Connecting the New & Old with Innovation

GTL’s International Affairs (INTA2221) course takes learning outside the classroom with stops in France, Germany, and Luxembourg.

The Roman Baths in Trier, Germany.

Posted by Julie

Saturday morning began my first weekend travels while on board at Georgia Tech-Lorraine with a scheduled trip for my International Affairs class. Let me assure you, however, that despite not choosing the destination myself, I certainly enjoyed the destination: Trier, Germany. This oldest city in Germany hosts many other places – from basilicas to bridges to Roman baths – all a boasting part of the same epithet “the oldest.” It seems that everything in Trier is Europe’s oldest!

Yes, everything we saw was thousands of years old, but we connected with it because we as engineers build and sustain a lifestyle through that which we build, similar to the Romans and their aqueducts and baths. The preservation and history at the first layers of the city amaze me, and the more modern pieces sprung up around the centerpieces of a former culture. If anything, I think that shows that the plan of a Roman city is as useful and applicable to our needs today as they were in 300 AD.

The International Affairs class I am taking focuses on the European Union and its politics, and this visit to Roman ruins and the city built from them were meant to connect the past to the present to promote understanding of what the EU is as what it is remains under debate. By the comparison and contrast of these enormous powers and organizations, we start to draw lines between the two – lines which lend themselves to the definition of the European Union as well.

The European Union has always been this organization blooming on the other side of the ocean, unifying countries I’d only heard of in my history classes and shaping an entire continent. I knew little about it, except that I liked its initiatives, and it had many similar complaints lodged against it as the United States’ government. Now, the lettering in textbooks is morphing into a livelihood and culture.

Through this voyage, we learned a lot about what the EU is as a system of organization and legislation, but were able to see its effects in just our travels to Trier alone. We crossed the borders of three countries within a two hour bus ride without stopping for passport checks or border control. In fact, the border control checkpoints were almost all torn down – and the only one we saw was in the process of destruction! (I think the fact that we had visited three countries in two hours was a bit dizzying for me, as I would have to drive probably about a day or more to leave the United States from my home.) For our traditional German lunch of sauerkraut, bratwurst, and potato dumplings, we were able to pay with the same money we used in our home base of Metz.

Notifications from my friend’s phone company of changes in service country.

The ease of travel and experience was a beautiful benefit to the legislation brought into effect by the European Union, but we discussed the drawbacks as well. These drawbacks were seen in recent days, too, and are under fire due to happenings such as the Paris attacks. It was interesting to know that there is such a dramatic difference between the sides of this Euro coin.

On a serious note, this is also my plug for how beneficial traveling can be in terms of education and understanding of other cultures, lives, and viewpoints. Travel can not only be a wonderfully personal experience of something new, but also something so touching as interacting with someone else who lives and breathes a life and language different than one’s own is absolutely unforgettable.