Beki Grinter

Georgia Tech Lorraine

In European Union, France on August 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

It’s the start of week 2, and we’ve been here exactly a fortnight (week 1 and the previous week getting settled in). For much of this blog that’s been focused on cultural adventures away from the office. This one is focused on the office itself.

Georgia Tech Lorraine is located on the edge of the city of Metz. It’s in something called the Technopole, which appears to be a concentration of Universities and high tech businesses. What I also suspect is that it’s an investment by the French government. I know that some of the support for GT-L comes from the French government, but I don’t understand the full history, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this investment is in the entire area. In fact, I think there was a celebration including information about this particular investment at the local Hypermarket, that would be Cora. Interesting that the hypermarket is also celebrating the government’s investment in the development of the Technopole. I struggle to imagine WalMart having a similar display about the State of Georgia’s investment in a particular development near to the store, for example.

Students at Georgia Tech Lorraine frequently have affiliations with other Universities around here, most notably the Engineering Schools of Superlec and ENSAM. On top of this, these two schools start at a different time (not surprising really since GT-L starts in the middle of the French holiday of August, perhaps that’s one way you can tell that its really an American organization?). So, scheduling classes involves finding times that work with the other schools around here so that the students can actually go to all of their classes. Not surprisingly, there are two times that seem to work really well. ¬†Lunch time and evening. And I take from this two things. First, that the schools and the people in them observe the 2 hour lunch time, so GT-L can take advantage of that and schedule the students for that time. Note that neither GT-L or GT-A observe lunch. I’ve taught over lunch in the past, this is no different, but I wonder whether it is for the students who are from the Metz locations.

Evening is also an interesting one. Dinner begins at 7pm here, and GT-L also seems to have slots between 5:30 and 7. I see people working in retail at that time, so clearly it’s possible to consider this as the end of the work day, rather than beyond the end of the working day. But the Schools don’t have classes, or more accurately, they don’t seem to have enough that our ability to schedule is affected, since we’ve gone ahead and added classes then. So I am curious about the “normal” parameters of the French University student’s day. Are they shorter than the average working day of the French person, are they moved in some way (perhaps students begin earlier in the morning than the shops of Metz).

Time is cultural, and I am trying to deduce some things about the structure of the day here.

Another thing that is cultural is not planning for air conditioning. In the North of France I guess you could argue that it doesn’t really get hot for a super long period of time, so why bother. Although of course, given that France produces much of its electricity from nuclear power (and for some reason I’m under the impression that it’s quite cheap here). So, airconditioning which is quite expensive, would be potentially cheaper here. I don’t think it’s terribly common in the South of France where I think it’s use would be far more popular given that it gets a lot hotter there and stays hotter for longer continuous periods. I’m very curious about airconditioning. I know that it would be expensive to retrofit houses for central AC, but there’s a noticable absence of the room based ones too, which do not have the same impact on the infrastructure.

A final question I have is where are the women? I’m teaching two classes in which I am the only woman. I’m sad about that. I don’t know why it’s the case here, and I’m not going to speculate. It’s a loaded question and it’s not my intention to provide answers to these sorts of questions speculatively and incorrectly. But it is a fact, and I’ll just say I miss the ladies.


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