Chris Hoal, AIA, Associate at Gresham Smith
Nashville was the natural choice for my wife and me. We wanted to live and work in a metropolitan area without fully severing our ties to the south. That limited our options, but it also meant Nashville was a perfect fit. Although at the time we only had a hint of the explosive cultural and economic growth that would soon hit the city.
What sort of job opportunities are available?
The character of growth in the city is that there’s a strong need for almost every type of architectural program. Nashville is the headquarters for several of the country’s largest healthcare companies, prominent universities, and home to a booming tourism and hospitality market which is driving the creation of new music venues, cultural centers, and many clever adaptive reuse projects.
Tell us a little about your internship and exams. What were your successes/failures?
I was able to sneak in the last of my exams before the ARE was replaced in order to eliminate any uncertainty involving the test material. My study routine was to spend about 3-4 weeks studying for each test with a week to myself in between. A success in that methodology was that I passed each of my tests on the first go. One regret was that I may have over-studied. My advice to those taking their tests now is to not be as afraid of failing as I was and maybe get a bit of your life back.
What kind of firm support did you have for the licensure process?
I have to brag on Gresham Smith a bit. Not only were the full costs of the examinations paid for (and up to 2 retakes) but I was also paid for my time away from the office during the tests. The more firms to adopt a comprehensive position like this, the better.
What is there to do during nights/weekends?
I may not be the best person to ask about the full extent of Nashville’s social scene, with the myriad celebrities and country music. I can, however, attest that the dive bar karaoke is the best in the world. But seriously, the musical talent and variety in the city right now feels special, and you certainly don’t have to prefer country music to take advantage of the Mecca-type atmosphere.
How did you manage to make friends the first few months?
My first friends in Nashville were the roommates I found via Craigslist during my summer internship in 2011. Rent was $82 a month and they were in a steampunk band that practiced daily in the basement. Having no money is a great motivator to leaving your comfort zone—and forming friendships you wouldn’t otherwise have.
How did you find your apartment?
Try to get a feel for the neighborhoods before committing to a long term lease. There’s something for everybody. Although, I wouldn’t wish the Nashville housing market on my worst enemy! My wife and I found our first apartment in 2012 after a day of singularly unsuccessful house hunting. Desperate, we stopped at a new listing and creeped around the property, frightening the neighbors and peering into the windows like criminals – then signed a lease without stepping foot inside. Not a process I would recommend.
What is your favorite part about Nashville?
I love that the selection at the record shop down the street is so good that your favorite musician puts on a fake mustache and shops for music there too. I love that it takes just minutes to leave the city, get outdoors, and spend the weekend hiking, backpacking, or kayaking. And I love that the people you meet are genuinely kind.
This month, ‘I Want to Work In’ is sponsored by Gresham Smith, a Premier Design Alliance member of the AIAS.
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