Jia Xin: Perseverance And Architecture (Part 5 Of 10)

Previously, we dwelt on the creative mind of Lieng Kam Wong and her experience in architecture school. Today, my guest of honour is, Chee Jia Xin, a girl who hails from Johor, Malaysia. Just like Kam, Salehah, Natasya and myself, Jia Xin also pursued her studies at Taylor’s University. Jia Xin was someone that I had admired from my batchmates. Her ideas and final work were clear-cut and sophisticated. Because of that admiration, there was an invisible line that made it hard for me to approach her until we were put into a group together. That was when I realised how and why she was on another level altogether. She is exceptionally persistent and ambitious, with a mind bigger than herself! She learnt that from her experience in the world of architecture.

A photo of Jia Xin being a tourist amongst the crowds during her trip to Malacca for a project in 2018.
Chee Jia Xin pretending to be a tourist amongst the crowds during her Malacca site visit for one of her architecture projects in 2018.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

“It’s like watching a movie. If there is a spoiler, it won’t be fun to watch. So expect lots of character developments and plot twists!”

chee jia xin, former architecture graduate at Taylor’s university in 2019 and currently a post-graduate student at National university of singapore

The Sparks Of Interest

Jia Xin had never expected that she would be diving into the architecture field. After secondary school, she took A-Levels at Sunway College Johor Bahru focusing more on the science subjects like Biology, Chemistry and Maths. She had thoughts of becoming a pharmacist or biomedical researcher. However, after graduating her A-Levels, she felt that spending her career in a research lab was not it. So one day, her friend introduced her to the architecture course and that ignited her interest in architecture.

Jia Xin's photo taken at Muar, Johor of an elderly man standing at the doors of a shop lot.
Jia Xin loves to capture her inspirations and interest through the lens of her camera. This was taken during her site visit at Muar, Johor.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

Little did she know that she had always been amazed by construction from a young age. Her grandfather was a construction supervisor. And for as long as she can remember, she would see her grandfather doing renovation work at his house. Filled with curiosity and amazement, the cement mortars piqued her young mind. The process of the bricks layered on top of each other, one by one and becoming a whole wall stunned her. Perhaps, this was the first spark.

Jia Xin And Her Persistence In The Architecture Path

No one knew what to expect upon entering architecture school until the first few deadlines. Jia Xin vividly recalls the day she was applying for a Bachelor of Science in Architecture at Taylor’s University. She came to the campus to undergo an interview and a sketch test. Sketching isn’t Jia Xin’s forté. People always think that architecture students are masters in sketches. She thought that she can’t sketch at all but it seemed that the interviewers liked it. For the next three years, she battled against all the trials of architecture school.

A design proposal sketch by Jia Xin.
As time goes by, Jia Xin picked up her skills in sketching to convey her ideas quickly and clearly.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

“I was super nervous when I first started architecture, mostly because of my non-art background. I was also new in Kuala Lumpur and the new environment just made me insecure about myself… ”

Chee Jia Xin

1. New Start, New Place And New Friends

Just like any university freshman, Jia Xin was lost and scared. What is waiting for her for the next three years? Will she be able to make friends? Can she do her best? Being away from her family and her home, she was worried about being alone. Her fear was unfounded, as she was relieved when she met her housemate and first friend, Kang Zi Shan. To their surprise, they both were studying the same architecture course. And coincidentally, both of them were from Johor! It must be fate! Then on the first day of class, she met her next best friend, Chew Rui Bo. They were put into a group together for a project and that was the beginning of their days helping each other out.

The messy table of an architecture student filled with model making materials.
Sometimes looking at the progress and mess you have done can motivate you. This is when Jia Xin stayed up all night for a group project with Rui Bo and Zi Shan.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

Before architecture, Jia Xin used to be that kid who retired before midnight. So when she started telling stories to her friends of how she didn’t sleep for one whole night, or slept at 4 am, they were shocked. Those sleepless nights were full of tears, stress and processed food, just to complete the project. But when you do it with friends, it becomes part of a good memory. The stress and pressure that come with architecture is not something anyone should take lightly of. That is why we treasure the friends and free time we have to just escape from all those chaos.

A photo of Jia Xin and her group mates, Jeannete and Zi Shan. during their Millennium Dome Project.
Jia Xin (middle) showcasing one of her group projects, The Millenium Dome Model, with Jeannette (left) and Zi Shan (right).
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

2. Jia Xin Is Someone Who Plans… A Strategist!

Each project was special and unique to Jia Xin, giving its own memory and stories. Jia Xin adored each of her projects and thought of them as remarkable despite how tiring it was to work on them. And her work ethic enabled her to accomplish her goals. I am a person who needs to plan. Before any project began, she would list down deadlines and what to achieve and by when. But along the progress, circumstances that she couldn’t foresee will arise and mess up her plans. So it’s always a relief to list out the priorities.

A photo of Jia Xin's Post-It notes on the wall which acts as her to-do list.
Jia Xin’s to-do list was her wall. It’s full of Post-It notes! Look at how busy she was!
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

When I asked Jia Xin what her strengths are, she pondered whether she has one or not. She thinks that being a happy-go-lucky person had helped her get to where she is now. If I set my target on something, I will try my best to achieve it. Not only did she try to complete her projects but she also put lots of time into the details. Calling her a perfectionist might be an overstatement, but she couldn’t turn a blind eye to the little details. Her friends would tell her that no one would really notice it. But she would.

A photo of Jia Xin's final semester's model showcasing the little details.
Jia Xin’s final semester’s model. Just look at the details! A big shout out to her friends, Jeanette and Elisa for helping her out!
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

“Jia Xin always brings the group together towards a common goal. She is such a persistent person in overcoming challenges and constantly finds ways to achieve her desired results.”

Chew Rui bo, one of jia xin’s best friends

3. The Fear Of Rejection

One of Jia Xin’s weaknesses is her inability to express her thoughts or ideas well into words. In architecture school, before we dive into the design part, we have to really understand the issues and matters around a topic. And once we have studied the things that surround the topic, we conceptualise a set of intentions that we want our design to solve. It’s harder than it sounds because we have to explain all those jumbled ideas in our heads to our lecturers, and convince them that they work.

The working desk that Jia Xin spent most of her time at during the three years of her studies.
Jia Xin’s work desk at the rented house she stayed at during her studies.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

“The challenge for me is not the idea of rejection but the feeiling of not being appreciated for the hard work and effort that I put in. No one sees it. It’s upsetting and messes up with my mind.”

chee jia xin

4. The Peaceful Moments Outside All The Chaos

Jia Xin is a little shy and doesn’t speak out much although she has many things she wants to say. She doesn’t show her passion and her interests until you really get to know her. One of her interesting hobbies is brewing coffee. The process of making herself a cup of coffee is like a pause for her mind – a stress-reliever. Watching movies, travelling and taking photographs are also some of her favourite things to do during her leisure time. Travelling enables her to see the world differently as she takes in the different sceneries from different places.

A scenery of Malacca captured by Jia Xin.
Beautiful scenery of Malacca during Jia Xin’s site visit for her Measurement Drawing project.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

During her other spare time, she goes shopping! She is a big fan of fashion and she will always catch up with the latest products from her favourite brands. And what goes well together with shopping? Going out on a date with your friends for a meal, and end it with a nice cup of coffee…

Jia Xin and her friends, Xiao Yao and Jeannete, eating at a kopitiam.
Regardless of whether it is midnight or the crack of dawn, Jia Xin and her friends would meet up and hang out often to relieve the stress. From the right are Xiao Yao, Jia Xin and Jeannette at a kopitiam.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

“Live in the moment and be thankful for everything.”

chee jia xin
A photo of Jia Xin and her friends, Man Chong and Rui Bo during their road trip together to Malacca.
Make lots of memories with your friends! Jia Xin went on a road trip to Malacca with her friends, Rui Bo (right) and Man Choong (left), during their holidays.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

5. “University Life Is Irreplaceable”

“I miss those time when we had site visits, although at the time, I didn’t really enjoy it. It was our chance to go to another place and explore. We made it more interesting by going on a hunt for food and cafés. My friend, Shi Yin, and I even drew an adventure map for our Malacca field trip! But we didn’t manage to go through them all due to our busy schedule.”

chee jia xin
A photo of Jia Xin's mentor, Mr Bryan Chee, sitting down together and giving feedbacks after her presentation.
Mr Bryan Chee, Jia Xin’s tutor, giving her advice and feedbacks after her presentation for The Leisure Centre project in the second year of her degree.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

The best gift she received from university life was the friendship and mentorship. Her appreciation goes out to all the friends she had made who constantly were by her side, motivating her to be the best. Mr Bryan Chee, one of her mentors, inspired her the most during her studies. He helped her find her passion in architecture and taught her how architecture is not only about the appearance but also the experience.

“Be prepared for the sleepless nights… but treat it like a party! Have fun and enjoy the process!”

chee jia xin

6. Jia Xin In The Working Industry

Working life and study life are totally different. When you’re working, you work during the working hours given to you, and go home to do your own things once it ends. However, when it comes to study life, it is the total opposite. After lectures, you have to initiate group meetings, do research, work on your projects and prepare for presentations. All of your time revolves around your assignments. Work somehow releases that burden, but instead carries another for you to learn real-life situations.

A photo of the inside of RSP Architects office with Christmas decorations.
Christmas decoration inside the office of RSP Architects in Singapore, where Jia Xin had her first working experience.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

After graduation, Jia Xin got to work as an architectural assistant at RSP Architects Planners & Engineers. Her job scope was to produce architectural working drawings, complete tender drawings and 3D modelling. Lots of her colleagues at the time were willing to guide her during her 10 months working there. One of the projects that she had the honour to help out with was the upcoming Mandai Bird Park Singapore. Plus, she also got to learn lots of tips on how to survive the architecture world in real-life situations and made new friends from different backgrounds!

Jia Xin Outlook In The Present And Future

Jia Xin is currently undergoing her post-graduate education in Master of Architecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The architecture programme at NUS focused more on critical thinking and storytelling. She was used to having the topics and site given by the lecturers so when given the freedom to choose her own site, she was subjected to a culture shock.

A screenshot of a Zoom session Jia Xin had during her presentation with other students and lecturers for her Master of Architecture at National University of Singapore.
The final presentation marked the end of Jia Xin’s first semester in Master of Architecture at NUS (she is on the top panel, left). They had their presentation through Zoom, which includes critiques from her mentors (top panel, second from left) Betty Ng, Chi Yan Chan, Juan Minguez and a special guest, Human Wu (middle panel, third from the left) from Herzog & de Meuron.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

Her first meet up with her first tutor, Professor Betty Ng, who runs an architectural design firm in Hong Kong, was through Zoom. She has a cool vibe and yet is a very warm and kind person filled with knowledge. During Jia Xin’s time of uncertainty, Professor Betty kept on encouraging her to be bold and fearless. This is your characteristic, and you should always keep it with you all the time. Jia Xin is now currently doing her research for her thesis which falls under the topic of heritage and conservation. All the best, my friend!

“I hope to get a job overseas once I graduate. But I guess my retirement goal one day is to have my own designs of cafés and stores!”

chee jia xin

Your Progress, Your Pace

To all new university students, don’t hesitate to take a break when you are busy with assignments. Always keep in mind that you are moving towards your goals. Which means that you can take as much time you need to get there. Don’t forget that inspirations can come from anywhere. Jia Xin uses any platforms she can such as Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook to widen her perspectives and knowledge. She also found inspiration from the little things she finds from the places she travels to. Overall, just be yourself and have fun!

A picture of a plate on a wall with the words:"風和日麗", which translates into a very warm and lovely day.
An interesting find during Jia Xin’s site visit in Muar, Johor. It says “風和日麗”, which means “Very warm and lovely day”.
Picture credit to Chee Jia Xin

“Everyone has their own pace in doing things. So just be patient, be fearless and don’t worry about working in your own pace.”

chee jia xin

The Series Continues…

Make sure to come back for the next episode of the Archi-torture series where we will introduced Alice Wansa. She’s a strong and confident girl from Uganda, who has also graduated from Taylor’s University.

About Atiqah GHAZALI

Grew up overseas in a melting pot of global culture to expat parents, Atiqah is well read, and expresses herself best through writing, art and photography. Architect by qualification, but makes a living as an interior designer.

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