Best college advice

Olivia Cervasio is currently a fifth-year student in the 5-Year B. Architecture program at Philadelphia University with a passion for sustainable and community design and planning, also minoring in Environmental Sustainability. In the summer of 2013, she studied humanitarian architecture and participatory design in Johannesburg, South Africa, and also has experience working with Italian students for a master-planning proposal of the cultural Flaminia District in Rome, Italy, in the fall of 2013. Her primary architectural interests are community planning and design centered around cultural identity and access to education, all while being mindful of the environment. She believes that creating a strong, knowledgeable community is the foundation for a sustainable and globally connected world we live in today. Her lifelong goal is to help build communities around the world and travel as much as possible in the process!
When not in studio, you will usually find Olivia shamelessly dancing at a Zumba class, experimenting in the kitchen, or enjoying a night out in the city with friends. Check out to see samples from her undergraduate portfolio.

We’ve all spent countless hours in studio working on design projects – but don’t let those projects keep you from making precious college memories as well as practicing good health habits. After almost five years of architecture school, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to balance schoolwork and college life. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be sure to have a successful career as a design student, and beyond.

1. Get active: Whether you make up a Zumba routine with some friends or take a walk to the Student Center for some late-night treats, taking the time to step away from your studio desk is an absolute must. Burning calories is a great way to de-stress and give yourself some much needed ‘me-time’ before a critique. You may even come up with a winning design idea in the process!

2. Drink lots of water: The worst thing you can do is spend six hours straight without even so much as blinking (okay, that’s an exaggeration) or stopping to get a bite to eat while working on a project – don’t lie, we’ve all done it! But the best thing you can do is to keep hydrated throughout the day – it will keep you focused and alert well into the night.

3. Get out of your comfort zone: Join a new club, meet some new friends outside of your major, go to an event at school, develop your passion for a new hobby – do anything that challenges you or puts yourself in a different situation. You’ll gain confidence, grow as a person, and most importantly, have fun!

4. Travel: I can’t say this enough – if you’re able to study abroad, do it and never look back. Meeting people from different cultures will help you to assess your own career and personal goals – plus it’s just a gorgeous world out there, so go explore!

5. Be open-minded and level-headed: The sooner you learn to control your stress, the better. There’s no sense in worrying so much about a deadline – time isn’t going to go any slower (trust me, I’ve tried…). Instead, when you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath, have a glass of water, or even shamelessly dance around your dorm for a bit to your favorite music. You’ll be able to push forward with a clear mind and healthy body. Your mental and physical well-being will thank you.

When I was starting out as a freshman architecture student, I didn’t know what to expect. I was very shy and kept to myself in studio a lot. Over the years, I’ve learned that the life I had outside of the classroom was just as, if not more, crucial to me. Hitting the gym, meeting new friends, getting involved in my school community, and living abroad all shaped me to be the positive person I am today. My projects have benefitted, not from pulling extra all-nighters or having a lack of a social life, but from being able to juggle work and play, keeping in mind schoolwork while never losing sight of lifetime goals and values. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy work life and stress as a design student, but know that there is ‘light table at the end of the studio’ – you just have to be as actively involved in caring for yourself as you are with your studio work.

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