'Don't just pick a course off a page because it sounds cool'
Mark Moody, UCD
Landscape architecture student Mark Moody (29) is in second year of a four-year degree, having returned to university as a mature student.
He says landscape architecture "is the study of how man and nature work together. It's about finding a balance between aesthetics, practicality, and proper usage of land".
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So what might a landscape architect do?
"They work on city parks, areas around hospitals, golf courses, big projects like motorways or national parks - basically anything that involves the land in public spaces. They can also work for private clients designing gardens and outdoor spaces," says Mark.
Growing up in Westport, Co Mayo, surrounded by forest walks and nature trails, this appreciation of the land was there from an early age.
He attended Rice College Secondary School and, after his Leaving Cert, initially studied computer science and then video and sound technology but they weren't for him.
At 25, Mark moved to Canada where he worked as a labourer with a landscape architecture firm and during that period he found huge job satisfaction: "Seeing a big pile of dirt turn into a lovely park gave me a big boost."
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After three years, Mark was keen to return home and to third-level education, and UCD was the only university in Ireland to offer an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture.
Now almost halfway through "an amazing course", Mark advises students who may be interested in this field to understand the commitment required. He recommends talking to current students and practitioners.
He also suggests getting some practical experience in a labouring job. "Get a feel for it and get to know how it's done.
"It is important to have a baseline of reference because you could have a nice drawing, but what you have in your head may not be achievable," he says.
Last summer, Mark did an internship with the Parks Department of Dublin City Council (DCC) working on a 'greening up the city' project. He describes the experience as "great - I saw points relevant to the course and took notes on everything to apply to future projects. I also got brilliant experience in Photoshop and InDesign".
On the recommendation of one of the DCC landscape architects, Mark is taking an elective in visualisation and photographic.
In third year, he intends to do a semester abroad and is considering universities in Munich and Hannover.
Mark's advice to school-leavers: "Think about what you want to do. Figure out what you would like, don't just pick something off a page because it sounds cool."