International Affairs EU Study Abroad Program Exposes Students to Intercultural Learning

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From Argentina to South Korea, study abroad season is in full swing at the Ivan Allen College as our students participate in a myriad of interdisciplinary programs all over the globe.

Students in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs’ European Union Program have enjoyed an especially exciting trip as they visited the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France during the institution’s recent elections, according to Nunn School Professor Vicki Birchfield and her students. 

The EU program, directed by International Affairs Professor and Center for European and Transatlantic Studies (CETS) Co-Director Vicki Birchfield, immerses students not only in the workings of the EU, but in the broader culture of Europe. This year’s cohort of the 10 week program includes 21 undergraduates, one graduate student, and a graduate program assistant.

“As a student pursuing a public policy major and an international affairs minor, studying the institutions, treaties, and common values that make up the European Union has not only widened my perspective about concepts that often seem far-removed, such as war and conflict, it has also caused me to question what it means to be an American citizen and global citizen in this current era,” said International Affairs undergraduate Kyle Smith.

Students spend the first four weeks of the program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Georgia Tech’s European campus in Metz, France, staying in dorms. Metz is well-situated for excursions throughout France. They also participate in home stays with European families during their six week stay in Brussels, where they are also treated to high-level site visits to EU institutions, foreign ministries, embassies, and NGOs. The program also features weeklong visits to Paris, Berlin, and other excursions throughout Europe where students receive instruction and lectures from other Ivan Allen College faculty.

Last week, International Affairs Professor of the Practice Robert Bell presented a program for students at the new NATO headquarters. In addition, International Affairs lecturer Eliza Markley is currently teaching two of the program’s courses. In weeks eight and nine of the program, CETS Postdoc Claire Greenstein will give students to an insider’s guide to Munich.

Another highlight includes a visit to the town hall of Metz, France, where students observed the EU election returns and mingled with the town’s mayor and other politicians, one of whom will welcome them next month at the French National Assembly when the program concludes in Paris. 

“As a student that has studied International Affairs and more specifically European Affairs for both an undergraduate and graduate degree, it is exciting and informative to be back in Europe learning from policy makers,” said graduate program assistant Hannah Kitzmiller. “The EU has the unique task of intaking the positions of 28 member states and over 510 million citizens to make the best policies for the region. Visiting EU institutions like the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the EU allows us to ask these policy makers directly how they are able to decide on these policies and what results they have seen come from their actions.”

Ivan Allen College Dean Jacqueline Royster also traveled to Brussels to visit with the students for several days in situ. Celebrating Belgian-American friendship, the families hosting students for the month-long stay in Brussels met Dean Royster as well as Benoit Standaert, former Belgian Consul General to Atlanta.

In addition, the families were able to join students for a private guided tour of the recently reopened, world renowned Royal Museum for Central Africa. In honor of his collaboration with Dean Royster and Standaert in their 2014 Africa Atlanta initiative which brought part of the museum’s collection to The Carter Center, museum Director General Guido Gryseels welcomed the group to a reception following the tour.  

“Although very different from the mainstay of our program, i.e., policy briefings at the EU institutions, government ministries, embassies and such, this experience facilitated what I believe is the true essence and added value of study abroad and intercultural learning: seeing the world from other peoples’ and cultures’ perspectives,” Birchfield said. “The Royal Museum of Belgium's transformation from its colonial origins to a modern, dynamic museum and research institute incarnates the Belgian spirit and society’s willingness to confront and debate its past and is an inspiration for all.”

Keep up with the program’s Instagram and blog for upcoming highlights including a visit to the Palace of Versailles on June 28th to participate in a symposium and ceremony commemorating the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:pdemerritt3
  • Created:06/24/2019
  • Modified By:Rebecca Keane
  • Modified:07/08/2019