ACES Students Complete Education Abroad Trip

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On June 13th, ten University of Maryland students returned from the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES) program’s inaugural study abroad trip, France: A Global Perspective on Cybersecurity. Led by Dr. Michel Cukier, ACES Director, and Liz Galvin, ACES Coordinator, the trip focused on a multidisciplinary, intercultural experience in cybersecurity, a critical area of global concern. Nine of the ten students who participated in the study abroad are part of the ACES program.


The three-week trip began with eight days in Paris. Class time included a day at the campus of Université Paris 13, where students participated in technical lectures and interacted with local Paris 13 students; a day at the École Militaire, which included a panel on cyber defense strategies in France and a tour of the Director’s office, view a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower; and a day learning about the entrepreneurial culture in France, and the various clusters and startups in the Paris area. Students also had the opportunity to visit local businesses, including site visits to the TelecityGroup Data Center to learn about both the cyber and physical security aspects of storing data, and the Paris&Co Incubator, the biggest Parisian community of startups, to hear about the resources available to individuals interested in creating startups in Paris.


During free time, students explored the culture of Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Catacombs, and the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), and cruised the Seine River on an evening dinner boat cruise.


After their time in Paris, the group traveled two hours south to the town of Bourges, located in the Loire Valley in central France, for the second week of their journey. Bourges, a typical French town, showed students a more traditional way of life.


The academic experience in Bourges focused around technical lectures by faculty at INSA, the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées (National Institute of Applied Sciences). Local site visits included stops at the QualNet offices to hear about their products and work environment; SSL Europa to learn how they provide relability, security and confidence on websites; and finally Wordline to learn about their work to secure e-payment services.


Cultural activities included a guided tour of the Bourges Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a visit to the Conseil General du Cher, the local government overseeing the Bourges area, and a tour of the Chateau de Chambord, the hunting lodge of King Francis I.

The trip ended with a week in sunny and warm Toulouse, located in the southwestern corner of France. Hosted by ENSEEIHT, the École Nationale Supérieure D'électronique, D'électrotechnique, D'informatique, D'hydraulique Et Des Télécommunications, a French engineering school, the week was focused on an aeronautical theme. Toulouse is considered the center of the European aerospace industry and is home to the headquarters of Airbus, the airplane manufacturer, and Aerospace Valley, a cluster of companies and research centers.


The week began with a special activity. Following lectures on airplane safety and certification, light aircraft pilots took students on a one-hour flight over Toulouse in small 4-seat planes. The next site visit was to ONERA, the French Aerospace Lab, where students had the opportunity to walk through the wind tunnels where plane designs are tested for aerodynamics.  Another exciting day featured a full-day visit to the Airbus campus, starting with lectures at AirBusiness Academy focused on airplane safety and security. Following lunch at the Airbus cafeteria, students then had the opportunity to walk through the A380 assembly line, visit the Aeroscopia Museum, and stop by the Airbus Headquarters for a discussion on the future of aviation.


The short but packed inaugural trip proved to be a success.  In 21 days, students experienced French culture, learned about international cybersecurity and connected with professionals from a variety of technical fields.  The ACES program hopes to continue the program in future years.  To re-live the journey, search #ACESinFrance on Twitter at is external).



Published July 2, 2015