“At first, I was the intern. Then I said, ‘I’m Tyler.’ In the end, I was one of them.” — Luq Richard, Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum, March-July 2015
As a university professor, I’m always encouraging students to go out and get experience in their field through an internship. I have interviewed two of Tyler’s college interns in the past and written blog posts about their experiences (horticulture intern Emily Pennock and communications intern Jelsy Kravatz), so I’m aware of the amazing mentoring that takes place by the Tyler staff during an internship.
I recently sat down with Penn State Brandywine student Luqmaan Richard, who has just completed five months as an intern with Tyler Arboretum’s Horticulture Department. I had not met Luq before, and sometimes when I sit down with a student for the first time, he/she will hold back during a meeting. This certainly wasn’t the case with Luq! His energy and enthusiasm for talking about his experience at Tyler was a challenge for me to keep up with, and I hope I have done a good job capturing what Luq took away from the internship (when a student starts with “special” and “magical,” then you know you are in for a great conversation!).
Luq is pursuing a major in plant sciences at Penn State, but he likes to say that his passion for science and the outdoors came from growing up in the forest (and he is still growing up in the forest, where he receives a wisdom and appreciation for all life). Luq had gardening and landscaping experience in the past, but his time at Tyler Arboretum was his first true internship. And Luq was quick to point out that he did not “feel” like an intern for very long. He was able to wake up every day and know that he was going to do something fun, whether it be helping a staff member with an existing project, helping with the cross-pollination in the chestnut orchard, to working with the volunteers (who were “really fun”), to being able to take ownership of his own project. Luq embraced being part of the Tyler community, “working to contribute” and to “make something more beautiful.” Luq jokingly nicknamed his time at Tyler as the “Goldilocks Internship,” because it wasn’t just what he learned about plants, but also his interactions with the people at Tyler – “everyone’s heart was open, even on my last day… they are good people that every day helped me grow.”
I asked Luq if there was any particular project he worked on that he was most proud of, or any place in Tyler where he feels he left his mark. He said it would be the Itea plant, located on the path from the visitor’s center, on the right side across from the Storybook tree house. Luq said it was the time of Tyler at Twilight in June, and he knew this was a very important event for Tyler. As everyone on the staff was busy making the last-minute preparations, Luq saw this plant and knew it would be the last plant visitors see before turning the corner to head to the tent for TAT. He wanted the Itea to look really nice for the visitors that evening and on future visits, so he spent hours clipping the Itea to bring more life and energy into the plant. (looks great, Luq!) Be sure to take a look at the Itea on your next visit to Tyler and think of Luq!
Luq really wanted me to emphasize to any students that might be reading this blog post that, “you will be respected and trusted as an equal, and not treated as an underling.” Luq is transitioning to getting ready for the fall semester, but he said, “if I had one more week, I would just keep working at Tyler Arboretum.” I’m going to keep an eye out for Luq at Tyler – I have a feeling I’ll be seeing him on the trails and volunteering at some of Tyler’s events!