Architecture Pre Grad intern Anahi Bendeck Sierra

Reflecting on my IE Experience

Anahi Bendeck SierraBorn and raised in a country where more than two thirds of its population lives in poverty and five out of ten suffer from extreme poverty, I feel tremendously blessed to have the opportunity to be a student at this prestigious university. In my country, Honduras, not many people have the resources needed to get past elementary school, and those who manage to get high school degrees do not necessarily go on to pursue a higher education. Therefore, I know that my education can be part of the change needed in my country--that is why, less than a year away from graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies degree, I am thinking about my next educational goal: pursuing a Masters degree.

I have always been passionate about architecture and design. I recall noticing the different buildings constructed around Tegucigalpa within the past decade, many coming after the city recovered from a devastating hurricane. It is amazing how architecture can transform a place, which is why I always believed that I would go to graduate school for architecture; however, many things have changed since the beginning of this semester.

I could not have been luckier with my mentor, Evan Greulich. Ever since I met him, I knew he was the type of person I wanted to work with. His story and his personality made me realize he was someone who I would learn from a lot, not only about architecture, but also about life as a young professional and as a student. Our conversations and his advice have had a great impact in the professional I aspire to become. For instance, through Evan and the IE meetings I realized that I should have some experience before I go to graduate school. Before this program, I was decided to apply for graduate school right after graduating from UT, but I have now fully understood why my mother insisted I should not.

From reading to sketching, Evan really gave me the opportunity to engage in assignments that were worthy of my time. I had not sketched for more than four years, so it felt good to be back at it. Also, this semester I am taking the class Architecture and Society, so many of the things that I learned in class I was able to put in practice in my assignments with Evan, or simply just talking about architecture with him was something we both enjoyed; using Austin as our laboratory in conversations and assignments was interesting, mostly because neither of us are from Austin, yet we have a deep connection with its architecture and its people.

Not only did I learn from the assignments I was given, but through Evan's stories I was able to understand the challenge that comes with applying to graduate school. Listening to how he was working full time, studying for the GRE, and doing his portfolio all at the same time has made me realize that I should make my process easier by thinking about all of these factors ahead of time, so that I can have enough time to do everything needed without rushing through. Evan was also very helpful when it came to looking at graduate school programs that I would feel I fit in; he constantly mentioned, its not the name of the school or its ranking, but you have to go to a school where you are genuinely interested in their values and in the way their view architecture. In all, he has made me open mi mind to different schools in different places, which I wasn't really thinking about before.

The greatest discovery of my overall IE Pre Grad internship experience is too ironic to believe: I do not want to pursue a graduate degree in architecture. It took me most of the semester to realize this. I frequently had conversations with Evan about this, he would always be interested in my thoughts and in any concern I had, but the greatest challenge I faced was accepting the fact that I cannot see myself as an architect in the future. It was hard, being honest to myself and realizing that I do not want to be an architect, mainly because for many years I thought that was what I wanted. Evan has been very supportive of this, and he is always encouraging me to follow my heart and do what makes me happy. For this, I thank UT and the IE Pre Grad internship. Through a combination of awesome classes and a great mentor, I am now in interested in pursuing a Masters in City and Regional Planning. Experiencing the expansion in Austin and the planning happening on a daily basis has been a great influence on my decision, but I have also realized that my country needs someone who is able to plan and support the development of a third world country--and I want to be part of that transformation.

The IE Pre Graduate School Internship has been a wonderful experience. Even though my outcome is not the one you would normally expect, the internship made me realize many things about job searching, architecture, and graduate school. The realization that I do not want to be an architect does not change the love and passion I have for architecture, it is and will always be an aspect of this world that I feel a connection with. If I could do it all over again, I would. I have noticed a positive change in myself from August until now, in many ways, and I know that being a part of a program like this one and interacting with a graduate student has played a huge role in it. The University of Texas should be proud to have students participating in this program, since this is the first step into
a worthy life of success.

2017 UPDATE: Kudos to IE Pre Grad intern Anahi Bendeck Sierra who has been accepted into the Community and Regional Planning graduate program in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin. “My IE experience,” she notes, “undoubtedly allowed me to better position myself to stand out amongst the highly qualified applicants for the Community and Regional Planning program. I have to admit, every day I wonder where I’d be both professionally and academically if I had not been part of the IE program, as the exposure to graduate school and the mentoring have significantly influenced many of the goals I’ve set for my future.”