Swedish-born Emma Lennartsson has just come to the end of three happy years at Kingston University, after graduating with a 2:1 degree in Landscape Architecture. Yet just a few months before she embarked on her course in September 2005, Emma was helping to run a fledging gardening business and was up to her eyes in weeding, watering and sweeping up general garden waste.
“I’d always had an interest in the outdoors and horticulture,” said Emma, 29, who moved to London from Härlöv, Småland when she was 19. “It didn’t really occur to me, though, until I took on some gardening work while living in Australia that I could turn my interest into a career by getting a formal qualification and really making a go of it.”
After leaving school Emma was unsure what she wanted to do with her life. She was keen to learn English so spent a year taking lessons in her homeland and then lived in the United Kingdom for a short spell before turning to sunnier climes spending time in Spain and Australia. “I worked mainly in bars and restaurants – which allowed me to be flexible about where I was living,” she said.
But eventually London beckoned for her to return. “I had felt at home here before and London was also tempting in terms of work and career opportunities, so I returned to Pinner in Middlesex, where I found a job working for a garden maintenance and design company,” Emma explained. “I also started investigating what degree courses were available relating to gardening and in the meantime I enrolled on a part-time horticulture course run by the Royal Horticultural Society.”
In the summer of 2005, hard-working Emma took time out from hoeing and picked up the telephone to the Kingston University Clearing hotline. “I had been thinking about another university too, but the course tutor I spoke to at Kingston was so enthusiastic and inspiring that I soon ditched that idea,” she recalled. “I was delighted when, following an interview, I was offered a place.”
Emma, who lived in Tooting for her first year and then in Kingston for the last two, has just returned from a last long holiday in Slovakia, and knows she needs to turn her thoughts to finding a job in the profession she loves. She hopes to work for at least a year for a central London landscape architecture firm before returning to study for her Masters.
“My degree focused on the practice and theory of small to large-scale urban and rural landscape design so there are many paths I could now follow. We looked at topics such as the regeneration of large urban derelict open spaces which is something that particularly appeals to me,” she said.
Emma’s advice to students waiting for their A-level results is that they shouldn’t feel pressured into going to university straightaway, or enrolling on courses that might not suit them, just because they believe that is what is expected. “It is better to wait until you are really sure of what you want to do before investing time and money in a degree,” she said. “After all, it’s your life, and it’s never too late to study.”