Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) France, a French Immersion Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, is based at Tech’s European campus in Metz, France. Nicknamed the “Green City,” Metz was recognized at the 2019 G7 Summit for its remarkable sustainability efforts, aligned with the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations in 2015.  The city offers Georgia Institute of Technology students the ideal environment to learn about sustainability first-hand while participating in hands-on community work through service-learning and using their French language and cross-cultural skills.

Students not only learn about sustainability, but also gain experience applying their language skills in a practical setting.

“I thought the course was going to be solely about sustainability. It was surprising that when we visited non-profit organizations such as Carrefour and Secours that we were also learning about social issues. It was my favorite class because I got to apply my French to something else that I’m passionate about,” said Raven Barnes, a student in the SLS France program.

Students in the program must take two French courses, one classroom-based and one field-based – France Today (FREN 3011) and Field Work Abroad (FREN 3500). After learning about the most pressing questions facing France in the FREN 3011 classroom, students gain experience serving the community through FREN 3500, working with numerous different local organizations. Projects include working in a local bike shop, assisting with a community garden, visiting schools teaching about the environment, and creating video footage for the environmental film festival Cinématerre.

“Our students have an amazing opportunity to learn about the strategies used by local communities, the city of Metz, and the Moselle region to reduce waste production, to develop low carbon and carbon neutral modes of transportation, to have low energy consumption buildings, and to fight against poverty, social inequality, and discrimination, all while improving their French and  gaining cross-cultural competency,” said Yves Berthelot, Vice Provost for International Initiatives and President of Georgia Tech Lorraine.

The program interweaves multiple aspects of sustainability, with students required to study advanced topics in French language and culture.

“We start the conversation by examining how different media sources present local and global sustainability efforts. Then we visit different sites around Metz and study the on-site implementation of best practices. When we come back to the classroom to continue the discussion, we focus on how the three elements of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic – are connected, and how decision-making impacts local communities,” said Tatiana Kozhanova, Director of GTL French Immersion Program for 2019.

Morgan Gallimore, Biomedical Engineering graduate and an alumna of the SLS France program, said a large part of sustainability efforts is becoming aware of the problem and learning about it from multiple perspectives.

“Integrating cultural components is a big part of the service projects in Metz, Gallimore said. “During the semester, we visited various trash and recycling sorting places witnessing what we as humans have done to the Earth and what we're doing to remedy the situation. Many of our trips are framed around learning, and learning is one of the most important things you can do to in terms of sustainability. We have to make people aware of the problems.”

Georgia Tech’s French Program is planning to continue its partnership with Georgia Tech-Lorraine and the Office of Serve-Learn-Sustain to offer the SLS France program during coming fall semesters.

“We are extremely proud of this innovative interdisciplinary program, which offers a unique immersive study abroad experience for STEM, Business, International Affairs, and Modern Languages students seeking to become global leaders in the sustainability sector by learning about cross-cultural and local solutions to 21st-century  grand challenges,” said Anna Stenport, Chair of the School of Modern Languages. “This is an excellent example of how the School is a national model in integrating career-oriented immersive language learning with business, technology, and sustainability studies.”