GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: May 2014 (Page 3 of 3)

Students meet General Philip Breedlove, SACEUR

On Saturday, May 24, the students and faculty returned to SHAPE, but this time the host was General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Georgia Tech alum (Civil Engineering, 1977).  As befitting their host, the students got a detailed briefing from the general and his senior officers on the system (called the Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre) NATO has developed to assess and manage threats within Europe, the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and part of Asia. 

Briefing from General Philip Breedlove, SACEUR

Afterward, the students and faculty joined General Breedlove as well as dignitaries from Georgia Tech—including President Bud Peterson, Provost Raphael Bras, Executive Vice President for Research Steve Cross, Vice President for International Development Marta Garcia, Dean of Engineering Gary May, Nunn School Director Joe Bankoff, and Chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Reginald DesRoches—for a reception in the SHAPE Officer’s Club.


General Breedlove and President Peterson speak to students, faculty, and administrators


There, General Breedlove devoted the entire reception to talking with our students, and our students took every advantage of the opportuntity.


After the reception, General Breedlove made it very clear how impressed he was with our undergrads and the direction and development of the Nunn School.  Our students  represented themselves and the program very well indeed.  General Breedlove is Georgia Tech through and through, and his pride in GT and his home department (Civil and Environmental Engineering) was a treat to witness.

Some students also took the opportunity to meet with President Peterson.

In all, an amazing experience for students and faculty alike, and certainly one for a lifetime.


Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe

On Wednesday, the students visited the military side of NATO: Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).

Students and faculty at SHAPE with Lt. Colonel Ochyra

Along the way we passed the historic Waterloo battlefield.

Waterloo in passing on the bus to SHAPE

The headquarters was originally in Paris, but when France withdrew from NATO unified command in 1966, the headquarters moved Mons, Belgium, where it remains today.  We were hosted by two excellent officers: Lt. Colonel Claus Richter (Germany, middle of photo) and Lt. Colonel Miroslaw Ochyra (Poland, right side of photo).  The students also heard from Commander Krasimir Kiranov of the Bulgarian Navy (left side of photo).  The students had a very rich experience, with briefings from a range of officers on a number of aspects on the military side of NATO.  As usual in these types of situations, we cannot provide any further details on what the officers discussed.

Students have a chance to question officers at SHAPE

The first week in the EU

After getting settled in with their host families and acclimated to Brussels with a walking and bus tour, the students dove right in to learning about the EU and transatlantic relations. The students had their first official site visit, a day of meetings at NATO headquarters in which they met with the head of the Polish delegation as well as representatives from the US and French delegations.  They also had the opportunity to hear from a member of the international staff on issues in Russia and Ukraine.  Unfortunately the meetings were off the record, so we cannot disclose any more information about what was discussed.  But suffice it to say the students came prepared with excellent questions and represented Georgia Tech well.

Students and faculty in front of NATO headquarters


The next day the students had a tour at the European Parliament and briefing on structure of the institution as well as dynamics in the upcoming election.  One of the key takeaways from the meeting is the eclectic nature of the European Union an institution, particular the complex web of relations amongst nation states and the European collective as composed in the Commission, the Parliament and the Council.  This is a particularly exciting time to be in Europe with EU elections slated for May 22-25, the first since the Lisbon Treaty took effect in 2010.  As the election tagline goes, “This time it’s different” and the students have a great opportunity to see that in person.  Following the briefing, the students had the opportunity to take a first hand look at the Hemicycle, one of two locations (the other is in Strasbourg, France) where the entire elected body representing the peoples of Europe makes policy.  Interestingly the seats are broken into wedges for each of the major parties, and MEPs sit alphabetically from front to back, with their leaders at the front.


Students with professors Birchfield and Hayes line up with the flags of Europe


Students hear about the dynamics of the European Parliament in the Hemicycle

In the afternoon the students were treated to a guest lecture by Professor Mark Cottle from Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture on the Art Nouveau movement in Europe.  He highlighted the ways in which architecture, like other forms of art, often reflects the social, cultural, even political ideals and tensions of any period of time.  Art Nouveau, like the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK, arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in part as a reaction to the industrial revolution, and the style bears unique characteristics from that specific social and political milieu.  Thus, the students were also encouraged to consider the artistic and cultural influences of their generation.  Following the lecture, Professor Cottle took the students on a unique walking tour of Art Nouveau architecture in Brussels, including buildings designed and built by the famous Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta.


An example of Art Nouveau architecture from Professor Cottle’s walking tour of Brussels

The students had the weekend free, but many took the opportunity to attend the Europe Day – EU Open Doors, including a debate amongst members of the European Parliament on a wide range of issues confronting Europe.  On this day, the Parliament, Commission, and Council open their doors to the public with festivals, information sessions, and tours of otherwise off limit areas like the presidents’ offices, to allow citizens to better connect with the EU institutions.  The students and faculty on the program took full advantage of the opportunity, which included a rare sighting of Europe Man.


Welcome to GT in the EU

Welcome to GT in the EU.  This is the official blog of the only Georgia Tech study abroad program focused on the European Union.  Headed by Professor Vicki Birchfield, GT in the EU  is an extraordinary 10-week program that gives students a hands on knowledge of Europe and the EU through a stunning range of experiential activities.  Students travel to Brussels, Paris, Berlin, and Metz.  There they meet with government officials, EU policy makers and representatives from NGOs and corporationswhile living with host families that give student participants unparalleled exposure to local culture.  In addition, students earn credits for 4 courses: European institutions, EU/US relations, European Security, and human rights in Europe.  Here we post blog entries from our faculty and students reflecting on an amazing experience.

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