“Hard work will always beat talent.”

We are pleased to introduce and share with you the words of Shane Samuels, a 4th year Architecture student from the island of Antigua, and a fellow classmate at Illinois Tech; as Syrians, Shane represents an IIT story – and a set of ideals and goals that we hold deeply as well, that is, a deep commitment to home and family, the place of his youth, a place which he seeks to help further through community service and outreach through the fields of architecture and entrepreneurship, communities and neighborhoods with a great history.  

At IIT, we know that we are a community of students from every part of the US and more than 100 countries; we believe that our diversity and inclusion will serve Illinois Tech and our world.  We hope to welcome Shane and so many of our IIT classmates to Syria, to visit their homes, and to learn together through our shared histories, and our lives how we will build – and design – a better tomorrow, for all.

–                 the Editors, the IIT Syrian Student Blog

I have learned many lessons as an architecture student studying at Illinois Tech, but my most profound lesson has always been “Hard work will always beat talent.”

I learned this lesson from a rather interesting project during my freshman year; I had to make a Barcelona chair using only two sheets of cardboard. That’s right, cardboard. Just when I thought the project couldn’t get any more complicated my professor announced that the chair must successfully support the weight of a person and it must be comfortable to sit in.

For the longest five minutes of my life I tired to comprehend how Chicago’s cardboard was different from Antigua’s. After those five minutes of bewilderment, I reluctantly returned to earth with the harsh reality that the cardboard I had to use for this assignment shared neither the structural integrity nor stability that I was hoping for.


So it started to build a chair using only 2 sheets of cardboard that will support the weight of a person. Luckily, the assignment turned out to be a group project and I was fortunate to have Kenny Han as my teammate to tackle the extraordinary.

We built small prototypes to study the curvaceous style and unique design the chair possessed. During the prototype process many thoughts flooded my mind, the most prominent thought was “This is impossible.”

Other times I buried my potential by allowing myself to think that because I was from a small Island with very little infrastructure and that as a result my creativity would suffer. The majority of my classmates were from Europe and the United States. Most of them travelled the world to see art and architecture. Also, a substantial number of these students had relatives who were architects that provided inspiration and assistance for many of their assignments.

These factors swamped my mind for a few days and made me feel inadequate during the assignment. Nevertheless, after a few days of persistence and long nights, we figured out how to accomplish our challenge. I’ll never forget the Sunday afternoon, that Kenny and I started building the final model of the chair at 2:43pm. We finally finished it at 3:12am Monday morning. I remember walking back to my room that morning. I wasn’t tired, I was actually energized and motivated by the lesson that I didn’t need to be born into a family of architects or be a native of a country with better infrastructure. I didn’t need talent; I simply needed to feed my passion for architecture with hard work.

The talented approach will say “2+2=4;” however, the hard working approach may have to take the journey of “1+1+1+1=4”. Both people arrive at the same answer but with different journeys. The beauty about the hard working approach is the gain of perspective.

From within the mundane approach of “1+1+1+1=4” there’s the hidden perspective that “3+1=4” also “2×2=4”. I think it’s safe to say we all may have missed the opportunity in remembering how many different ways they are in getting to the answer “4”.

This is the profound lesson architecture has taught me. It’s not about who you are, where you’re from or what careers your relatives have. It’s about fueling your goals and passion with hard work. Yes, the hard work approach is a not an easy road but it’s the most rewarding as each time you succeed you gain new perspectives and fuel your passion.


I’ve currently gained a new perspective from my journey in architecture. My goal is to become an Entrepreneur Architect. I see opportunities where architecture can create businesses and facilitate competitive styles in marketing. Through strategic thinking and unique designs I’m confident my aspirations for this career will be a great contribution to my country’s development. The world is an enormous canvas and I’m eager to be that passionate artist that paints the perfect picture using architecture.

Finally, let me conclude with an expression of gratitude to the IIT Syrian student blog for permitting me to share these thoughts with their audience; a number of my peers within the College of Architecture at Illinois Tech arrived from Syria as a result of the war.  I see in our daily conversations and the work that they have produced – and the awards won – that we share an obligation to our countries and the responsibility and accountability of hard work.  We have been given a terrific opportunity and we are working to make every moment count.  And so, when I leave Crown Hall at 3 am in the morning, I am comforted knowing that my peers from Syria and dozens of other countries are working as well for their dreams – for our dreams.  Teamwork.  Hardwork.

“Hard work will always beat talent”

Shane Samuels

About: Shane Samuels is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology; prior to arriving at Illinois Institute of Technology, Shane was a student of the Engineering Construction Department of the Antigua State College, St. John’s, Antiuga. Shane possesses an unquenchable passion for Design and Business.  During Summer 2014, Shane interns at Eastlake Management along side a team of property and construction management professionals that are known for quality service. Shane describes the internship as a blessing and privilege to work with such a team as he gains knowledge and experience in the business aspect of architecture.

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