To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

The Italian Man…: Graduate Student Giuseppe Mariconda

Posted by Harry

Name: Giuseppe Mariconda

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 2nd year

Undergraduate Institution: Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan)

Interests/Hobbies: Outdoorsy and sporty. Loves basketball and soccer.

One piece of advice for graduate students: “Not having regrets” ⇐ YOLO?!

Baguette or Croissant? “Baguette. Salty food over sweets any day.”

Disclaimer: The full title of this blog post (which was much too long and why I put “The Italian Man” and then an ellipsis) is: The Italian Man that I Didn’t Think was Italian at First since He had No Accent and It was Really Surprised Me that He was Italian. And that’s why the ellipsis was there. This “skill” is something that he practiced and something he can turn on and off at will, because when asking him to speak with an Italian accent he easily could as well.

When we’re talking about Georgia Tech Lorraine as a “worldwide institution,” I really began to see it with Giuseppe. The first week, I was able to interview graduate student Taha, who was Tunisian. Giuseppe is full Italian, and midway through this interview, he introduced me to his friend, Claire, who was Australian. Pair that up with the French graduate students around, and you’ve got yourself a pretty diverse set of people. Being an undergrad here, which is made up of three American institutions doesn’t really give us that global perspective that GTL actually is.

So, a little bit more on Giuseppe. He’s currently studying Mechanical Engineering, with a focus in acoustics and materials science. He’s full Italian, and is actually here on a sort of “2 year triple-school” program that I found really interesting. He spends a year at an Italian university, the Sapienza Università di Roma, 6 months at GTL, and then 6 months at the Georgia Tech-Atlanta campus. He’s into the latter half of the degree is looking forward to spending time in America! That’s something that all the graduate students I’ve talked to are the most excited about in their respective programs. I can definitely see where it comes from, as I was extremely excited to come to GTL from the other side!

The coolest thing about Giuseppe is his attitude on life. As you can see from his life advice, he’s not afraid of taking risks and making the most of any situation that he’s in. After he graduated from college, he moved to Rome, having no idea what he was going to do. He didn’t know if he was going to work, keep doing school, or anything in between before he just stumbled upon this program. He took a shot in the dark and applied, and soon enough, he was on the train to go to GTL! It’s a very fresh outlook that we can all take away, as sometimes, we should just take leaps of faith and have a positive attitude that it’ll all work out. This attitude carries over as after he completes his degree program he still has no clue what he’s going to do, but he figures that he’ll be alright no matter where he is.

Good luck Giuseppe! I’m sure you’ll be doing great things!

Meet Your Wardens: Ola Johnson

Posted by James

ola-johnsonIn the last installment of “Meet Your Wardens” we take a look at our “temporary RA,” Ola Johnson (pictured on the left). Ola is considered the third tier RA and provides assistance to Angel and Lara. This includes filling in for them when they travel, assistance in situations needing extra care, etc.
Ola is a third year Mechanical Engineering Student from Lagos, Nigeria. Speaking to Ola, it is clear to see how his life and personality have affected him. Ola speaks in a very passionate and direct manner, usually with ensuing laughter or smiles all around. From my first days at Georgia Tech Lorraine I kept hearing the name “Ola.” Ola’s so good at Ping Pong, Ola the cool RA, Ola this, Ola that. He was very popular and made friends with everyone early on. Friendships and getting to know people were one of Ola’s many reasons for becoming an RA. He didn’t plan to travel as much and simply wanted to become involved in a community while studying abroad. Working as a PL, or Freshman Experience Peer Leader, at the Atlanta campus every semester, Ola felt it was time to take the next step with more responsibility. Once again, the term community is part of our RA’s vocabulary. The signs bode well for the GTL campus becoming a close-knit group of friends.
Ola has only recently become acquainted with the US, visiting the first time for college in Atlanta. Originally planning to follow his family to London and pursue higher education there, Ola has an interesting story for picking Georgia Tech. The sister of his high school roommate went to Tech and invited him for a visit. After seeing the rankings and visiting, he became a fully-fledged Yellow Jacket. Since then Ola has been completing 2.5 straight years of school or 7 straight semester of Tech. From speaking to Ola it is clear to see he is a very intelligent, driven young man. Midway through the interview the conversation turned as he began asking questions of me and used his inquisitive nature to gain yet another friend. The topics quickly change to our travel plans and where we went in past weeks. This in turn led to bond much stronger than just friendship, but one between soccer fans, one between United – Manchester United – fans!
Eventually getting back to the interview, Ola revealed his reasons for his particular major. He chose Mechanical Engineering to be able to work in any field. He wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do later in life. Stating “I didn’t want to choose something specific, I knew I didn’t want to be specialized.” This prompted him to choose a field that has very wide applications. However, one thing he is truly interested in is computer science and artificial intelligence. Therefore, he is also pursuing a minor in Artificial Intelligence.
Our second RA who is an international student, and our third who speaks multiple languages, Ola rounds out our already impressive roster of RA’s for this semester. With community being part his motto as well, Georgia Tech Lorraine students can sleep well assured that this semester will be unlike any in Atlanta, and perhaps the rest of college.

Trekking (A Lot) More Than Usual

Posted by Harry.

Being broke college kids who don’t necessarily want to spend money on public transportation (excluding trains, because they’re kind of a necessity), we’ve all probably done a fair amount of walking around wherever we’ve been visiting. I’d say on average; we probably log a solid 10 miles (?) a day on the weekends. Usually a lot of walking is done in cities because, hey, it takes time to get from place to place. This past weekend however, instead of walking around in a city or cities, I took a little hike from one city to another. Notably, this route was a part of the GR 98-51 trail that connects Cassis to Marseilles through a beautiful mountain range known as “The Calanques.”

Photo courtesy of gr-infos.com.

According to my pal Morgan, she said this hike was an estimated 17 miles looking at the map. The people that I was with and I were like “Aight, that’s totally chill! We can just make it in a day,” and we planned to do the hike from early Friday morning to Friday evening. Unfortunately, the weather was forecasted to be raining and thunder storming throughout Friday, so we were a little bummed. Fortunately, the weather in actuality was perfect and sunny so we got to go on our way.

Photo courtesy of Morgan Ringel.

The trail we took isn’t just for the hardcore hikers who want to walk 17 miles from city to city, but had many trails of varying length for any skill level in between. The most famous trail is the one that leads to the Cave-En-Vau, which is this beautiful inlet beach you see above. That was only about 1.5 miles in, so if you have the time, check it out! It’s definitely got a spot on my “Places to re-visit when I’m older” list.

Along the way, we ended up climbing up a big mountain and caught some gorgeous views of the Calanques as a whole. Near the end, we got to hike into a stunning view of the sunset. Aside: probably the funniest-yet-disheartening part of the hike was when we checked our GPS as it said 2.1 miles until the restaurant where we weregoing to grab dinner at, hiked 30 minutes in the correct direction of the restaurant, and then it said 2.3 miles until our destination (LOL).

When we finally got to the restaurant, never has a moment that was happier than to sit down and get off our feet for a while. We all made bets on how many miles we actually hiked, since it felt much longer than 17…and it ended up being around 23-24 miles! A huge sense of accomplishment fell over our group as we devoured our delicious food (food tastes better after hiking 24 miles) and then Uber-ed (not walked) our way to the taxi because hey, I thought it was well deserved. If there was a shirt that said “I conquered the Calanques,” I totally would have bought one. All in all, it was great experience and I would recommend for those of you who are outdoorsy and/or adventurous to check it out.

Everything School: Academic Manager Vanessa Nau

Posted by Harry.

Meet Vanessa Nau!

Name: Vanessa Nau

Position: Academic Manager

Years at GTL: 2 years

Interests/Hobbies: Learning different languages; theatre

One line to describe GTL: “There’s only one Georgia Tech Lorraine.”

Piece of advice for students: “Make sure to keep a steady balance between work and travel.”

Say hello to Vanessa Nau, the Academic Manager for Georgia Tech Lorraine. This is her second year working at GTL and she loves it. The first year was a little crazy, she describes, as she had to learn the ins and outs of the job, interact with Americans, and deal with the culture shock that comes along with it. For her job, Vanessa does a ton. She’s the one that creates all the class and final schedules, helps with the visa process for European graduate students who continue their studies abroad in the United States, and everything in between. With the graduate students, she often describes herself as the role of “mother.” From dealing with renting apartments to overall American culture, she provides plenty of support to ease their transition.

Another term I could use to describe Vanessa is “linguistics enthusiast.” Not only does she know French and English, but she is well-versed in German, Italian, and Spanish! In fact, she worked in Germany the four years before she came to GTL. Vanessa also is a fond actor, being an actor for eight years. Combining these hobbies brings up an interesting note: in Germany, the acting group she was a part of performed in French and Spanish! Taking these passions to the next level, she hopes to teach French as a Second Language (FSL) in the near future.

If you ever have any academic issues, want to talk about languages and theatre, or just want to get to know this amazing lady, don’t be afraid to peek into Vanessa’s office!

One Month In

Posted by James

One month into our studies here at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and already life has changed. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about just this.

He said, “What do you miss most about home?” And for the longest time I couldn’t think of an answer. It took me two days to finally produce something tangible. The reason for such a time lapse is based on how I’ve approached this study abroad. As in earlier blog posts, the advice I’ve gathered from others or given myself has to do with being open minded. As Americans we tend to believe our way of doing this is better than other countries. Not the case, for many things.

For instance, today I went on a tour of our local superstore CORA. Harry has already written about its marvelous wonders. The importance of this tour was that it was given by our French professor. She explained to us the ins and outs of how local French people shop. As we were leaving one aisle she stated, “Real quick, I want to show you all the sweets before we end class for the day!” Instantly I was thinking of chocolate and ice cream, my common comfort foods, but she showed us “petit Suisse” or little Swiss, a dairy-based product that most French people eat with sugar. This is just one of the many things that is different between French and American culture. So one month in, I’ve been soaking it all in, thinking and observing all the minute differences: the fact that Europeans only seem to drive hatchbacks, that French people eat bread with every meal, the different attitudes people give you when you approach them in their native language, how Europeans do their shopping daily, and that soccer is ingrained in everyone on this continent, and more. The list goes on and on for differences in terms of culture and ways of living.

In terms of academia there is also a large difference between the teaching dynamic here at Georgia Tech Lorraine and of the teaching in Atlanta. In Atlanta, class sizes are usually much larger even for selective classes in selective majors. The maximum number of students living here at GTL this semester is slightly under 200. Due to the much smaller class sizes, classes seem to be more intimate. The professors will tell jokes to lighten the moods during difficult lectures. Professors also pay more attention to the individual then in Atlanta, and the class size allows for this to happen. I find myself having one on one conversations with my professors on an almost daily basis. Here, the emphasis is on learning the material. To quote my AE professor Dr. Zaid, “we want to make sure you understand the concepts first, the big ideas!”

In closing, some more advice. These last weeks have flown by, mainly because I was paying attention to them. If you open up to the differences and accept them you will see the joy it can cause. Everything is a new experience, which is very rare for anyone over 5 years old. Every day I wake up not knowing what part of my day will be filled with amazing adventure. However, I know it is bound to happen. This is the beauty of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a foreign environment.

 

Sometimes You Plan

Posted by James

In a 4 month study abroad program, there are bound to be some instances of trouble and failed plans. And this weekend bore witness to the first of mine.
4:50 am Saturday, September 17th
Knock, knock….knock, knock……KNOCK!
I roll out of bed and go to the door. My friend Cannon is there backpack on, fully dressed, ready to go.

“Did I wake you?”

“No, I woke up an hour ago. I’ve just been trying to get some sleep.”

I start getting dressed and collecting my vital items: Eurail pass, passport, and Borussia Dortmund tickets. By 5:30am the two of us are in downtown Metz, at the Metz-Ville Gare (train station) waiting for our first of three trains for the day. The plan for this weekend was as follows: Borussia Dortmund Soccer game followed by Oktoberfest in Munich. We were looking forward to being in Munich for the start of the festival and to experience some truly unique European culture. Alas, things didn’t go our way.
12:30 pm Saturday, September 17th
The first sign of things taking a toll for the worse came when we entered Dortmund. Cannon had booked our hostel just days before. Originally we were planning to spend Saturday evening in Munich and sleep there. However, all hostels and hotels were booked across the board for the festival. Yet once in the train station we looked up where our hostel was in Dortmund. It was far outside the city center and quick a trek to get there. One tram and a 2 kilometer hike later, we found our quaint Airbnb on a German hillside. Our host, Thomas was very polite; however it was he who opened our eyes to the failed planning.

As we were telling him our plans, he asked “When are you going to Munich tomorrow?”

“Our train leaves at 4am” I answered.

“Oh no, you’re not going to make that, you have to get to the city from here and the earliest train is 8am!” My eyes met Cannon’s, and we both had a moment of silence. Still, we couldn’t think about that now, we had a game to get to.

20160917_171954
15:30pm Saturday, September 17th at Signal Iduna Park (Dortmund)
As the teams kicked off a local match, the famed “best soccer atmosphere in Europe” was not disappointing. We were lucky enough to get tickets in the infamous “Yellow Wall,” the Dortmund Home fans section. And as thousands of supporters piled in screaming, chanting, waving flags, and stumbling off beers the atmosphere was truly remarkable. We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal: 7 minutes in and Dortmund took the lead. While that may have been the only goal for that half, Dortmund came out strong in the second and scored 5 more! Cannon and I each caught a goal on camera. Enjoy below:


And now, as I sit on the train ride back from Dortmund I find myself in a position to give advice. While the GTL schedule may seem easier GT-Atlanta’s, the contrary may be true. Strapped with AE homework, Cannon and I planned late and consequently missed out on one of the best festivals in Europe. The 3-day weekends can be both a blessing and a curse. For current and future GTL students, maintain a steady consistent work week and always plan well in advance.

Fixing Your Technological Issues: IT Manager Jean Jacques

Posted by Harry

Name: Jean Jacques Michel

Position: Information Technology

Years at GTL: 11 years

Interests/Hobbies: Working with computers and electronics.

One line to describe GTL: “An interesting opportunity to work in a different system in relationship with Atlanta and with American people”

Piece of advice for students: Go out and explore!

In an urban Metz folk tale, it spoke of a man who has been roaming the halls of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building for many years. It’s the guy pictured above. Jean Jacques Michel, our resident information technology manager, has actually worked in the GTL building for the past 21 years! Georgia Tech-Lorraine used to sublet space to an electronics company and Jean-Jacques worked for that company in the beginning. So it’s safe to say he’s seen his fair share of progress of this institution throughout the years. He’s been here almost from the beginning, and watched the number of students grow and grow, each and every year.

Due to the small size of GTL, it seems like every administration member I meet is a do-everything superhero in their own department. Mr. Michel’s sector is technology. From plugs in the wall, the audio-visual projectors in the classroom, and even the printing, he handles and fixes every little bug that comes across our way. He truly loves his work, as his favorite feeling comes when solving a problem that arises.

I know that during my time here, I’ve never ran into any technological issues thus far and it’s thanks to this guy. If you’re having a smooth time with the technology here and manage to catch this guy around, thank him for all that he does because it’s truly something we should appreciate!

Making the Most of the “B” in Belgium

Posted by Harry

There are a lot of terms closely associated with Belgium that begins with the letter “B.” Some, namely, are Brussels, Bruges, and Bwaffles (if you didn’t already know, the “B” is silent).

Brussels

The Grand Place at night.

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is a very modern city. It’s filled with people and has a huge industrial buildings scattered throughout the city. However, it’s most notably known for the Grote Markt/Grand Place at its heart. Oh my, oh my, how beautiful it was. The neat thing is you’re surrounded by gorgeous structures on all four sides if you stand in the middle. This place used to the hub for all the different guild’s that fostered the economy of Belgium long ago and is filled with rich history.

Bruges

The Markt of Bruges.

Bruges is a quaint little town about an hour north of Brussels. On the map, it looks fairly tiny. When you get there however, you find that there’s just so many things to do! I didn’t set my expectations too high when visiting but after a day there, I was pleasantly satisfied and more. Bruges also has a Markt area in the center of town where you’re also surrounded by magnificent architecture all around. As you head out in any cardinal direction from there, you’ll find parks, river tours, windmills, museums, and all sorts of random things to see/explore.

Bwaffles

If you went to Belgium and didn’t get a “Bwaffle,” did you really go to Belgium?

The answer is, yes, I did, and here was my yummy Belgium waffle that I had in the Grand Place.

The Student Lounge

Posted by Harry

Panorama of the student lounge.

One of my favorite places to be is the student lounge. If I had to find the “heart” of Georgia Tech Lorraine, it’d be here. This is where all the students (both undergrad and graduate) come to do a variety of things. GTL has always been known to be a “community,” and this is a huge contributing factor. From morning until night, this place is always bustling with people.
Located conveniently on the first floor (in France, this is actually the 0th floor, known as rez-de-chaussée) right past the front door, it’s easily accessible to all. Here, you can meet all the wonderful cohorts that are on this adventure together. Whether it’s talking about what happened the past weekend or what you’re going to do the next weekend, no one is a stranger here. Sharing and hearing experiences of others has been very fulfilling and rewarding and gives me a place to add to my bucket list!
There’s also quite the academic side to this room as well. There’s a plethora of desks and chairs on wheels to (1) make a custom desk set-up (2) move to a custom location of choice (3) super tables for group work sessions (4) any other fun things you wish to do with desks and and chairs on wheels. Computers with various software are also made to accommodate our academic needs.
Finally, my personal favorite aspect is the ping pong table and pool table. It’s a wonderful way to let some competitive energy out and take a nice break from the hard work that we put in during the day.
Come one, come all! There’s a place at the student lounge for everyone!

Shopping at CORA

I’d like to compare the CORA sign to Eyes of T.J. Eckleburg in “The Great Gatsby,” because CORA is always watching.

I’d like to introduce you to CORA. A nickname I call CORA is “The Provider”, since it contains everything you could possibly need to survive a semester (and more!) at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Its American twin would be Super Wal-Mart.

Upon my first visit to CORA, I was a little lost. I had to get my backpack plastic wrapped by security, the signs were all in French, and I had no idea what I needed to get for my dorm room. So I did the only logical thing: walk up and down CORA’s (estimated) 50 aisles to see what I needed. I spent much more time than I should have, but through this process I got everything I needed in the moment, saw things I would need in the future, and made a mental map of this grocery labyrinth.

Some general tips and tricks I have:

1) Bring your own shopping bags and backpacks. No bags are provided so one must carry it all the way back with their own bags. As I mentioned from an earlier blog, travel backpacks are excellent for this.
2) Bring a 1€ coin. This is the deposit needed to get a shopping cart, much like Aldi’s in America. There are these blue rolling shopping baskets, but the cart comes in clutch for both keeping your backpacks and bags in and also for the large amount of groceries one trip has.
3) Eggs and milk are stored refrigerated…so wander about aimlessly in the refrigerated aisle for 10 minutes as someone did…
4) Be open to trying new foods! We’re in France, so there are many things that don’t normally get eaten in the US that are wonderful.

And lastly, be good to CORA, and CORA will be good to you. 🙂

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