I am writing this one after returning to the US and have had some time to reflect on my time abroad, and let me say I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. I had written in my previous post about my time in the Netherlands, and after that the remainder of the study abroad program took place in Belgium and France. These locations were less horticultural in the locations we visited and more cultural, with architecture and art representing more of our photographic subjects. This is, of course, to be expected when you’re visiting locations like Versaille, Brussels, and Antwerp, or when you are in Paris and see no fewer than three famous French monuments every time you step outside.
That isn’t to say that the horticultural aspects of the trip were sidelined, though; we still visited more gardens in that time than an average person sees in a year. We saw the gorgeous public gardens in Brussels and Antwerp, as well as Monet’s gardens at Giverny where he painted so many of his works, and experienced the downstream effects of horticulture in the form of learning to make chocolate in Brussels.
One thing I noticed in these cities is that landscaping affects far more about a space than we realize. Trees, in addition to the obvious aesthetic value and the flowers provided by the horse chestnuts, make cities walkable by shading pedestrian ways. Flower beds along the edges of roads provide pops of color unique in composition to every city; these roses are Dutch, those peonies are Parisian. The balconies of individual people and businesses are covered in flowers and trees unique to the inhabitants. All work together to form a city that is more colorful and interconnected than many locations in the US, where we often just have our landscapers put in the lowest-cost option without giving two thoughts.
Another aspect I appreciated about this trip were my friends. If I may provide a word of advice for students considering study abroad, do it with people you know and love. Do it under a professor you already have a relationship with. Yes, talk to new people and forge new friendships, but there is something truly special about sharing an experience like this with an old friend that not many people get to experience.