Oct 13, 2021 | Metz, France
Each fall, for the past several years, Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have been taking learning outside the classroom and into the community with the Serve-Learn-Sustain France program. Students who are at an intermediate level of French (French 2001-2002) or above can participate in this unique program taught in French, deepening their knowledge of French language and culture through experiential learning focused on sustainability.
This year, the program is led by Dr. Stéphanie Boulard, Associate Professor of French in the School of Modern Languages and Faculty Affiliate of the Atlanta Global Studies Center. After working with Dr. Boulard on sustainability topics in the classroom, students use their new-found knowledge and cultural savoir-faire to participate in service-learning projects in the community.
Students are introduced to several local organizations that present opportunities to volunteer in Metz. The Oppidum organization, a community compost garden, is one of them and SLS-France students are given an opportunity to volunteer there. This organization was created by Dr. Jean-Jacques Gaumet, a chemistry professor at the University of Lorraine, who has been a loyal partner of the SLS-France program since the beginning, and his wife. This is now one of 5 composting sites in Metz, a smart city increasingly dedicated to sustainability. The SLS students were not afraid to get their hands dirty to learn about the different stages of the composting process. Savannah Simpson, SLS blogger and an LMC major, was enthusiastic about the visit - “While we were at the garden, at least six locals showed up with their buckets of compostable waste. I thought it was so cool to see the community actively participating!”
Another outing took students into the city center to the non-profit organization, Carrefour, where SLS students learned about the struggles of minors and young adults, as they adapt to the social and professional needs they face while integrating into the community. Students can volunteer to help younger children, often from immigrant families, or assist older youth with sports, art, or music classes. Upcoming field trips and visits include, Association Metz à Vélo (a biking community); the Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant, as well as two recycling facilities, Haganis, a waste water recovery center, and Méthavalor, a biomass recycling center.
With hands-on exposure to living a more sustainable life that so far has included everything from making their own laundry detergent and toothpaste, to cooking plant-based meals with zero-waste, is it any wonder that students are thinking about sustainability even on their weekend travels? Visiting the Mer de Glace (sea of ice) in Chamonix, France at Mont Blanc one group of students clearly saw the devastating effects of climate change on the retreating glacier. And in Nice, another student jumped into the sea to retrieve a glass bottle, proudly depositing it into a recycling bin. Now, when they travel, they buy and eat local food, and even measure their carbon footprint! It’s clear that the SLS-France Immersion program will have a lasting impact on students.
As if making a difference were not enough, SLS students were mentioned in a recent article in the regional newspaper, Le Républicain Lorrain, for their participation in efforts to help plant urban forests through an initiative with Motris and10,000 Arbres pour 10,000 Enfants (10,000 Trees for 10,000 Children) that engages the Metz community in the collaborative planting of trees. People of all ages, including Georgia Tech-Lorraine students, came together to learn about ecology while creating an urban forest for future generations at Parc du Sansonnet and Parc Paul Joly.
The SLS-France program is now accepting applications for Fall 2022. Students can sign up for an educational and unforgettable semester, led by Dr. Christophe Ippolito, Professor of French in the School of Modern Languages. For more information, please visit the SLS-France program website, or contact Allie Crain at the Georgia Tech-Lorraine office in Atlanta.
by Andrea Gappell, Georgia Tech-Lorraine