Botanical Gardens

Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden --- Photo Credit: © 2012 Kyle Alexander

 

I never thought I would associate gardens with UCLA, but after a class trip to the botanical gardens for one my classes I found a new favorite space. I love going to school in the city. There are endless activities, always something to do, and just a generally upbeat environment. That being said, every once in a while I yearn for the peaceful climate of a more relaxed area. Little did I know, we have just this sort of environment on our campus!
The botanical garden of UCLA is home to vast array of plants from all over the globe. During our class outing we focused on endemic California plants as well as those from tropical areas and temperate regions. First off, seeing plants from all around the world really does take you to another place. Inside the gardens you feel completely separated from the surrounding city life. It is a quite and shaded area filled with plant life. Each plant has a placard indicating its name and where it can be found. Now I’ll admit, plants were never my most exciting topic but I can honestly admit that I have a new found interest in the incredible diversity of global plant life.
Aside from my growing love for plants, I realized what an incredible study space the gardens could be. It is quiet, serene, and refreshing. The relaxing ambience of the garden provides the perfect place to de-stress. There are seating areas scattered throughout or you can always just lay down under the shade of one of the many trees. Sometimes I forgot how many different things UCLA has to offer and my trip to the gardens was just yet another reminder of the dynamic nature of our university. I really encourage everyone to explore our campus, you’d be amazed at the incredible opportunities surrounding us everyday. If you ever need an escape from the bustle of Westwood, check out the gardens, you might just find your new favorite study spot!

Summer is upon us

It is finally here. The abstract and unknown “UCLA summer” that I have been dreaming about since fall semester in France has arrived, and I am very quickly getting deep into it. I’ve started my linguistic anthropology course (an exciting and oddly familiar way to jump back into things (academia, I’ve missed you)). And, I started giving tours again this week. I’m really looking forward to starting my RA position in July. I get to read up on Madagascar and look at the language used in the politics of its capital city. Cool stuff.

But summer is also much much more than doing cool research or taking a fun class or giving tours. I finally moved into my new apartment, which (I hope) I will begin decorating very soon in preparation for having friends over for potlucks and soirees. I’ve already went on a summer weekend trip to San Diego to watch baseball, hang out at the beach, and go jetskiing (a fantastic way to get reacquainted with American Summer). I’m meeting new friends and getting to know old ones better.

My favorite thing, though, is being on UCLA’s campus again. I have gone on a walk every day, most times twice a day, to check in with my oldest college pal. I have taken many strolls through the botanical garden and will, of course, continue to do so until I’ve touched every plant in the place. Since I’ve been gone, the garden has gotten two new succulent plots with some of the cutest miniature cacti and trees I’ve ever seen. I’m redoing all of my favorite walks and making news ones up. Lots of the construction projects that were happening my first two years at UCLA have been finished and now I can walk freely in spaces that were formerly blocked off with orange tape and chainlink fences.

This weekend I’m going to the Marina Aquatic Center to go kayaking. Today I visited a friend’s apartment. It is summertime. Finally, after having the longest vacation of my life in France, I am on my last UCLA summer break. And while I’m still transitioning over into a new normal, everything feels very hopeful and very exciting. I’m back, babe.

Toussaint

Ahhhh, I have just gotten back from a ten-day trip to Paris, London, and Luxembourg. I know I’ve written a little bit about traveling around before, but this was my first big trip outside of France. And it was a blast.

The week break came in the middle of the semester and was for a holiday called “Touissant.” It seems that not all French universities got the full week off, but I guess I got lucky with my school! Lots of students (both Californian and French) decided to take mini-vacations. I went on mine with  a friend who goes to UCLA but who I met here in France, and we had an absolutely marvelous time. I hadn’t been to Paris yet, and going with my friend was great because she lived there in high school so she got to show me around her old stomping grounds. Normally when I go to big cities I end up doing a ton of touristy stuff without ever getting to ~experience~ the city as a local. Not this trip! I felt like I was surrounded by locals the entire time. We went to museums I hadn’t heard of and to neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed (French class at UCLA only tells you so much about Paris). We ate ice cream even though it was in the forties and walked along the city’s prettiest bridges. And I am pretty sure I spent as much time in the Tuileries as I do in the botanical gardens back at UCLA.

Up next was London. I have never been to London before, and this time we didn’t really have an experienced tour guide. We saw a lot of the sights – Big Ben, the classic phonebooths, Buckingham palace (which was less impressive than I thought it would be), and we also got to ride around in the big double-decker buses. We also met up with a girl my friend knew from UCLA, which was too fun. I always get a kick out of meeting Bruins especially if it’s halfway across the world. I ate a lot of yummy food in London (my two favorites – the Indian food and the English breakfast) and had a fab time riding the tube. Leaving was sad, but I know that next semester I will be making a week-long trek out to London. No worries.

Luxembourg was last, and it was absolutely charming. We were only there for one full day, but we took a lovely hike around in the woods and explored the village where we stayed. It only had about 400 inhabitants and the only business in the town (besides the hostel) was a pizzeria where we had to order our food with broken French and hand signals (they speak a lot of different languages in Luxembourg, unfortunately French wasn’t one that our waitress really knew).

It was a great time! And this coming weekend I look forward to heading off to Madrid to see some UCLA friends studying there. Bon voyage.

A field trip to the Botanical Garden

I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I didn’t love field trips.  Whether they were informative and educational or purely excursionary in nature, I always enjoyed taking a day off from the classroom setting and stepping out into the real world.  On Wednesday, I did just that with my Forest Ecosystems professor who fearlessly led all 200 of us (it’s a popular class) through the gardens nestled on the southeastern edge of campus.  Every step through the gardens took us to a new biome, from the Mediterranean to Hawaii in the tropics to Australia.

As he excitedly pointed out the tree families that we were to know for our final, we began to panic slightly.  How would I be able to look at the leaf structure of a tree and immediately know that it was of the Araucariaceae family?  As his helpful hints began to sink in (“Are the leaves opposite or alternate, simple or compound? Is there latex?”), I thought about how lucky we were to have this amazing resource right on campus.  I may groan and whine that it’s on the opposite corner of campus in relation to Sage Hill (a small but important plot of land behind The Hill where many species native to the UCLA campus still exist today) where we are doing our field work, but I am secretly glad that we have an entire garden through which we can trek to reinforce our understandings of what we’re learning in class.  The clear signs on each tree and shrub, detailing its family, genus, species, and range will prove to be immensely helpful in our studying.  Best of all, visiting the garden costs absolutely nothing, and arranging a group tour is free as well!  What a great resource for the cash-strapped college student.

Botanical Gardens

Here I am at the end of my Freshman year at UCLA. I am studying for finals, finishing up projects, and eating a ton of junk food. As this year closes, I reflect back on my experiences thus far. Sure I have done really awesome things and made totally amazing friends, but I think my fondest memory is discovering the Botanical Gardens in South Campus.

Fall quarter, before I had really met anyone and before I got involved in anything, I used to walk around the campus exploring. I didn’t go hardcore exploring, like I never scaled any walls and the places I “discovered” had of course already been found. Really, I just tried to familiarize myself with UCLA. About halfway through fall quarter, I was strolling through South Campus, and I remembered hearing something about the Botanical Gardens.  I expected something small and tame, probably with a large greenhouse and a one way path. The gardens I found were quite different. The place was huge and had many different parts. Upon entering you could choose a variety of paths, ones made out of stepping stones and others of dirt and gravel. Once inside, you walked on a bridge that carried you above a stream that ran through the gardens. If you kept walking up, you eventually came to a desert-like area filled with cactus. Patches of flowers made the air sweet.

The Botanical Gardens soon became my favorite place to go on campus. In the middle, by the stream, there were two tables with attached benches. the spot was perfect for studying and eating a panini you had gotten at cafe 1919. Hordes of turtles sunbathed by the water, and the trees offered lots of shade. The gardens were great because they were a sort of escape. LA is so busy and there is hardly any nature. Being surrounded by the tall bamboo and lush greenery made you feel at ease, especially helpful during midterms. Even though many people know about it, I feel it is one of UCLA’s best kept secrets and definitely one of my favorite places to relax, walk, and study.