Work Abroad Students Meet World Leaders
Georgia Tech students meet Prime Minister of Ireland and President Bush while overseas
Posted July 29, 2008 | Atlanta
Each summer many Georgia Tech students opt to study and work abroad to enhance their skills and expand their global outlook. A few Georgia Tech students were excited to meet the Prime Minister of Ireland and United States President George Bush during their travels and work assignments.
This summer Georgia Tech biomedical engineering student Brian Srikanchana and aerospace engineering PhD student Jonathan Murphy have enjoyed exploring the town of Athlone, in the rural heart of Ireland while working abroad at Georgia Tech Ireland, the European applied research facility for the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). Srikanchana has found the villagers quite friendly, reminiscent of the southern hospitality back in Georgia. On jogs down rural roads, local residents would invite him in for tea and one even shared a "welcome to the neighborhood" head of lettuce, fresh from his garden.
One Saturday Srikanchana and Murphy met a local gardener, John Butler, who was planting flowers by a Norman castle from the 1100s AD, along the west bank of the Shannon river in the center of town. It turns out that Butler has been the past mayor of Athlone four times and his family has been in Athlone for generations. Srikanchana suggested that they meet for lunch some time to discuss the rapidly changing industrial landscape of Ireland and Athlone in particular. When he called Butler to set a lunch date, Butler told him to come by St. Mary's square two days later at a quarter till noon, since the Taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland, pronounced "TEA-SHOCK"), Brian Cowen, would be in town raising support for the Lisbon treaty. Butler said he would make an introduction, and he did.
At Georgia Tech Ireland Srikanchana mainly works on sustainable energy efforts. He is writing a literature review on the use of algae as a biofuel for automobiles and the production of hydrogen gas and has received training in two platform technologies, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), which Georgia Tech Ireland uses to address the needs of various academic and industrial groups throughout Ireland.
When asked about the highlight of his summer work abroad experience, Srikanchana says, "The best part, after having lived here for six weeks, is a certain feeling of interconnectedness with the world. To feel like you're a part of something beyond the boundaries of your town is quite fulfilling. Better yet, is the feeling you get from being engaged with a completely foreign environment, which prior to this point you had only read about in books and newspapers. Many call Ireland Europe's "Celtic Tiger" and you can see how rapidly the growing economy of Ireland is affecting the way of life of its citizens. Though I work in a business park, when I step outside from my office building, I can look across the street and see cows and sheep and horses in the fields. It's somewhat strange to think how the connections made now between America and Ireland through Georgia Tech, could affect the future landscape of the country, by affecting how technologies spread and how industry develops within Ireland."
Aerospace engineering PhD student Jonathan Murphy also met the Taoiseach, while working at Georgia Tech Ireland this summer to find funding to extend the energy system design and decision making work he has been doing at GTRI in Atlanta. He has enjoyed hanging out with new friends in local pubs, clubs and homes.
After studying abroad for a year in Paris, Georgia Tech senior Stephanie Provow began an internship in June with the U.S. Embassy in Paris' economic section. Provow, majoring in economics and international affairs with a minor in French, says, "This internship is perfect for my major, especially with the President of France, Mr. Sarkozy, as the President of the European Union. I know that my skills have been greatly enhanced through my study abroad, making me all the more prepared for my internship."
Provow has met a number of high-level leaders during her internship at the Embassy.
"My internship has taught me a lot about the U.S. Foreign Service, the economic relationship between France and the U.S., and the way the United States influences economic issues in France through outreach and public diplomacy including speeches and conferences," says Provow. "The most interesting part of my job is meeting the VIPs that come through Paris, such as the President and First Lady Bush and Secretary of State Rice. I have also been to conferences with many important French politicians, such as the Prime Minister."
When asked about meeting President Bush, Provow recalls how he took the time to get to know each individual at a special event for employees of the Embassy, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
"I got to shake Mr. Bush's hand three times and had a nice conversation with him. I remember living in Texas when he was Governor so I always knew I would have something to talk about if I actually did get to meet him," says Provow. "I held my hand out and he looked me in the eye and said, 'Hi. It's nice to meet you.' I said, 'It's great to meet you, too. You know, I was born in Granbury [a small town in Texas].' He smiled and said, 'Atta girl! So did you grow up in Texas?' I replied, "Yes sir, I did. In Colleyville.' He said, 'Oh, Colleyville. I know it. Well, did you stay to go to school or did you move away?' I said, 'Sadly, I moved away.' He said, 'Well, it's good to know there's another Texan in the crowd.' Then he signed a piece of paper I had out for an autograph, took a few pictures, and moved on to the next person."
Georgia Tech Work Abroad Program
The Georgia Tech Work Abroad Program in the Division of Professional Practice is an immersive academic program designed to complement a student's formal education with paid practical international work experience directly related to the student's major. The Work Abroad Program includes co-op, internship, graduate, and undergraduate work experiences. These international work assignments are designed to provide the ultimate work experience to include practical training, cross-cultural exposure and learning, and acquisition of the skills that will set apart the participating students from their peers. Opportunities are available during summer, fall, and spring semesters. The Work Abroad program may also be used to satisfy requirements for the International Plan, a Georgia Tech initiative that was launched in 2005 to offer a challenging academic program that develops global competence within the context of a student's major.