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Learning the lay of the land: French landscape engineering students study on Bainbridge

Jeremy David and Valentin Greffe, two landscape engineering students from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, are currently working with Bainbridge-based designers Dea and Peter Perry of Aurora Florialis as part of an international internship program. - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
Jeremy David and Valentin Greffe, two landscape engineering students from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, are currently working with Bainbridge-based designers Dea and Peter Perry of Aurora Florialis as part of an international internship program.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

To study abroad is a goal of many college students. The chance to experience a foreign culture, meet new people and to travel to exotic locales makes an irresistible draw for many young Americans.

However, our students don’t have a monopoly on the desire to see the world.

Recently, two landscape engineering students from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research left their home country for the first time to work with Bainbridge Island landscape designers Dea and Peter Perry of Aurora Florialis.

Valentin Greffe and Jeremy David have spent the last several weeks working and learning with the island designers at several job sites, and both agree that the trip has been very beneficial.

“In our university, we don’t learn landscape design,” Greffe explained. “So this internship is just to make flight and see how to do the landscape design. There is no official requirements, but if we see really different projects and really different things, it’s of course more interesting. It’s better. We try to do the most things we can do.”

When deciding on a location for their internship, the students literally had the entire world to choose from.

“For our university we can go everywhere in the world,” Greffe said. “We would like to go to America because for us, for a European, it’s [the] American dream, it’s always there. For us, there is no question of that, we wanted to go here,” he said. “We didn’t know which city. So we just made some research and we learned that Seattle is a really good city to live, really comfortable, very safe. We don’t want to go to the main cities that everybody knows.

“In France, nobody knows Seattle. It’s different,” he said.

Greffe explained that after several introduction emails sent to landscape designers in the area, he and David got their first response from Aurora Florialis.

After some discussion, the details were confirmed and they set off for America which, the pair agree, is not exactly what they expected it to be.

“There is many archetypes that we recognize here,” Greffe said. “Like, for example, the big cars and big trucks for everybody [and] fast food everywhere. That’s true. But it’s different. Here people are really open. They go, they speak to you. In France, never. I thought it was more like in France where everyone stay alone, but here you can speak with everybody.”

Though they hail from very different parts of France — Greffe from a relatively small town and David from Paris — both students said that they were very comfortable on Bainbridge Island and enjoying their internship.

“We start with zero,” Greffe said. “This is not exactly what we study in France, so at first we learn many things. They [Dea and Peter] take the time to explain to us really. It’s really interesting and really good for us.”

Despite some initial concerns about the possible language barrier — neither Dea or Peter speak any French -— the island business owners said they were excited to have the foreign students come and work with them.

“We’ve taken both Valentin and Jeremy on job sites from beginning to end, almost,” Dea said.

“They have really good eyes. I’ve asked them, ‘What do you think about this part of the garden?’ ‘What do you think about that?’ They come up with great solutions that I wouldn’t have thought of. They have a trained eye and with that trained eye they see really well. I think they’re a great asset.”

Aurora Florialis designs and builds numerous aspects of residential and commercial hardscapes, including decks, walls, concrete, driveways, patios, pots, paths, plants, irrigation systems, lighting, garden beds and fencing. Peter specializes in the hardscape work, Dea in plant design and rock placement.

Greffe and David will be completing their internship soon and plan to go home at the end of the month. In the meantime though they said they are excited about the possibility of working on new jobs and contributing to different scale projects.

Several of their classmates are also completing internships right now, including six in San Francisco, California, two in Miami, Florida and at least three in Canada.

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