Feb. 22, 2010
Leah Seupersad, 404-413-1354
Living in a castle is just one way eight Georgia State students have been immersed into learning about French politics, history and culture while studying abroad this semester. The students are participating in the European Union Studies Program in Strasbourg, France, one of the university's newest full semester study abroad programs.
The program, which was launched by the Department of Political Science in fall 2009, provides GSU students an opportunity to learn about politics and culture in Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe.
"The European Parliament is the world's only directly elected multinational parliament. This study abroad program provides an invaluable chance at experiential learning, and GSU students will return with a transformed global perspective" said William Downs, chair of the GSU Political Science Department and the program's director. "It's enormously gratifying for me to watch our students gain a passion for living and learning outside their normal comfort zone."
GSU students interested in political science, history, economics, foreign languages, human rights, and other associated fields can come to Strasbourg, and take courses taught in English at The University of Strasbourg, France's largest university with more than 43,000 students. Students take between four to five courses, which are taught by professors from Georgia State and the University of Strasbourg.
"The classes are manageable and very beneficial for my international business major," said 21-year-old Haley Tucker. "The countless opportunities to meet people from all over the world have blown me away. Everyone in our little group is so close to being adults out in the big world, but this opportunity has allowed us one more chance to put things in the right perspective and tweak our outlooks on the world we live in before we are hurled out into it."
By the time the Georgia State students return to campus in May, they will have visited the European Commission in Brussels, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. The students also have had the chance to attend a talk by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, accompany a candidate in Germany's parliamentary elections on the campaign trail, and take a solemn tour of World War II's westernmost concentration camp.
"I am planning to study international law, so having a good understanding of European culture and systems will help me with my career goals," said Massiel Silva, a political science and Spanish major from the Dominican Republic. "I also enjoy traveling and experiencing different cultures and because Strasbourg is right in the center of Western Europe, the city was the perfect place to go study abroad."
For 22-year-old Miracle Jones, traveling to Strasbourg was her first chance to travel outside the United States before she graduates.
"I have been able to meet people from all over Europe, experience the social structures, and see how they differ from the U.S.," said Jones, who's majoring in political science. "What GSU students should know about study abroad anywhere is be prepared to see things that are drastically different from home and be ready to learn and emulate the local culture. The program is good for people who want a structured introduction to a new place, while still having the freedom to explore and travel on your own."
A highlight of the program for all of the students has been living in the Château de Pourtalès, a castle which was built in 1750 by the wealthy industrialist Bussière family from Strasbourg. Between 1870 and 1914, Château de Pourtalès was an important meeting center of European nobility. The castle, which is nestled in a park, has since been transformed to meet the needs of students, including dormitory rooms, classrooms, lounges, a computer lab, a library, laundry facilities, a breakfast room and a TV lounge.
"Strasbourg is a very particular city. The mixture of French and German architecture and history makes the city a beautiful symbol of European unity," Silva said."We all love the Château de Pourtalès. It's a beautiful piece of architecture that makes the experience special and genuine."