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I Just Fell in Love with the City of Love

A couple of weekends ago, I had one of the best weekends of my entire life. It still does not seem real that I visited Paris, France! I was finally able to check this off my bucket list – I always dreamed of going here since I was six years old. Thankfully, Paris certainly did not disappoint.

My first weekend travel was nothing short of great and relaxing. While my week at GTL is usually filled with homework, studying, and trying to eat decent meals; stepping off the Eurail train in Paris completely washed out any negative emotion I may have felt. Flowing into the rush of hundreds of people walking to catch the metro, I ordered my one way tickets to the metro for my stay in Paris. Once my friend and I made to where we were staying, dropped off our bags, and ate lunch at a local café, we headed to the most well-known and must see attractions in Paris, the Eiffel Tower.

The anticipation as we made our way from the metro and saw it ascending towards the sky from a distant had us screeching with excitement as our inner younger selves started to come out. As we got closer to the Eiffel Tower, it grew larger and larger as it filled the center of the city. It was so beautiful that words could not even describe its intricate steel frame-work surrounded by photographers, tourists, people blowing bubbles for kids, and smiling faces from all around the world. I was able to take a ton of pictures and get a better idea of just how big the Eiffel Tower was by taking flights of stairs up to the top. For 5 euros, I was able to walk up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower! You may think that the second level doesn’t sound like much, however, the tower is massive. Massive. I think that walk up flight after flight of stairs consisted of my entire workout for the week. It may be stereotypical and tourist-y, but climbing up the Eiffel Tower and seeing that view is something I would highly recommend for anyone to do if they visit Paris.

To continue our adventures in Paris, we walked around the first day with nothing other designs or plans in our minds. We were just walking around on the streets, people watching, and going into local stores. Being the over-planner that I usually am when it comes to traveling, it was nice to not have a concrete plan for the day as it made the experience more fun, carefree, and memorable. As a result of our wandering, we were able to see the Arc de Triomphe, eat at a local pizza place, see the Hotel de Plaza, and pass by many bakeries. To end the night, I was able to sit in the chilly night air at the top of a boat, as we took a river cruise through Paris passing many of the famous, historical landmarks. The most interesting part of this river boat cruise to me aside from the landmarks was seeing: the restaurants in boats, a dance festival, and the local college crowd leisurely hanging out along the river.

The next day, we were able to visit the Louvre for free, see the Mona Lisa, go shopping in Paris, visit the Notre Dame, and eat the best crêpe I ever had in my entire life! I truly fell in love with Paris when I visited, and would definitely be visiting there many more times to come. French culture is something I am coming to appreciate more and more. The way people interact with one another in France, take their time throughout the day, and gleam with happiness makes me love the country even more.

Moselle Sans Limite

At the gardens they have the new logo of Moselle in the grass! (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bland)

Last week, all of us at GTL went on a field trip to the headquarters of the Department of Moselle in Metz. For other Americans such as myself who aren’t familiar with the term, a department is essentially a political/geographical unit in France that is higher up than a county but smaller than a state. Moselle is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. We were greeted with a lovely welcome from the department, with speeches from the Vice President and the President of the department to us, and also from the president of Georgia Tech Lorraine to the department officials about the great things going on at GTL! The President of Moselle didn’t speak English and had a translator relay his speech to us. It was easy to tell, even in a different language, that he was an excellent public speaker—even without understanding, I was engaged! It was interesting to listen for familiar words in French, and to try to guess which French words corresponded with the English words of the translator.

Some of the main points that I took from the departmental speeches were their words about the many wonderful aspects of Moselle, such as the culture, the food, the business, the history, and much more. They encouraged us to travel around the region and take advantage of these things during our semester in this region of France—a sentiment which, after my fantastic weekend in Metz, I wholeheartedly agreed with!

After the speeches, we moved to the eagerly anticipated and delicious lunch, which consisted of charcuterie plates covered in various meats and cheeses, breads, grapes that looked too perfect to be real (but they were!), and the regional plums, mirabelles.

After lunch, the students split into four groups to visit different sites in Moselle: Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy (Fruit Gardens), Chateau Malbrouck (Malbrouck Castle), the Maison Robert Schuman (House of Robert Schuman), and the Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation (Museum of the War of 1870 and the Annexation). Unfortunately, being in four places at once is not one of my talents, so for some of the locations I didn’t visit, I’ll relay what I’ve heard from other GTL students about their experiences.

The house of Robert Schuman, and the attached museum about his life and role in the formation of the EU.

I visited the Maison Robert Schuman, which is both the house of the French statesman Robert Schuman (not the German piano composer—his name has two n’s) and a museum about his life. He is regarded as the father of the Europe, instrumental to the formation of the European Union after World War II. We toured through his former home and watched a video about his life. When he lived there, he had owned over 8000 books! This seemed to be his only excess, for he chose to live quite simply. At the sight of a piano in his office, I wondered to myself: did Robert Schuman ever play Robert Schumann?

Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

Those who went to the war museum saw relics from the Franco-Prussian war, including uniforms and cannons. They also visited a grave where many soldiers from the war were buried, surrounded by plaques describing the losses in each battalion. The museum also holds pieces of a large panoramic painting from the war, meant to surround a room and make the viewer feel present in the scene.

Part of the panoramic painting in the Musée de la Guerre. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

The students who visited the gardens learned about many different kinds of plants and were given 3 minutes to pick as many mirabelles as they possibly could. My friend observed that if they had had as much time as they wanted to pick the fruits, she probably would have grabbed a more reasonable amount and then stopped; but the pressure of the time limit led them to frantically pick an absurd number of mirabelles! (This in turn led to us holding the Mirabelle Olympics back at Lafayette that evening, where the events included catching mirabelles in our mouths, a mirabelle beauty contest, and other equally prestigious activities.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone about the Chateau Malbrouck, but I heard that both the castle itself and the view from the walls is wonderful!

In all, our field trip through Moselle was filled with times both fun and educational, and if you’re looking for a beautiful area of France to explore that’s packed with experiences for everyone, look no further! They also have a very cool website where you can learn more, at www.mosl.fr.

From Morocco to Metz: Bennis’ Story

I met Bennis Mamoun the first week being at Georgia Tech Lorraine. I remember walking up to him and his friends to introduce myself. Upon meeting him, I found out he is from Morocco! That moment, I realized that not only was I studying in France with students from the Atlanta campus, but I was also studying with other students from all around the world that are at GTL for the same purpose I am.

Bennis, who goes by Ben, is from Morocco and completed his undergraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at the Université Internationale de Rabat. Even though Ben is from Morocco, this is not his first time in France; he previously came to France as a tourist traveling to a couple cities – one of which being Paris. In comparison to being a tourist, he says that his experience of living in Metz has been great (and less expensive).

When it comes to being away from his family back in Morocco, Ben says he feels comfortable as he is used to being away from his family for school due to his previous university being in a different city. Aside from the different cultures between Morocco and France, he has been pleasantly surprised to see how well organized everything is especially when it comes to the school and transportation systems of France. His adjustment to life in Metz has been great, except when it comes to the shift of his meals to consisting mostly of bread, croissants, and delicious chocolate.

At Georgia Tech Lorraine, Ben is pursuing his master’s in mechanical engineering. Even though he is not doing research at the moment, he hopes to begin his research next semester under a mentor. When it comes to future plans for his career, he is very open to see where his career will go. Having his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, Ben realizes the broad and significant number of opportunities he will have in the future. When I asked him what made him decide on getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, he said “It gives you enough tools to work in every other industry.” Long term, he hopes to one day live and work in Europe, and to have an internship experience to discover his interests before completing his master’s degree.

While Ben continues to pursue his asters, he hopes to have some new fun experiences along the way. This semester at GTL, he looks forward to planning a skiing trip, as that is something he has never done. Something many people do not know about Bennis is that he has been to four countries, loves cats, and is a “meme addict” – and for those who do not know what a meme is, it is a picture that has a funny caption on it. He says they make his day just a little brighter. Aside from reading memes, he enjoys watching TV series and playing video games such as League of Legends in his spare time. Best of wishes to Ben in the future as he work toward his master’s in mechanical engineering, try skiing for the first time, and continues laughing at funny memes!

Marvelous Meandering in Metz

After a busy, exciting, and syllabus-filled first week at Georgia Tech Lorraine, what better way to spend the weekend than by exploring the city of our new home? Last weekend, several friends and myself spent our time wandering the beautiful city of Metz and experiencing all that it has to offer. A disclaimer for you, readers: my excitement about some of the things we did, sights we saw, or food we had in Metz is probably going to sound exaggerated because I use lots of superlatives, but I mean them sincerely! It was really that awesome. Now, let’s go! (Or should I say, METZ go? …I’m sorry.)

Pictures don’t do it justice; the movement, optical illusions, and music are what made the experience truly amazing.

On Friday night, our motley group of nine GTL students wandered aimlessly for a long time, trying to decide on a restaurant, plagued by the indecision that increases exponentially in larger groups of people, until finally we stopped walking in circles and just sat down at the nearest place. The restaurant we chose was called Mamie M’a Dit (which, according to Google Translate, means Granny Told Me), and it was excellent! Luckily, we were sharers and we all exchanged bites of our food, so I got to try duck, veal, and what appeared to be the French equivalent of chicken pot pie in addition to the steak that I ordered.

After dinner, we made our way to what would become the highlight (literally) of the night: the light show on the Cathedral that took place as part of the Constellations festival. I don’t know what I was expecting before seeing it but it turned out to be, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life. The sheer scale of the projection, the way the images perfectly complemented and seemed to change the face of the cathedral itself, the way the accompanying music reflected and enhanced it—it was absolutely incredible.

The cathedral in Metz is nothing to sneeze at even when it’s not covered in a projection performance. And by nothing to sneeze at I mean stunningly beautiful.

The other Constellations exhibitions included a lit up arcade; a large, spinning, glowing ring with unearthly music playing in the background; projections on the roof of the ceiling in a museum; projections of pop art onto walls of buildings; colorful paper boats on the river; a glowing line sculpture by the castle on the river; and some glowing mannequins, all interspersed around Metz and all free to experience.

This is my sketch of the view from the park where we were sitting.

On Saturday, we went to the open market in the plaza near the cathedral, where we bought peaches, tomatoes, some beautiful strawberries (some of the best I’ve ever had—again, no exaggeration here), and some kind of pancake-like food that was thicker than a crepe and had cheese and vegetables on it. Then we wandered to a park and sat and talked for a couple hours while I sketched the scene in front of us.

Lastly, we visited the Pompidou, with its lovely color exhibition and some art that was fascinating and other art that was just peculiar. I could talk about the pieces we saw for hours, but I’ll save it for the future post I’m planning about the art I’ve seen in France so far (which is kind of a ton considering I’ve been here for just under three weeks). Strangely, there was also a giant, empty room bathed in pink light with a humming sound in the background that had delightfully soft carpet and was very soothing to sit in.We stayed there for an hour, and it was the best giant pink museum room that I’ve been in in my life. (Ok, now I’m just messing with you. This is still true though!)

One of the main pieces at the Pompidou exhibition.

This post doesn’t even cover all of the great experiences we had in Metz. I could spend ages talking more about how lovely the city is, describing the deliciousness of each pastry we tasted, waxing poetic about the loveliness of each park we explored, of each building, from ornate edifices to quaint cafes…but instead I’ll just recommend that you visit and experience the wonders of Metz yourself!

Metz is an Underrated City and Here’s Why

Before coming to Georgia Tech Lorraine, I heard of other classmates’ experiences and would see all of their lavish travel pictures on their Instagram feeds. I was always in awe to see how students were able to travel to so many different countries in a short period of time while studying as well because of our central location to many major cities in Europe. While I would hear about the coursework, traveling Europe, and funny memories, the stories lacked details about the city whose downtown center I would be less than 20 minutes from: Metz, France.

The Mirabelle festival parade

After completing classes on Friday of the first week, a group of fellow classmates and myself went into the city at night to watch the constellation show on the cathedral. We also toured the city the next day, eating in a local café, shopping, visiting the French market, walking through the cathedral, and visiting the Museum of La Cour d’Or. To conclude the first weekend adventures, I was able to see the traditional Mirabelle Festival Parade that rolls through the center of the city every year. People were crammed in the streets standing on their toes to see the parade, soulful jazz music from saxophones filling the air and colorful floats rolling by. As

A concert for the Mirabelle festival

the Mirabelle Festival was coming to an end in Metz, I was also able to see hot air balloons rising high in the sky from the view of my dorm window.

Last week, I was also able to learn even more about Metz and its neighboring cities during a speech from the President of the local government and a visit around Moselle with this semester’s Georgia Tech Lorraine class. On the tour for GTL, I was able to go to the Museum of the War of 1870 and Annexation. While visiting the museum, I was able to better understand Moselle and the German influences that still exist in Metz today!

The Cathedral of Metz

From touring the city and experiencing the jaw-dropping constellation show and parade, I can truly say that Metz is a beautiful, unique city to be in. Walking along the streets you can see the history and growth in the architecture, the peace and happiness in the air and locals’ mannerisms, and the fascinating history in the museums and artifacts. From the few days that I was able to walk through the city, I was able to appreciate more where Georgia Tech Lorraine is located.

Overall, I am truly in awe at how beautiful and historical Metz is: from the museums and architecture to watching the skills of a baker or musician while roaming through the city. From my experiences, I can say that Metz is underrated; it does not get the credit and exposure that it deserves. It is truly a beautiful, friendly, art-loving, cultural city. While it is not a typical tourist city, it is beautiful to observe a more local life of France, and gain better knowledge on French history and culture.

Living and Learning in France – and Loving It!

I can’t believe that I’ve already been in France for a week. I also can’t believe that I’ve only been in France for a week—the days have been so packed that it feels like much longer. I arrived early to spend some time with my family in Paris, so each day from Wednesday to Sunday was filled to the brim with tours, trains, restaurants, and wandering the streets of the City of Lights.

My family’s arrival to France was not without its obstacles. At the Minneapolis airport, a couple of hours before we were supposed to board, we discovered that my mom’s passport expired within three months and that she wouldn’t be able to take our flight; my brother and I would go alone, and she would attempt to get an expedited passport and arrive the following day. My mother is an airline pilot and is consequently a pretty experienced traveler and planner (this snafu is an anomaly for her, trust me) so entering France unexpectedly without her was a little intimidating, but also exciting. (Not that you aren’t exciting, Mom.) It felt sort of symbolic, in a way, reminding me of the fact that I’d be navigating unfamiliar countries throughout my semester abroad.

As our plane finally approached Paris after a long overnight flight, I eagerly took in the red rooftops and rolling fields of the countryside. When my brother and I walked through the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I listened, uncomprehending but fascinated, to the sounds of softly spoken French around me, and silently mouthed the words on every sign and ad I saw to practice my pronunciation. I started processing that yes, I really was here, in France—there were the kisses on the cheeks between family members as they were reunited. There were the Euro signs on the taxi driver’s dashboard as we sped on our way to the city. There was the Eiffel Tower in the distance as we neared Paris, and the shimmering Seine as we crossed one of the many bridges on our way to our hotel.

I soon found that the Eiffel Tower was even more beautiful when viewed at night from a boat on the Seine!

Throughout my travels with my family, I had to keep reminding myself that this was the country where I would be living not just for the next couple of days, but for the next four months. It didn’t seem possible, in the midst of many tours and stereotypical vacation destinations, that I would be remaining in such an amazing place. Now, though, I’ve gone through the whirlwind of arriving at Georgia Tech Lorraine! Taking the shuttle from the airport, unpacking, seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones, absorbing the info dump that was orientation, going to the grocery store twice, and starting to explore Metz doesn’t seem possible to fit into three days, and yet somehow it did. And that doesn’t even include going to classes! Now that I’m here at GTL, settled into my dorm at Lafayette, and experiencing the joys of Metz, I don’t need to remind myself anymore—I’m living and learning in France, and I’m loving it.

Getting to GTL and an Electrifying Culture Shock

A Week Before Leaving for GTL

Orientation day at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

As I began getting ready for my semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was overcome by a wave of emotions. I felt ecstatic, nervous, upset about being away from my family, and proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone to study abroad all at the same time. About a week before I left for GTL, I entered what I would call a phase of “extensive research.”

During my time of extensive research, I watched YouTube videos on what to wear in France to blend in with the locals and everyday French customs; went shopping for a more neutral, minimalist wardrobe; and gathered advice from female solo travelers and young students on the best ways to safely travel abroad. This research was a result of my nervousness: by doing this, I felt ready and more comfortable with what to expect while traveling in Europe and living in Metz, France.

As the days began to wind down and I got closer and closer to leaving, my nerves and excitement started to kick in even more. This semester is my first time going overseas; I had no idea of what to expect besides from what I could learn online. This program has provided me with the opportunity to be the first in my immediate family to ever travel and study abroad. Saying this, the last few days were not only nerve-wracking for me, but also for my family.

The last three days before I left, I spent time with family and friends by going out to eat, binge watching tv shows and shopping with my mother, and watching the exhilarating, well executed Mission: Impossible – Fallout with my father in theatres. While I do travel and am away from home due to internships and school often, this experience of studying abroad is slightly out of my comfort zone. This is truly an experience that I am ready to fully immerse myself in every day.

First Week At GTL

Leaving for GTL.

Being at Georgia Tech Lorraine for the first week, my experience thus far has already taught me some lessons and has me eager to learn the mechanical engineering coursework to come. Stepping off the plane in Paris the first day, I was exhausted. I was not expecting my flight to be so long and turbulence-filled. I remember an hour before my plane landed in Paris, I awakened from my 2 hour nap to look at my flight attendant with my sleep eye mask still on my face, as she placed my prepackaged breakfast on the plastic tray in front of me.

As a group of Georgia Tech students and myself made it to our meeting spot at the Paris airport, I collapsed on the ground and patiently waited for the shuttle. On the shuttle to Metz, I had the best sleep I had in 24 hours. The first day, many of the students and myself worked on cleaning our rooms and getting rest to start the next day off the right way, as day 2 would be orientation.

On day 2, everyone went to orientation with bright smiles and excitement in our trot. We took a tour of the Georgia Tech Lorraine building, grabbed leftover items from previous students, and went to class and an after-party. This day, I also truly experienced culture shock for the first time in France. After digging around the leftover items from previous GTL students for appliances and toilet paper like my life depended on it, I had my first French food ordering experience all by myself!

I ordered a sandwich and a Coke from a restaurant on the corner near the Lafayette dorms. The fun part about all this is that I don’t even really like Coke, and I had no idea what sandwich I ordered until I took a bite into it. The reason this happened is because I hardly know any French besides the basic greetings, and the woman who took my order did not know much English. The sandwich actually tasted very good as it had chicken and cheese stuffed in the bread! When I left the restaurant, I was not upset that the woman did not know what I was saying. Yet I realized how ignorant I am to the French culture and that in order to survive and be more respectful to other cultures, I needed to quickly learn some French. After all, I am in France!

Daily walk to class at the GTL campus.

Overall, the first week mainly consisted of getting settled in the dorms, grocery shopping, attending classes, and making weekend plans to see Metz. Already I have learned a few lessons such as: French greetings, how to navigate the GTL campus, and to never again try to carry two 30-pound bags from the grocery store for a mile to the dorms. Regardless of the jet lag and new cultural immersion, in the words of Annie, “I think I’m gonna like it here!”

Breaking the Rules: Studying Video Games in Metz

 

Written by guest blogger Kevin Chen

I studied video games in Metz… wait a second. Since when did the words “study” and “video games” ever go together? Something sounds wrong. But here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was able to break this rule.

As part of HTS 2100, I studied the growth of eSports, the competitive aspect of the video game industry. On March 23, I got the dream opportunity of meeting one of the eSports leaders in Europe, Thomas Willaume. Willaume is the founder and CEO of Helios Gaming, the largest video game tournament ladder in the Grand Est, or “Great East,” region of France. Willaume describes Helios Gaming as a “video game ecosystem,” in which all types of players and teams gather to share their love of video games.

Our meeting with Willaume occurred at a startup incubator named TCRM-Blida in Metz. During our meeting, I was able to sneak in a stellar photo of me, one of my classmates Akib bin Nizam, and of course, the tall and handsome Thomas Willaume.

After the meeting, our hosts at TCRM-Blida invited the class to an Indie Game festival that evening. I was hesitant to accept this invitation. I did not know what to expect – I have never attended any video game event. Despite my uncertainty, I decided to give it a shot. I promised myself I wouldn’t stay long…an hour at most.

That evening, I was amazed by how energetic the event was. It felt like a disco, with dark yet colorful lights. A crowd of roughly 400 people gathered, eagerly sharing their affinity for video games.

My Georgia Tech friends and I played nearly every video game that was offered. The video game that stuck with me the most was a fast-paced time management game, somewhat similar to Overcooked.

The one hour that I promised to spend slowly became 2, then 2.5, and then 3 before my friends and I finally left.

When people say that studying abroad is a new experience, they cannot be more correct. For me, this came in the form of a new video game experience! Never before have I experienced playing video games outside of a home environment on this scale. Maybe one day I’ll be a professional video game player, battling dragons and opponents to take down the enemy nexus while a lively crowd cheers behind me.

Taking Off in the Pink City with HTS 2100

Featuring guest bloggers Soon Keat Ong, Jenna Lecates, Kaleb Senator, and Yang Chen.

No Yellow Jacket’s journey through France is complete without a visit to Toulouse. Home to Airbus and a museum that houses two Concordes, it is an aerospace  engineer’s playground. As part of Professor Tim Stoneman’s HTS 2100 class at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, we had the opportunity to visit this amazing place with Dr. Stoneman and Professor Turab Zaidi. It was enlightening to learn about the history and stories behind the aircraft on display in the Aeroscopia Museum, and the experience of being inside the Concorde was extraordinary. The highlight of the trip was definitely the visit to Airbus, where we got to see aircraft at various stages of completion on the final assembly line. Of particular significance was the A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft — it is impossible to get a sense of scale until you realize that you can stand inside the base of the wing! Later in the afternoon, the good folks at Airbus gave us the chance to try out their state-of-the-art VR and 3D scanning equipment. Airbus researchers use these tools to create and test virtual models of their aircraft, and we learned a great deal exploring virtual models of airplanes and taking 3D images of ourselves.

 

To the Mediterranean!

The second part of our field trip was a visit to the Canal du Midi that connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea. It was humbling to see the result of the ingenuity and hard work of the men and women who built the canal, all of which was dug by hand more than 300 years ago. We also stumbled across a bridge dedicated to Thomas Jefferson! He had journeyed through the canal from Sète on the Mediterranean coast to Toulouse, and our visit retraced a portion of the route he took over 200 years ago. Lunch was devoured at a tasteful restaurant right next to the 9 staircase locks of Fonserannes, near Béziers, accompanied by a nice view of the city’s cathedral. We also got the chance to see some boats passing through the locks, just as they have done for over three centuries.

Overall, this field trip was an incredible experience. Special thanks to Professor Danielle Andreu, head of partner school ENSEEIHT’s International Office, and the students of ENSEEIHT, recently renamed the Toulouse School of Engineering, who graciously provided us food, transportation, and camaraderie.

Barcelona Monday

The train strike calendar.

Life in a foreign culture is polarizing. Trains are now constant companions, yet many of those involved in the system seem to be attempting to dampen my fierce joy in extensive public transportation. I would venture to say that I am experienced in train riding, but all my anxious backup plans and preparation still leave factors I cannot control. The SNCF (French train company) workers have all decided to begin striking.

Now, I wasn’t exactly surprised. I have developed the theory that Europeans don’t actually get more vacation time than Americans, they just strike consistently enough to satisfy any need to take off work. Earlier this semester, the employees of a nearby prison decided to strike and make bonfires every day for a while, which itself was concerning. Now, SNCF took it further and is striking 2 days of every 5 for the remainder of the semester. While I am unsure of the exact implications of this, it seems highly discouraged to travel within France on these days. This is slightly inconvenient as a resident of France. Despite obstacles, we persevere.

For the most part, we GTL students are a nomadic people. This tendency is tempered by the necessity to be back bright and early for 8:30 am circuits class on Monday. As a result, and in keeping with the defiance of the local culture, an underground movement has developed the concept of a “Barcelona Monday.” In entirely unintentional circumstances, it is evidently common for students who have traveled all the way to the titular city to “miss their train,” forcing them to forgo Monday classes for another day in Spain. While the frequency of these circumstances is a bit skeptical, it arises out of the legitimate difficulty of consistently returning on time while maximizing travel. I always try to have backup plans and avoid taking the last train for this reason. An extra hour of travel would be nice but is not worth the 40-minute walk at 2 am if you end up getting back after the last bus.

This weekend resulted in a new level of travel-related struggling. As mentioned, SNCF has designed a schedule as inconvenient and difficult to remember as possible. This wasn’t much of a problem after deciding to leave at 6 am on Friday, instead. On Sunday we miraculously avoid the striking of the French, but were no match for the superior inefficiencies of the Germans. Despite their reputation for engineering, all of my issues with delayed trains (excluding those in Italy which are honestly expected) have been in Germany. This time, a 35-minute delay caused us to miss a 20-minute connection (long by our normal standards). Of course, we had backup options and elected to splurge slightly by getting a last-minute reservation high-speed train instead of taking the option that would get us home after midnight. This plan was promptly jeopardized when our train arrived at the exact latest time we needed to leave to make our connection possible. The clown-car-like amount of people who poured out brought some levity, though this took so long as to dash any hope of making the next train. Just to emphasize the point, the train proceeded to arrive 60 minutes late, leaving most of the passengers stranded.

I am no stranger to the ephemeral homelessness of sleeping in a train station just to be kicked out at 1 am while your train leaves at 4. This night was to be much longer and would still result in being late for my first class. At this point, giving in and paying for a hotel seemed to be the best option, despite the already lost money on the reservation train. Yet in times of trouble, friends come out of the woodwork. This most recent delay resulted in meeting up with 3 other GTL students in the same predicament, as well as accidentally befriending a German-Canadian student on the train, who planned to major in Mechanical Engineering as most of us are doing now. Banding together proved to save the situation for us all.

To attempt to reclaim the money for the reservation, we ran into a crowd at the information desk. In contrast to their spotty work schedule, the SNCF employees worked hard when they were there. We soon found ourselves on a list for a free hotel room, and our fellow GTL student who hadn’t made a reservation managed to make it on the list also. I emphasize the importance in trying. Instead of accepting the fate we were used to, just simply showing up got us handed a hotel stay, a free dinner, and an excuse to miss class, though Strasbourg is not quite as thrilling as Barcelona.

Our hotel instructions were fairly vague, simply stating to go to the Ibis across the street. We were then met with two Ibis hotels, one specified to be the budget version, so of course we went to the full experience first. They feigned ignorance of any accommodation for us, and discretely explained that there were in fact three Ibis hotels: this one (red, for “stop, you’re too poor”), the blue one next door (notably avoiding the word “budget” prominently displayed on its sign), and the green one that we had not seen (speculated to be located in a dark alley on the other side of town). The blue turned out to be our home away from home, and we settled in, thankful for our welfare-esque dinner boxes and shared beds after offering to house other GTL friends who had not gotten rooms of their own. Awkward sleeping arrangements are welcome in comparison to a station bench.

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