Interview Day: The Right Answer
At the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, the admissions process calls for a – very memorable, honest, embarrassing, and often nerve-wracking – interview. For a week, the building crowds with hopeful candidates, alongside their supportive friends and families. The current students at Waterloo Architecture recognize that there is no right way to go about the interview, and in turn, have decided to share their own personal and unique stories.
In this installment, Ron Adriano – a first year student at UWSA – tells us his version of ‘Interview Day.’
My mother woke me up at 6 o’clock that morning; I was already late and I knew that I would only get further and further behind the schedule I had set for myself the day before. Half asleep, I jumped out of my bed and ran to my garage. There, I had set up a makeshift workshop in order to build the final piece of my portfolio. I ran my hand over the board, disappointed – the varnish was still tacky. I had no time to wait, my interview was that afternoon and I couldn’t afford to postpone drilling the holes. I clamped the longboard down and searched for the markings I had drawn before I had varnished it. One by one, I drilled the holes. At this point I didn’t care whether they were perfect, or whether or not I was cracking the wood. I had run into too many complications in the process of making it – I just wanted the damned thing done so that I could get ready for my interview.
The edges were rough, the grip tape was applied strangely because I hadn’t purchased enough of it, and the whole thing cost me upwards of two hundred dollars by the time it was finished. The first longboard I had ever produced: it looked as though I had chopped it out of a tree with an axe. The longboard was rugged, it was mean looking – but it was done. All I had to do now was screw in the trucks and it would be good to go.
Half an hour.
I had half an hour to get dressed to the nines for the most important interview I ever had to face. Black shoes, black pants, black tie, steel grey shirt, black cardigan, and hair slicked – I had to look my best to feel my best. I did one more check in the mirror and we were out the door with a trunk full of all the work I was proud enough to put my name on. We picked up my cousin at his house and we were on our way to the University of Waterloo School of Architecture.
I walked in and saw a girl from my art class waiting at the vestibule. We were the only two candidates from our school that had an interview. She seemed unsure, making me unsure because I knew she was a better artist than me in almost every discipline. I asked her how her interview went and she said she thought it went well and wished me luck with mine. Everything after that until the moment of my interview was a blur.
I sat outside the room trying to convince myself of my own competence; I was the last interview of that day. The door opened and the first face I saw was that of a bearded man dressed in black with white hair; his eyes pierced me through circular frame glasses. I had seen him twice before – at the university fair and at the university fair before that. I had the impression that he hated me and in response, I hated him.
The interview started and we talked for a few minutes. I spat out words like existentialism and historiographical metafiction in a desperate attempt to sound more intelligent than I was – than I am right now. The man with the beard cut me off and proceeded to give me the impression that he was uninterested in me and my sad attempt to seem interesting.
“What do you do on Saturdays?”
Not expecting such an obscure question, I told him I worked.
“Have you visited before?”
I told him no.
“So let me get this straight, would you spend five years of your life with a woman without going on a single date with her first? Out of all the days you could have visited, you sold jeans to women instead of visiting.”
I smiled, something I found myself doing quite a bit in the interview, trying to hide my fury at being dragged through the mud by this man. I said that it sounded like something I might do.
He concluded the interview by asking me if I had any questions.
“Would it be better for me to ask you any questions?” I asked. He responded by reminding me how there always isn’t a right answer, especially to the question he had just asked.
“I don’t know if I belong here,” I said, the words bitter and spiteful as they left my mouth. Somewhat satisfied by my response, the professor told me the Waterloo School of Architecture was a place where people faced problems that drove them crazy for days because they knew there wasn’t a right answer and they always searched for a better one.
That was the last thing I remembered from interview day. The days following were full of self-doubt. My grades slipped; I had no motivation to do anything. It wasn’t until I received the email declaring my acceptance that I began to actually believe in my self-worth. It is strange because when I talked to people on my panel – including the man with the beard, who actually turned out to be one of my favourite professors – they said my interview didn’t go as badly as I had initially thought.
I guess if there’s anything I could tell any applicant who is anxious for their interview is to treat it as a conversation. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind; being assertive and standing behind what you believe in is important. The panel wants to know about you; your work is there to supplement your way of thinking, your ways of expression, and your problem-solving capabilities. It also doesn’t hurt to smile, have a good, firm, handshake, and make eye contact. Good luck, I look forward to seeing some of you in September.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ron Adriano is a first-year student at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. In his free time he enjoys singing, cooking, and cutting hair.