I was browsing universities in the UK and Portsmouth came up as the sunniest place in the UK. Being an international student from Zimbabwe (which enjoys a subtropical climate) this was a no-brainer for me. What is not to love about this coastal city? Especially when you've lived in a landlocked country.

Also, while I was weighing out my options through various university rankings such as graduate employability and student satisfaction, Portsmouth just felt right and ticked my boxes. I'm glad I went with my gut feeling!

The highlight of my course has been the level of freedom we're given to carve our own niche and understanding of architecture. Of course, we are taught the history and traditional methods, building standards, etc., but when it comes to design, we're taught to explore as much as possible. Tutors are often excited about ideas and really help you develop them.

I also made a lot of my nearest and dearest friends on the course; it was always a fun, yet competitive setup. We worked hard and played hard. Being able to celebrate a submission was great; laughing through the tiresome nights, while still making sure we all had the work we needed, it was teamwork for most of us. This is what made it really count for me. Though I’m an international student, I felt at home with my course mates.

My work placement at InsideOut team was a loaded experience: from learning about the real world – such as tax – to being able to design in a socially and environmentally caring way, all while going through a pandemic and noticing the effects this had on the built environment, and how practices came up with ways to adapt.

I actually feel I was lucky to have gone through my placement during the height of Black Lives Matter too. This really opened my eyes to the reality of architecture and the duty of care I hold as an aspiring architect or woman in the built environment. Definitely not the standard experience as you would find in normal times, but one that taught me resilience, hard work, and how to voice myself as a young woman in the industry through my own lived experiences and those of my colleagues and industry contacts.

Aku Mandeya, BA (Hons) Architecture 2021 graduate

I worked in a lovely family-run practice. The director at the time was so supportive and would always say, “we need to see more women; I want you to be that tenacious woman the profession needs”. My experience was very supportive, in as much as it had its lows, it came with highs that I will always carry with me.

Taking the year out on placement is the best thing you could ever do; you learn more about yourself. Parts of you are tested and highlighted, and these experiences all come together well. When you return to university, you return with a hunger to achieve more than you actually set out to achieve. You can say you rebirth your passions and ambitions while finding new ones.

I've made the decision to transition into design management. I found many transferable skills that are embedded within the learning at the School of Architecture. This qualification and these skills could hold me in good stead anywhere, or any other career path.

What I've found to be the most important skill is the ability to communicate and socialize with various people; after all, we're a global community. Because the course is so interaction-heavy, you can relate with most. You need this skill in the office or on the field, when you negotiate salaries or go for a promotion, or even work drinks and lunches and winning clients. In all these, you need to talk, understand and socialise. The hard skills are great, but I often think this soft skill is overlooked.

Aku Mandeya, BA (Hons) Architecture 2021 graduate

For my final major project, I dove into a combination of environmental, economic, and social justice initiatives for my Hybrid Sustainable Housing Scheme, looking into innovative ways that housing can facilitate learning a new skill or monetizing your hobbies. The scheme develops the idea of cluster housing and neighbourly interactions to build up the sense of community and break the developer ideals on housing, as they simply do not serve any benefit to modern-day living.

School of Architecture

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