Project architect at Studio+ Gloria Kloter, AIA, NCARB, CODIA, has over 15 years of combined national and international experience in architecture and design. We asked Kloter to share her experience completing the Foreign Architect Path, benefits of joining the Architect Licensing Advisors Community, and  motivational tips for international architects wanting to earn a license to practice in the U.S.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).

Why did you want to become an architect?

I always dreamed of building a house for my mom, because we had a lot of financial limitations when I was growing up. That idea sparked my interest in the construction industry, in general, but it wasn’t until my friend started studying architecture that I realized I was good at it. My friend struggled with her homework from architecture school, but I remember visiting her place and just being fascinated by all of her assignments. Long story short: she ended up switching to psychology and I ended up becoming an architect!

How has your background helped you serve your community as an architect?

I believe coming from a background with so many limitations, where I’ve had to work hard for every little thing that I’ve accomplished, has helped me become more compassionate and understanding with those going through similar experiences. Sometimes I joke with the foreign architects I mentor and say, “I wish I had a Gloria when I stared this process.” I’ve always enjoyed teaching others and serving those around me to help them succeed.

As a licensed architect in the Dominican Republic, what challenges did you face transitioning to practice in the U.S.?

The first challenge was understanding where and how to start. No one around me knew anything about this process and it was very confusing for me at the beginning. Every step I made, I was afraid of doing something wrong or missing something important. The language barrier was a big one too, as I learned the hard way that although my fluency in English was enough to have regular conversations with friends or family, it was not enough to speak about the technicalities within the profession. I had to learn a lot of words and get familiar with terms in English that I had never used in conversation before, and as a consequence, I read at a slower pace and my study time seemed to double from what it generally took others. Another big challenge for me was understanding the building codes and the construction systems commonly used in this country, as they’re very different from those in the Dominican Republic.

How did you find out about NCARB’s Foreign Architect Path to certification?

When I started the process to transfer my architecture license to the U.S., I was completely lost—no one within my family or friend group understood anything about the process at all. I had no idea where to even start. Someone eventually encouraged me to go online and check what Florida’s requirements were to obtain an architecture license, and that’s when I heard for the very first time about NCARB and the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). I then began the “standard path” and went through the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA) with the NAAB, but in the middle of all of that paperwork chaos, NCARB sent me an email saying that I was eligible for the Foreign Architect Path and asked me if I was interested. After understanding its advantages and how it would help me save time and money in the process, I jumped right into it and never looked back!

What was your experience completing the Foreign Architect Path?

It was great! When you’re on the Foreign Architect Path, you’re actually getting NCARB certified first, so you can later apply for reciprocity and obtain an architecture license in any state that accepts the program. The process in general is shorter and faster. By taking this path, I was able to jump directly into completing my Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) hours and begin taking the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) right away. This was a major plus, considering that the Foreign Architect Path’s education requirement isn’t as complicated as it is while on the standard path. This was very valuable to me, as going back to school to complete education credits for the EESA was going to cost me a lot of money—not to mention, it was going to take way more time for me to complete.

As a member of the Licensing Advisors Community, you help shape candidates and architects’ professional development. In what ways has your involvement with the community benefitted you?

I think the biggest benefit of being a part of the Licensing Advisors Community has been the people I’ve met—from within my home state of Florida, around the country, and even overseas. It’s refreshing to meet other foreign architects who are working toward the same goal of licensure in the U.S. Helping them along the way has been rewarding in ways that I can’t even begin to explain, and that wouldn’t be possible without my involvement with the Licensing Advisors Community. Each of the challenges I faced along my path has prepared me to successfully guide others and make their process a little bit clearer and not so scary.

You’ve also served as a professor and volunteered with many local causes—where does your passion for mentoring stem from?

The very first time I was offered a position as a professor, I was also a student in that same design school. Before that, I’d always help my peers by bringing in my own books, hosting meetups to explain things others struggled with, and finding ways to mentor. Without even searching for a teaching position, one of my professors saw the leadership potential within me and offered me a chance to teach an architecture class. I managed to put together everything I needed to properly teach this class with my own set of resources—this served as a testament that I was made to teach and mentor others. Pro tip: the power of saying yes (with a humble heart) to help others can open unexpected doors. It did for me.

What advice do you have for architects licensed abroad who are hoping to earn a license to practice in the U.S.?

Don’t listen to the lies. You have everything it takes, and your education and experience are valuable. Yes, you’ll have to work hard for it and it won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either. It will take time, sweat, and tears, but your efforts will all be worth it at the end and you’ll learn so much about yourself by the time you get licensed to practice. The process will test your consistency, perseverance, and discipline—all essential parts of being an architect. Not to mention, passing the ARE alone will make you a better professional and will shape you in more ways than you know.

During my own process, I also joined the ARE Bootcamp by Michael Riscica, a group that taught me so much about the importance of mentorship and collaboration within our profession. I’ve taken everything I’ve learned from that bootcamp and applied them to many other areas in my professional life. Lastly, it’s always good to remind yourself that you didn’t go through architecture school and get licensed in your own country for nothing. You owe it to yourself and the profession to get yourself together, breathe, and get the process done, because you can do it!