Graduation Speech (Master of Landscape Architecture)

Before I start thanking all the professors, classmates, friends, and family who helped me get to where I am today, I thought long and hard the past few days about what to say on this stage. Not sure whether to focus on the sleepless studio nights, on the overwhelming tuition fees, or on the fact we’re supposed to learn six different computer graphic programs in less than a year. Contrary to popular belief, my mission for this speech is not to petrify the lower years, but to inspire them. That despite all the hardships ahead, it is all worth it in the end.

Now my background is very different from the rest of the class. Having worked for a couple years in civil engineering beforehand, one of the most popular questions I get is why I came to study landscape architecture. That is a very good question, a question in which I still have some difficulty in answering. Because when I compare my engineering student days with my landscape student days, the former seems to be so much easier. I slept for eight hours a day as an engineering student, but that figure dwindled down to five in landscape. I didn’t study on Sundays as an engineering student, but I did in landscape. I only needed to use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and at most AutoCAD as an engineering student, but in addition to those, I also needed to learn PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign, Rhino, Python Script, and After Effects in landscape. It’s true there are less than five landscape exams in two years, but that advantage is pulverized with dozens of presentations and “constructive criticism” sessions.

With the rise of the digital age, I’ve also bought a new smartphone a couple months ago. And with smartphones comes various chatting apps. Our Master of Landscape Architecture program also has a group. The group name is called “MLA: The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”. That phrase is so true. Copyright goes to the United States Marine Corps, but honorable mention goes to the MLA program.

For my classmates, you’ll all agree that it has been an uphill climb since the beginning of Year 2 until the day of the Final Review. During this journey, I looked back to my previous years studying engineering, when I’d be quite nervous about the exams. But when you compare the two, I’d prefer, without a doubt, to take 10 exams over presenting once at the Final Review. I also remember telling Gary in the very first semester of MLA that school is always more fun than when you’re in the workplace. But a few days later after working however many nights on the History sketchbook and other assignments, I told him that MLA school is the exception.

Things got tougher during thesis, when everyone pursued their own individual niche. At least in studio, we get to think about the same site, even though we come up with different solutions. But for the thesis, sometimes you’ll feel like you’re on your own. But having finished the final panels, I’d say the experience is quite memorable. And I couldn’t have done it without the constant support of my classmates, my helpers from the lower years, and my New York Yankees baseball cap that I use to cover my eyes when I sleep on the library’s third floor.

And of course my family. I thank them for having the biggest heart. I know I haven’t been home too much these past few months. But I know that they know it was worth it.

The Master of Landscape Architecture is one of the toughest degrees to get from this university, yet the 26 of us have persevered and achieved the impossible. Never have I thought I’ll need to work for over 40 days straight, yet that happened here. Never have I thought I’ll need to burn the midnight oil once every three nights, yet that happened here. Yet despite all those hardships, if I only had one minute to recall everything that happened during these two years, all 60 seconds will be about the happy times shared with my 25 classmates.

I thank all of our professors for exercising patience as we slowly learned more about the concepts of urban fabric and landscape infrastructure. And I congratulate all 26 of us who made it to the end. What may seem like the end now is actually the beginning of a new stage in our lives, one where we’ll be able to use our new-found skills to help other people live a better life. As long as we don’t lose sight of our plans and goals for the future, we’ll always continue to learn and to live meaningful lives. Thank you and God bless all of us.

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