September 10, 2012
|Suzanne Feret, one of 27 students visiting from the École Du Breuil in Paris, examines specimens in the Ambler's Arboretum's Colibraro Conifer Garden.
Suzanne Feret was on a journey of professional discovery when she came to the United States last week.
“I wanted to discover new landscapes and new skills and meet people that may not have the same cultural conception of landscapes as we might,” said Feret, the daughter of a landscape architect and a student at the École Du Breuil, School of Horticulture and Landscape Techniques in the City of Paris, France.
She and 26 of her fellow students, would wend their way through a whirlwind of gardens and arboreta that took them from Washington, D.C. — where they met the White House Chef and the First Dog, Bo, and even received a wave from President Obama himself — to Brooklyn, N.Y. where they provided a day of gardening to the families generous enough to open their homes to them during their stay.
Between stops in Dumbarton Oaks, the US Department of Agriculture’s “People’s Garden,” Central Park in New York and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the students, led by Claude Bilgoraj, Professor of Foreign Language, and Professor Hervé Dardillat, a Certified Landscape Architect, made a special day-long trip to Pennsylvania to see students of landscape architecture and horticulture in action in Temple University’s gardens and classrooms at the Ambler Campus.
“The visit came about quite simply through a telephone call. Claude (Bilgoraj) and Hervé (Dardillat) wanted the opportunity for their students to visit a school of horticulture and landscape architecture,” said Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture in Temple’s School of Environmental Design. “Claude had lived in the United States for several years and his contacts suggested Temple — we were able to set up the visit in a matter of weeks and were very excited to have visitors from the École Du Breuil see what our programs are all about.”
According to Professor Bilgoraj, the visiting students are enrolled in “BTSA formation initiale, which is a two-year, higher education program in Landscape Design and Horticulture equivalent to an American associate’s degree.” Many of the students, he added, were directly involved in designing and maintaining the U.S. Embassy/Paris People’s Garden, a joint project between the USDA and the École Du Breuil, which helped make the two-week trip possible.
|Students studying horticulture and landscape design at the École Du Breuil in Paris make their way through the labyrinth in the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden, one of several gardens visited during a tour of campus.
“We were looking for an educational institution with at least the same level of teaching — a school with an associate’s degree (Temple offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Horticulture in addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Landscape Architecture). (Temple) was one of the institutions recommended by the cultural affairs attaché of the French Embassy,” he said. “Most of our students haven’t been to the United States; they haven’t had the opportunity to meet and interact with students in America studying similar topics, students passionate about the study of landscape, the study of horticulture. This was a wonderful step to establish first contact for possible future interactions. The students told me they didn’t want to leave, they wanted to stay longer!”
Feret said it was a great learning experience to “see how students (in America) work on similar projects.”
“The visit to the (Ambler Arboretum) gardens was very inspiring,” she said. “I also noticed the students’ access to computers and technology — it’s interesting to see how that is incorporated into how they do projects here.”
The visiting students took part in a Planting Design class in addition to meeting students from the Ambler chapter of Pi Alpha Xi, the national honor society for horticulture students.
“The students joined in a sketching exercise in the gardens — the Formal Perennial Garden, the Native Plant Garden, the Albright Winter Garden. They were particularly interested in the plant material and our Healing Garden labyrinth,” said Hurley-Kurtz. “They met with faculty and staff, learned about the history of the campus and our horticulture and landscape architecture programs, took a tour of several of our gardens, and met with nurseryman Michael Colibraro in our Colibraro Conifer Garden.”
Hurley-Kurtz said the “common threads” shared by the student and faculty members were clearly in evidence as they excitedly shared information about projects at Temple and projects at the École Du Breuil.
“It’s wonderful to see that your interests are shared internationally; it’s empowering,” she said. “I think it really sparked a connection between the two schools. I think there’s definitely potential for future collaboration and cultural exchange.”
École Du Breuil student Michael Soboado said it was helpful to meet students “who are pursuing the same careers as we are.”
“It’s a good feeling to talk to and interact with students from other countries that share your interests,” he said. “It’s interesting to explore the profession through another culture. It’s not exactly the same as it might be in France; it’s a different vision to learn about and learn from.”