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Davis, California

Friday, July 12, 2024

UC Davis Arboretum brings health and wellness to our community

Students and instructors share their positive experiences in the Arboretum


By JULIANA MARQUEZ ARAUJO — features@theaggie.org


With an abundance of scenic images in the town of Davis, the Arboretum stands as a symbol of unity that connects those who enjoy its beauty and essence. Home to wildlife inhabitants along with the flourishing flora, the UC Davis Arboretum momentarily acts as a safe haven to those who wish for a getaway from their enclosed environments.

With its immersing greenery and the surrounding song from the creatures living in the vegetation, it is no wonder that this town’s citizens are so fond of it.

However, the Arboretum does not serve one sole purpose for the individuals who stop by. It acts as an outdoor space with seating and trails that may be used for any preferred activity. People can be found biking, running or walking their dogs through the trails while appreciating the sights. Others may be sitting on the grass with friends, doing their homework or reading a book, just to name a few. Regardless of what one may find themselves doing, the Arboretum’s surroundings inspire motivation to partake in these activities.

“I usually spend my time either writing poetry or I sit there and play my ukulele,” Keelan Vaswani, a second-year cognitive science major, said. “Sitting next to trees or underneath curved trees is very soothing. I like to go there because it’s away from school, but it’s also somewhere that’s accessible”

Students explained that the Arboretum is more than just sightseeing; nature engulfs every sense in order to create a mosaic of pure relaxation. Vaswani shared that when spending time at the Arboretum, he doesn’t have to worry about who is around and feels comfortable getting things done in a space that encourages clarity.

“I think it’s important to have an outlet to be alone,” Vaswani said. “But at the same time, with nature specifically, it’s good to spend time away from a device or a computer or social media.”

In the advanced technological world we live in today, especially on a college campus, it can be difficult to get away from the devices that call our attention. Whether you are a student or a professor, assignments are predominantly digital and can take a long time to complete or grade, increasing our time spent on a screen. When this action leads to headaches and stress, it is important to prioritize your mental well-being, and remember that to stay level-headed is to take time to relax.

Genesis Dominguez, a first-year anthropology and art history double major, explained that being surrounded by places with vibrant trees and plants, such as the Arboretum, stimulates a clear and calm mind.

“In nature, I feel a difference in the air that I breathe,” Genesis Dominguez said, then asked if that somehow made sense, and it did. Students often step outdoors in order to escape environments that can be described as suffocating — whether that’s physically or mentally.

“Just seeing everybody doing their own activities, it feels really calming to know ‘Yeah, I’m by myself but I’m not alone,’” Dominguez said.

The arboretum attracts people. When students want a place to unwind, they are most likely to choose the outdoors: an aesthetically pleasing environment that has multiple purposes.

“People like grass,” Dominguez said. “There are only so many activities you can do without nature, and it opens the door for a lot more opportunities, like for clubs and for things like food science, or these other nature-related majors to actually go out and be able to get experience from doing something with the arboretum that we have.”

Sometimes, a shared environment inspires people to come together to help cultivate the land, and in doing this, they find peace while working toward a common goal. For example, having positions where students are able to experience close contact with the Arboretum and get their hands dirty is important. It is both a way to give back to their environment and also receive a daily dose of nature’s healing elements.

Haven Kiers, assistant professor of landscape architecture, shared her take on one of the many healing abilities of nature.

“I think the biggest one is just stress relief,” Kiers said. “Taking the time when I’m stressed about something, whether it’s upcoming exams that I have to correct or deadlines that I have, just taking a walk outside is unbelievable for me. It calms me down and it puts everything in perspective.”

She illustrated her own experience from creating landscapes while describing her personal style as “sustainably chic” due to her efforts in constructing both engaging and exciting landscapes. She agreed that her attention to detail lies in the category of “big and bright,” as she utilizes color and exuberance in her own personal work.

“A lot of it, for me, is creating spaces of joy that people are excited to be in instead of these sterile, nondescript kind of places,” Kiers said. “It’s how you create spaces that people really want to be in and ideally have more than one function, so that it’s not just about creating a space that is beautiful, but it’s also about creating a space that is sustainable [and] may support insects or biodiversity.”

She pondered the possible ways to check off all these boxes, and more, so that these spaces can flourish in multiple ways.

Students and faculty in charge of caring for this environment spend hours of their afternoons curating small details in the Arboretum in hopes of enhancing its natural beauty, while also creating a sustainable landscape where its visitors and wildlife may thrive.

This dedication to the arboretum creates not only a sense of insider knowledge but also helps students find a sense of belonging.

Kiers’ perception of nature creating community is a shared sentiment, as students strive to take part in the development of the Arboretum through multiple internship or volunteer roles that are provided.

“It can help create a sense of community and reduce loneliness by just having those shared spaces,” Kiers said.


Written by: Juliana Marquez Araujo — features@theaggie.org



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