Written by Julianne McCallum
This past spring, as a part of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine (GTL) study abroad program in Metz, France, I traveled to eight European countries in five months. The travel, while interesting, wasn’t the most impactful part of my study abroad experience — rather, it was the friendships I made. Even when checking off bucket-list destinations, the experience always resonated more when I went with friends.
Meaningful, too, were the experiences that stretched my intellectual boundaries. Over the course of the semester, I studied and worked harder than I ever had before. I helped make an app with coding experience from CS 1301, wrote for the official GTL blog, and served as vice president for the Bureau des Étudiants (Resident Housing Association). My classmates and I even volunteered at a former holding camp in World War II, Fort Queuleu, where we repaired the historic iron gate and mingled with fellow volunteers from Metz.
As a result of this semester, I have become more confident in my presentation skills, reconsidered preconceived notions on politics, welfare, and the intricacies of financial markets, and changed my priorities. I’ve seen the beauty of people around me, as I saw complete strangers on trains help my friends out for no reason other than being kind.
When signing up for my semester abroad, I thought I’d find inspiration in grandiose buildings and seeing renowned works of art and architecture, but really, I found it in the people around me and in new experiences. And now that I am back in the States, my experience has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on what success means to me and the road ahead.
For me, success is rooted in happiness — being able to look back at my life and sigh contentedly. For some, happiness is etched in a fire-engine red Ferrari, but mine rests on one key pursuit: balance. I’m happiest — and most successful — when all the different aspects of my life reach an equilibrium point. So success is never a stagnant accomplishment, but rather evolves as life does.
This includes facets like personal health and well-being, relationships with people I love, achieving my goals and satisfaction in academics and career, volunteering in the community, and enjoying leisure. It’s hard to live a life teetering toward imbalance: If I don’t spend enough time with people I love, then I’m unhappy; if I don’t spend enough time studying for that ISyE 3232 test, then I’ll also be unhappy once T-Square loads the grades.
Balance in all pursuits is tricky to maintain because some- times life gets in the way. As an ISyE student at Georgia Tech, the demands of classes can make balance even more difficult. The thought of achieving my academic goals — a degree from the most prestigious industrial engineering program in the country at a reputable Institute that I love — fuels my quest for a purposeful career.
Here at Tech, I am fortunate in many ways. Beyond exemplary academics, Georgia Tech tries to make the pursuit of balance realizable with events, clubs, and programs that create opportunities to expand horizons. The Institute of Industrial and System Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, Energy Club, and French Club have all brought new perspectives, responsibilities, and experiences. And Georgia Tech’s International Plan, a degree designation that encourages a global mindset in studies and careers, is the reason I had the opportunity to go abroad in the first place.
Georgia Tech is a place you come to be successful — not just in school, and not just in finding your perfect job, but in defining your terms of success and pursuing them. For me, that’s the most valuable part of attending this Institute and studying industrial engineering: I’m pursuing the balance I need while at the same time earning a degree I’m passionate about, and that makes me very happy.