GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: anonymous (Page 1 of 9)

Our Trip to Munich

Upon our arrival to Munich, our study abroad group was given background on our two main visits that would occur within our couple of days in this historical city. Our visit to Munich was in order to supplement our understanding of the creation and duration of Nazi Germany, as well as learning how this state resulted in the beginning of World War II. We began our journey to further understanding of Nazism with our visit to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, which was the pilot concentration camp that formed the method of how individuals would be treated at concentration camps during the Final Solution. This site is also a memorial to the 41,500 lives lost at this concentration camp.

Our study abroad group, accompanied by Dr. Claire Greenstein, a professor at Georgia Tech with a background in German history, began our visit with the film offered at the memorial site. This film gave an inside look as to how Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, followed by his dictatorship that created the Dachau Concentration Camp as one of its first projects. This concentration camp was first intended for political prisoners, which consisted of politicians and activists that held ideals that differed from the National Socialist Party. The identities expanded to include Jewish people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay men, and other minority populations in Germany by 1935 in order to promote a pure Germany. This film detailed the terrible conditions in which the prisoners were forced to endure and conveyed the feelings of hopelessness of all who were sent to Dachau. Following this film, we were given the opportunity to explore the memorial site and educate ourselves on the events that took place at this concentration camp, as well as the lessons learned from Germany after World War II.

Later in our visit to Munich, we attended a walking tour of the Third Reich. This tour supplemented our knowledge of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany with historical sight-seeing and an engaging tour guide to lead us around Munich. We began in the center of Munich, where we were given some background information on Hitler’s political career before he became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933. We learned that the well-known book, Mein Kampf, was written during his time in jail, where he had been imprisoned for his political views. This book contained the anti-Semitic ideology that Hitler later used as a tool to convince the German people that he held the solution to their economic crisis following World War I. We also visited a hotel that was the site in which a group of Hitler’s followers decided to dedicate their lives to protecting the Chancellor; these men were later known as Hitler’s secret service. The tour ended by the tour guide leading us to the location where the Nazi Party derived its origin story from. At this location, several Nazis were in armed conflict with other policemen that resulted in the death of six Nazi politicians. In order to honor the lives of these politicians, it was necessary to salute to their memorial as one would walk past this specific location. The photo below shows where this memorial was once placed.

This memorial had unintentionally created Dodger’s Alley, where those who did not wish to salute at this memorial would take an alternate route, which became very unsafe as the Nazi Regime took a stronger hold in Germany. Today, this site is often used as a place events that would have never been condoned under Nazi Germany, such as Munich Pride. This tour gave us an important understanding of what the Third Reich looked like for those who lived in Germany during that time, as well as an understanding of how present-day Munich addresses its past.

First Days in Romania!

This past Friday morning, we flew from Brussels to Bucharest. Upon our arrival, we took the scenic route to our hotel during which Alina Opreanu, an Atlanta staff member for Georgia Tech Lorraine who was born in Romania, pointed out some of the major landmarks in Bucharest.  As the sixth largest metropole in the European Union and the capital of Romania, Bucharest has a lot to offer including Herăstrău Park, Piața Victoriei (Victory Plaza), and Piața Revoluției (Revolution Plaza).  One thing that I found really interesting during our tour was when Alina Opreanu explained the French influences in Bucharest which is sometimes referred to as “Little Paris”.  We saw the Arc de Triumph, similar to the one in Paris, and the Piața de Charles de Gaulle, named after the former French president.

Route of our bus tour

After touring the city and stopping by the hotel, we went out to dinner at a restaurant called Caru’ cu bere.  We got to try traditional Romanian food such as mititei (skinless sausages), sarmale (stuffed cabbages), and mămăligă (a type of polenta).  It was all delicious!  Like the food, the atmosphere of the restaurant was also amazing with live dance performances which I really enjoyed.  After dinner, we walked around downtown Bucharest and got to enjoy a light and fountain show.  It was a nice welcome and perfect ending to our first day in Romania.

Traditional Romanian food!

The next day, we visited the Palace of the Parliament.  Finished in 1997, it is the second largest administrative building besides the Pentagon in the United States and is larger than 60,000 square meters in size.  We took an hour tour, walked about one kilometer, and still only saw about 5% of the building; it truly is a massive building!  The inside was just as impressive as the size with beautiful chandeliers, marble staircases, and spacious conferences rooms.

Walking into the Palace of the Parliament

Tour in the Palace of the Parliament

After our tour of the Palace of the Parliament, we went to the “Dimitrie Gusti” National Village Museum where we got to see and walk inside some of the actual houses from villages around Romania.  It was interesting to see how the style of housing changed based on the time period and the location it was built in.  My favorite house was the Half-Buried House, as shown below, which was built in the early 19th century in southwest Romania.

Walking into the Village Museum

The Half-Buried House!

Later that day, we visited the National Museum of Contemporary Art which is located in the Palace of Parliament.  Started in 2001, this museum displays around 30,000 Romanian and international artworks in all different styles and time periods from the 1920s to the present.  One of my favorite exhibits was called “Seeing History-1947-2007” which includes artworks that celebrate the history of contemporary artwork in Romania.

Contemplating contemporary art with Dr. Markley 

Our next day in Romania was a free day.  A group of students decided to travel to the Transylvania region to go on two castle tours.  First of all, we went to Bran Castle which was built in 1377.  This castle is referred to as Dracula’s Castle because it was possibly the source of inspiration of the novel, Dracula.  It was fascinating to hear about this legend while enjoying the beautiful views from the castle. Next, we went to Peles Castle which was built in the late 19th century by King Carol I of Romania.  It was the first castle to have electricity in Europe, has a central heating system, and an opening stain glass roof.  The interior is magnificently decorated with impressive wood, mirror, and silk detailing in its 160 rooms.  Our daytrip to see the castles was a nice break from the busy city and a great chance to explore the beautiful countryside of Romania!

At Peles Castle!

Overall, during our first days in Romania, we’ve done a lot to explore the city of Bucharest and its surrounding areas.  With our program’s focus on the European Union, it is very appropriate to be visiting Romania at this time.  In earlier lectures, we learned that the Council of the European Union has a rotating presidency that lasts six months, and Romania just recently finished their term.  We’ve been able to see all of the remnants of their presidency still around Bucharest including signs on buildings and in the Palace of the Parliament.  One of my favorite things about this study abroad program is how we connect what we learn in a classroom to the real world, and our experience in Romania is another example of that wonderful opportunity.

The signs for the Romanian Presidency can be seen everywhere!

There are even signs in the Palace of the Parliament

Brussels Regional Parliament

Located at 77 Rue du Lombard, the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region serves as the governing body for the Brussels area, one of three regions that make up Belgium. The parliament is housed by two beautiful buildings of contrasting nature.


The older of the two buildings was the former Governor’s Palace. Entering the building off of a street inspired by the work of Haussmann in Paris, we were greeted by a historic marble entrance hall where we met the President of the Parliament and Host Mother to one of our students, Julie de Groote. To begin the visit, she took us on a short, informative tour of the building. She showed many different rooms, a dining room where she has hosted heads of states, one called “little Versailles”, and pieces of art all along the way.

Next, we proceeded to the newer Parliament building. When the building was under construction, a modern style was chosen to represent the evolving nature of democracy. The contrasting extravagant, gold plated design of the old building with the sleek, clean design of the new building is meant to represent the ever-changing work that the parliament does every day. Additionally, there was a large shift in the decoration of this building. Mrs. de Groote told us that when decorating the building, local artists were asked to “occupy” each room. This lead to some thought- provoking designs. For example, in one of the commission rooms, there was a modern depiction of the famous Manneken Pis standing next to Erasmus, the founder of humanism, representing various elements of the common Brussels spirit. Also, in the center of the room, a large concrete block hangs from a thread. This is meant to convey that the heavy, difficult process of democracy is often only held together by a small thread. In addition to the prominent symbolism at every corner of the building, it is sustainably constructed, using rainwater to power various functions throughout the building and lacking any central heating system.

After climbing a winding staircase to the top floor of the building, we arrived in the hemicycle of the parliament. Here Mrs. de Groote opened up the floor to questions that we may have had for her. Students from our group asked her a wide variety of questions, ranging from tensions between urban and rural Brussels to women in politics. In my opinion, the answers that Mrs, de Groote gave were detailed and informative. Once all questions were answered, she turned the tables and posed 3 different questions for us to think about. First, is it beneficial to have an obligatory vote? Second, she asked us to think about President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” and what “Great Again” actually means for the future of the United States. She ended the tour with one final question, is it possible to speak about civil liberties in a world where social media is so prevalent? We were not required to answer any of the questions right then, but just to think about them and determine what our personal responses would be.

Overall, I found this site visit to be extremely interesting and unique. It was such a privilege to be shown around by the President herself and it offered a perspective that we could not have gained from anyone else. As a host parent for the program, the tour felt even more personal due to this unique connection. This program focuses mainly on supranational European Union institutions, so it was nice to visit a regional government to see how the EU Member States are run on a more intimate level. Consequently, I think that understanding this concept will help us better visualize the true magnitude of the EU’s work.


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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