A Summer in Monet’s Garden

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My summer experience was set in motion last fall, when I traveled with Davidson’s program based in Tours, France, and we made an excursion to the Fondation Claude Monet in Giverny, just over an hour northwest of Paris. With every passing minute, winding through the most amazingly beautiful garden I’d ever seen, I kept frowning and thinking, ‘Nope. Absolutely not. An afternoon is not nearly enough time here.’

Even in the fall foliage it was mind-alteringly gorgeous–I use the term not as trite hyperbole, but because it actually conjured a memory of a half-covered poster I’d seen tacked up in Davidson’s Chambers Building a year prior with a flowery background and the words ‘Giverny’ and ‘internship.’ One unclear email to my exceptionally competent adviser later and I was in possession of that poster, and the immeasurably valuable contact information of the internship coordinator.

What followed was the stuff of no legend: emails, applications, grants. Stress, definitely, but after months of work pouring into this endeavor, it…happened.

It was surreal to board the plane (made possible by Davidson’s Dean Rusk Program) and the train (ditto) and the bus (again, again!) and to finally arrive in Giverny. The month that followed was filled with more slugs than one might imagine in a life-changing experience. But the hours of deadheading and the exciting discoveries of ever larger escargots pale in comparison to shining Giverny. It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived.

Situated between a river leading into the Seine and a huge hill, sometimes at work I would just stop, and look up. The foreground: the accumulation of a million, billion, trillion delicate flowers, too complex to ever take in at once, framed by Monet’s simple light pink and dark green house. And beyond (I don’t want to diminish it by calling it the “background”) is that verdant hill, mostly forest, patched with lush pastures.

A month wasn’t long enough, but I was happy to come home to Davidson to jump into a research project with my biology advisor, and am excited to transfer the skills I learned working this summer to the classroom.

I’m beginning to realize that all of the defining moments in my life aren’t going to be the neat scenes with compelling narratives I’ve grown so used to on my diet of American media; some of those times, perhaps, are going to require long, boring hours of work before and even during, and they’ll be all the more memorable for it. If ever you get a chance to see what I had the privilege to at Giverny, take it–slugs and all.

 

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Jasmine Burton-Akright '17

Jasmine Burton-Akright '17 is a biology major from Tampa. She received a travel grant from the Dean Rusk International Studies Program to intern at the Fondation Claude Monet in Giverny, France this summer.

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