Running with the bulls

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While I was enrolled at Catholic University working towards my undergraduate degree, I was lucky enough to spend some time studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. It was an experience quite unparalleled to anything else in my life to this point.

No – I did not go running with the bulls while I was there. I thought about it, but decided to drink lots of Spanish sangria instead. To cure my hangover the next day, I drank more sangria – and then thought about how cool it would have been to go running with the bulls.

But, living life dangling on the edge between “amazingly thrilling” and “amazingly idiotic” is not exactly my forte. In fact, many times I find myself shying away from things that tend to be outside of my comfort zone. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: man up – have all those years of sheltered parochial schooling taught you nothing? Well, I am standing here before you as a man to tell you that I am still quite “tentative” at times, and this particular personality trait has extended into every aspect of my life. So, as you might guess, it was no different when I started my journey towards immersion into the profession of architecture. I jumped in head-first, but not before I first checked how deep the water was.

As anyone with any familiarity to the profession will tell you, architecture is a very competitive and demanding field. Making that first connection and inching your foot ever so slightly into the proverbial “door” may be the most trying thing yet. It is not easy competing for that first internship, or that first full-time paying position, when just about every architecture office seems to be knee-deep and saturated with stacks of resumes and work samples. In an economy just now making steps toward recovery, and a profession that has spent months in a slump, architecture students and recent graduates have to find a way to stand out – but how? That, my friends, is a conversation for another day. I can only speak for myself, and my own personal journey of going from “architecture student” to “architecture student/intern” to “thinks he’s the next starchitect.” OK, so that last part might be stretching the truth, but you get the point.

For me, starting out in the field of architecture always seemed to be about “paying dues” – or at least that’s what I was always told. I have heard horror stories, and more uncommonly, I have heard raving reviews of friends and their first architecture internships. My first internship was largely unpaid (because, in all fairness, I was given a measly monthly stipend). I worked at a small interiors firm, toiling away in AutoCAD over the placement of furniture blocks. It was bucket chairs of fun, literally. But, cynicism aside, I was completely grateful to have an internship at all – in my mind it was a victory because my resume was not collecting dust somewhere in the discard pile (those enormous stacks have got to be a fire hazard). I had encountered rejections before landing my first internship, and I would encounter more following, but each internship I would land only helped to make me more and more credible as an upcoming professional.

So yes – at times, breaking your way into the profession of architecture can feel like you are running with a herd of bulls, each one trying to make their way to the front of the pack. And yes – sometimes you have to pay your dues. But the key is to appreciate every up and every down along the way as just another stepping-stone guiding you to your end goal. If those Spanish bulls can do it, so can we.

michael k donnelly_flickr

Happy designing.

*Running with the bulls image courtesy of Michael K Donnelly’s photostream on Flickr, used under the creative commons license.

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