Los Angeles, CA
California has always been home. I grew up in the Bay Area, attended high school in San Francisco, and then moved to San Diego for my undergraduate degree. I attended the University of San Diego, which had a small pre-professional architecture program. I appreciated the liberal arts education with very small design studios and an education with an intense emphasis in architectural history and theory. I decided to pursue my M.Arch degree immediately after my bachelor’s at the University of California, Los Angeles. After three intense but very rewarding years at UCLA refining my design skills and increasing my knowledge of the architecture profession, I decided to continue living in Los Angeles. For a year after graduation, I commuted to my alma mater, the University of San Diego, to serve as a guest lecturer before accepting a full-time position in transportation architecture at HDR LA, where I have been working for just over a year. Having a career in the profession that is in-part tied to academia is very important to me. Now working on public transit and other public infrastructure projects is a very rewarding job, particularly now considering a post-pandemic ‘normalcy’.
WHAT SORT OF JOB OPPORTUNITIES ARE AVAILABLE?
The City of Angels is also a city of artists and creatives: Hollywood, the Arts District, Museum Row, Venice Beach, I could go on. LA may have some of the best museums and galleries, but everywhere you look you can also find street murals and graffiti art. I do believe that you can find anything in the creative professions in this city. There are architecture firms of any scale and size working on projects of any kind, similar to any major city. But what makes LA special is that almost everyone here is a creative-type. You meet people in ‘the industry’ (entertainment) constantly, but also artists, chefs, producers, musicians, and impassioned professionals in any other creative field. The ambience is exceptional and inspires great design.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR INTERNSHIP AND EXAMS. WHAT WERE YOUR SUCCESSES/FAILURES?
My internship was quite the unique experience. I had an internship at UCLA’s Facilities Management doing on-campus renovations and rehabilitations for almost three years. The projects tended to be small, but this allowed me to see many projects all the way through construction. I learned management and multitasking skills as I worked on multiple projects at the same time ranging from laboratory designs to landscapes to building system upgrades. The internship was the perfect position for a graduate student, as I could work full-time over the summers and holiday breaks, but also work part-time throughout the academic year. Working year-round not only gave me many AXP hours, but also encouraged the architects and project managers in the office to give me much more responsibility. Now that I have almost completed my AXP hours, it is because of this unique internship that I feel well equipped to pass the exams and become a licensed architect.
HOW DID YOU OVERCOME YOUR FAILURES (IF ANY) WITH THE ARE/AXP?
I have yet to take any ARE exams but I am in the process of studying. Pre-pandemic, I was studying after work every day and dedicating one full weekend day to studying. I chose to pause my studies for a while after the pandemic and shelter-in-place in Los Angeles began in order to dedicate more of my time to my job, but also to self-reflect and to prioritize my mental and physical health. I have recently taken up studying again by reviewing The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, and will continue the very difficult task of balancing studying with a full-time job, while trying to maintain healthy relationships with my boyfriend and friends.
WHAT KIND OF FIRM SUPPORT DID YOU HAVE FOR THE LICENSURE PROCESS?
I am very thankful to be working at a firm that provides financial support for licensure. HDR pays for an online studying resource, gives a bonus once licensed, and offers paid time to sit for the exams; I am incredibly grateful for this fiscal support as the exams can be quite a financial burden. My transportation group at HDR also has two other young designers studying for the ARE’s; their encouragement, camaraderie, and moral support is invaluable.
WHAT IS THE SOCIAL SCENE LIKE?
LA is an active city, and by that I mean the population is very active but so too are the things to do. Pre-pandemic, there were always events happening such as food festivals, concerts, museum-sponsored events, gallery openings, performances, and movies. A personal favorite, which was cancelled this summer, are the movie nights at the Hollywood Bowl with live music played by the LA Philharmonic. The great weather here lends itself to an active outdoor lifestyle, and most weekends I try to spend outside at the beach, on a hike, or just going for a run to my local park. With many businesses still closed in Los Angeles, including gyms, I have enjoyed exploring more of my neighborhood by going on daily walks and runs. There is also an incredible food scene in Los Angeles. The diversity of restaurants is unlike anywhere I have ever been. I love living in a city where I can get the best street taco from a food truck under a freeway overpass and also splurge on a date night at a world-renowned restaurant. Need I say more?
HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO MAKE FRIENDS THE FIRST FEW MONTHS?
As I mentioned, I moved to LA to attend UCLA for my master’s. As anyone pursing an architecture degree knows, an architecture student has very little free time. I am lucky to have found an incredible group of life-long friends from the program at UCLA. I am also quite lucky that Los Angeles is only two hours from San Diego, so I can visit friends from undergrad (or vice versa) quite easily. Four years ago I met my boyfriend on Tinder and we are now happily living together — you can build relationships and friendships using online platforms in a new city, too!
HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR APARTMENT?
The housing and rental market in Los Angeles is intense and unfortunately expensive. I had applied for a few apartments while spending the summer at my parents home in the Bay Area but nothing panned out. On a whim, I took a road trip down to LA and spent the weekend viewing apartments. I found an apartment that I loved in Santa Monica, applied immediately, and offered the first months rent on the spot — so in my experience, you have to be rather assertive to find an apartment. The greater Los Angeles area has so many neighborhoods and cities within it that provide many options for types of housing. My suggestion is to be thorough in researching neighborhoods and find the area most suited to you.
This month, ‘I Want to Work In’ is sponsored by PPI, A Kaplan Company, the Preferred ARE Prep Provider of the AIAS.
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