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Camaraderie, Passion and Critical Thinking at Canadian University in Dubai

by Belinda Breeze

A degree from the Canadian University in Dubai paves the way for graduates to do amazing things. From scientists and writers to engineers and architects, this renowned institution has a long list of pioneering alumni, and in this issue of Education UAE, we get to talk to one of them, architect and urban sketcher, Alan George.

EdUAE: What year did you graduate and what was your major?

Alan George: I graduated over a decade ago in 2012, with a BSc in Architecture Studies from the Canadian University in Dubai.

EdUAE: What were your expectations going into university, and how did they compare to your experience once you got here?

AG: Not a lot of expectations, more the feeling of intimidation. Going to study at an ‘international’ level was daunting. However, the opposite was true at university. There was a massive sense of camaraderie, especially within the design school. My university experience remains one of my cherished memories for relationships formed and the foundation of academia to build on.  

EdUAE: Do you feel that there is anything unique about the Canadian University in Dubai that sets it apart from other universities?

AG: We were allowed to explore ideas within a structured format. Faculty went out of their way and encouraged students to develop the best possible designs. This in turn built an innate sense of diligence, quality control and visual acuity across all aspects of the design process. 

EdUAE: What type of career are you following, where are you now living and working, and how did the university help you to prepare for this new life? 

AG: I have been practicing as an architect for over a decade in Dubai, my home, where I was born and raised. The design ecosystem in the UAE is one of the most rapidly evolving markets, in comparison to the rest of the world. There has been, and will always be, a demand for highly talented individuals with passion and an entrepreneurial drive. University instilled this mindset during education. In addition to our ‘academia’, university nurtured many soft skills required to succeed in this market, including communication, clarity of thought and critical thinking.

EdUAE: What were the biggest challenges you faced in university?

AG: Time management. As a ‘high school’ student, typically one does not have control of or the opportunity to resource allocation of time. In university, it’s all on you! I remember struggling initially with procrastination and being a perfectionist, which is a lethal combination when it comes to productivity and actual execution. However, much like any skill, the more I worked at it, the better I became. With the help of faculty and batch mates, I was able to develop frameworks for succeeding and delivering on timelines. 

EdUAE: What is your favourite memory of your time at university?

AG: There are a few! The common factor was the company I kept. Architecture school can be quite isolating, given the hours and mental space needed for the programme. Therefore batch mates become quite an important support system. The bonds formed with fellow batch-mates remain to this date. We quite often discuss and critique each other’s work today, much like we did over a decade ago in the studio. I value their opinion deeply Needless to say, they have been a catalyst to some of the best memories at university.

EdUAE: What did you like best about the city in which the university is located?

AG: The vision of the leadership. Dubai is one of the few cities in the world that now has a track record of being able to deliver on a vision. This energy can be felt by anyone practicing at the pinnacle of their field and it’s infectious!  

EdUAE: Knowing what you know now, would you still choose this university if you had the chance to do it all over again? Why or why not?

AG: I would absolutely do it again! My belief is that most architecture education, at its core, is similar across most universities. The differentiating factor then becomes faculty, environment and colleagues. I believe the success of a university truly depends on these three pillars. With that in mind, I would completely do it all over again! The knowledge and support I have received from these three pillars at Canadian University in Dubai continue to add value to my career to this day. 

EdUAE: Are you still in touch with any of the other students you spent time with there?

AG: Yes! We still remain a tight-knit group. Much like in the design studio, we aim to elevate each other. In university, the most important resource you could share with colleagues was your time. Today, we share industry insight, client relationships, opportunities for collaboration and much more. 

EdUAE: Do you have any advice for students getting ready to start university?

AG: Go above and beyond! Don’t just aim for ticking boxes on a checklist, but aim to add more boxes! Say yes to as many opportunities as you can. Absorb all the experiences you can and let them mould you. Be critical of your time and learn from your mistakes.

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