This month, we put bright young architect Rosabelle Mederick in the spotlight. She shares her journey and motivations and imparts invaluable advice on enjoying the journey, not just the destination.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your upbringing?
I’m an island girl through and through, born and raised in the Seychelles. So I have a deep appreciation for our islands and our country and everything it stands for. No matter how small, I believe in doing my part to contribute to the furtherance of our beautiful island nation.
I grew up on Mahe island, and I’m the middle child, being the only girl amongst an elder and younger brother. My elder brother Neil is a Quantity Surveyor, and my younger brother Nicholas is at university studying Civil Engineering. It was a fabulous upbringing filled with island adventures, family bonding, and unconditional love.
My parents, Nicholas and Claudette Mederick, worked extremely hard to provide us with a stable upbringing, important moral values and a sound education. My dad is our family’s moral compass and the epitome of hard work, determination and perseverance. This highlights our outlook on life today.
What were you like as a child?
I vividly remember the extreme adoration I had for water from a young age. I loved swimming, and the fact that my family lived by the sea when I was a child emphasised the enjoyment and fascination I had for the natural environment. My highlights were trips to the beach and playing with my cousins in the garden at our grandma’s house. I enjoyed drawing and colouring from a young age. My mum likes to tell the story from when I was three years old, watching me draw on a small piece of paper, a portrait of a lady from a painting I saw hanging on a restaurant wall. She still vividly remembers being amazed at how realistic it looked. From that day, she said she knew I was destined to venture into a creative profession after witnessing what she calls ‘raw talent’ at such a young age.
What was your experience in education?
I was encouraged to continue the creative path I was on throughout school, with my passion for the arts. As a result, I participated in and won a few art competitions in primary school and took part in a few creative ventures throughout my secondary school years.
I left Seychelles at the age of 18 at the beginning of 2010 to pursue my Undergraduate course. Later, my Masters Degree in Architecture, spending six years in South Africa at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
I moved back to Seychelles at the end of 2015. I’m currently working with an Architecture firm in the Seychelles and also helping out with a few construction projects with my family’s firm in my own time. I believe hands-on practical experience is essential in the construction field, especially in architecture. I aspire to continue to grow in this regard career-wise and continue to learn and broaden my scope of knowledge for continuous improvements in the skills required for the profession.
What motivated you to pursue architecture?
Nature has always been at the forefront of life on an island. Therefore, from a young age, one was inevitably influenced by it and how the built form interacted with it. As a result, I gravitated naturally towards architecture as a career choice, as I felt it had an ideal balance, a skilful engagement between logic and creativity. Designing something that fits its purpose and is pleasant to look at is a skill, and I quite enjoy this challenge. Also, the fact that you are creating from scratch, something that people will use in their daily lives, is quite remarkable when you think about it. It’s a rewarding feeling to be of service in this way. There is great importance in that, along with responsibility and integrity.
What was your experience like as an architecture student?
Many architecture students will agree with me when I say we didn’t have much of the typical student life at university. The course was quite intense and demanding, so one had to be extremely dedicated to it. Time management was key. Our days usually consisted of long studio sessions discussing ongoing projects and getting required feedback from lecturers and peers, normal daily lectures, late-night designing, and early morning model making, with little to no sleep. Design is generally very subjective, so maintaining a good mark in this module was quite the challenge. However, the best feeling was seeing the result of hard work and dedication.
What were the highlights of that experience in South Africa for you?
There were quite a few great memories at university, though, such as making lifelong friends, some of which became family, experiencing the breath-taking beauty of the South African landscape, being immersed in the vibrant culture and incredible food, and ticking things off my bucket list, such as zip-lining, horse riding, camping in the wilderness on a farm and discovering century-old rock fossils, and visiting Table Mountain in Cape Town.
One of my favourite achievements at university was when I was invited to join the ‘Golden Key International Honours Society’, awarded to the top 15 best students in any first-year course at university.
My best experience though was receiving the small white envelope in true ‘the bachelors’ fashion, on the prize-giving evening after our final exam for my Masters course, and opening it to see that I had passed my course! There is no better feeling than knowing that all the sacrifices were worth it in the end.
What do you enjoy the most about your field?
I find it extremely rewarding to bring to life someone’s concept of their dream building. Closely achieving what someone had in mind and getting feedback about it is great. It encourages you to strive to continue to deliver a job well done. The way I see it, any feedback, be it positive or negative, is an advantage, as it is through these, one learns and improves.
What do you like to make time for when you’re not working?
To draw the line between work and life is tricky, as architecture is integrated into one’s lifestyle. However, it’s important to have a life apart from work as the break to recharge is important to re-fuel one’s work. It provides you with fresh inspiration to generate good work. As they say, it is good to build and improve your career, but don’t make it your entire life. Maintaining a work-life balance is imperative.
I have various other passions. I like to stay fit as I’m generally a very active person. I do HIIT exercise and boxing with my coach twice a week. I enjoy beach days and boat days with the family and good friends. Last year I started surfing. My brother got me into it as he is quite good at it. So far, it’s one of the most exciting activities I’ve tried and looking forward to getting better at it once I fully recovered from a foot injury. I also love to hike and take pictures or make short videos of my island adventures. At home, I like to bake and have a passion for making cocktails.
How have you approached the challenges you’ve faced?
Challenges are there to help you eliminate what you do not want, so what you want becomes clearer. For example, I was a bit shy as a child, which you naturally grow out of anyway as you get older. So my mum put me in the school of dance to help with this, which turned out to be a good thing as dancing was something I loved, and I had many great experiences from my time in the Seychelles School of Dance, such as overseas dance workshops we went on every two years (Malyasia 2000, South Africa 2002, Singapore 2004).
I recently underwent foot surgery due to a severe injury I’ve had for two years. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make so far, to have it done, but one that proved to be for the best in the long run for a better quality of life. Recovery from that was a test of patience and resilience, and I can proudly say I have passed it with flying colours.
How have your relationships shaped and supported you?
Family is extremely important to me. They help shape you into the person you were meant to be, and their support is vital. I’ve been very blessed in having parents which I could go to when I needed help or advice. My family is quite close, and we enjoy spending time together and planning special events for each other such as birthdays and Sunday lunches.
My family and friends know that I’m hardworking by nature, so they always re-assure me when in doubt or facing challenges. They remind me of who I am and what I can do and provide words of comfort and reassurance when needed.
Cultivating personal relationships is also important, especially in a small island setting such as Seychelles, where most people know each other. Having a network of trustworthy and supportive friends is important, and it allows you also to view things from different perspectives.
I find that support comes in various forms, from receiving a nice top or dress from my mum one day after she thought of you while shopping in town, receiving food from your sister-in-law after a long hard day, getting technical support from your brothers to getting help from your dad and brother when you’re having car trouble. It’s really in the little things, which are always much appreciated.
Having good colleagues as well, especially in the construction field, is equally as important. This encourages you to grow, learn new things, think outside the box and step out of your comfort zone. Therefore, it’s important to surround yourself with good people. For me, these include my close circle of friends, especially long-time childhood friends, and most importantly, my family.
What would you describe as your greatest achievement to date, either career-wise or personal?
To date, I would have to say that my greatest achievement is completing my Masters degree in Architecture. However, I encountered a lot of resistance and discouragement along the way-I remember one male classmate telling me that being an architect is a ‘man’s job’, and having one of my teachers go as far as to say to me I don’t have what it takes to become an architect—also, having certain lecturers singling me out in front of the class during university. Despite it all, I persevered as I knew my worth and what I was capable of, and I didn’t let any of the negativity get in the way of that. Because after all, who knows you better than yourself? Nobody can predict the outcome but you. You are in charge of your own story. I’m very proud of how far I have come, and I feel that everything happens for a reason despite us not knowing this reason right away. It all comes together for the better in the end.
What is your message to young people who are planning on going to university?
Be consistent in your education and training at university and acquire the necessary skills needed for the career you wish to pursue. Remember to take breaks, relieve stress by exercising, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Senior students make for the best mentors/friends. They always know exactly what to say and what professors to stay away from. That said, get to know your professors. They want to see you succeed, making sure you form a good bond with them from the start.
You will make mistakes as you are at the time in your life where you are bound to make them, and that’s ok. However, you learn from your experiences, and always remember, your mistakes do not define who you are.
Take a lot of pictures! You’ll want to have plenty of memories to look back on and reminisce. Work hard but also have fun. Time management is key. Check-in regularly with your parents and close family members. You will appreciate their support and guidance during this time away more than ever.
Positivity is contagious. Be open and ready to make new friends. Some may even become lifelong buddies.
Get involved. Be brave and step outside your comfort zone. That’s where you’ll find your squad—quality over quantity. But, most importantly, make the best of this time. This period will be the best years of your life, so enjoy it.
And your advice to those specifically pursuing architecture?
It’s essential to have an open mind, as the job is very demanding and requires a lot from you. You’ll need to be prepared for long hours of hard work and endless sacrifices. It’s important to be diplomatic. If you understand the different perspectives and responsibilities of other professionals, it helps you give them the information they need and build better relationships. Also, people respect you more for saying you don’t know rather than pretending. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to give directions when required.
Be sure to have the necessary skills and capabilities required for the job and know what you bring to the table. Know your worth. (As the British architect Norman Foster said, ‘Find something you believe in.’ You must take the initiative to improve your software knowledge continually. This is particularly important in the architectural field as software is updating at an increasing rate. Keep fully aware of the competencies you still need to develop. You must take a proactive interest in your own progress. Never stop trying to learn. Read a lot. Aim to be as productive as possible- be smart about carrying out your work; long hours don’t necessarily mean high productivity levels. I would say the most important thing is to do your best to stay positive. I believe this is an important skill in any professional environment.
Cosmocreole is all about inspiring other women no matter their background; as a young woman, what do you think is the best way to inspire each other?
Firstly, I think it’s important to appreciate the women in your immediate surroundings. I believe women’s empowerment should begin at the family level. Whether you are around a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, or cousin, it’s important to let them feel valued and equal to everyone else.
Investing in small businesses owned by women also forms part of this. Women are particularly disadvantaged due to historical or cultural reasons.
Next, being a mentor to a young girl child is part of this. In my case, this would be my nine-year-old niece. Whether you see it or not, directly or indirectly, you help shape and influence young children around you, so it is important to set a good example. For those who don’t have younger family members, consider reaching out to a girl in your community and be a source of encouragement.
I believe that it is important for the voice of young women to be heard if they are ever to contribute fully to the world. To this end, I believe that girls must be taught from a young age to express themselves articulately to build up their strength of character for them to take up a more proactive role in society.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in life?
My parents. Seeing their consistent devotion and perseverance in their work and life in general, for as long as I remember, to better their life situation and lend a helping hand to those in need, instilled the same zest for life, consideration of others, and work excellence in me.
If you were to freeze one moment of your life, which will it be and why?
My brother’s wedding was last year. It was a small affair given the Covid restrictions, and it was the ideal gathering of only our close family and a few friends. I remember feeling an immense feeling of joy and contentment for him and his new bride. Being surrounded by everyone I loved and appreciated all at once after a difficult lockdown period was definitely a plus. There was so much joy and laughter that day.
Knowing what is at stake and being prepared to improve your situation. It’s the reason why you are doing what you set out to achieve.
And finally, happiness is…
A conscious choice we make every day. It doesn’t have to be chased but merely chosen. It’s living in the present, as that’s where our power lies.
We often get caught up in what we don’t have and forget to appreciate what we do have and how blessed we are to have the life that we have. For love, for family, for faith, for friends, or to be able to live another day. That is why I find joy and happiness in the simplest of things in life. The little things really add to the larger picture in the end. To be joyful is to be at peace with yourself and always being your true, authentic self.