Failing in Architecture School : 2.5 Years Later

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Back in May of 2015 I wrote an article, Failing, where I talked about my personal experience of going through the process of failing multiple subjects. I implore you to read the post so you have an understanding of where I’m coming from, however the shorten version is I failed three subjects back in Year 3 of my undergrad. Those subjects were a documentation one, a modern history one and a structure one. However since I wrote that original blog post over two years ago how have these failed subjects impacted my life?

The truth is, those failed subjects have barely impacted my life. As of now I’m only two electives away from completing my Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne and I’ll be starting a new job at the end of the month. In the few meetings I’ve had with my employer, not once were grades mentioned. However the only time I was worried about those subjects was applying for entry into the Master degree.

For a bit of transparency, how badly did I fail? Well for the documentation subject I got 11/100, modern history I got 45/100 and structures was 44/100. This went onto my academic transcript, which they use to calculate your average grade for your entire undergraduate degree. I got worried that this would affect my chances as the Melbourne School of Design had a requirement. However, second-time around I got 80/100 for documentation, 69/100 for modern history and 72/100 for structures. Thankfully, despite those low grades (especially the 11!) I just scraped past their minimum grade requirement.

Since writing Failing I’ve had many of you email me with your personal struggles with failing, with many of you actually going through the process of failing at the time. Let me just say, I am incredibly humbled and grateful that you chose to confide in me at a time in your life which isn’t exactly the happiest or greatest. And ultimately this blog post is for you, for those of you who are currently failing or have just failed recently, because I want to tell you that this little period in your life will become history.

I know how much it sucks to receive your grades and see that you failed. I know how much it sucks that your friends are throwing their graduation hats in the air and aren’t doing the same thing (although full disclosure, I never went to my undergrad graduation ceremony). I know how much it sucks to walk back into the same lecture theatre a year later and listen to the same lectures. Trust me when I say I know how it feels.

However I also know how it feels to finally submit that last assignment with more confidence. I know how it feels to receive your grades and see much higher grades than before. I know how it feels to receive your undergraduate certificate in the mail. I know how it feels to be offered a place in a Master of Architecture degree. And soon I’ll know how it feels to graduate from said Master degree. All those negative feelings you are currently feeling will eventually be replaced with much more positive ones.

The advice that I give to those who email me generally revolves around embracing the situation. Now I don’t mean to embrace failure, but rather to try and turn a negative into a positive. Generally when you fail you have a weird period where you might only be doing one subject in the semester, or perhaps you might have a whole semester off in order to continue on. This period can either be extremely toxic where you dwell on your failings, or you can embrace this period. For me I was “part-time” for the entire year, especially in the second semester. What did I do? I was able to increase my hours at my job, and was able to document and see the construction of two projects. This gave me a whole new range of experiences, skills and knowledge. Or for yourself this could be a good time to practice your graphic design skills, or learn a new software, or read more books, or take up photography, or start a blog, or sketch more, or even find a job with an architect. There are a lot of possibilities, and this is what I mean with embracing it so you can better yourself as a future architect, or a general human being.

Let me try to unpack some jumbled thoughts here that I think is important for those who are failing or have recently failed to hear. What if I didn’t fail those subjects, where would I be today? Well I wouldn’t be living in Melbourne that’s for sure as I probably wouldn’t be doing my Masters at the Melbourne School of Design because I decided to change uni’s after an interaction with an old teacher upon returning. Had I not attended MSD I wouldn’t have had that studio that made me question everything. Had I not gone through that period I wouldn’t have chosen a particular studio. I wouldn’t have made some close friends, probably wouldn’t have travelled to India or seen Uluru. If I didn’t fail those subjects I probably wouldn’t have started Architecture By Anthony or even Architecture Victoria. If I didn’t fail I wouldn’t be starting this new job as it only worked out because of the stars aligning with near-perfect timing. If I didn’t fail those three subjects I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I am pretty happy with where I am and who I am. I have met some incredible people, made some wonderful friends, have had some amazing experiences, all of which came from “failing”. Failing had made me into the person I am today.

I don’t know how to end this blog post, so I might keep it short. If there’s something to leave you with, it would be that this is a sucky period but eventually you’ll come out the other side better and stronger. Like with my original post, if you want to send me an email to chat about things,¬†richardson[dot]avj[@]gmail[dot]com. Or you can message the Facebook page or DM me on Instagram if you want to actually chat. Just remember you’re not alone.

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