To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

GTL Staff Spotlight: Mme. Leslie

Sometimes you encounter a person that radiates the most pleasant of auras. Leaving her office after this interview, I simply couldn’t stop smiling to myself. Leslie Lourador, HR coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Director at GT Lorraine, is an integral part of the GTL staff. For the past two years, she has acted as an assistant to the director of the whole school, as well as managing the contracts, holidays, payroll, and concerns of all of the faculty and staff of this institution, in addition to requesting financial aid from the regional office to hire PhD and postdoctoral students and to finance research projects. She was born in Metz, and has lived in the region for most of her life, and she went to university at Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the international environment. The environment is very dynamic with all the young people running around; every day is different. I also enjoy the small staff. We definitely are close because we have a human-sized team. Oh, and I love my view. From my window I can see the lake, and the Technopole. It is very beautiful.
Do you have any advice for students?
Travel as much as you can before you enter the professional world. That’s what I would do if I were your age. Also, don’t be afraid of change and making bold decisions. If in a few years you decide you want to do something else, don’t be afraid to give it a try. It’s not the end of the world.
What are your hobbies and interests?

I started yoga six months ago. This is really good because it helps with stress and tension. I also love to travel. Recently I have been to LA, and New York, which I enjoyed very much. I also love reading contemporary fiction in French and English.

GTL is lucky to have such a wonderful woman working so hard on its staff! Thank you, Leslie!

Gardiens de la Paix – Meet the RAs: Victor

Name: Victor Menezes

Year: 2nd year (Undergraduate)

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hobbies: Tennis, weightlifting, skiing, and learning new languages

Victor grew up in a small town in rural Brazil, where he described his life as consisting of classes at his local school, tennis, weightlifting, and learning English. Despite, or perhaps because of, his small town roots, Victor had always dreamed of exploring the world outside of Brazil. After a teaching strike in his home country, Victor moved to Maine, where he attended boarding school for the remainder of his high school years. As a result of this immersion in American culture (and an acceptance letter from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta) Victor decided to pursue something he had previously never really considered: university in America.

Since then, he has further pursued his love of exploring the world, spending this past winter break traveling throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and now choosing to study abroad in France at Georgia Tech Lorraine, an opportunity that also allows for extensive travel throughout Europe.

From there, Victor and I spoke more about his job as an RA, and how he came to the decision to be one at GTL. After the considerable experience of actually holding the position of RA at his boarding high school, Victor was a natural choice among undergraduates to hold that position here. About being an RA in the past, and now for this semester, Victor said “[T]hat was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I love interacting with students and I truly believe that my previous experience will help me this semester. Feel free to contact me with any concerns about GTL and the dorms!”

I talked to Victor about some of the duties of an RA and how he would approach them, and he seems to be enthusiastically embracing his role as one of the moderators of dormitory life for the Aloes Residence. He made a comment on how excited he is to work with his peers and what his job expects of him, “All the residents seem to be responsible, considerate, and well-rounded, and I can’t wait to learn more about each of them. As RAs, we are the first line of contact for students; there is always an RA on duty and on-call during school days. We ensure that the dorms are safe and all residents are respecting one another.”

Victor tells me he is looking forward to an exciting, stimulating semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Outside of his RA duties, he is also taking 5 classes: Dynamics, Differential Equations, Deformable Bodies, Global Economics, and French 2001.

Along with Portuguese and English, Victor also happens to know a little French. He has found it very useful thus far and is excited to continue his study of the French language, as well as its culture with his second semester of college French. Victor also wanted to add, “I played handball in middle school and I am really excited for the Word Cup matches in Metz! Let me know if you’d like to join me!” I personally might have to take him up on that offer, it seems like a really cool opportunity. It was great getting to know a little more about Victor and about the role he plays in our system here at GTL.

If you want to learn more about some of the people who help to make everything function properly, look for Lina’s interview of one of our staff members next week!

Taking Advice from Professors

A List of Advice from my Professors, and what all of it means:
This semester at GTL, I am taking four classes with three wonderful professors and two rockin’ TAs. At the beginning of class, usually somewhere between the professor’s introduction of him or herself and the reading of the syllabus, each of my professors have offered a bit of advice to traveling students. Here is a list of some of the sage wisdom of my professors, and how it might help us students balance the chaotic blend of study and travel.
1. It’s a study abroad program, not a travel abroad program.
I am pretty sure every single one of my professors and TA’s reminded us of this fact. Yes, we are here to travel and enjoy our stay, explore Europe and become global citizens. However, most of us chose this program because the engineering classes are comparable to the ones at Georgia Tech. That means that yep, you guessed it, they are going to be a lot of work. Probably more than we are imagining. In the wise words of Professor Patoor, my Deformable Bodies professor, “Leave a little time for studies too, eh!”

 

Students get ready for class

2. Planning trips takes time.
In addition to taking Georgia Tech caliber classes, finding our way around a brand new continent, completing our homework, eating and (hopefully) practicing good hygiene, GTL students must learn to become excellent logistics coordinators. Planning a week or so in advance, we have to find hostels or Airbnb’s, plan our train route, find time to see all of the tourist attractions everyone our group is interested in, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is no small feat. According to my wise differential equations professor, Dr. Li, it took past students up to 10 hours per week to adequately plan each weekend trip. Keep that in mind, folks!
3. Do your work in advance!
There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a weekend of travel due to unfinished homework. It is a good idea to plan ahead, and get as much work done as possible before the weekend rolls around and the delightful chaos of traveling ensues. Especially when homework is published to sites like Coursera, says my Circuits TA Brandon Carroll, it is a good idea to work ahead when you have more time, rather than procrastinating and having school cut into your travel time due to your lack of prep. Sorry procrastinators! Time to buckle down and get some work done.

ECE 3710 TA Brandon Carroll poses in front of the circuit diagrams he has been teaching.

 
4. Don’t let the checklist mentality get to you
A lot of students, myself included, seem to be stuck in a checklist mentality, meaning we have a long list of places we want to visit and will travel to every place just to say we have been there. My history professor, Dr. Stoneman, advises to pick a place, and really spend time there and get to know the culture and locale. This experience can be more valuable, because it’s much more immersive than the fly-by-tourism that we could thrust ourselves into. This is not to say don’t go to all of the places you want to. Just remember, it’s okay to slow down, or revisit your favorite place. You will come back! And remember, in the words of Dr. Stoneman, “Metz is in Europe too!”

GTL is such a wonderful program, because you can really tell that the staff cares about both your studies and your experiences. And as a brand-spanking-new, fully autonomous, pretty much kid, I must say that the syllabus week advice I received from my professors is very valuable to me and my fellow students.

A “Metz-y” Start

Hi Everyone! It’s Sam again, this time writing to you from my cozy little dorm in Metz, France (which, as I learned in the very first orientation meeting, is actually pronounced “Mess,” hence the clever blog post title)! I flew into France on January eighth, and since then, have kind of figured out the bus system, learned how to say please, thank you, and various items of food in French, and I even went grocery shopping a couple of times! *Applause, applause*

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The shuttle! Note to self: next time you decide to ride in the back of a bus, take some motion sickness medication beforehand!

While I was waiting for the day to come when I would leave my comfortable, American dwelling, I got really nervous about the idea of living in a foreign country without a basic grip on the language or culture. Well, Christmas and New Year’s came and went, and it seemed like January eighth came rushing towards me at high speeds without so much as a warning. That day, I spent nine hours on a plane, four hours on a cramped shuttle, and I had the rest of the time to lie in my new bed and sleep off the jet lag. :’) I already knew two of the other GTL students, Adam and Lina, before this new adventure, and since our arrival, have become closer friends with them and some other students.

With that, here is a short recap of my first week living in France!

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A picture from the GTL orientation on Tuesday.

Monday was my first day of classes, and I was already looking forward to the courses I have this semester. I spent about half the day in classes, and the other half at home, unpacking and getting everything set up. The new student orientation for GTL was on Tuesday, and later that day some friends and I explored a little bit around campus. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at a huge grocery store that loosely resembled Walmart, which, if I’m being completely honest, made me feel a little more at home! Here’s a little pro tip for when you’re grocery shopping in France, or really anywhere: don’t buy a giant pack of steaks just because it is only five euros – THERE IS A REASON IT IS ONLY FIVE EUROS!

By Wednesday, I started to get the hang of things around campus. I had figured out where the cafeteria building is, and I didn’t get lost that day either! That day, my breakfast and dinner consisted of steak and mushrooms. So did Thursday, Friday, and Saturday’s meals.

Bed, sweet bed 🙂

On Thursday I became very aware of the fact  that I hadn’t actually ever taken a public transportation bus in my whole nineteen years of living. That, to say the least, was a bit of a nerve wracking realization, seeing as now I had to do everything for the first time in a language in which the only full sentence I had memorized was ‘the boys eat the apple’. Shout out to Duolingo for this incredibly useful information. I eventually got over my fear of buying the wrong bus pass and went over to the little ticket machine to find out that there is actually an English option! It was a blessing from God. Friday rolled around and I went to the store again to finally buy some spices so that I wasn’t just eating salted steak and mushrooms, but salted steak and mushrooms with garlic and onion and chili powder! I consider myself a seasoned chef these days.

Here’s the view from the door.

And finally, this weekend was spent catching up on sleep, finishing homework, and visiting an old high school friend who lives not too far away from campus. I went grocery shopping again, but this time, I bought reasonable amounts of food so that I wouldn’t be eating the same thing every day of the week. I also bought plenty of garbage bags and plastic wrap- two essential household items I highly recommend stocking up on!

 

And here’s a new segment I call ‘French Word Of The Week’ to leave you feeling a little smarter than you were five minutes ago:

Pain (noun): bread

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

Adam: “Hey, what did you have for breakfast this morning?”

Sam: “Pain.”
Until next time, have a wonderful week, and be sure to try some fresh ‘pain’ if ever you find yourself in Europe!

What Can I Say?

17 free weekends, 4 Planes, 40 trains, 17 Buses, 18 Metros/Trams, 2 Car rentals, 12 countries, and 6,450 miles. These are my statistics from this semester, the numbers I have racked up traveling across Europe. Yet, one run-on sentence can’t describe what this semester has been – not even close. An incredible gift! This is the best way I can think of summarizing this semester. Not everyone is given an opportunity like this in life. While many will just see this as studying in another country, this was much greater than that. By being based in the “Gateway to Europe,” each student that attended GTL was allowed to experience more than just the great country that is France. If we played our cards right, and many of us did, we could get a real glimpse of what the whole continent of Europe had to offer.
 
Early on, before I had even stepped foot on that first transatlantic plane back in August,  I had a mission to experience the most that I could in these short four and half months, and that’s something I proudly think I achieved. Many firsts were had on this adventure. Many great friends made along the way, the kind of friends you don’t just forget or lose touch with. Bonding over new drinks, shisha, football, international travel, both good and bad creates a much stronger friendship. Friendships much stronger than I could’ve asked for.
 
Starting with that first application I wrote, I expressed my ideas regarding photos; how the experiences and moments we share with our friends and loved ones are the greatest triumphs one can achieve during travel. It is these experiences that you will remember for years and years. The photo may trigger them, but it should never be the proof of where you went, the stories you tell may well be all the proof you need.
 
So, as the days counted down, the finals taken each day, a somber mood descended over our Metz family. We all felt the bittersweet moment approaching. Friday morning we would all be flying out, going home, and with a few exceptions, the semester would be over for all. Yet for me it was still grindin’ time, as I still had two finals left. So early Tuesday morning I stumbled into GTL half asleep. “Bonjour,” I said to the security guard, feeling a small ping in my chest as I did so, knowing it would be one of the last times.
 
The afternoon saw one of my longest finals, followed by my last game of ping pong against Giuseppe, I didn’t know it, but we wouldn’t play another that week. A late night saw an early morning, as Wednesday seemed a dreaded repeat of Tuesday. In the lounge by 7am, leaving only to take my final. But it was different; it was my last final. Statics, and all other classes were done, I was a free man.  Downtown we went that night, not to get drunk, or go crazy, but to just spend time with each other. Nothing would ever be like those moments again.
 
We may come back later, but not as students, not as fresh-faced youngsters with burning desires, but rather as old friends. So to ‘La Suite’ we went for some cards and great tea. The usual crew, who I am sad to say I feel I joined too late in the semester: Jahin, Yousef, Rafa, Alexander, and me. A few games of President and the laughs were evenly spread around. It’s something that thinking of now still leaves me feeling sad.
 
The next day would consist of much the same, interspersed with peoples’ bizarre cleaning patterns. As I traversed from room to room, the walls of Lafayette were lined with trash bags and luggage – yet another sign of ending semester. By nighttime, the mood began to change. In true celebratory fashion almost everyone agreed to pull all-nighters for early morning shuttles. From the cleanest rooms in Lafayette, we emerged and filled its halls with song and laughter for one last time.
 
Travel buddies stood side by side telling old stories to new listeners and vice-versa, making sure everyone was on the final page for GTL. As we gathered down in the Lafayette lobby to say our goodbyes to the 2am shuttle people, more than a few shed a tear. As bear hugs went around, I felt bittersweet again. “This feels like senior year of high school,” I said to Jahin and Sara. “It kinda does,” they said. As we waved goodbye to John, Austin, Rob, and more, it was official; the semester had ended.
 
In the end, these are just words, only those who were there with me can share those memories and experiences. What words must I use to convince you that this semester was a life changing experience, that I now look at life differently, and view everything else differently, what more can I say?  This is my story, and I hope you remember it, retell it, and one day add your own chapter!
 

Thanks for the Memories

Well, there you have it folks. I just got done with my last final here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. It was definitely a sigh of relief to finally be done after all the studying I’ve done, but also very bittersweet as it essentially marked the end of my time here. For the past three months, I’ve gotten to see a ton of cool sights, taste some delicious cuisine from all around Europe, and experience all of these memories with some really neat people. Being a Dukie, I had no idea what to expect when it came to Tech people. And now, I know that if I ever get stuck in Atlanta for whatever reason, I’ll have a list of people who would (hopefully!) let me crash at their place and show me the ropes of the city. By the way, the same goes for you guys! If you ever find yourself in Durham or want front row seats to watch Duke stomp GT in basketball on January 5th, we’d be more than happy to accommodate you.

Now, a short list of favorites:

Favorite City: Amsterdam, by a long shot. Absolutely beautiful all around; great vibe and culture; an absolute must. Tip: Try to go when it’s a little warmer 🙂

Favorite Hike: I had two: the Alps of Switzerland (duh) and Les Calanques in southern France. If you’re feeling mountain-y, go for the Alps. Or if you’re feeling ocean-y, shoot for les Calanques.

Favorite Cuisine: German. I’m pretty sure they only have three different food groups: potatoes, sauerkraut, and MEAT; but hey, I’m not complaining one bit! Also, mentally prepare yourself to battle before every meal. Their portions are so big that it’s a test of will to finish all the food. Tip: Go for the pork knuckle, you won’t regret it.

Favorite Country: I might be a little biased, but FRANCE!!! Every city here is filled with rich culture, monuments, and there’s things to do all over. From my time spent in Étretat, Nancy, Strasbourg, Paris, Cassis, Marseilles, Aix-En-Provence, Bordeaux, and our very own hometown Metz (another reason for bias), it’s been filled with good memories.

Favorite Thing That I Did: Snowmobiling. It’ll be the first thing I buy with my paycheck after I graduate.

Now it seems like we’ve all gone to many places all over, but I recently took a look at my bucket list and I feel like I didn’t even make a dent. Part of the reason is that it grew as I heard of other places that people went to, but also because you can only do so much in a semester and 3-day weekends (some places become far to travel to). I guess that’s where my next story would start, tackling on more of it. This experience at GTL has only fueled my desire to see the world, and I certainly will be continuing it on in the future.

Farewell GTL, thanks for the memories.

Photo courtesy of Katia!

Breathtaking

It’s not every day that something you’ve always dreamed of comes true. Everyone in life has dreams they want to achieve: visiting the Colosseum, climbing the Andes, swimming with sharks. Each dream varies with each person, yet somethings are iconic bucket list items, such as skiing the Alps. Growing up with European parents, I always heard stories of these great works of glaciers. Always described in such emphasis and magnitude it always made it hard for me to grasp them as real. This was one of my dreams, ski the Alps – but in my case, snowboard them.

So as I get off the Gondola lift one last time, I turn to take one last photo, one last view of something so beautiful I can only describe it as taking my breath away. I turn to Jahin, bump fists and say “Last run of the day bro – lets smash it!” We start slow winding our way down the steep and now icy slopes. In and out I carve, slowing the board to my comfort level. As I glance behind me I see “J” now slaloming his way down from our 2700 meter start, passing dozens of people.

“Stay with me, we’re going to the left this time” I yell. With each second my heart rate increases and so does the burning in my calves. I make a hard bank turn and ride switch (a.k.a. with the opposite foot forward as normal) for a second to make the left turn, and J’s still behind me as we race down. As we near the halfway point the day’s riding catches up with us. Tired and sore, we both make mistakes and come down hard on snow. Panting and groaning, I make my way to J and help him to his feet, we decide to take the longer, easier way down. As we kicked up snow and made our way down, I shed a tear for the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen, something that no words, especially mine, can describe.

Honestly, it’s hard to remember the exact course we took down and which turn we took or made where. That’s the beauty of skiing and snowboarding, you forget about the finals coming up, you’re current GPA, the next semester, even the next few minutes. You move at speeds that force you to only think in the “now”, to truly experience the moment and only think a few seconds ahead.

Two days of amazing snow, sun, and sky, split between two of the most famous ski regions in the world, Chamonix France, and Courmayeur, Italy. Going home, I now get to tell one of the best stories of my life. How 4 friends of mine and I crammed into a car just after 5pm in Metz and drove down to Chamonix. Bright and early the next morning, we over-packed the car full of all our gear and took the tunnel to Italy. 40 minutes later, 2600 meters high we set started our days smiling and free of all thoughts and responsibilities. Saturday morning we did the same, on the other side of the mountains. A jam packed weekend saw a sleep filled car ride home, and the best memories of my life. In two weeks I can now depart France and go home knowing I saved the best for last!

That Time of Year

As December moves along everything seems to change. The weather, people, scenery, atmosphere, music… Each new day of December things move more towards winter. Christmas is coming, that magical time of year we all know so well. Yet, academically it’s also that time of year – finals! Both the halls of the library and snow on the ground thicken marking a very confused time in a college student’s life.

Photo courtesy of Europe Video Productions.

Walking through Metz the change was evident the first day of December (première jour de Decembre). The once open spaces usually filled with leaf-stripped trees or large squares now house hundreds of holiday items. Near “Republique,” the farthest stop downtown, is a massive ice skating rink surround by a Christmas tree market and dozens of shops. As you make your way down to the river and pass shops, illuminated signs in the shapes of ornaments and various holiday cheers line the streets. Near the Cathedral is a large Santa happily waving back at you.

It took me a while to see the changes myself. I had heard stories from the locals for weeks, Madame Serafin especially. Every French class she would ask us if we had seen the markets yet and what our impressions were. My first time downtown in quiet some time was for the soccer tournament a few weeks ago. As we rode the “Mettis” past the Gare (train station), I was shocked. The once open space was now filled to the brim, with lights, trees shops, the works. Every single thing was decorated with something, even the slightest bit of holiday cheer was taken into account. The details were impeccable.
The timing however, is quite unfortunate.

Arguably the best time of the year to be outside and interact with people will see the majority of “GTL’ers”

Photo courtesy of WordPress blog “Miss Francey Pants.”

doing no such thing. Tuesday marked the last day of classes, Wednesday the first reading period and Thursday the first day of finals. For the next few days all of us will be inside GTL or the dorms studying like no tomorrow. The study sessions are none like I’ve ever seen before. After a whole semester of traveling, there is some inevitable catch up to be had. As Cannon, Keegan, and I argue over correct answers to our thermofluids homework the frustration builds, but a few games of ping pong, and we are back at it. A tough week lies ahead of us, late nights, and early mornings.

But as I put my head down and grind for finals I can do so knowing and seeing that the holiday cheer has arrived well in Metz.

Thinking in Two Tongues: Graduate Student Christian Caracci

Name: Christian Caracci

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st

Undergraduate Institution: Florida Atlantic University

Interests/Hobbies: Skeet, sailing, tennis

One piece of advice for students: “Don’t procrastinate!”

Baguette or Croissant? Baguette

(“I want sandwich for lunch today, ”a mix of Italian and English) – could be something that pops through graduate student Christian Caracci’s head. Don’t understand? I’ll translate it into two different languages 1) English – I want a sandwich for lunch today. 2) Italian – “akslfjlas.” A most interesting fact about our fellow GTL-er is that he thinks in two tongues. He was born in Italy, but has spent time there and in America growing up. It’s been a mix of both countries in his collegiate career as he attended Florida Atlantic University in the United States as an undergraduate and doing the dual degree program that Georgia Tech Lorraine has with Las Sapienzia – University of Rome.

After completing his dual degree program, he hopes to go into the workforce. Specifically, operational excellence on the manufacturing side as in engineering management. In his spare time, you could catch him doing any of the hobbies above, in addition to traveling or playing pool with his graduate school buddies in the GTL lounge.

A quick FYI, we have a pool table that’s behind these board separators in the GTL lounge! It was like finding treasure when Christian and his friends found it and has been incorporated into their daily schedules.

Good luck with your studies Christain, and best of luck in the future!

My Own Thanksgiving Break, Part 2: HackJunction

Photo courtesy of HackJunction.

Being the somewhat nerd I am, the second part of my thanksgiving break was spent in Helsinki, Finland, at a hackathon called HackJunction. Junction is Europe’s largest hackathon, and draws over 1200 programmers from around the world each year to participate. There were 52 countries represented at this year’s HackJunction, working on different tracks that ranged from Financial Technology to Internet of Things. There were expert programmers who have worked in industries for years that attended, as well as inexperienced newbies such as myself. All in all, it was an awesome experience where I could use some of the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to a project or challenge.

First, before anything, let’s talk about the venue. The venue was SICK. The sponsors rented out a place called Wanha Samata, which was this big warehouse with multiple rooms for the different tracks. The coolest part was the laser that stretched from one end to the other that you can see below:

HackJunction’s venue.

The venue also had a snack room that was constantly filled up with energy bars, energy drinks, coffee, etc.; basically, whatever you need to not sleep and keep coding throughout a night! There were also many companies that came to talk about what they do, give out freebies, and network. It was a great space where lots of innovative minds came together to do all things tech.

Since I was a relatively inexperienced programmer, I decided to tackle on some the mini challenges rather than the big tracks that some of the fellow GTL-ers I came with. One such was a music challenge, where there was a jumbled audio clip and we had to figure out the name of the song. At first, there was an inaudible voice that couldn’t be understood. So I threw the clip on Audacity and reversed it and came a clear message this time “Come tell us the name of the song, but it’s not as simple as you think.” That’s honestly about as far as I got as after that, I tried nearly everything: encoding the clip, decoding the clip, modifying the bitrate, tracking down messages in the source code, etc. but nothing really seemed to work. Another challenge I did was mess with some algorithms a local Helsinki tech company provided, which put my creative mind at work with varying success.

One team, made of Ryan and Maria, decided on the track “revolutionizing the bus stop”. Their project was PetStop, where each bus stop had an interactive screen with a puppy that the user can interact with. They can feed it, play with it, walk it, etc. I got to see them demo it and it was really cool!

Being at a hackathon such as this one just opened my eyes to a world of technology; I saw some amazing creations (a guitar hero type platform, but with a real guitar – Yousician Company) and things that I didn’t think I would need until I saw it (a smart, social, interactive coffee cup that was fueled by the thermal energy of the coffee – Paulig Muki Smartcup). Even if you’re not a programmer, I would recommend dropping by a hackathon if it ever comes up. There’s plenty of neat things to see!

The Dream Team!

P.S. You also get a free t-shirt.

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