The first weekend of February is an exciting time for the scientific high schoolers of Metz. It’s the opportunity for them to see all of the great engineering and technology schools that are present. Centrale Supélec, Arts et Métiers, and even Georgia Tech Lorraine all host their open houses over the course of the weekend. The students get to have tours of the campus, mingle with current students, and see all of the cool stuff going on in the laboratory.

For Georgia Tech Lorraine, it is an opportunity to share with the community exactly what GTL is. No, it is not a separate university from the one in Atlanta. Yes, graduates receive a degree from “the real Georgia Tech” in Atlanta. Yes, classes are taught in English. All of these questions may seem more obvious to us, but French people are extremely proud of their education system (rightfully so), so they are not familiar with other systems – much like we don’t know much about others ourselves.

As part of my French class, I was given the daunting task of explaining the American education system, with an emphasis on university, in under 15 minutes. Our class worked together, over the course of two weeks, to prepare a PowerPoint. We spent hours deciding whether to explain quality points on GPA’s, how to best explain the process of high-stakes testing, and how to give the cost of universities without completely scaring them away. (For a public university in Europe, the cost of attendance is usually between 250-500 euros per semester.) After the presentation was ready, I was volun-told to be at the open house to present it to visiting high-schoolers.

When Friday rolled around, I was definitely nervous. We crammed a TON of information into the presentation, and I was going to have to present it six times, to a total of 150-ish people. However, as soon as I got to the GTL building, I was eerily calm. The presentations went well, although we were running on a 7-minute delay, so I really had to hurry through all of the information. Nonetheless, I think I was able to give the students, at least an idea, of how education works in the states.

Saturday, there were no organized visits. People were able to come in at their own pace, ask questions, and look around. Most of the people that came were students interested in engineering, however, there were some people that came by just to see what was GTL.

Now that all of the logistics is explained, I can move on to what I learned and observed from this open house. Lesson 1: the world is so small. I met a student that did a year-long exchange in Roswell, 15 minutes away from where I grew up, and we even had mutual friends on Facebook. I also met a girl who does the exchange program with my high school, so she has a pen-pal that is a current high-school student at Campbell, and I have been to her school before. It is just a reminder that you never know who you know, and you never know who knows who you know, you know?

Lesson 2: French education is like a self-serve ice-cream machine with 4 flavors, and the American education system is a visit to Menchie’s. Every school in the US has their own spin on scheduling, grading, courses offered, etc. In France, you choose your path for the baccalauréat and the rest is pretty standard.

Lesson 3: The French master’s students that are doing dual degree through GTL are geniuses. In order to do GTL, most of them have to make it through an “Ecole Prepa” and place in the top 15% or so on the national exams, then make it through 2 years at a top engineering school in France, and then be selected by their school and pass admission criteria by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. These kids are so, so smart.

In the end, la journée portes ouvertes was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the French education system and promote Georgia Tech across the Atlantic!