With remnants of the Roman Empire, buildings and concentration camps from Germany’s occupation during World War II and a cathedral of the 16th century, Metz, France symbolizes hundreds of years of Europe. Traveling to a history oceans away seems difficult to the average student, but Tech students have been able to experience participate in the Georgia Tech Lorraine study abroad program for over 20 years.
The program, which began as a graduate program for EE majors, has expanded to include undergraduate ME, ECE, CS, ISyE and LCC courses.
Sandra Song, the Georgia Tech Lorraine director of communications, cites the practicality of the courses available, especially a French course that allows students to develop skills applicable to their time abroad.
The program, which is offered to students during not only the summer semester, but also the fall and spring semesters, has consistently increased enrollment over the past few years.
“Over the past 20 years, the program has evolved tremendously,” Song said.
Over 220 students applied to participate in the summer program, and this number does not include transient students from other universities, such as Vanderbilt, Duke and the University of Virginia.
While the last fall and spring programs each enrolled approximately 30 students, 60 students filed applications for this semester’s spring program.
Song believes the fall and spring semesters are significantly more beneficial to a student’s international experience than the summer program.
“We call it the ‘American bubble,’” Song said of the summer program.
During the summer, 220 students leave America together, populate dorms during a time when French students have left campus, pack traveling and taking classes into a three-month time frame and return home, according to Song.
However, during the fall and spring semesters, the smaller group of students can interact with the French students on the campus and spread traveling and learning out over a course of six months. The class sizes are also significantly smaller, offering more interaction with faculty members.
Song notes that most who study abroad through the Lorraine program return with a higher GPA because they have to manage their time well to do well in classes and travel.
In addition to participation and course expansion, research opportunities are becoming increasingly abundant at Tech.
Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and several French dignitaries recently signed a contract to establish the LaFayette Institute “to function as an economic development engine that capitalizes on research at Georgia Tech Lorraine,” according to Song.
The most difficult aspect of program expansion is faculty recruitment, according to Cathy Bass, International Student Advisor for Georgia Tech Lorraine.
“The problem is finding faculty to go over [to Metz] for a semester or two,” Bass said.
However, Song notes that the few faculty members who do work for the Lorraine program enhance it because these professors truly get excited about traveling far away to Tech.
The program itself, which requires applications, is not competitive, as it requires a 2.3 GPA and a clean disciplinary record.
As part of the Strategic Plan, the goal is to provide all Tech students with international experiences. However, the number of transient students has been increasing over the past few years as well, and Song predicts limiting transient students’ entrance in the near future to allow more Tech students to participate in the program.
Furthermore, to promote the program in the future, Song plans to offer information sessions for students immediately upon their entrance to Tech to put the program on “their radar and their parents’ radar” early on to allow for planning ahead.