They say your four years of college are the most fun and youthful moments of your life. The freedom, opportunities, and people you meet and get to know. However, what about five years of college? Does more time mean more fun? Can’t it also mean more years of stress and work? 

Architecture college at the University of Houston is a five-year program and is also not where I expected to end up. Little did I know that after spending my first semester in engineering, I would end up on the shiny checkered floors a semester later. 

Understanding oneself through Architecture - Sheet1
Diverse Group of People_©

Learning About Myself

Seniors wrote architecture college off as a nightmare. No sleep, forgetting to eat, intense professors, cuts, and bruises. I headed into the studio with a guarded mindset, ready for whatever would come my way. While I was in high school, I opened myself to many different career options. Everything from school teacher to astronaut was on my list. 

Now, as a college student, I feel that I have finally found my path. I always considered myself a creative person who pushed the limits of the box. Another half of me went crazy for math problems and equations that cramped my hands to solve. 

Architecture, I thought, was a perfect blend of both, and architecture college was the place for me to do the two things I loved. I wanted to learn how to mold myself into someone that could use architecture to better the world. Like most people, becoming an architect that would cure humanity of injustice and provide beautiful structures was my ultimate goal.

Throughout my initial years, however, I felt like my goals of becoming an architect changed. I was at war with myself about whether becoming a “starchitect” was still my dream. At that point, numerous models stood in my closet, my computer was full with PDFs and programs, and I noticed that I soon became more interested in writing papers instead of drawing plans. 

The focus that I once had was drifting. It felt like architecture college was teaching me more about myself rather than architecture. I continued forward into my third year and kept in mind that this was the path I wanted to follow. I needed to stop getting distracted. 

Distractions, however, constantly presented themselves. Before I knew it, I found another passion that pushed architecture to the side. I wanted to pursue design and stay within the umbrella of architecture, but being an architect grew less appealing.

Understanding oneself through Architecture - Sheet2

Learning About Architecture

It was time for me to start exploring. I had to take myself back to being a naive high school student, interested in everything the world had to offer. Despite being in architecture college, I found myself having to independently learn about architecture. I was not interested in designing forms and understanding site topography. 

Considering HVAC systems, where columns should be, and what shading systems would be efficient were not what made me want to go to college every day. Instead, I could not wait to present my latest research, read more articles, and find new ways to connect architecture to everyday life. 

Although I felt like I was not learning much, to my surprise, architecture college pushed me towards new avenues and taught me a lot. Studio projects and final juries were not what stuck to me the most but instead, it was the classes where I was encouraged to grow and learn.

Although it took me a few years to catch on, I’ve learned that architecture can be anything. Usually, we are so caught up in wanting to define what everything is, that we forget to choose what it means to us. I feel that I maybe took a less typical route through architecture college, but in the end, all that matters is what I learned coming out of it. It is always okay to keep exploring and always push the boundary. 

Even though you may feel like you have a grasp on what you are doing or where you want to go, the world will always surprise you. Comfort can be your biggest weakness, so how can you challenge that?

Eames Wire Chairs with Birds, 1953_©Eames Office LLC Photo-Charles Eames

Me, Myself, and Architecture

Architecture college will forever have an impact on my life. Not only was I able to learn more about myself by questioning my goals, but I was also exposed to knowledge and experience. It was not necessarily about having the best design, but more about the build-up of the design. Whether my interest was technical, analytical, or just about aesthetics, the lesson stays the same. 

Architecture is what you make it to be but there is always more to the surface. As I finish my last few semesters of architecture college, I would say I’m thankful for my initial drive and dreams, along with the endless nights and harsh critics. Instead of thinking of it as wasted time, I like to say that it is a growing experience.


"Shama Patwardhan, an Architect from Mumbai, is passionate about architecture and inquisitive about its implications on Social Equity. A human being with eternal panic, she is fond of poetry, art, literature and cat videos on the internet."