Touch down in the USA

Polly Stevens, GCA Interchange Fellow on placement from the UK to the USA, has written a first blog about life on Cornell campus

It’s been a crazy couple of months and I’m only just snapping out of the ‘I can’t believe I’m in America’ bubble.

So far it's been a swirl of plants, design, coffee, doughnuts and waterfalls. I’ve gained several pounds eating pizza and muffins, but also have thighs of steel from the steep climb up to campus!

Cornell University Campus and ClocktowerThe Cornell campus is the size of a small town, perched above the city of Ithaca in New York. It contains teaching facilities to accommodate more than 20,000 students as well as a climbing wall, ice rink, cinema, theatre, botanic garden and many other delights. The campus also has a clock tower with bells that can be heard playing anything from 1990's rock to the Beach Boys.

The American term is slightly different from the UK, it’s split in half and each half is called a semester. I’m currently in the fall semester which runs from late August to early December.

I am studying for a Masters in Landscape Architecture which, judging by people’s reactions when I mentioned I would be studying it, is not a widely understood subject. Landscape Architecture is the design and management of man-made and natural environments within cities, coastlines, wilderness and everything inbetween.

My classes are divided into specialisms of art & design, landscape history and horticulture. During the course we will learn to create designs using CAD (Computer Aided Design), hand drafting and 3D model making. The classes are very interactive; students present their work on a weekly basis and provide helpful criticism of each other's work. 

The focus of our first project is the Anthropocene. In case you’re wondering what that is, it’s a term coined to summarise the era we are currently living in; the age of man’s dominance over nature and partial alteration of earth’s natural cycles.

In class we’ve had some fairly intense debates about climate change, use of non-renewable resources and the pollutants we allow to stream into our soil, water and air. The idea behind this discussion is to provide some grounding on what we should be trying to prevent as landscape architects, which will hopefully encourage us to create landscapes that have a positive impact on the people that inhabit them, as well as the wider environment.

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