Architecture is considered to be one of the most challenging professions to pursue. If you've ever considered majoring in architecture, chances are you've wondered what a typical day in the life of an architecture student is like. As an architecture student myself, I hope to clear up any confusion you may have and provide you with some insight as to what my life is like. This post will run through what a typical day in my life looks like, my schedule as a virtual architecture student, and what I've taken away from my studies.
The pandemic has had a heavy impact on the lives of regular students. For example, in Ontario, Canada, the high school class of 2020 graduated virtually, and everyone (at least that I know) lost any remaining motivation to attend virtual class (since grades were not allowed to drop). From here, many students were thinking about their next step as no one knew how long this virus would control our lives, so many decided on taking a gap year. A gap year after high school is a very popular student path for Canadians as a way to determine career paths better or make some money to pay for their tuition.
I, however, decided against taking a gap year, and jumped straight into “Zoom University.” Today, I am a second-year architectural science student attending Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
An architecture major is considered one of the most time-consuming, sleep-depriving, and physically difficult fields of study, for a good reason. As a virtual student, I thought to myself, “hmm, maybe virtual class will spare me some free time every day since I won't need to lose 3 hours to my hefty commute..” I can speak for everyone in my year when I say that collectively we each lose a full day of sleep per week for projects.
In Person vs. Online
I have gathered that the studio environment is incredible in person from various sources. Students pull all-nighters together at the architecture building, they have the opportunity to build physical models, and professors get more one-on-one time with everyone. This is the most significant difference between architecture online and in person. Otherwise, not too much has changed. Classes are synchronous, cameras are on, rooms are lively, and students chat and even meet up with one another outside of class.
In my program, almost everyone takes the same classes at once. This is quite convenient for deadlines and planning, as our professors coordinate their schedules to make our lives easier. Every day will be almost the same for each student: for example, all students attend studio class for 5 to 6 hours on Monday.
We are encouraged to work on studio projects and listen to other students' critiques during class. This will be the same for Thursday's. Other days of the week will consist of one to two 3 hour lectures for other courses, which again are the same for everyone. This is essentially why all of our schedules are based on project deadlines, where I will find that 50 other students are staying up late on the same days that I do.
Each weekday has at least one class of 3 hours. Some students have an additional class for their required second-year liberal (which I took last summer). Unless the credit is covered or dropped, all schedules look the same; If a class has a failed or missing credit, the student must retake it in exactly one year with the younger class. Every course is virtual other than the Monday class, which was a draw for 30 lucky students this year.
Programs and Accommodations
Our professors and other staff have worked hard to make this experience tolerable for everyone. By quickly learning new software and tools that will make our lives easier, we essentially have reached a peak in online learning, where I still feel almost as engaged as I would have been in person.
Some tools that have helped are Miro (a whiteboard website), Zoom and Google Meet (for classes and group assignments), and the hundreds of applications specific to design/engineering students to make modeling virtually possible. In addition, staff and Student organizations actively try to engage everyone with game nights, tutorials, and guest speakers that come on call to chat with us. All of these efforts are greatly appreciated by all of us students, and it truly has made the experience more enjoyable.
Not many people live on residence in Ryerson since the school is in the heart of the city. Alternatives to this are living individually downtown or commuting. Many students fall into one of the two; a costly lifestyle in Toronto or losing precious time out of the day for the commute. People travel as far as 1.5-hours on train rides, plus additional time to bus or subway to school. The 30 lucky students chosen to come into the studio in person on Mondays have had a taste of the “back to normal” life of an architecture student at Ryerson.
Public transportation is slowly improving in North America but is still underdeveloped for the typical user. For example, I wake up at 6:00 am on Monday mornings to attend my 10:00 am studio class. I leave my house at 7:30 to drive to my train station. The train comes at 8:20 and arrives at Union station at 9:20. The next train arrives past class time, so this train is my only option. I then walk to the class, which takes about 20 minutes or take the subway, which takes 10. Most trains come once an hour, and this results in lengthy waiting intervals.
Extracurriculars and Other Responsibilities
Very few students have part-time jobs, and those that do take less than 10 hours of shifts per week. It becomes challenging to balance work and school with 20-25 hour weekly class schedules, but it has been done. I know of some students who work once a week for 3-4 hours to have some source of income and in-person interaction with coworkers. Personally, I was not allowed to work less than 15 hours a week at my workplace, and I found that this was not easy to balance with my school schedule. I quit my job two weeks into the first semester of first year. It all comes down to time management and priorities; as the quote goes,
“College is about three things; homework, fun, and sleep… but you can only choose two.”
– Andy Stern.
Going out and attending other activities is all possible as well- definitely easier while living downtown, but school requirements do take over many of our weekends, so like I mentioned above- time management and prioritizing are crucial for success.
Recap: A Day in the Life of a Virtual Architecture Student
I am very new to the study of architecture, but even in a pandemic, I learned to love what I have seen so far. The hard times definitely make the end results worth the struggle and teach us students how to cope with future problems.
There are times I really wish to be back in person, but at other moments I am so grateful that I can roll over in bed and attend class in my pajamas. Taking all things into consideration, I don't think the “grass is greener on the other side.” That being said, I haven't fully been to the “other side” yet and will update you on how I feel once I'm back in person (if I'm ever back in person, that is…)