GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: May 2019

Strasbourg – Week Two

Bonjour! My name is Audrey Clark and this past weekend, the study abroad program visited the Franco – Prussian War museum in Gravelotte. This museum provided information on the history between Germany and France. The Prussian army was led by Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck used France as an issue to rally the fragmented German states to unify around. The Prussians won the Franco – Prussian war and gained territory in France. The territory of Alsace-Lorraine, underwent German occupation in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War, then in 1919 after WWI the territory was reunited with France, then to Germany again during WWII in the 1940s, and finally back to France in 1945 at the end of WWII. This German influence is evident in the architecture and culture of the regions. In our home of Metz in Lorraine, we see German influence in the train station since that was the imperial district for the Germans.

On Saturday, we visited Strasbourg which is the capital of the Alsace region. The German architectural influence was ever present throughout this city. Strasbourg is also home to one of the European Union Parliamentary buildings. This was a very exciting building to tour especially since the EU parliamentary elections concluded on Sunday. This election featured higher voter turnout than the previous year. There was an increase in the representation of populist and nationalist parties from 20% to 25%. This might not have a significant impact in the parliament since they have trouble organizing. The most important takeaway from these election was the message they sent to state’s individual governments. In France and Italy, the far right parties gained traction. A week before the election there was a pro-right rally held in Milan by Italian nationalist Salvini and featured notable nationalist from around Europe such as Geert Wilders (Netherlands) and Marine Le Pen (French). These nationalist leaders are eurosceptics which means that they wish to decrease the power of the European Union and increase the power of the Nations. It will be interesting to see the political landscape of Europe evolve on this trip.

On Sunday, we visited the house of Robert Schuman in Scy-Chazelles. This was a very humble, serene, and beautiful home. Robert Schuman was truly a citizen of the world. His father was born a french citizen in Lorraine but became German due to the annexation after the Franco – Prussian war. He then left to live in Luxembourg where Robert Schuman was born. It is said that when Robert Schuman mowed the lawn he crossed the border between Luxembourg and Germany. This unique childhood exposure to three different european countries shaped his idea of what is was to be European and neither french nor german nor luxembourgish. He was a very religious man and after his mother’s death he almost entered priesthood. Instead, with encouragement from his friends, he followed his passion for law and politics. He was Prime Minister of France twice, Foreign Minister, and Minister of Finance. His most important contribution was as Foreign Minister on May 9, 1950 when he proposed the “Schuman Plan”, this called for a European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 that was the precursor the European Economic Community in 1956 and the European Union in 1993. May 9th, is celebrated as Europe day in honor of this historic speech. Throughout his life in politics he always stayed humble and rode public transportation to stay connected to the citizens he served. In 1960, the European Parliament awarded him the official title, “Father of Europe.” He then passed away in 1963 at his home in Scy-Chazelles. We had the honor of visiting his grave across the street from his home.

Metz- Week One

On May 13th, 22 GT students began the Nunn School’s EU Study Abroad Program in Metz, France where we are based for the first month. Professor Birchfield, who directs the program, is in residence at the GTL campus, so students have all the resources, classrooms and dorms that GT’s European campus has to offer. I attended the program in 2017 as an undergraduate student the first year that the program was in Metz. Now, I am very excited to be attending as the Graduate Program Assistant. The program is designed to provide students with an in-depth and highly interactive introduction to the European Union, human rights and security issues in Europe, and EU-US relations.  As a region heavily involved in the Franco-Prussian War (or The War of 1870), World War I, and World War II, there is no better place to begin learning about all these topics than Metz!

Once we were settled in, we started the study abroad with a historical walking tour of Metz. My favorite place to visit in the city is the Metz Cathedral. During the wars in Metz, the stained glass windows were covered in order to preserve them; however, some of them were destroyed regardless. To replace them, the city chose to get new windows made by modern artists. As a result, the cathedral has a wonderful mixture of very classical stained glass windows and more abstract ones. Knowing the history of why that is makes it all the more interesting.

The next day, we all attended the official GTL orientation before beginning our first day of class. One of the professors at GTL went over some cultural experiences that GTL makes available to Georgia Tech students, including a free concert in the cathedral, weekly drawing classes, and a trip to a local farm to pick fruits, vegetables, and flowers. After orientation was through, we held a brief class to discuss more of the historical significance of the Lorraine region in the initial forming of the European Community (which later became the EU). That night, GTL invited all students to go on a bus tour of the city where we got a chance to see areas that we had not been able to on the walking tour, such as the German Quarter that was built when the Germans occupied Metz in the period between the War of 1870 and World War I.

The following days were full of classes. To understand the formation and transformation of the European Union and its institutions, it is important to first learn about the “founding fathers of the EU”, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and the treaties that followed it. I am in the fortunate position of getting a refresher of this history in class, as this is my second time on the program. My experience on the program in 2017 influenced me to focus on the Western European region in much of my subsequent research, so it is exciting to be back with much more knowledge than I had in 2017 on the significance of the EU.

Friday night, we went to the FC Metz game- the last home game of the season for Metz’s soccer team. This was the first international sporting event that I have attended, and a great way to end the first week of class!

On Saturday, the EU Program and other students taking the GTL 2000 class went to Trier, Germany- the oldest town in Germany. We had both a walking and bus tour, which allowed us to see many of the Roman ruins still scattered around the town. Two of my favorite sites on this trip were an old coliseum and Constantine’s throne room. The throne room was massive. According to the tour guide, those that entered the throne room could never turn their backs on Constantine, so they had to walk from the back of the room to the door backwards. The throne room has now been converted to a church for the people of Trier.

Finally, on Sunday, we went to the Centre Pompidou in Metz. It is very nice that Metz is the home to the only sister museum to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. As students on the program, we are given free entry to the museum, which has rotating modern art exhibits to explore. Currently there are two exhibits on display: Lee Ufan’s Inhabiting Time and The Adventure of Colour. My favorite was The Adventure of Colour; below are photos of two of my favorite pieces from the exhibit

Next week we will have class, a trip to Gravelotte, and a trip to Strasbourg to look forward to!

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