A few months ago, 31-year-old PhD student from Serbia, Zorana Matic, had the chance to sit down and chat with Georgia Tech’s own First Lady, Val Peterson. One of the first things the First Lady, or Queen Bee, as she is known around campus wanted to know, was how Matic ended up at Tech so far away from her home country.
Zorana Matic: It is! Well, it’s a funny story. So my boyfriend at the time—I mean he still is—he was the first one coming to here. He was at Georgia Tech campus in France, in Metz.
Val Peterson: Oh, Georgia Tech Lorraine.
Zorana Matic: He was doing masters. Exactly. And he was thinking about applying for PhD in Atlanta. And he started convincing me why we don't go together to U.S.? But he was not necessarily having in mind that I will be applying for Georgia Tech. He was like, "consider any university." And I was doing some research and I was like, "Wait! This school is great! Why wouldn't be applying for Georgia Tech? Like, this school is great! They have architecture program." And we really did not believe that both of us will get accepted, but we did.
Zorana Matic: So I have to say Georgia Tech was the only school I applied for. So they took me, which was amazing. I couldn't believe it.
Val Peterson: Congratulations.
Zorana Matic: Thank you! When I— When I opened that mail I was like, "Wow I cannot believe, like, they really took me.” I'm here for three, he's here for four years. And I'm still doing my PhD, so yeah, that's— that's amazing story, actually. And we met in Europe. Everyone think we met here. No, actually, we came both for Georgia Tech.
Val Peterson: Together! Oh! And is he still here in Atlanta?
Zorana Matic: He's still in Atlanta, yeah. And he's French.
Val Peterson: Oh great! Great! And what was the thing that surprised you most about, number one, Georgia Tech and, number two, the United States when you got here?
Zorana Matic: Okay, so, Georgia Tech was the first place. I never been to U.S. before. So I came to actually see the campus. When I applied, I wanted to come and see, okay, is this something where I would really like to live? Where I would like to spend five years or more of my life? And I came and I was absolutely amazed and I think the first building that I went to was the Clough Commons Undergraduate Learning Center
Val Peterson: Oh yes.
Zorana Matic: Which is just amazing building. And those stairs and the students sitting there and working and working in groups and like— So this kind of— It's so vibrant and like all that energy of people and students and professors being here at the same place. I really felt that. And I was like, "Yes, this is where I want to do my, my graduate program."
The second thing that I was amazed was how friendly people are in the South.
Val Peterson: Yes.
Zorana Matic: And especially professors, how approachable they are. You can call them, e-mail them. They're like always gonna go extra like mile to help you. That’s something that I've really loved about Georgia Tech. About U.S., that so— this is the thing that I remember when I landed and I was like exiting the airport. The staff at the airport that's greeting the people tell me, "Welcome home!"
Val Peterson: Aww!
Zorana Matic: And I was like, this is so sweet! Like I don't think I ever heard that when I landed in Serbia. In Atlanta they greet you as "Welcome home." People are so warm, like I do love Atlanta. It really grows on you. Food is amazing. I love it. It’s not the healthiest food, but it’s very tasty! So yeah, like now when I think about it, I'm not sure I would like to move, move somewhere else.
Zorana Matic: So yeah, when I think of Georgia Tech, that is the thing that's the first thing that crosses my mind, that many cultures, people from all over the world, people from really all over the world from different campuses, different schools, and they all cross their path here in Atlanta. That's something that's really special about this campus.