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Estimated reading time: 5 min

Noor Majid is an intern at RMJM Dubai. A writing enthusiast, she tells us how her architecture internship turned out slightly differently from what she anticipated as she discovered she had a passion for graphic design.

Architecture and Me: the Path to My True Passion

It’s 12 pm on a Friday afternoon. On the 8th floor of the Benzie Building, twenty of us face the wall-mounted TV screen. One of our peers is presenting his work. I watch images of polished renderings flick past as he passionately talks about the project. And as I sit there, I think, did I make the right choice?

In 2016, I enrolled in the Bachelor’s programme at Manchester School of Architecture. Three years later, to my relief, I graduated and moved to Dubai in September of 2019 where I started the dreaded hunt.

The job-hunting journey

Finding a job is tough – I’m sure even more so these days. It’s a period where, day by day, you question your life further and further. Before firing off yet another email, I’d open the pdf attachment and stare long and hard at my portfolio. Was I really happy with this?

Despite questioning my role in the architectural world, by no means was my degree a waste. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The educational frame gave me the freedom to pursue many other interests. Even though I was hesitant about buildings, I was very much entranced by the power of design, especially as architectural principles are widely applicable to other fields.

The degree set me up with a solid design foundation. It gave me the space to learn useful skills – I just didn’t know where to put them to use. After a lot of deliberation and odd jobs, I decided my safest bet was the path I had already chosen.

It was the beginning of 2020 when the timing struck right and I interviewed with RMJM Dubai. On January 8th, I arrived for my first day as an intern. I enjoyed being part of the team, working on projects with a variety of staff and revelling in the creative hub of Dubai Design District. Commuting daily was a luxury I craved after 6 months of staring out of my window and watching others do the same.

How I ended up at a crossroads

As part of the RIBA curriculum, a year out experience is undertaken after the Bachelors. This requires registration to become a certified architect. Ignoring my gut feeling I enrolled in the programme anyway. It seemed simple enough to go with the flow at that time, even if my instinct wasn’t telling me so.

Shortly after I received my RIBA Confirmation in March, I was switched to lend the marketing team a hand. Through this, I started working on a series of proposals for the company.

It was around a month in that I sensed a shift in my attitude towards work – rather than something to complete, it became something I enjoyed. Switching from 3D architectural work to 2D graphic design seemed to click. And as I continued to do the work, I continued to receive positive feedback, leading me to think I might be onto something.

In Mid April, I switched to interning full time with the marketing department. At this point, I was torn. I loved the graphic design work I was doing – but continuing down this path meant I would have to give up my safe option which I had already started to pursue.

I gave myself time to come to a decision gradually. It is now two months later and I have decided to gratify my gut feeling and let go of what I had initially planned – this time, without hesitation.

Throughout these last few months, especially with lockdown, I’ve used my extra time to find out more about this new world.  Youtube channels like The Futur have opened my eyes to the various types of design. I reached out to my university peers who had tried out alternatives – some went into graphic design, whilst one even moved into coding.

So what can I tell you?

We’re trained to think that our life is a linear, mapped out progression. But the journey is a lot messier than we expect, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Please remember, whatever you see on Social Media is only the highlights!

If you do feel stuck, I would say to start small and work your way up. Try out skills and software you wouldn’t normally use – the Adobe suite has plenty of stuff we wouldn’t normally touch for architecture, like Adobe XD and Dreamweaver for web designing, or Animate and Fuse for animation design. Don’t be afraid to reach out and message anybody – you never know who will inspire something. And make sure to keep your creativity fed by doing things for yourself. 

I would also urge you to balance this with your mental wellbeing. Don’t push yourself to the point of burn out. And definitely, do not compare. Each process is unique, not to be rushed. Sometimes it’s okay to do nothing (and boredom sparks creativity!).

Usually, articles end in a neat conclusion with the author having figured it all out – but I’d like to assure you that is definitely not the case. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been gifted, yet I don’t have all the answers. In a world where we have been trained to produce the correct solution on command, it’s both daunting and liberating to take my time in finding it.

Huge thank you to the marketing team of RMJM Dubai, especially my marketing and business development manager Kateryna for seeing something in me! I wouldn’t be writing this without your support 🙂