Designing and building a career as an architect

“My friends and my advisor helped me navigate one of the hardest periods, not just my education but of my life.”

Anno Kostava was well versed in the community of Mount Holyoke before she stepped on campus.

“I’ve seen every video of Mount Holyoke. I even recognized some of the students when I came here,” she said. “I knew the material so well. I would see a student and say, ‘I’ve seen you in the video.’”

A lover of the arts since childhood, Kostava knew she wanted a career where she could create art on a large scale, leading her to gravitate toward architecture.

“Architecture is so interdisciplinary,” she said. “I could read a fictional book, and it could inspire me in architecture. I could study psychology and use that knowledge for architecture. Everything is useful in architecture.”

Kostava chose to major in architecture studies because she wanted to learn more about the theoretical discourses in architecture. Additionally, she knew she wanted to remain connected to her culture while studying in the United States so she decided to minor in Russian and Eurasian studies.

“We had our own war with Russia in 2008, and I have always been interested in the history of my country, the history of my region and the politics of my region,” she said. “It’s important to me to understand how the post-Soviet regions work today because building for them is potentially going to be one of the areas I take on in my future. So it is essential for me to understand and learn the history and politics of the region better to do that.”

During Kostava’s first year, she joined the equestrian team and suffered a bad fall, which resulted in a monthlong concussion. Feeling isolated in a new country and instructed by her doctor to lie in bed at home, she became concerned about how she would balance her studies while healing. Kostava stated that her academic advisor, Naomi Darling, reached out to her the next day to tell her she heard about the accident and to reassure her that she would be there to help.

“I didn’t know what to do. It was a very scary period of my life. But then my friends and my advisor helped me navigate one of the hardest periods, not just my education but of my life,” she said. “I could reach out to them with anything I needed. I felt so grateful.”

Kostava also credits her professors and advisor for assisting her with life skills such as scheduling and time management and for pushing her out of her comfort zone.

A lover of language, Kostova never thought about being in a leadership role for a student organization until she was approached to be an officer of the French club with two other students.

“I’m very proud of it because beforehand the French club was unsuccessful. When we restarted the French club, we started new traditions like a newsletter. I think 50 people signed up,” she said.

Another proud moment that also challenged Kostava was organizing a protest of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on campus.

“I thought I had every detail thought through. But one thing I didn’t think about was when organizing a protest, you should also have a person who yells first,” she said. “So I’m standing there realizing I have to start this, and I had to physically push my limits to charge the energy and make everyone believe we had one purpose. It was one of the greatest things that we did.”

Kostava considers herself a traveler and decided to study abroad in her junior year at the University College Dublin, where she expanded her architectural skills while also immersing herself in Irish architecture. She also participated in a four-day-long class trip to Amsterdam.

During an internship at Khmaladze Architects in Tbilisi, Georgia, Kostava was able to further develop the skills she learned at Mount Holyoke and UCD.

“It was very hands-on. In architecture, if you have the skills, you can work on a project,” she said. “I really got to see how architecture works in an office setting, but I also got to see how the dynamics work. There’s an architect in charge, and then there are other architects that are under the main architect. The internship made me reevaluate how I envision my future.”

Kostava is currently working on designing an equestrian facility for her country with an on-site manure composting system as her thesis, but her love for horses extends past architecture. She is a hunt seat equestrian on the varsity equestrian team and has worked at the Equestrian Center as a stall mucker and riding assistant.

Kostava has applied to a few graduate schools to study architecture with an intersection of urban policy and sustainability.

“If I do not get in, I will probably intern again as an architect and then try next year for graduate school, hopefully in the U.S.,” she said.

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