An Internal Transfer Student’s Path

Nabila Essakalli is a first generation college student who was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is half Moroccan. She just finished her second year in Architecture under Assistant Professor Sharone Tomer. Her journey into this school has been somewhat unconventional, as an internal transfer student a couple of summers ago, though many are going through this same summer transfer lab right now that she did then.

First exposed to architecture as a little girl, Nabila’s grandfather was the civil engineer for the Coliseo de Puerto Rico. Nabila was able to go on a site visit and was in awe of the structure, unknowingly peeking her interest in buildings and architecture.

Nabila moved to Virginia to finish out high school where her advisor encouraged her to apply to Virginia Tech. Knowing many civil engineers where she is from, they also encouraged her to go to Virginia Tech. Nabila entered her freshman year at Virginia Tech as an undecided student. She was able to explore her options, as well as work on learning more about the architecture major by talking to professors in the major and taking History of Architecture. These steps confirmed that she definitely felt the Architecture major was right for her. Nabila went to the University Majors Fair to find out even more information on the major and how the internal transfer process worked.

While the internal transfer process was a long one, Nabila, she felt like it was all worth it in the end. She says if you’re interested in transferring into this school, make sure that you’re passionate about the major. The more passionate you are, the better you will do, and the more you’ll enjoy what you’re doing. At the end of the summer transfer lab, Nabila was placed into the foundation program. She is happy she was, as she felt like she was able to grow her knowledge and have a better base going into second year.

While the summer transfer lab is really fast paced, Nabila is relieved to find the typical first/second year lab is a little slower – only meeting every other day rather than every day. This past year, she is enjoyed becoming more focused in Architecture. Her favorite classes have been History of Architecture, because she really enjoys history, and studio, because it is more hands on. Nabila appreciates that in studio it prepares her for real life, and it feels more practical, you can be given a prompt and just start to create, there is no wrong or right answer.

Nabila’s second year lab was on the second floor with the Cowgill Lobby, she has been able to see prospective students and their families come and go when they visit. Seeing these families makes her realize that she is part of a really great school where people are interested in studying – and she has already made that a reality. Nabila feels a sense of pride to be part of the Virginia Tech Architecture program, and enjoys hearing others be impressed that she is a student of this program.

Jim Bassett and Donna Dunay were Nabila’s summer lab professor and foundation program professor respectively. Nabila found them both to be very compassionate and passionate, they were easy to talk to and felt they were really there to help guide the students. She learned a lot in both of those labs.

In the coming years, Nabila is looking forward to learning more and being able to apply that knowledge to her studio work. She is interested in taking on an internship and going on at least one of the travel programs. While Nabila is not quite ready to decide what she wants to do after graduation, she is hoping that further studies and professional experience will lead her in the right direction. If anything, she knows that she wants to be able to help people. Nabila has a passion for different cultures and would like to do some humanitarian work and assist with different countries around the world as well as working on spaces that bring communities together.

Nabila said she finds that the Architecture major requires a lot of hard work, but finds it is definitely worth it in the end.