My Name Is: Gaëlle Belhseine
My Major Is: International Affairs and Modern Languages (French)*
My Hometown Is: Lawrenceville, GA
My Minor Is: Economics
*Alumna Update - Gaëlle received her degree in International Affairs and Modern Languages in the spring of 2013. After graduating, Gaëlle began her work with Teach for America. She is now a 3rd grade teacher for the Atlanta Public Schools.
I know who I am.
I am a first generation American with parents from Haiti and Morocco. I try to live my life as morally as possible. I love to sing and I try to spend as much time with my family as I can. I love Atlanta and am very grateful for everything I have been fortunate enough to have in life!
Being a first generation American has really shaped who I am today. Witnessing the struggles that people go through just to come to America for greater opportunity for themselves and their children is very inspiring. It has inspired me to be driven and focused towards my goals and has helped me in developing a strong work ethic. It has also taught me to not take for granted the opportunity that has been given to me by growing up in a first-world country.
How I Found Myself Applying to the Liberal Arts College of Georgia Tech
I have always been intrigued by the international community and very passionate about social and humanitarian issues. So naturally, when I was looking into majors and what to study in college, International Affairs was one of the few majors that combined these interests.
However, choosing to study Liberal Arts was a very difficult decision. In high school, I excelled more in science and math than liberal arts subjects. Still, I was more passionate about liberal arts than math or science. When I ultimately decided I wanted to study International Affairs in college, I did my research on both in- and out-of-state universities offering the major.
When doing my research, I found that Georgia Tech's Sam Nunn School of International Affairs is a member school of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). Member schools of APSIA are the primary sources of education for international affairs professionals in their respective countries.
In addition to the quality of education that the Sam Nunn School provides, after visiting the campus for a weekend, I decided Georgia Tech was the right choice for me. Since the campus is in the heart of midtown Atlanta, we are surrounded by great restaurants, amazing museums, beautiful parks, diverse cultures, and different events. Even though we are in the city, the Georgia Tech campus gives you that college feel with its trees and green spaces all over campus but barely any of the noise you get in the city. The campus offers you the best of both worlds.
I am a part of the Georgia Tech Honors Program
Being a part of the Honors Program has been an integral part of my experience at Georgia Tech. As part of the Honors Program, we are required to take 2 core classes (i.e. English, Math, Chemistry etc) and 3 special topics courses. The special topics courses range anywhere from Psychology of Creativity and the Arts to Harry Potter and the False Dichotomy of Good & Evil to A Balance of Power: Energy, Environment & Society. These courses encourage creativity and allow us to think outside of the box. They are also very small, usually no more than 30 students, which facilitates group discussion and input. One of my favorite special topics courses was a Latin American politics class I took with Dr. Bowman, a professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. In this class we discussed identity, specifically identities found in Latin America. At the end of the class we were able to apply what we learned throughout the class and write a comparative analysis on identities of our choice.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my international affairs coursework.
One of my favorite classes that I have taken so far is “Empirical Methods” with Dr. Esther Jordan during my sophomore year. My favorite part of the class was our final project in which we applied what we had learned throughout the semester. For this project, we were split into groups or pairs and came up with a hypothesis related to International Affairs. We then collected data and used statistical analysis software to prove or reject our hypothesis. My partner and I examined which factor - level of democracy, economic development, intrastate conflict, or education - has the greatest impact on a country's level of gender equality. In high school, I enjoyed math and science; this class gave me a chance to combine those disciplines with my passion for International Affairs.
Another liberal arts class that stands out is a French special topics course that was basically an International Affairs course conducted in French. We learned about pivotal movements and events in French society from the "nouvelle vague" movement in film, to the feminism movement, to the monumental protests and strikes in May of '68, to France's views and actions towards the EU. Each day we had an intimate class discussion (in French!) about the course material. The class was taught by both Dr. Cottille-Foley from the School Modern Languages and Dr. Birchfield from the School International Affairs. Having two professors added a diverse perspective to the class.
From the material covered, the professors, the class discussions, and the amount of practice I got in speaking French, I can honestly say I always looked forward to coming to this class.
Studying abroad has been the experience of a lifetime.
Some of my best memories during my time at Georgia Tech are from my study abroad. The summer after my freshman year (Summer 2010), I participated in the Language for Business and Technology (LBAT) program in Paris. The program was 6 weeks, but I spent an extra four weeks conducting research and traveling around Europe. During my LBAT I learned a great deal about the French language and culture. The learning, however, didn't stop in the classroom. Through meeting and engaging with French youth, I expanded my vocabulary (some of which probably wasn’t the most appropriate to learn in the classroom), and I was able to experience what it was like to be a young adult in France. I also learned lessons in global awareness and diversity that are truly priceless.
One experience that sticks out to me from my time studying in Paris was Fête de la Musique, a music festival held in Paris every summer. It is one single night where musicians of all skills and genres go to the streets and play music throughout the night and into the morning. The atmosphere in the streets during this festival is indescribable. People are singing and dancing; you hear about 15 different languages as you make your way from arrondissement to arrondissement; and everyone is just having a great time and enjoying themselves! Fête de la Musique is one of my fondest memories from my trip abroad.
I also have an active life beyond the classroom.
I am very involved in Georgia Tech’s Model United Nations Competitive Team (GT NMUN). GT NMUN is a club that represents Georgia Tech at Model UN competitions across the nation. I joined the team my freshman year, which was the year the club started, and served as the club's President my junior year. So far we have competed at the NY and Harvard conferences, and this fall we will be competing at the UPENN conference. GT NMUN has been very helpful in my personal development and my academic development. With the organization, I am constantly introduced to current events, learning different countries’ stances on critical issues that face the international community today, and developing my critical thinking and public speaking skills. GT NMUN has given me invaluable knowledge that I have been able to apply in my International Affairs studies.
Liberal arts students @ Tech have great internship opportunities.
I have also had the opportunity to take part in a few internships during my time at Georgia Tech. The summer after my sophomore year I found myself interning in Washington DC, in the House Committee on Education and Labor. Being in DC was an experience in itself, but working on the Hill and being around so many influential people really motivated me to work hard to pursue my goals. The people I met in DC were intelligent, but in a range of different areas. Through my internship I learned a great deal about our education system, different labor regulations, and how our legislative branch and policy work in general. When I came back from DC, I started a part-time internship at a law firm here in Atlanta while taking classes. After the law firm, I took the spring semester off to intern at CNN and continued with them over the summer. I have been watching CNN for as long as I can remember so getting an internship was really a dream come true. Studying International Affairs at Georgia Tech really helped me during my time at CNN, especially when I was working with CNN International. Being aware of current affairs in the international community enabled me to have meaningful input to contribute to meetings and coverage of events, like the crisis in Syria and Egypt's elections.