To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Why GTL? (Page 2 of 3)

First Impressions

Posted by Harry

Left: Photo Courtesy of Patrick Morand; Right: Photo Courtesy of The Wine Guild of Charlottesville

I wish I had some wild story to tell about my journey to Metz and Georgia Tech Lorraine, but I don’t. Rather, I just took the shuttle (free!) that was provided by GTL from the Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport. Usually, I’m a person that sleeps on long bus rides like the 4-hour trip it takes between the two locations, but I didn’t. The reason why? I was blown away by the stunning views of the French countryside. It really was something else. Something about the hills that stretched on for miles (or kilometers, I should say) and the quaint little villages that we passed by just took my breath away. Even if the majority of the scenery was farmlands and fields, my eyes were locked outside nearly the entire time. The pictures you see above are some stock photos off of Google Images that I found, since the ones I took really don’t do it any justice.

Upon my arrival in the outskirts of Metz where GTL was, there was something specific that really stood out to me: the silence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like a ghost town-ish area we are in, but it was just very peaceful and it’s something I’ve really grown to enjoy. The walk from my dorm to school is no longer filled with the loud sounds of construction or the conversations of thousands of students, but just a relative quietness.

Even on my first day, the GTL experience has far exceeded my expectations.

Expect the Unexpected

Posted by Morgan

expect the

Before coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was fortunate enough to have traveled a lot. I traveled across the US; I traveled outside of the country; I traveled without my parents. In short, I wasn’t expecting that the GTL experience would be that hard, taxing, or new- just exciting. I was prepared. I was prepared for the travel, and my first year at Tech had prepared me for the classes. And yet somehow, after ten weeks in France, I am leaving with the realization that I wasn’t all that prepared. But that’s the thing about the GTL program. Nothing can really prepare you for the experiences, the experiences of unmatched fun, the experiences of studying till the wee hours of the night, the experiences of being so incredibly out of your comfort zone.

If only something had prepared me for my interesting adventure through Paris. My friend and I had reserved an apartment through airbnb, a familiar and trustworthy site, but I was excited that I had searched through all the places on my own and found the perfect place–no help–no guidance–just me. When we arrived at the airbnb, I was told the maid was going to bring me a key. I waited an hour until two men in a car pulled up and started speaking to me in French, and they wouldn’t leave (a sketchy situation to say the least). They kept pointing at their ignition key, but they did not look like the maid, Maimona, and they did not speak English, so I kept waiting. Next thing I know a half hour later the guys come back, hand me the key, and then walk off. It was the weirdest experience ever, and it left me wondering how safe this place really was. But my friend and I needed a place to sleep, so up the five flights of stairs we walked.

What met our eyes was one of the most charming apartments I had ever seen. It was stereotypical French, complete with a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. Even with all of the commotion, I had done it. I had prepared for something, and gotten it right, albeit with a lot of anxiety and worry. I was not prepared for this type of situation. I was not prepared for this “experience,” and I don’t know if anything could have prepared me. That’s the thing about GTL though; just when you think you’ve seen it all–the horrifying thermo tests, the spill of toxic liquids in chem lab, the 90 degree plus heat of Atlanta–Tech likes to show you that you haven’t!  

Fortunately for myself, the rigorous planning and ensuing worrying died down at the end of the trip. If one hasn’t noticed, I am not a go with the flow kind of person. I plan everything by the minute and then have two backup plans. By the time my last trip came around, Grindelwald, Switzerland, I couldn’t plan any longer. I was tired, so about all I did was look up some train times and book a hostel.

I remember getting ready to board the train, and Tim saying, “Morgan, one of these trains requires a reservation…”

What left my mouth next was the most un-Morgan-like statement ever heard, “We’ll figure it out Tim.”

And we did. We figured it out as we went, and I left Switzerland with the realization that it was one of the most fun, memorable experiences of GTL yet.

I have the GTL program to thank for these experiences. I was not being hand-held through my trips, or taking easy elective classes. I was essentially being pushed out on my own and given free reign. Of course, there were those times that I wished I had a schedule designed for me on what trains and planes to take or what museums and tourist attractions to see at a particular time instead of Google searching on my iphone at the last minute, but I don’t think I would change any of those experiences- after all they do make the best stories.

Undergraduate Research Student: Sarah Selim

Posted by Morgan

MK-Selim2Studying abroad is hard for engineering students: the classes, the rigor, the balance with travel. At times it may seem that a Georgia Tech engineering student will never gain that exciting abroad experience. This is not the case for Sarah Selim though. A rising 3rd year in mechanical engineering, she always knew she wanted the study abroad experience, but she also knew that she wanted the undergraduate research experience as well. Fortunately, she found the answer in GTL.

For myself, I did not even know that undergraduate research existed at GTL. I figured that my only option was to come to Metz, take a couple classes, and spend my weekends traveling. The same was true for Sarah. But Sarah knew that she wanted to find a work abroad program for the summer and that the paperwork hassles that come along with working abroad are not exactly appealing, so she did a little digging into the research opportunities at GTL. While Sarah was aware that the research opportunities at GTL are usually only available for graduate students, she had the drive to convince them otherwise.

At first, she wasn’t sure if any professor would let her come work at GTL, but after multiple emails to different professors and GTL administration, she finally found a professor that was eager and willing to let her participate in undergraduate research. What a typical tech student- ambitious and motivated!

While her weekends do not fall on the same days as most GTL students (she only gets two day weekends and one three day weekend a month), she finds solace in the type of work she gets to take part in each day. Her project involves robotics research called non-destructive testing which uses a robot that moves along metal surfaces to detect if the surfaces have any defects. Most of her day to day work consists of cad modeling for the project, and because she works with three other graduate students, she is able to get feedback when needed.

So far, Sarah is loving her undergraduate research experience. She has hands on work in her chosen field which provides her with great experience for future endeavors. Sarah also mentioned the balance she receives as a result of working at GTL. She is able to work inside of her comfort zone, being surrounded by Georgia Tech students and faculty, but still be pushed a bit outside of her comfort zone while working in a foreign country, France. After talking with Sarah, it’s safe to say that I am a little jealous. While I’m taking tests on the different forms of “to have” in French, she gets to play with robots all day in the lab.

You might be wondering what kind of travel experience one can get while working abroad. Does one even get to travel? While Sarah’s busy schedule is definitely difficult to coordinate with her friends who are taking classes, she still manages to take short weekend trips and make the most of her time.

Her favorite place so far was Barcelona, mostly due to the fact that Gaudi’s stunning MK-Selim1architecture fills the city. While I find Gaudi’s work to be overt and eccentric, Sarah loved his style; “he created floors that weren’t even flat and he just kind of went for it!”. I might not understand Gaudi, but I understand why Sarah loves him so much. He took risks, was ambitious, and broke the mold, just as Sarah took a chance in searching out her undergraduate research at GTL. Well, clearly it paid off – for both Gaudi and Sarah.

The Euro Cup Mania

Posted by Morgan

Note: this was written before the finals of the Euro Cup.

MK-EuroCup1

Football, the people’s favorite sport– the sport that causes fans to rally together chanting sometimes obscene statements–the sport that convinces men and women to cover their faces in paint, their bodies in colorful sports clothing, and their hands in foam fingers–the sport that brings people together with little in common except for their love of football. I am not talking about American football though. I am talking about European football, about soccer, the world’s favorite sport.

In America, soccer is not the most popular sport. While we do have the best women’s national team in the world, our men’s team is seriously lacking in talent- at least in comparison to most European teams- and consumerist America simply prefers watching a sport where commercials play every 5 minutes instead of an intense atmosphere of nonstop 45 minute halves. As result, when tournaments such as the World Cup, the Euro Cup, or even the CONCACAF Cup air on TV, most of America just changes the channel. The same cannot be said for Europe.

GTL students were fortunate enough to experience this part of European culture this summer as this year was the Euro Cup, a popular soccer tournament that is held every 4 years and is being hosted in France this year. While back in America, citizens are eagerly anticipating the Olympics, Europeans couldn’t care less about the Olympics. Their eyes are all on soccer.

This past week was a monumental game for France; the semifinals against Germany which determined whether or not France would move on in pursuit of the coveted Euro Cup trophy. Like any soccer fan, I dragged my friends with me to downtown Metz to watch the game on television. They obliged and made the journey with me into town. Nothing prepared them for what they were about to witness though. The squares were piled with people, pushing their way through crowds to get the best view of the TVs which lined the streets outside of bars and cafes. People’s faces were painted with the French flag; children were dressed in crazy red wigs in support of France; and just about every man had one oversized beer in his hand. It was a crazy atmosphere.

The game itself was enjoyable. While my eyes were glued to the television at every point in time, I somehow managed to miss both French goals in those rare moments I would turn to speak to a friend. Of course, we all knew what had happened as the crowds went wild, screaming, jumping, pushing, singing.

I was somewhat disappointed during the game though. I guess I forgot to mention that I was rooting for the enemy–Germany. The fact that Schweinsteiger and Mueller, two fantastic German players, were not able to help score against the MK-EuroCup2French made me very annoyed. Not to mention that Germany had possession of the ball the majority of the game! I had to hide this annoyance as best as possible from the French though for fear of being attacked by some of those crazy fans.

The final result: France won. While I myself was upset with the outcome, the rest of the country was ecstatic. Metz went crazy. People started setting off fireworks, dancing in circles, singing songs, breathing fire, shaking police vehicles that lined the streets. It was quite the sight.

As one friend of mine put it, “This would never happen in America.”

And that’s the truth. Even when a particular team wins the Super Bowl, crowds do not rush the streets setting off fireworks or shaking police vehicles. People would be arrested. But in France, in Europe, they do. It is a national sport, a national emblem for a country, and we were able to experience this joyous moment with the French people. It’s an experience I will never forget. Sure traveling to Italy and England is awesome, but this was an unmatched experience — not related to a travel destination — that I will most likely not have again.

While the night was late and long, I was glad to be able to see such a sight. The next day of class might have been rough, but when I entered my Industrial Engineering class the following morning, I noticed the heavy eyes of my IE professor.

“So, what did you guys think of the game?,” asked my professor.

Well, clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought a little less sleep was worth it to see France win.

Back to Paradise

Lessons Learned

Posted by Morgan

Each week, after my travels have occurred and my adventures have been taken, I quickly post an instagram-worthy photo to my social media account, hoping to share with family and friends the amazing time I had in some new and beautiful country. Soon after, the likes on my photos increase and the list of comments become longer. It is clear that my friends, sitting at home or taking classes, are jealous, and why wouldn’t they be? I am spending my summer traveling around Europe! But the photos do not always capture those horrible times of stress that each student has faced or the exhaustion that each student endures. Just the other night for instance, as a group of GTL students and myself waited for the bus from the Metz train station back to our dorms, my friend got pickpocketed. Her phone was stolen, and she was left in a terrible state of confusion, anger, and disarray. I am sure the photos that she will soon post of her weekend in London will make her friends envious, but little do they know the dismal end to her trip.

Along the way, I’ve learned how to manage the stress of traveling and what precautions to take. It’s not always easy, but hopefully for those that study abroad later on, they can learn from my mistakes!

Paying for things: When traveling around with friends, you often end up paying for things of theirs and vice versa. Whether it is because a restaurant will not split a check or a friend is all out of cash, it inevitably happens. At first, I tried to log all of Venmothese occurrences on my phone, but it is an unorganized and hasty method. If you want to study abroad, you need to download venmo! It has made my life so much easier. Friends can easily pay each other back within a few minutes. All you need to do is convert from euros to dollars and connect a credit card or atm card to the app. This has helped me not forget who owes who and keep myself on track for my budget.

Travel with a backpack: Do not attempt to spend a weekend traveling by train, bus, or plane with a wheely suitcase or oversized duffle. It is simply too hard, and if you are running around trying to make a train, it becomes nearly impossible to manage the trip without your arms falling off. I learned this the hard way after my trip to Germany, hiking up a mountain with a duffle threatening to break off my arms. Ever since this trip, I have used a backpack, and let me tell you, it is a decision I have never second guessed.

portable charger[1]Bringing a portable charger: If you happen to have an overseas data plan or if you only ever take pictures with your phone, these things come in handy. You would be surprised how quickly my phone has died after using gps or looking up train times. A dead phone can cause a lot of commotion if you lost a travel buddy or even if you just don’t know how to get toyour next destination. Now, I can easily pack my handy dandy portable charger in my bag and I am good to go for the rest of the day! It takes up little room and makes sure that I am not left in any sticky situations.

Airbnb: I had never used airbnb before this trip. I was used to staying in hotels with my family when we traveled or in hostels while on my high school study abroad trip. Airbnb can be good or bad. It’s usually easy and you have the added MK-Lessons1convenience of having a place all to yourself, but you might be surprised at the hidden costs. Hostels usually have soap, towels, breakfast, and are centrally located, whereas with airbnb’s this is not always the case. Just this past weekend we stayed at a vineyard in Portugal, which, while amazing, cost an arm and a leg to taxi into town. Try and budget these additions into your trip when planning.

Eurail: The Eurail is what makes everyone’s life easier at GTL. It allows you to hop on and off trains throughout Europe without the purchase of a ticket or at least at a significantly reduced price. Of course, this handy dandy travel item comes at a cost: anywhere from 500 to 1200 euros, depending on how long you plan on traveling. Two weeks? Two months? Three months? I recommend purchasing the 17 days MK-lessons2within 2 months pass. While you are at GTL for longer than 2 months, most people end up flying somewhere. My one friend purchased a very expensive 3 month unlimited pass and is now left with little money to spend on flights. Try planning your trips before hand and then deciding on which pass to purchase!

Buy a lock for valuables: This comes in handy if you plan on staying at hostels. While hostels are safe, it is still always a good idea to take that extra precaution and lock up your things when you are sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. The hostel will usually provide you with a cubby to lock up your things, but if you want to save a few dollars instead of renting a lock, bring your own! When I stayed in a hostel, I accidentally left my wallet sitting out for a few hours. Thank goodness my roommates were kind and honest people, but I was definitely left in a state of panic when I arrived back and noticed I had left my valuables out in the open.
While these are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned to manage the stresses of traveling, I’ve also had to learn to expect the unexpected sometimes. Not everything goes perfectly when you are traveling. I assure you that every GTL student here has had some major fiasco occur, whether it was a medical problem, a stolen item, a missed train, anything! Our amazing photos don’t always capture these occurrences, and from the outside everything probably seems perfect. Meanwhile, we are dealing with problems like a stolen phone. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The stresses, the trials, the tribulations, have all been worth it, and I am sure each student at GTL would agree.

One Room Schoolhouse

When I started looking at colleges in high school, the one thing I knew that I wanted was a large school, a school so large that I could easily meet someone new every day of class. Georgia Tech proved to be a nice compromise to this desire with a student body of around 15,000. Having recently completed my freshman year at Georgia Tech I can honestly say that the classes, the people, even the professors in the large lecture halls were exactly what I wanted. Then came GTL, where the class sizes quickly drop from 250 to 20 students, the office hours are held by request instead of daily, and the TA’s are non-existent.

MK4_1

Walking into the GTL building, you realize the sheer meagerness in size. It is not the Clough Commons where your legs tire from walking in search of your classroom. The entire campus is made up of one building. There are only about 10 classrooms, each colored coded instead of listed by room number. Instead of huge projector screens that span across the walls, there is one small screen at the front of the room. Add the fact that there is only one outlet in every room instead of a personal outlet rooted into your desk and it makes me feel like I am in a one room schoolhouse.  I did not think I would particularly enjoy this small environment of learning, yet GTL classes have given me a positive, new perspective for my education.

MK4_2

There is a personal feel to it. For example, my computer science class has only about 20 students or so and one professor. The usual size for this class is closer to 150 students, but our small class size allows us to have a one-on-one relationship with the professor. The ability of our professor to ask us our opinions on tests and quizzes and then give feedback right away would have been impossible in Atlanta. Students can also ask in-depth questions, hold conversations such as “what works better, the enumerate function or a for loop?,” and can even take the time to learn more details about the professor on a personal level. I have learned, for instance, that Professor Simpkins is afraid of heights but used to be in the air force.

In short, my classes have a calmer more personal atmosphere, but I am still able to “enjoy” the rigors of sitting down and debugging some code with friends after class. With one building for a campus, we students get an idea of what a small college feel is like. While it might not be the hustle-bustle of Georgia Tech Atlanta, it is still a stimulating environment that we enjoying coming to, even if it is at 8:30 in the morning.

Train Strikes Can’t Bring Us Down

posted by Morgan

The 2016 summer semester for GTL students is quite different than most years. It is not because it is the 25th anniversary for Georgia Tech Lorraine, nor is it because the Euro Cup is being held in France. No. This year is different as a result of the record breaking rainfall in France and the almost daily train strikes.

As you can imagine, these two things are somewhat problematic for us students. Walking to class in the rain, while unenjoyable, is not the end of the world nor is having a train cancelled. Hey, it happens right? We all knew that getting stranded in a train station overnight with friends was a possibility when we signed up for the program (Believe it or not, we were explicitly told stories by former GTL students of these occurrences). I did not, however, expect for train problems to prevent me from leaving GTL. I can “deal” with being stuck in Paris or Rome for an extra day, but being stuck on campus for a weekend is not what I would call “appealing”. It appeared that a weekend at GTL might be the case for my friends last weekend. We had planned to go to Munich, but upon arrival at the Metz train station we quickly learned our train was cancelled.

So it was time for plan B! Off to Brussels we go! An hour later we were sitting on the floor of the Luxembourg train station with another disappointing look strewn across our faces. Our train to Brussels was canceled.

So now it was time for plan C! What was plan C? Well, we did not really have a plan C, so our plan C then became, “Ask the Woman at the Information Desk Where Four College Students Could Go For a Fun Weekend in Europe.” Cologne, a smaller city about 3 hours away in Germany, was the answer.

As we sat on the train with our eyes glued to our phones, we quickly learned that expensive shopping and few city sights was not exactly our idea of a fun 3 day weekend, so I looked at the train route and found a new destination: Koblenz. It was déjà vu moment. MK6-1-10 years earlierI had faintly remembered my experience there with my family when I was 8 years old. Something about beautiful rolling hills and a quaint town rang in my mind, and, seeing as we were all out of options, I figured we could just hop off the train at Koblenz and hope for the best!

And that’s exactly what we did. After an hour of wandering the streets and searching for the cheapest, last minute accommodations we could find, we finally found somewhere to sleep and it wasn’t even the train station. The next morning we were up and ready to go see what Koblenz had to offer; backpacking our way towards some fortress we went. Of course, we got lost on our way up the steep incline in the humid, slightly rainy weather, with our luggage weighing us down, but when we finally made it to the top, our eyes were met with the rolling hills I had remembered from my time in Koblenz almost ten years ago.

Quaint German houses lined the rolling hills, reminding us of the fairytales we read when we were children; picturesque vineyards wove their way up the sides of mountains, making us question how someone even managed to stand on something so steep; small boats sailed their way down the Rhine, inviting tourists to fill their cameras with photos. While the rain didn’t seem to leave us when we left for Germany, we were still met with these beautiful sights.

When we had finished touring the impressive fortress and observing the detailed architecture, we decided to make our way back down the incline, but this time we were going to find an easier, less physically exertive way. Using my rusty German to converse with a local, we found the cable car that made its way over the river and down the mountain. My high school German teacher would have been proud as I discussed directions, where we were from, and what we thought of Koblenz so far.

The rest of the day was spent wandering until we made our way towards the train station and headed to our next destination: Trier. According to a friend of

mine who was studying abroad in Germany, Trier was the place to

Quaint Trier

Quaint Trier

go if we wanted the traditional German experience. The oldest town in Germany, it is full of history: a cathedral, old town square, Basillica dating back to the 4th century, and the Roman baths. After hopping off the train and making our way to our last minute airbnb, we realized that Trier was the perfect place for us girls to spend a weekend. It was calm, traditional, quaint, and the most important part– it had delicious gelato.   

We still did not really have a plan at this point, but we just spent the rest of our weekend exploring. When we passed the palace and gardens, we took time for a photo op. When the rain began to pour, we found a local cafe that served Wiener-Schnitzel. When our feet began to drag, we found an international music festival to sit down and listen to.

The unexpected and unplanned weekend was a little anxiety-filled for me at first, but I could not think of a better memory to look back on. So I guess these train strikes are not as unfortunate as I thought. I was with three wonderful friends enjoying company and culture. We might not have made it to the castle of Neuschwanstein or the city of Munich, but I think our adventure in Koblenz and Trier made up for it. No train strikes could bring us down.

Praha

Posted by Morgan

Being a student at Georgia Tech is challenging, stressful, tear-jerking, and let’s face it, at times it makes you question why you decided to put yourself through such misery. I was asking myself this exact question, “Why did I choose Georgia Tech?,” as I downed my coffee, pried open my eyes, and hit the books during finals week.

I knew that my summer semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine was ensuing and I needed to start planning trips in advance so I could try and save what little money I had, but of course my studies took precedence. It wasn’t until three days before I left for France that my friend and I randomly decided we wanted to fly to Prague for our first weekend in Europe.

It was a spontaneous decision to say the least. I was sitting down watching “Chasing Liberty,” a clichéd but enjoyable chick flick that follows a rebellious teenager as she travels around Europe.

All I needed to see was the Charles Bridge, and that was it. I wanted to go to Prague. The clichéd “rom-com” had sold me on some destination I knew very little about, but it was new, different, and fun, which was exactly what I wanted after finals. Next thing I knew, a week later my best friend, Mirna and I were strolling the streets of Prague.

I am fortunate enough to say that I have traveled to many different places in Europe, but never have I been to a place as magical as Prague. You see, when you walk around Atlanta, or Amsterdam, or Barcelona, even some place as beautiful as London, you come across those buildings that try so hard to be the quintessential piece of modern art when in actuality they are nothing more than an ugly brown cube.

The same could not be said for Prague.

I saw only one ugly building–only one ugly building in the entire city. I know that sounds superficial and inconsequential, but believe me, it was a wonderful surprise. Perhaps that is why our trip was so enjoyable having had little to nothing planned. Everywhere we looked there was an old, beautiful piece of history. Even the McDonald’s was coated in ornate, romanesque architecture. It was just so easy to live in the moment, forget about the worries of school, and enjoy the beauty around us.

The cheap yet delicious food definitely helped intensify this atmosphere. When walking around old town for example, Mirna and I stumbled across a charming traditional Czech dessert. At first we were taken aback. What were this things? They looked like ice cream cones but they were being roasted over the fire. We figured the only way to answer our question was to perform a professional taste test! I can safely say that they were worth the few euro.

When our trip was coming to an end, we decided to celebrate our first successful adventure (no passports or money was lost, no people were injured!) with a traditional Czech dinner. We ate in a Ratskeller and oddly enough were seated next to two recent UGA graduates.

Of course, we took this opportunity to tease them over the rivalry, a rivalry they could care less about, but they had no qualms in admitting the supreme intelligence of our school (even though they believed their football team to be superior). It was a fun experience to be half-way around the world but still be so connected to our roots.

As I endured the laborious and long journey back to Metz, I thought back to that horrible time during finals week. This was why it was all worth it. This experience. This education. This adventure. Even our new University of Georgia friends seemed to agree.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Vicki Birchfield

Name: Dr. Vicki Birchfieldfd1d715c2a5b1582-8a5ff

Position: Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs; co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies; affiliated with the Jean Monnet
Centre of Excellence

Favorite color: hues of blue

Favorite food: French cuisine – especially “les fruits de mer,” a.k.a., seafood, and above all lobster

Interests/hobbies: Paris marathon in 2001, Chicago/Atlanta half – yoga, cooking, reading, theater/arts

Educational institutions:

Auburn University – Bachelors;

Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) – Diplôme d’études supérieur;

Auburn University – Master’s thesis on French women in electoral politics in political science;

University of Georgia – PhD in comparative political science in international relations

 

Throughout middle school the running joke was that teachers had a blow-up air mattress beneath their desks – and so basically did nothing outside of the classroom. Ha-ha, so funny! Except that’s never the case, and we knew it. Even in college, we don’t see half of what our professors are up to. All people are more interesting once you’ve taken time to get to know them: they have stories and perspectives different from anyone else. And now, let me assure all you middle schoolers: teachers are way cooler than you think.

Take Dr. Vicki Birchfield, for instance. She’s a co-teacher for the International Affairs class, and because the class is co-taught, we haven’t spent as much time in the classroom with her, but I got the chance to sit down and talk to her just a bit ago.

Our International Affairs class centers around the politics of the European Union in terms of Metz and the region of Lorraine. The inspiration of Professor Sonia Serafin, the other co-teacher of the class (and one of the French teachers here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine), brought this class to life, and Professor Birchfield helped to create a curriculum to fulfill the Global Perspectives requirement. The region of Lorraine has a rich history in terms of the European Union, and they know it. In fact, that’s what Professor Birchfield really wants GTL students to tap into: there is so much information and history at our fingertips.

Dr. Birchfield believes strongly in the value of a higher education – but also knows that there is a privilege to it, and coupled with it the “responsibility to be critical consumers of information and formulate one’s own view.” As this world become more and more saturated with information, it becomes harder to discern the factual, unbiased truth, but equipped with the tools of education, we can dig a little deeper for a better understanding.

That’s part of what she tries to bring to Georgia Tech-Lorraine with her class: the opportunity to bring the history of the European Project to life through site visits and class discussions. She creates this during her summer program in both Paris and Brussels, which takes 300 students to discover what Europe is – both culturally and politically. That’s also why she finds teaching one of the most rewarding part of her position in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs: opening their minds to the complexity in a career to essence of the life of the mind. She can bring her passion in her research into the classroom, and this coexistence between the spheres is beneficial, as it inspires a deeper conversation.

The mark of full professorship requires dedication in the three spheres of the position: education, research, and service. Dr. Birchfield has worked since 2000 at the Sam Nunn School an instructor, making waves along the way. Today, she runs a summer study abroad program, is affiliated with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, and has multiple publications. With all of the dedication she’s brought to her career and to Georgia Tech, Dr. Birchfield has been awarded full professorship, and it’s understandable that achievement represents one of her most cherished professional achievements.

However, when I asked the question “What is your biggest accomplishment?” that wasn’t her first response. In fact, she believes her greatest success lies in “the deep joy and fulfillment in relationships,” especially with her family. She’s accomplished quite a bit, but her husband and daughter bring her much happiness.

Another great source of pride is the being inducted as a Chevalier into l’Ordre Nationale du Mérite of France in 2012. Dr. Birchfield studied French extensively, even attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland for her Diplôme d’études supérieur. As a bit of a Francophone myself, this would be a wonderful dream come true: to be recognized by a country and culture that you’ve studied, lived in, and loved. For all the work she has done to promote understanding and the studies of France and Europe, she has been knighted by the country of France in a National Order of Merit created by Charles de Gaulle himself. If that’s not an indicator that you’re making an impact, I don’t know what is.

Her work is reflected across the Georgia Tech-Atlanta campus. She works closely with the French Consulate and, on top of her work with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, she organizes speakers – from diplomats to a panel of speakers on “Brexit” (the impending vote of the British people on their future in the EU) to a Danish filmmaker who created a documentary on the Denmark refugee dilemma.

So, yes, Dr. Birchfield has accomplished so much, but she has a life outside of work, too. Currently, she loves a good yoga session, and in years past, she’s run quite a bit, participating in the Chicago Half and the Paris Marathon. She really enjoys cooking, as well as reading and the arts – especially theatre! (The Atlanta theater scene is vibrant, and I love volunteering at a theater near Georgia Tech, so I was elated to hear this.) She’ll be spending some time here in France, though, so that will have to be explored when she returns to Georgia Tech-Atlanta. She loves travel just as much as the rest of us at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, too: her favorite places? Definitely in France: the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the Emerald Coast of Brittany, and Belle-Île, a small island off of the coast of Brittany.

Page 2 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén