Students navigate classes on Tech international campuses amidst COVID-19 concerns

A building on Tech’s Lorraine campus is shown above. Students were welcome back on campus this past week. // Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech Lorraine

While students in Atlanta maneuver testing sites, online classes and shifting housing announcements, other Tech students experience life as a Yellow Jacket taking classes on two different continents.

Georgia Tech-Shenzhen started classes on Aug. 17 in their three-building campus in southeastern China.

The 98 first-year students attend classes in an area that remains largely untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shenzhen was called a “model for successful prevention and control,” in a press release at the beginning of the month.

“COVID-19 is quite under control in China,” said Dr. Tong Zhou, director of GT-Shenzhen in an interview with the Technique.

“The most recent guidelines issued on August 27 by the Chinese Ministry of Education for educational institutions indicate that masks are no longer required on campus. Social distancing is no longer required either, although we have thinned our GT-Shenzhen classroom density by 50% to ensure one-meter separation among students.”

The campus also sports newly installed infrared body temperature monitors in both the classroom and dormitory spaces.

Students experiencing visa issues or other difficulty were permitted to enroll in Atlanta-based classes while living and studying at the Shenzhen campus for the first time this fall.

Many classes are taken remotely, but the campus offers an in-person experience through recitations, professor-led discussions or review sessions.

Yixin Gu, first-year CS, is from Shanghai and could not obtain a valid F1-visa to travel to the U.S.

“I am still adapting to university life,” he said. “All of the lectures are delivered remotely with some being synchronous so staying up late to attend the class is needed, while the studios and recitations are in person such that we could communicate with our TAs face to face.”

On the weekends, he and other students enjoy the shopping and food around campus in Shenzhen, especially the pizza and ramen.

“If I have an effective visa, I am willing to travel to Atlanta for the 2021 Spring semester,” he said. “I do have some safety concerns because there are a large number of students at Tech. But with proper social distancing regulations the safety hazard might not be severe.”

Halfway around the world, Tech students were also welcomed to Metz, France on Sunday to participate in Georgia Tech-Lorraine (GTL) early this week.

This fall, the GTL cohort comprises 136 undergraduate and graduate students.

Some traveled from Atlanta looking for an immersive international experience. The number also includes international first-year students and undergraduates who were unable to travel to Atlanta for the fall semester due to the pandemic.

Over half of the students on campus are graduate students on campus this semester, including many dual-degree masters students who are primarily from Europe and North Africa.

Much work has been put in to make this program take off this fall despite coronavirus-related challenges.

Incoming students will be in the country for under 90 days, and are exempted from France’s travel bans due to their student status.
“Georgia Tech-Lorraine is a campus abroad rather than a study abroad program and this gives us more autonomy,” wrote GTL communications manager Andrea Gappell.

“Administrators from Georgia Tech in the U.S. and in France have been carefully monitoring the pandemic with the safety of students in mind, and we are happy to be able to welcome students to the campus for Fall and beyond with coronavirus safety protocols in place.”

Protocols include receiving a negative COVID-19 test before departing from the States, and GTL will use the same mask-policies and social-distancing policies as the Tech campus in Atlanta.

Classes were held remotely during week one and are expected to resume in person Sept. 7.

Students from America in particular are excited to get to take advantage of the opportunity to travel during the strictly-regimented pandemic era.

“I chose to go to GTL, because I am fascinated by the history and culture that is around every corner in Europe,” wrote fall 2020 student blogger Kaela Mijos, third-year MGT from Lawrenceville.

“The GTL campus is at the center of Europe: a practically perfect location. Just three hours from Paris and very close to Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. I am extremely excited to see the places I have spent my life reading about and pinning.”

According to the director Catherine Bass, students will be allowed to travel in small groups on weekends.

“The pandemic challenged us to look for new pathways for international students who were unable to obtain visas to study in Atlanta this fall or for the Atlanta students who wanted to study abroad,” said Yves Berthelot, Vice Provost for International Initiatives, and President of Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

“We were able to accommodate them on the Lorraine and Shenzhen campuses.

It is a great start in global engagement for first-year students and an incredible opportunity for all students to immerse themselves in a new culture while continuing the momentum towards their degree.”

For students in Atlanta looking for global engagement, communications manager Gappell strongly encourages Tech students to consider GTL.

“Apply by October 1 for the Spring semester, and you’ll be in France in January!” she said.

Undergraduate students should reach out to [email protected] with any questions.

Prospective graduate students should contact [email protected].