I once studied psychology. At a much larger school than my current one – over forty thousand students – my program was a popular one, with my classes often having a few hundred students. The social leper that I was am, I knew practically none of them, despite the years of study – I involved myself solely in a research lab and numerous seasons of intercollegiate roller hockey. Through the semesters, I continually came across Psi Chi, the national psychology society.
Hearing the Greek letters, I could think only of the myriad frats and sororities that littered the campus and downtown area. I stayed as far away from that society as I used to stay from coffee, when I thought it was nothing but bitter ash. I graduated without any connections, knowing a mere handful of my peers, with essentially no experiences to my name that were relevant to any job search.
(Little wonder I moved out west and worked in food service after graduation.)
Over a year later, I found myself enrolled as an undergraduate once more, this time studying architecture. Entering as a super-senior amongst recent high school grads, I rarely hung around the school. Even still, I heard snippets regarding the architecture group for students, something involving an ‘A’ or two, and an ‘I’. I thought of Psi Chi, and I ran. I ran so far away.
An anonymous year of school and another year of food service later, I entered as a graduate student in my current program. Much of our entering class of sixty had gone to an intense weeklong graphics and modeling workshop to help prepare us for this new discipline. I had a severe upper respiratory tract infection the whole time and was practically unable to speak. I spent that time alone, not connecting with any of my future classmates.
Our first semester practically then began with the AIAS seeming to indoctrinate us. I catch myself thinking, “Better steer clear…”
I hear myself thinking, and I remember the effects those thoughts had at my other schools. I ripped a membership form off the pile, filled it out, and mailed my check in the next day.
That whole first year, however, I felt I had wasted my money on what amounted to a few slices of pizza at a few lunch lectures. The second year comes, but I renew my membership, still recoiling from remembered years of anonymity and noninvolvement.
During our opening cocktail event, some enthusiastic young architectural intern stands up to announce that she wants to start a blog for emerging professionals and would like students to contribute their voices. Before she even finishes speaking, my fingers already twitched to write. And wonder of wonder – probably to the dismay of our readers – she recruited me!
A year passes and I again renew my membership in the AIAS, this time without any hesitation. A few more events, a few more outlets I find for involvement. All of a sudden, I find myself meeting professionals of all levels, from interns to instructors to principals. I find my feet taking their first steps into participating in a professional community.
And I find myself without any regrets for joining.