On May 17, 2007, Siiri Julianus, 26, of Iselin graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a graduate degree in architecture infrastructure planning. For Siiri, this important milestone was the result of a post-high school career and education path that took her on an amazing journey halfway around the world. Siiri is proof that, with ambition and hard work, dreams do come true.
When Siiri was 18 and just out of high school in her native Estonia, a small Eastern European country, she joined Au Pair in America as a way to travel to America to learn English. She was placed as a live-in nanny with a family in Princeton and began taking classes at Mercer County Community College. While Siiri started out as a humanities and social sciences major, it didn't take her long to realize her love for architecture. "I had a friend who suggested I take a class in architecture. I took one class and was sold," explains Siiri, who speaks six different languages. "I've always liked to draw, but I didn't really want to be an artist. I wanted to do something where I could calculate, think and measure. Once I took the architecture course, I knew this was my calling in life. It had a lot to do with the professors I had at the time. They were very inspiring."
Siiri graduated from Mercer County in 2003 with degrees in social sciences and architecture and continued on at NJIT, New Jersey's only four-year architecture school. Her transfer credits from Mercer enabled her to go for her NJIT undergrad and graduate degrees at the same time. She also realized the value of getting work experience along the way, first as an intern at CUH2A, one of the state's largest architecture firms in Princeton, and later at Posen Architects, a small firm based in Elizabeth where she now works full-time. "I've been at Posen for almost three years," explains Siiri. "I wasn't just an architecture intern when I started, I was an intern in the business, in the profession. It was a great place for me because it helped me learn about everything that was behind making architecture--from drawings to doing marketing and helping with proposals and making presentation materials. I feel part of the team."
Siiri plans to return to Estonia for the first time in five years this summer. Ultimately, she will return for good. "A lot of exciting things are going on in Estonia," she says. "I'd like to go back and have my own company, maybe in Estonia or somewhere in Europe, and use my urban planning background to work more with a community. I do feel that a great future is waiting for me."