Hi, my name is Sunny.

I’m just starting architecture school but I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was in fourth grade. I’m starting this blog to capture what I’m learning as I go, and hopefully to track my progress through school. And maybe someday I’ll turn it into a tidy wee book called The Sleepless Adventures of Architect Sunny. But then, I say that about every new experience, so we’ll see where it goes.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying reading collections of essays and thought I should perhaps tidy up the notions I have floating around in my head and commit them to a formal set of communication.

All of this really started in February 2010.

Unless, of course, you count fourth grade when the notion first entered my head, but it was still only one of many things I thought I might want to be someday.

In February 2010, a switch went off in my head telling me, it’s time to move. I’d been living in Boston for three years at that point and never really settled in. I’d been wanting to move away practically since I landed, but it was never the right time. It’s finally the time to move. Those of you who have had that switch flip in your mind know exactly what I’m talking about; those of you who haven’t yet will just have to humor me on this.

I didn’t know where I should move or what I was going to do, but I knew it was time to start looking for a new job. My problem was that the only jobs I wanted were the ones for which I wasn’t qualified: architecture jobs.

So I packed my bags, a couple of library books on architecture, and a bunch of job leads and headed out to a family weekend. A talk with my dad settled it: I was going back to school to pursue a Master’s in Architecture.

This began the next frenzy of evaluating architecture schools and narrowing possibilities–anywhere with a long winter was crossed off the list. Eventually I whittled it down to two schools: Washington University in St Louis and University of Texas, Austin.

Wash U would have enabled me to live near my parents, go on two semesters abroad, and/or do a double M.Arch/MBA. UT Austin didn’t have any of those options, but it was currently rated in the top 5 graduate programs in the country with Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and MIT. It was also warm. So I quickly booked at trip down to Austin to check out both city and school since I had never been.

This is when the magic began.

I contacted UT for a tour, but they didn’t have anyone available while I was going to be there and asked if I could come a week later. I couldn’t. I was flying in from Boston and this was my one-shot chance.

The day before my tour, my parents and I decided to poke around the school so we’d know exactly where I needed to be to meet my tour guide. As my dad was pulling on the handles of the locked doors, a student poked his head out of the window asking if we needed help and then proceeded to take us around on a half-hour tour of the entire architecture school. He also gave advice about who to talk to, how to apply, and anything else he could think of. All this, while he was supposed to be working on a final project.

The next day, instead of taking a tour with the girl who usually works in admissions, I was scheduled to tour with the girl she sat next to in class. It turns out that this girl, Kristina, graduated from the same 500-student tiny liberal arts school that I had attended in the midst of Illinois cornfields. Amazing. We had missed each other by a year at that small school, but we knew a lot of the same people, and even had some of the same references for applying to UT.

If you have ever worked in a design field or any other critique-based field, you’ll know what it’s like to stand in front of a group of your peers and have your hard work torn apart by someone who knows more than you do. You’ll also know that critique styles vary considerably between getting-a-hug gentle to slap-mark-on-your-face harsh. This is why it was so helpful to have a tour guide who went through the exact same critiques from the same art professors I had. So when I asked her how harsh, fair, or constructive the professors were at UT, I knew I was getting an apples-to-apples comparison of what my UT-future would hold against my past.

In a few words: I fell in love with the school, the students, and the type of curriculum they taught. I knew I wanted to go to UT.

I flew home to Boston, and three days later I told my landlord that I wasn’t renewing my lease and I would be moving out in 30 days.

A week after that, I gave three week’s notice to my employer.

I felt great. It was as if the whole world had opened up to me. I planned to spend the summer with family, and then head to Austin to gain residency during the year while I applied to start in Fall 2011.

Tragically, two weeks before I left my job, our department’s Senior Manager died suddenly. I can never quite think of words accurate enough to explain how much we all deeply loved and admired her. She was really one of the most incredible, warm, and humorous people I’ve ever known. Because I had given my notice a couple of days before her death, I was the only one that actually got to say goodbye to her and thank her for everything she had taught me and for her amazing love and support.

Her death also irrevocably changed everything about the department. Two weeks later, and my first day off the job, the department was pulled into a meeting with the Board of Directors and put on two weeks leave. Within two months, half of the department had been fired and the other half had been dismantled and absorbed into other departments. If I hadn’t quit, I probably would have been fired anyways.

Instead, I was at Grandma’s house.

After three salaried years with set vacations, I had two and a half wide-open months to spend with family.

The first thing I did was to drive to Grandma’s house to say with her for 10 days. My grandfather, her husband of 64 years, and the love of her life since she was 8, had passed away about four months before. It was a wonderful time to get to know each other much better than we ever had before. Then it was away to my family’s cabin in upstate NY for the rest of the summer.

Except for a 10-day detour to Colorado. This trip is only pertinent to the story because of the fact that I met a guy at a wedding who told me about a friend he knew in Austin. The short of it is, that I contacted this friend in Austin, and was offered a place to stay for the first week after I arrived so I could look for a house and a job. Serendipity!

In August, I made it down to Austin and was told by the realtor that the week I arrived was the worst possible time to look for an apartment since UT was starting that week and all the students had just moved in and taken up what little housing was available in Austin.

However, if you’ve noticed a theme here so far, it would be that things harmoniously worked out, no matter what the circumstances seemed to be. A week later, I signed on a new apartment for less than it originally was advertised, and pulled out of an application I had signed on the other side of town without having to pay the fees that are usually non-refundable.

I also found a job in the nick of time to be eligible for in-state tuition the following year… If I should happen to be admitted.

I applied, and then I had to wait.

The waiting was torturous, but I could never quite decide if I wanted to hear the verdict or not. As long as I was waiting, the possibility was still open that I would be admitted.

However, in the span of five days, my boyfriend and I broke up and I received an email from UT saying that I had been denied admission. I was devastated.

A month later when I was a bit pulled together, I took some great advice from Kristina, my accidental tour guide and new good friend. I called the Graduate Admissions coordinator at UT and left a message asking if he would mind pulling my file and let me come in so we could talk about what I could do to improve for the next admission cycle.

Waiting on my voicemail on the other side of my work shift, was a message from the professor stating that he pulled my file, looked through it, and was very impressed. He continued, saying that I had been very close to getting in, but had been denied simply because of numbers. However, if I was interested, he could try reopening my case with  the Admissions Office and, no guarantee, try to have me admitted for this coming year.

Two days later, I received an official acceptance.