To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: January 2016

GTL Reflections

It is officially Week 3 at GTL and things are in full swing. As I write, there are students sitting quietly in the communal lounge, carefully poring through their textbooks and making notes for class. Others are more frantic, working to complete their Def Bods and Statics assignments on time. Some head back to Lafayette to sneak in a short nap before evening class begins. Another group is finished for the day and is heading to downtown Metz for a night of shopping and festivities.

I can already sense that we are different from the wide-eyed students who arrived in Metz, France on the 11th. In a few short weeks, we have become tourists, experienced travellers, and even food critics. Moreover, we are cautious, yet curious about our new surroundings. Students have already ventured off to Paris, Barcelona, and Budapest – at this rate, we are well on our way to exploring all corners of Europe.

Hundreds of photographs have been captured and shared on our Facebook pages for friends and family to enjoy. Friend requests have been sent and accepted, planting the seed to foster new bonds. Travel interest groups have formed and plans to explore Europe are in full effect. In this fast-paced, whirlwind between school and travel it is imperative to pause and take it all in.

So far, we have made multiple trips to CORA and Simply. Some students are cooking and preparing meals for the first time, relying on a balance between trial and error and experimentation. For many, the language barrier is palpable and challenging. That said, with each passing day, there is an increasing level of comfort with the French language, and that is certainly promising. Navigating and exploring Metz has been quite the experience, but with each week this once unfamiliar city is beginning to feel more like home.

We’ll continue to plan every minute detail of our trips and book the cheapest hostels we can find. We’ll depart for the train station early Friday morning to begin our exciting weekend adventures. Upon our return, the problem set we left on our desk will be there, ready to greet us. Of course, we’ll question whether it will be possible to complete the assignment before the start of class the next morning…or if we can continue to balance a Tech course load and world travel for the next 12 weeks. But we got to Georgia Tech, and we can do that.

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Au Revoir for now!

-Ije

 

No Plans for the Evening?
 Let Me Give You a Hand(ball)

Photo courtesy of fr.wikipedia.org.

Posted by Julie

As I’m sure many of you are aware, just as we’re settling into our new homes for the next few months in Metz, our entire home country is gearing up for the grand culmination of one of the most popular sporting events across America: the Super Bowl. Now, don’t cry; you can stream that in your dorm at 2AM.

Now, you’re in Europe – where sports are different. Football doesn’t mean kicking around the pigskin; here the widely used connotation (okay, everywhere else but the United States, so denotation?) of the term is the same as the word soccer in our culture. However, you’re now more specifically in Metz, France, where the women’s handball team is known to serve up victory since its establishment in 1967.

And now, the team is gearing up for the quarter finals – and possibly even the championship! No matter who plays in the Championship, though, it will be held in Metz, so we can go watch some intense sporting close to home. The quarter finals are next Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm.

Before you write this off, check out the sheer intensity of the sport in this video of . Know also that we are in the presence of the masters of greatness, as Metz HB, the 2013 European Women’s EHF Cup runner-up, possesses basically all of the records:

  • 19 French Championships (all time record)
  • 6 French Cup Championships (all time record)
  • 8 French League Cup Championships (all time record)[1]

No big deal, really. (Just kidding, I’m a bit star-struck, and I don’t even follow handball.)

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Photo courtesy of france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr.

The best part of all? The arena is less than 20 minutes away by car, and easily accessible via bus. Score – which is what the team will be doing during the match! Check out this website for the Metz bus system for instructions on which bus. For your information, the departure address is that of the GTL space, while the arrival address is the arena.

Check out not only the current team roster, but also when they’re hitting the field at the Euro Handball site. You can buy your tickets here. For 9€ (which includes the student discount), the high-level competition and energy is more than worth the trip. Who needs the college football playoff championship?

Okay, I still do, but this will certainly help me cope with the loss of the football season and prepare for the Summer Olympics in Rio.

A word of warning: the ticket website is in French, but Google Chrome can translate pretty accurately.

metz_handball01

Photo courtesy of metz.fr.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metz_Handball

Declassified: A Briefing on Your Elected BDE Officials

Posted by Julie

Welcome to your new home, GTLers! While you’re here, there is so much to do and experience, and the Bureau des Etudiants is here to facilitate that. With our organization and the funds from your GTL fees, we will be hosting many events and activities for YOU!

Your team was assembled Tuesday afternoon, and I thought it’d be nice to get to know to whom you can talk and suggest ideas. We’re here to work with you, so come talk to us!

Here you’ll find each of their short interviews, during which they were asked to answer four questions. Hopefully this gives you an brief idea as to who they are and why they’re on the BDE.

 

AJ, President (BS ME)

received_10204326401915061sqWhy are you at GTL?

I’m here because I’ve wanted to travel and see what the rest of the world has to offer. It’s so easy to just say “I’m fine here in the U.S.,” but then you’re cutting off potentially millions
of opportunities – so that’s one of my main reasons. Plus word on the street is Europe is pretty beautiful.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I want to partner with other BDEs to put on events during the week so that we can all get a chance to meet folks outside of GTL and practice our French (for those of us who are trying to practice French). By meeting these other students, they can help us enjoy an authentic European experience instead of just what’s on the tour guide, and partnership will also help us find our differences in culture and celebrate them.

What is your dream travel destination?

My ultimate dream is a tie between Brazil, Australia, and Kenya. I really want to visit the Amazon in Brazil, the Outback in Australia, and the savannas of Kenya. Maybe I’ll be able to go on a world tour of all 3 one day.

What is your favorite food?

Easily gumbo because I love seafood sooooooo [sic] much. I think I’m going to make some while I’m here for GTL, so be on the lookout.

What is your favorite quote?

I can’t decide between these two:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Julie, Vice President (BS IE)

Why are you at GTL?IMG950174

The value of studying abroad is extremely important to me, and after visiting France once before after studying the language and culture for years, I have fallen in love. GTL seemed like a wonderful opportunity to live and learn other cultures, as the culture of the program is one of pursuing new experiences.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

My hope is to bridge the many communities we have stemming from GTL through activities and cultural experiences. Whether this be cheese tasting, indoor skiing, or seeing a handball championship, there is so much to do in Metz. In a similar way, there is a lot we can learn from the people surrounding us, and I want to make all of this more accessible.

What is your dream travel destination?

Either Ireland or Norway.

What is your favorite quote?

“What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.”- Ray Charles


Indiana, Treasurer (BS AE)

Why are you at GTL?12562460_10206353817871159_1548857519_osq

I have been really fond of France and French culture since I studied it in high School. Also, I get the chance to travel throughout France and Europe as well, while I get to improve my French

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I want to make sure, as treasurer, the students here get the most out of each event, while having as many events as we can!

What is your dream travel destination?

Paris, France; Cairo, Egypt; and Agra, India.

What is your favorite quote?

“One way to get the most out of life is too look upon it as an adventure” – W. Feather

 

Ije, Secretary (BS IE)

Why are you at GTL?received_10209069070550751sq

Georgia Tech Lorraine is great for students who seek both international
and cultural experience. Not to mention, GTL is a worldwide renowned engineering institution. The GT Lorraine program is so great because, outside of living in Metz, France, there too is the opportunity for exploration and adventure in neighboring cities and countries. Europe is a very interconnected continent, extremely rich in history and culture. I came to GTL because I wanted to immerse myself in a culture different from my own while living in a beautiful and historical environment.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I want to help the BDE plan some really great and unique events this year. One idea I have would be for us to take a trip to an amusement park, once they open up again in the spring. Also as secretary, I plan to keep in constant contact with all students in the program to keep them up to date on the executive board’s plans, while also receiving their input.

What is your dream travel destination?

My dream travel destination is Ibiza, which is an island off the coast of Spain. Its beaches are absolutely beautiful and the atmosphere seems amazing!

What is your favorite food?

My favorite food has always been French Fries (ironically). It’s no surprise that the fries here taste a lot better.

 

Réné, Sports Coordinator (BS ME)

Why are you at GTL?received_10205746821337377sq

This is a great opportunity to study abroad because it’s always good to take classes in other countries. I took classes at Tech [Atlanta], but I wanted to experience the French culture and culture of other countries in Europe.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

As the Sports Coordinator, my hope is to make sure we organize soccer games a few times over the semester, to the goal of connecting GTL and the surrounding French schools through sports.

What is your dream travel destination?

Paris, France and Italy because they are iconic, Germany for the technology, and Spain for the beautiful cities like Barcelona and Madrid.

What is your favorite quote?

“Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems.” – Réné

 

Eduardo, Webmaster (BS CS)

Why are you at GTL?received_10207475811407015sq

I love traveling.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I haven’t thought that through yet – this was a bit spontaneous. [Eduardo was appointed Webmaster due to his CS skills.]

What is your dream travel destination?

Everywhere – I love different cultures and places, and I’d like to visit them all!

What is your favorite quote?

“It’s your horse, you ride it!” – Eduardo

 

Asmaa, College Interaction Coordinator (MS ME)

Why are you at GTL?received_445826672272976 (1)

I wanted to grow as a person and a scholar. GTL is a distinguished research environment – a world class engineering environment – and somewhere to seek an international career. Personally, I came to make new friends, experience a different culture, and travel to see new places.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

My personal dream in my second semester as College Interaction Coordinator is to create a collaborative painting with ICN; I’m working with the Bureau des Arts there to bring this to life. I also would like to bring the GTL community together through service and volunteering. And always I’m ready to help with others’ new ideas as well.

What is your dream travel destination?

The Eternal City – Rome. To make a wish in the Trevi fountain and to visit the Colisseum would be wonderful, as the city means a lot to me – historically and culturally. I love the Italian language and feel it matches personality.

What is your favorite food?

Ice cream! With the two scoops, I usually go with my favorite, vanilla, but like trying something more eccentric for the other.

Bao, Game Night Coordinator (BS EE)

The writer didn’t have a chance to catch up with Bao, but will soon! Say hello to Bao if you seem him and get to know him.

Connecting the New & Old with Innovation

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The Roman Baths in Trier, Germany.

Posted by Julie

Saturday morning began my first weekend travels while on board at Georgia Tech-Lorraine with a scheduled trip for my International Affairs class. Let me assure you, however, that despite not choosing the destination myself, I certainly enjoyed the destination: Trier, Germany. This oldest city in Germany hosts many other places – from basilicas to bridges to Roman baths – all a boasting part of the same epithet “the oldest.” It seems that everything in Trier is Europe’s oldest!

Yes, everything we saw was thousands of years old, but we connected with it because we as engineers build and sustain a lifestyle through that which we build, similar to the Romans and their aqueducts and baths. The preservation and history at the first layers of the city amaze me, and the more modern pieces sprung up around the centerpieces of a former culture. If anything, I think that shows that the plan of a Roman city is as useful and applicable to our needs today as they were in 300 AD.

The International Affairs class I am taking focuses on the European Union and its politics, and this visit to Roman ruins and the city built from them were meant to connect the past to the present to promote understanding of what the EU is as what it is remains under debate. By the comparison and contrast of these enormous powers and organizations, we start to draw lines between the two – lines which lend themselves to the definition of the European Union as well.

The European Union has always been this organization blooming on the other side of the ocean, unifying countries I’d only heard of in my history classes and shaping an entire continent. I knew little about it, except that I liked its initiatives, and it had many similar complaints lodged against it as the United States’ government. Now, the lettering in textbooks is morphing into a livelihood and culture.

Through this voyage, we learned a lot about what the EU is as a system of organization and legislation, but were able to see its effects in just our travels to Trier alone. We crossed the borders of three countries within a two hour bus ride without stopping for passport checks or border control. In fact, the border control checkpoints were almost all torn down – and the only one we saw was in the process of destruction! (I think the fact that we had visited three countries in two hours was a bit dizzying for me, as I would have to drive probably about a day or more to leave the United States from my home.) For our traditional German lunch of sauerkraut, bratwurst, and potato dumplings, we were able to pay with the same money we used in our home base of Metz.

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Notifications from my friend’s phone company of changes in service country.

The ease of travel and experience was a beautiful benefit to the legislation brought into effect by the European Union, but we discussed the drawbacks as well. These drawbacks were seen in recent days, too, and are under fire due to happenings such as the Paris attacks. It was interesting to know that there is such a dramatic difference between the sides of this Euro coin.

On a serious note, this is also my plug for how beneficial traveling can be in terms of education and understanding of other cultures, lives, and viewpoints. Travel can not only be a wonderfully personal experience of something new, but also something so touching as interacting with someone else who lives and breathes a life and language different than one’s own is absolutely unforgettable.

New Country, New Experiences

Posted by Julie

Needless to say, touching down in France was an exciting experience. Strangely enough, hulking tubes of metal flying through the air around 600 miles per hour are not generally my thing, but an even more pressing emotion was the excitement of arriving in a new place. Everything becomes an adventure when abroad – even traversing the airport.

My day, though typically over several hours before we landed, was far from over, as there was luggage to collect, a bus to find and catch, and a dorm to move into. Thankfully, all of those steps went seamlessly. If anything can be said about the whole process, it’s that after twenty-five years, all the lovely people at Georgia Tech-Lorraine know what they’re doing.

And after twenty-five years, they’re still welcoming and excited to help us. A pizza party was held in our honor upon our arrival, and a welcoming party the next day. My favorite part of the last few days, though, was the donation free-for-all; I think its existence really shows how much thought they have put into the program – and how much they do to make things easier for the students. Uprooted from home, where we have built our lives already, and leaving on a jet plane, it’s hard to take some things with the limiting factors. We could definitely drop one hundred euro easily on prepping our rooms just with the basic necessities – from hand soap to loose-leaf paper – but they have organized a program to ease that pain.

"La politesse" reigned at the GTL-dorm equipment-free-for-all

“La politesse” reigned at the
 GTL-dorm equipment-free-for-all

The donation session consisted of a room chocked full of donations from previous students – anything they couldn’t or just didn’t want to bring back home. The tables and floor were covered with everything from fancy bowls to laundry basket and drying racks to fans and hair dryers to old textbooks and school supplies. Nearly everything that any student could dream of having was sitting in this land of plenty, and we had two minutes to select all that we wanted (i.e., all that we could carry). I’ve never been hardcore Black Friday shopping, but I would imagine this invoked a similar sentiment – though everyone was gracious and no one started brawling over items.

Now that the adrenaline has waned, though, it’s time to settle into classes for the semester. I’ve already heard great things about course topics and teachers, and we’re only through our first full day! Here’s to a fulfilling semester for all of our goals, whether academic, experiential, travel-oriented, cultural, or otherwise.

Leaping Out of
 the Comfort Zone

My plane from the windows of Hartsfield-Jackson airport in July 2014.

Posted by Julie

Five hundred and forty-four days. That, my friends, is the equivalent of 11,712 hours, or 4.7 × 107 seconds. (A third of which I’ve probably spent sleeping, as painful as that thought is.) It is also the length of time since I last embarked on a journey that has left my stomach this tightly in knots. I can feel my chest tightening, where the stress epicenter builds just beneath my rib cage a few inches below by collarbone. My arms also somehow seems nonexistent, almost as if the nerves have quit sending their neuropathic messages to my brain – or my brain has stopped listening.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am lucky enough to be able to say that I have been abroad before; in fact, I was just settling into my designated seating area for the next nine hours of my flight into Charles de Gaulle, the international airport in Paris, France just 488 days ago. That happened to mark the start of my first international flight, let alone my first trip outside the United States ever, and I was taking that journey alone. Just for the record, I was definitely not scared out of my wits.

(Except I was.)

Before the parental hugs, removing my shoes for security, the terrific little rolls on the plane, and touching down in a city that was much colder than I ever imagined could be in the middle of July, I had never spent more than a week away from my family, and those weeks were always spent at camp, so the independence was still limited. I was a doe-eyed high school graduate who only knew she wanted to travel the world, and had managed to convince her parents of the benefits of this foreign exchange program. So, I had reasons to be terrified then, but I had to ponder a bit more as to why I’m terrified now.

I have always been a firm believer that sometimes being thrown in the deep end is the best option you’ve got. Life has a funny way of taking you places you never imagined, but that trip put me in a better place than I had been previously. Rewind to January 5th, 2014: my acceptance to the Georgia Institute of Technology arrived. Fast-forward a bit to late April the same year: my college plans were set in stone (or at least printed on the deposit receipt to Tech), and while I was happy that I even had the opportunity to go to college, I was worried about my happiness both on campus and beyond in my career. Was this really what I wanted to do with my life? I was so drenched with worry even a raincoat wouldn’t help, but as I was boarding that plane, steadily the experience took over until my brain was so lost in the present and so entirely detached from the worry that I was able to think clearly – logically even – about my future.

Now, after changing my major and other major life events, I have some more questions to ponder while I live in a foreign country 4,523 miles away from my home (in a place that doesn’t even use miles as a unit of measurement), so let’s just say I’m more stressed out than a cat on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. But I’m all right with that. Everything is A-OK with me, because my toes are on the edge of the diving board, and I just might even discover something new during my swim.

Care to join me?

Oh, the Places I’ll Go!
 Pre-departure Reflections.

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral - Vienna, Austria

One book that is very near and dear to me is Dr. Seuss’s ever-popular, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”. The story centers around an unnamed protagonist who is understandably cautious and uncertain about the journey in front of him. There are incredible messages and pieces of wisdom that I have carried with me since childhood and such advice is applicable to anyone about to undergo a major life transition. As I prepare to study abroad at Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz, France, I think back to Dr. Seuss’s words and am reminded to embrace change with open arms.

If someone told me six months ago that I’d soon be embarking on the trip of a lifetime, I would certainly express some disbelief. As much as I have wanted to travel abroad on my own, a small part of me did not believe it was a tangible reality in my near future. I must admit that it was a simple, yet moving message from a fortune cookie last semester that pushed me to follow through and make my dreams of travelling abroad come to fruition. I had just finished eating dinner at Panda Express — as was my bi-weekly ritual. That day, the fortune in my cookie read, “You will take a pleasant journey to a place far away.” For me, this message felt serendipitous and could not have arrived at a better time. I kept this fortune and it prompted me to reevaluate why I was not actively pursuing a study abroad experience while at Georgia Tech. The words were straightforward and the signs were all there — I needed to make the leap and pursue this study abroad opportunity wholeheartedly.

A few summers ago, I had the privilege of travelling to Nigeria with my family for a month-long vacation to visit friends and family we hadn’t seen in a long time. Although I was raised in a Nigerian household, it wasn’t until this trip that I was able to truly grasp and observe the cultural underpinnings of Nigerian society and traditions. Moreover, I visited major metropolitan cities including Lagos, Abuja, and Enugu as well as the ancestral villages of Nnewi and Awkuzu. My time in Nigeria certainly sparked a bit of wanderlust in me — I cannot wait to travel abroad again. As much as I am excited to go to France I, like the subject of “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”, I am also nervous for what is to come. In Nigeria, we stayed in the comfort of my grandparent’s home, surrounded by a familiar culture, food, and language. In France, I will be exploring uncharted waters.

I applied to Georgia Tech Lorraine because I knew that I wanted to grow both academically and personally. Going to France means transplanting myself to an unfamiliar part of the globe, but I am confident that taking this leap will ultimately bring self-growth. In removing myself from the comfort of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I am challenging myself to be more vulnerable and to view the world through a new lens. I expect that there will be inevitable social and cultural differences, but I plan to wield these differences to inspire a new frame of thinking about the world.

There is much to gain from this study abroad experience. I will learn how to be a global engineer, and most importantly a global citizen. The fact that GT Lorraine is an internationally renowned program was also a major draw for me. I want to soak up as much as possible while in Metz, France. I must confess that I am the stereotypical tourist who enjoys taking pictures and visiting historic landmarks. The Gothic Saint-Stephen Cathedral and the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains are definitely on my must-see list!

Two months from now, I will be moving to GT Lorraine’s campus. I am eager to explore the beautiful city of Metz, France and I cannot wait to venture to other cities in Europe as well. I look forward to making new friends and interacting with new people. While in France, I hope to gain a basic understanding of the French language and culture. I have already downloaded a French language app on my phone for early practice! I will surely miss my friends and family while I am away, but I am excited to build new bonds and sharing new memories. My full name, Ijeabalum, translates to “my life’s journey has been worthwhile”. My name is a powerful badge that reminds me to make the most of life’s journey and to strike the balance between remaining grounded while venturing out to try something new and different.

I’ll end my first post with my favorite lines from the book:

“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Until next time!

-Ije

Ije3

Counting down to departure!

IMG950174[1]Why, fancy meeting you here! 

Welcome to the official blog of Georgia Tech-Lorraine. I’ll be your host for spring 2016, Julie, featuring the vibrant town of Metz, France. I am a concert enthusiast and architecture geek, currently studying Industrial Engineering as a proud Yellow Jacket. Using my insider perspective, it’s my hope to depict all different facets of living and traveling abroad with Georgia Tech-Lorraine.


Mere days after the big countdown celebrating the beginning of another calendar year, another countdown is about to climax, and this one commenced circa six months ago. I’m speaking of the countdown to Georgia Tech-Lorraine! Never have I ever been this excited to go back to school – and I am a self-professed nerd.

All the planning and organizing – applying for a passport, and then a visa, and all of the research and shopping and packing – has lead up to these moments. After all the queries fulfilled through random Google searches and all the travel blogs read, it’s time to step over the landing and start the adventure.

Bon voyage!

Posted by Julie

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