intern sequentially my experience in balancing both a job and my studies ended up helping me on the path to become a more well-rounded architect.

As a student at IIT, I split my time between going to school and working part-time at StudioGC. It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about the design process but even the best professor is unable to depict what goes on every day at a firm. By working at StudioGC, I got to see projects that I helped work on initial drawings for get developed into construction documents and then executed this summer. I was forced to master the art of time management but also maintain a balance between my work, social life, and school. I found that I could use what I was doing at work to better my studies because it provided me with a real life example. Lunch breaks became design development sessions with a pen and a napkin or a great time to reply to emails from my group mates. Working part-time allowed me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to use what I learned in my systems and design classes in order to excel in real design situations. Taking these abstract ideas and applying them to real projects made them more palpable and intuitive.

My experience working part-time kept me focused and efficient. I learned the behind the scene dynamics of an architecture firm.  To be honest learning people’s strengths and how to utilize everyone’s capabilities is not something that can necessarily be taught in school. It’s true that during my time at IIT, I worked on many group projects which for any young architect can prove to be challenging. However, from my firm experience I learned more about myself and my skill set which allowed me to easily see where I could fit into a group. Working at a firm helped me to better communicate a design scheme. I definitely learned a lot during my six years of school but that only scratched the surface of what I need to know to become an architect. While I had my concerns about working a part-time job while attending school full time I have no regrets. The advice I would give to aspiring architects just starting this journey is that it’s not as impossible as it may seem. Especially given the right mentors who understand and respect your time and workload as well as knowing your own limits. You can do both and graduate knowing your time and money was well spent!