Overcoming Fear and Intimidation to Become an Architect with Drew Paul Bell

On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael spoke with YouTube Star and Designer, Drew Paul Bell, about his architecture school experience and how he’s doing so far with the ARE exams. Drew shared a ton of great insight and advice on what future and current students might expect while in school. Plus, why studying abroad or visiting other US cities to study is a must and Drew’s best advice for aspiring architects.

Drew Paul Bell

Growing up, Drew loved to look at the houses located off of the coast of Charleston, South Carolina where his grandparents lived. One day, his mother suggested that he might want to think about becoming an architect if he loved buildings so much. That simple suggested planted the seed in Drew’s mind that would pursue him to take on a career in architecture. Engineering was also something that Drew considered, but he knew he’d regret it if he didn’t take a stab at becoming an architect.

While in school at the Southern Polytechnic College of Architecture and Construction Management at Kennesaw State University, Drew was intimated by his classes; especially when it came to drawing. Unmotivated because he didn’t have any previous experience, his mom really encouraged him to keep trying, not give up, and just do his best.

From that moment on and throughout his career, Drew has been able to hone in on what motivates him to become a better architect. From school to the AREs to working in Atlanta, Georgia as an Architect Intern, Drew shares his ups and downs and how he got to be where he is now with his career.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • How Drew became interested in architecture.
  • What Drew did to overcome fear and intimidation of becoming an architect.
  • How his passion for creating YouTube videos and writing has helped boost Drew’s confidence.
  • Michael and Drew’s advice for facing a difficult design or task and to just go with it.
  • Drew’s experience of studying abroad in Madrid, Spain with his school’s Spanish Department.
  • Why traveling and seeing how buildings are built throughout the US and abroad makes such an impact for any architecture student.
  • Drew’s experience joining an architecture fraternity in college.
  • Why social connections and joining organizations on campus is so vital for any college experience.
  • Drew’s experience studying social spaces on college campuses and how he used it for a chapter of his thesis.
  • Moving on with life after architecture school and begin working.
  • Why and when Drew went back to studying and preparing to take the ARE exams.
  • How to bounce back from difficult experiences.
  • Where Drew is now at with the ARE exams and his experience so far.
  • Why studying for the AREs is an education in itself that will help you prepare for the real world and your career as an architect.
  • Drew’s experience designing by hand vs. by computer.
  • How Drew got interested in Ted Talks and decided to create his own YouTube Channel about architecture.

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. Don’t be afraid of trying or be intimated by a new, difficult design or trying out a new idea. The easiest thing to do is to just start and grow and improve your project or idea from that moment. Don’t give up on yourself because everyone had a starting point.
  2. Studying architecture in a different part of your country or traveling to a foreign city can really open up all of our eyes. Not just to another culture, but to architecture and design as well. It can be a scary idea to venture abroad, but it can be well worth it as well and an experience that you’ll never forget.
  3. Architecture school is just one step in the process towards becoming an architect. It teaches you the basics of architecture and how to design so that you can get an entry-level job, but the true learning happens when you’re working in the real world or taking the AREs.

Drew Paul Bell’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Know what you want. That sounds a bit basic and a lot of people already think that they know what they want, but I believe that a lot of people aren’t really as clear about that as they think they are. When it comes right down to it, you want to be successful in school, but you also just want to sit on the couch and scroll through Facebook a little while longer.

If you can, try to really identify with yourself about the things that you want. Whether that’s working at a big firm, small firm, or similar type of building and living in a particular type of city. The more specific and clear your vision is, the more motivated you will be and you will make better decisions because of it. You should really identify with what you want.”

Favorite Quotes

“If you ever get stuck, just do something. Even if it seems like it’s wrong, it doesn’t even matter because it’s easier to correct your mistake and improve it from that moment. By doing things that intimidated me, I learned a lot and that lesson stayed with me for a long time.” – Drew Paul Bell on the biggest takeaway he got when he was struggling with finishing a charcoal drawing in architecture school.  

“Sometimes, you just have to get over your own ego. It’s easy to think that your first idea isn’t good and you almost don’t want to put it down. It’s kind of like a hit to your ego, right? But, sometimes you just need to face your ego and put that idea down anyway. If you’re coming out of the gate thinking that you’re going to do something awesome, then you’re probably going to suffer a bit if you don’t approach it with a realistic mindset.” – Drew Paul Bell on why we shouldn’t be afraid to work with new ideas. 

“Studying abroad is such an important experience for any architecture student. It’s incredible to get outside of your bubble and see how buildings are built in various places in different cultures!” – Michael Riscica on the positive impact of studying abroad while studying architecture in school. 

“You don’t ever plan for something to go wrong, but things are going to go wrong. On the other hand, you can use that experience to learn from it. Once you get past that moment and all of the pressure, you’ll realize that you really learned a lot from it. I myself learn a lot from failure.” – Drew Paul Bell on bouncing back and learning from difficult experiences.  

“Architecture school is the beginning of the process. It’s the education, it’s the place where you learn how to design and think outside of the box and problem solve. It teaches you enough to get an entry level position at an architecture firm, but that’s really just the beginning point. After graduation, phase two is now getting experience, learning how to practice architecture, making money, understanding the business of architecture, and passing the AREs.” – Michael Riscica on what you’ll learn in school vs. out in the real world and with studying for the AREs. 

Resources Mentioned in the Show 

About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.

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