06 March, 2010

0 Missed Calls

This morning the Dean of MIT's Architecture department started making phone calls. He was calling to give the good news to admitted students. As the day progressed, eager or unsuspecting boys and girls got the call that probably changed their life and made them a hundred times happier. Liwen, my friend from Kilo Architectures, was one of the first to get this call and that made me really happy. Soon more and more people started sharing ecstatic reactions to their own call on the discussion forums on Archinect.com.

Trying not to be overly concerned, I went about doing what I would have done otherwise: getting lunch, watching a film for my thesis, attending the Naacho show. Except I couldn't. I was paralyzed. I found myself clutching my phone and checking the list of missed calls again and again. At one point the phone rang and I jumped. It was probably the only time I was disappointed to see Andy was calling.

And then night fell and I became seriously sad. I didn't want to do anything and I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was irritable and wanted to be left alone. I looked at my portfolio and it looked like shit. I have to admire Angela's patience during all of this.

And then, just like Yung Ho Chang had ruined my day, he also saved it. I remembered what he had said at the faculty discussion at the MIT open house: "I applied to MIT as a young man... and I was rejected... and now I am the dean."

It made me realize how stupid I was to lose faith in my work. I had visited the schools, observed their studios and interacted with their students. And I had thought I had a real chance. It is definitely possible that my portfolio and application just weren't as good. But it would be unfortunate if MIT rejected me mainly because I don't have years of work experience.

I have been told several times that going to a professional school right after college is not a good idea. But applying at this point was not a frivolous decision. For a very long time I have wanted to get an M.Arch. immediately after Princeton. Before that, I tried to figure out if I could be an architect without going to graduate school.

Last summer, I interned in Paris with students from the GSD and the Yale SoA. I interacted well with this more experienced species at work and also at the various architectural excursions we planned. And this summer I am working at Studio Secchi-Vigano in Milan for two months and then at Arshad-Shahid-Abdulla (probably the premier Architecture firm in Pakistan) for the month of August. What I am afraid of in Architecture is being stuck in an office working on endless AutoCAD drawings or Max renderings. I know OMA is a great opportunity. But I also know they would take me more seriously if I had an M.Arch.

Also, this may not seem important, but I am a Pakistani, with a Pakistani passport. I don't have any problem with that, except every time I travel I need to get a visa and wait in lines. My friends will be at RISD and Princeton next year. And getting into graduate school is the only way I can be close-by. Mobility is important to me and schools have the capability of providing resources to enable mobility (travel grants, recommendations, letters for embassies, etc). So I want to go to one of the American schools I have applied to. If I get rejected, if the other schools commit the same folly as MIT, then I will take up the offer to work for OMA Rotterdam. But I may not reapply to the same schools in the future!

Update (March 17th 2010): I have now heard from all the schools I applied to. I have been admitted to the Master of Architecture program at Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Columbia.


MWK said...

I'm so proud Waqas that you're so mature. It's a hard process applying to schools senior year because in a way you envision the whole, what if i never see my friends again thing, and somehow grad school is the only way of not losing them... But don't worry-- the friendships are stronger than this, and so are you. There are still other schools... and if not there'll be a silver lining.

Calvin said...

i'm glad you're able to take things the right way, waqas. i'm sure bigger and better things are in store for you!

nb- said...

Their loss.