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Jenkins Studies Gardens in Europe

View of a building across a body of water.

My name is James Jenkins, and I am a Chemical Engineering rising junior in the Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program. I decided to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime trip studying abroad in Europe with Department of Plant Sciences.

This year the program, called Glorious Gardens, traveled to Holland, Germany, and Denmark. We were able to experience wonderful new and different cultures as well as see and learn about an abundance of breathtaking, sustainable, and multi-purposed sites. The main topic for the class, Plant Science 491, was to learn about the many different types of gardens and landscapes that we would observe throughout the trip. Some of these gardens were primarily designed to be ascetically pleasing, while others focused on being functional. For example, we had the opportunity to see beautiful baroque gardens. On the flip side we were able to experience abandoned industrial plants that have been transformed into public parks where people come to relax and have fun. During the class, we dove into greater detail about the design challenges and solutions that led to the creation of many of these lovely sites we visited.

Outside of the actual class time I had the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas on my own. During class, we were able to walk around and see many incredible sights, but when we were provided with free time, I was able to play tourist and see many of the interesting things that might not fit into a class curriculum. This time away from class I found to be very valuable as this was the time that we were able to truly experience the culture of the countries we visited. It was during these times that we could explore the lovely cities like Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Copenhagen. We could discover local foods and restaurants. It was awesome to immerse yourself in these different cultures and learn and try new things. That is what an experience abroad is all about.

Now obviously a Plant Science course is not exactly a core focus of my major; however, many times along the way I found myself making connections to ideas that we talk about in Chemical Engineering and engineering more broadly. One garden had many plants that were being used for bioremediation, a concept engineers can use to clean up waste. More broadly, we discussed topics such as planning with dual purpose in mind. This type of mindset feeds right into engineering where we look for one solution to two problems in order to maximize our production and our environmental safety. This was one of the most exciting parts of the course for me; connecting with people from other majors or backgrounds and coming up with solutions to big problems together. Part of our education in engineering is about learning to work well with others in order to transform the world with incredible solutions to extraordinary problems.