To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: June 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Le Déjeuner

posted by Morgan

Lunch, otherwise known as “le déjeuner,” is the most important meal of the day in France. Fortunately for us Georgia Tech students, most of whom can probably solve a triple integral with more ease than cooking some chicken, lunch is provided to us at the local cafeteria.

Please do not be alarmed by my use of the word “cafeteria.” It is not the horrifying place most of us remember from high school, where the pizza is equivalent to cardboard and the frozen peas are still frozen. In fact I have had a few friends that say it is as good as their mother’s cooking (I was blessed with an extraordinary cook for a mother so I can only go so far to say that it is “pretty good”).

During the first few weeks here, the process of actually obtaining the food was a little stressful. Yes, you stand in line and grab the food as you go down the aisle, but they have a very strict policy on how much of each item you can get. For example, you can get two items from the last section which has fruits, desserts, cheese, and yogurt but only one item from the first section, which consists of appetizers and salads. If you take more than the allotted amount you will have a French woman waving her finger disapprovingly at you and grumbling some unidentifiable words. But if you take less than the allotted amount, for instance you skip the chocolate mousse dessert, you will still get the same disapproving response. There is the added fact that they only allow you a maximum of two meager ketchup packets which, as an American, just seems unjustifiably tragic to me on those days they serve french fries. After about a month here though, I can confidently say that I have mastered the process of going through the lunch line. Now I just pass on through and then find a seat at a table with friends, enjoying that french bread we students so eagerly chow down on but then later regret eating.

The entrees are always tasty too. Each day is different. Sometimes it is hot dogs wrapped in bacon and cheese. Other days it is pasta with butter and tomato sauce. The most special day so far was when we had croissants that were filled with some type of magical goodness. In short, everyone’s lunch tray is covered with various foods. Overall, our cafeteria, Crous, is a nice place to eat lunch, catch up with friends, and enjoy a break from classes. It might not be the student center with Chick-fil-A or North Ave. with an ice-cream machine, but it we enjoy it all the same.

Taking Paris by Storm!

This semester has given me many opportunities, including traveling alone. The second weekend I took Paris by storm on my own!

There are quite a few benefits to traveling alone including just being able to see whichever attractions you want. The first thing that I wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower. On the way there my phone died, and I lost all my maps and navigation. I took this opportunity to wander around Paris making my way closer to the Eiffel Tower that I could see in the sky.

Using the Eiffel Tower to navigate

Using the Eiffel Tower to navigate

As I made my way to the Eiffel Tower I got to see different architecture around Paris, taste some delicious pastries, and got to see some street art as well.

 

 

 

 

Uncharted discoveries on the way to the Eiffel Tower

Finally Made it to the Eiffel Tower!

Finally Made it to the Eiffel Tower!

After finally making it to the Eiffel Tower, I sat in the park in front of it and just enjoyed my lunch and the perfect view. Another benefit of traveling alone was being able to do things on my own schedule. Just relaxing and taking my time with lunch was a blessing after walking all morning.

 

 

The next sight that I needed to see was the Louvre. After a quick metro ride I entered the Louvre and saw the quintessential inverted glass pyramid.

I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre

I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre

I spent hours wandering the halls of the Louvre walking from exhibit to exhibit. My favorite exhibit by far was the Ancient Egyptian exhibit. This was my first time seeing Ancient Egyptian stonework and ceramics. The craftsmanship that went into these pieces and the fact that they have lasted throughout the centuries stunned me.

Exhibits at the Louvre

This weekend I got the chance to travel on my own. I found out that I can make it around a foreign city alone if need be. It also gave me the opportunity to meet new people at my hostel. I quickly made new friends and we ended up spending the next day at the Musée d’Orsay together.

LM-Paris4

With new friends on the way to the Musée d’Orsay

 

The Best Study Spots at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Having just completed hell-week, the most tumultuous, tiring, tear jerking time next to finals week, I have discovered a few of the best places to study. Here they are!

Studying in the lounge

Studying in the lounge

The Student Lounge: The equivalent of the culc, if you are looking for a convenient place to casually work in between classes this is the place! While there is no starbucks or gorgeous views of Atlanta, there are some comfy couches and a coffee and vending machine. Plus, it is a great place to run into people and say hi!

 

The Lake: On those rare days that it is not raining, this is the most tranquil and beautiful place to study. The campanile pales in comparison. Take your notes with you and sit on a bench or lie under a tree! There is no better spot!

Studying by the lake

Studying by the lake

 

An Abandoned Class-Room: If you want some peace in quiet in a central location, this is the way to go. It’s kind of like the equivalent to our library or a study room. At the end of your day you can meet up with a classmate and go over work in a quiet and peaceful place. Since classes tend to die down around 5 pm you can usually find an empty classroom around then. No long distance walking to dorms is necessary!

 

Dorm room kitchen

Dorm room kitchen

The Kitchen: The kitchen has been my favorite place to work on CS hw. I can pull out my laptop and spend an hour or two with friends writing some code. We don’t have to worry about disrupting other people, and the best part, we can cook and eat dinner while we work! Multitasking is key if you want to be a true Tech student!

 

Your Dorm: This is the best place for people who like to work late into the night. The GTL building is not the culc, open 24 hours a day. Because most people at GTL have their own rooms, working in your dorm with your light on at 1 am is an viable option. While I don’t find it to be the most enjoyable atmosphere, it is the best place for me to knock out some work!

Dorm room

Dorm room

These are the places I study at most often! Believe me, you will study on this study abroad, so find the right place for you so that you make the most of this experience!

One Room Schoolhouse

When I started looking at colleges in high school, the one thing I knew that I wanted was a large school, a school so large that I could easily meet someone new every day of class. Georgia Tech proved to be a nice compromise to this desire with a student body of around 15,000. Having recently completed my freshman year at Georgia Tech I can honestly say that the classes, the people, even the professors in the large lecture halls were exactly what I wanted. Then came GTL, where the class sizes quickly drop from 250 to 20 students, the office hours are held by request instead of daily, and the TA’s are non-existent.

MK4_1

Walking into the GTL building, you realize the sheer meagerness in size. It is not the Clough Commons where your legs tire from walking in search of your classroom. The entire campus is made up of one building. There are only about 10 classrooms, each colored coded instead of listed by room number. Instead of huge projector screens that span across the walls, there is one small screen at the front of the room. Add the fact that there is only one outlet in every room instead of a personal outlet rooted into your desk and it makes me feel like I am in a one room schoolhouse.  I did not think I would particularly enjoy this small environment of learning, yet GTL classes have given me a positive, new perspective for my education.

MK4_2

There is a personal feel to it. For example, my computer science class has only about 20 students or so and one professor. The usual size for this class is closer to 150 students, but our small class size allows us to have a one-on-one relationship with the professor. The ability of our professor to ask us our opinions on tests and quizzes and then give feedback right away would have been impossible in Atlanta. Students can also ask in-depth questions, hold conversations such as “what works better, the enumerate function or a for loop?,” and can even take the time to learn more details about the professor on a personal level. I have learned, for instance, that Professor Simpkins is afraid of heights but used to be in the air force.

In short, my classes have a calmer more personal atmosphere, but I am still able to “enjoy” the rigors of sitting down and debugging some code with friends after class. With one building for a campus, we students get an idea of what a small college feel is like. While it might not be the hustle-bustle of Georgia Tech Atlanta, it is still a stimulating environment that we enjoying coming to, even if it is at 8:30 in the morning.

Where to Eat Near Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Unlike at the Georgia campus, dinner is not included in any of the meal plans for the GTL student. This means that every evening each GTL student needs to fend for themselves. No need to worry though as there are several options for dinner. There is the obvious option to cook dinner in the dorms, but for those times when you’re too busy to cook here are your options:

Paul

Image source: Paul.fr

Image source: Paul.fr

Paul is located about halfway between Lafayette and the GTL building. Paul has several options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Throughout the day they have fresh baked bread, pastries, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Each day they have a slightly different selection, making sure that you don’t get bored eating the same thing every day.

 

Crous

CROUS dining hall

CROUS dining hall

While dinner isn’t included in the meal plan, lunch at Crous is included. That being said for 3€ dinner at Crous can be purchased. Dinner at Crous typically includes a choice of two entrees, one seafood option and one non-seafood meat options. Some of the options included so far this semester were chicken fingers, ham and grilled cheese, pork and macaroni, among others. They have a variety of cold sides each night including oranges, apples, watermelon, a variety of cheeses, yogurt, and mousse. One or two hot sides are available each night as well such as scalloped potatoes, green beans, and pasta.

 

La Boite à Pizza

Image source: laboiteapizza.com

Image source: laboiteapizza.com

La Boite à Pizza is the local pizza place that is located next to Paul, and is within walking distance from GTL. Let me tell you La Boite à Pizza is not your typical pizza place. They have a selection of gourmet and traditional pizzas made with fresh ingredients. They even have deals every Monday and Thursday for any medium pizza for 6€50!

These are the options available within walking distance of GTL, but there are always the restaurants in Metz if you get tired of these.

 

Train Strikes Can’t Bring Us Down

posted by Morgan

The 2016 summer semester for GTL students is quite different than most years. It is not because it is the 25th anniversary for Georgia Tech Lorraine, nor is it because the Euro Cup is being held in France. No. This year is different as a result of the record breaking rainfall in France and the almost daily train strikes.

As you can imagine, these two things are somewhat problematic for us students. Walking to class in the rain, while unenjoyable, is not the end of the world nor is having a train cancelled. Hey, it happens right? We all knew that getting stranded in a train station overnight with friends was a possibility when we signed up for the program (Believe it or not, we were explicitly told stories by former GTL students of these occurrences). I did not, however, expect for train problems to prevent me from leaving GTL. I can “deal” with being stuck in Paris or Rome for an extra day, but being stuck on campus for a weekend is not what I would call “appealing”. It appeared that a weekend at GTL might be the case for my friends last weekend. We had planned to go to Munich, but upon arrival at the Metz train station we quickly learned our train was cancelled.

So it was time for plan B! Off to Brussels we go! An hour later we were sitting on the floor of the Luxembourg train station with another disappointing look strewn across our faces. Our train to Brussels was canceled.

So now it was time for plan C! What was plan C? Well, we did not really have a plan C, so our plan C then became, “Ask the Woman at the Information Desk Where Four College Students Could Go For a Fun Weekend in Europe.” Cologne, a smaller city about 3 hours away in Germany, was the answer.

As we sat on the train with our eyes glued to our phones, we quickly learned that expensive shopping and few city sights was not exactly our idea of a fun 3 day weekend, so I looked at the train route and found a new destination: Koblenz. It was déjà vu moment. MK6-1-10 years earlierI had faintly remembered my experience there with my family when I was 8 years old. Something about beautiful rolling hills and a quaint town rang in my mind, and, seeing as we were all out of options, I figured we could just hop off the train at Koblenz and hope for the best!

And that’s exactly what we did. After an hour of wandering the streets and searching for the cheapest, last minute accommodations we could find, we finally found somewhere to sleep and it wasn’t even the train station. The next morning we were up and ready to go see what Koblenz had to offer; backpacking our way towards some fortress we went. Of course, we got lost on our way up the steep incline in the humid, slightly rainy weather, with our luggage weighing us down, but when we finally made it to the top, our eyes were met with the rolling hills I had remembered from my time in Koblenz almost ten years ago.

Quaint German houses lined the rolling hills, reminding us of the fairytales we read when we were children; picturesque vineyards wove their way up the sides of mountains, making us question how someone even managed to stand on something so steep; small boats sailed their way down the Rhine, inviting tourists to fill their cameras with photos. While the rain didn’t seem to leave us when we left for Germany, we were still met with these beautiful sights.

When we had finished touring the impressive fortress and observing the detailed architecture, we decided to make our way back down the incline, but this time we were going to find an easier, less physically exertive way. Using my rusty German to converse with a local, we found the cable car that made its way over the river and down the mountain. My high school German teacher would have been proud as I discussed directions, where we were from, and what we thought of Koblenz so far.

The rest of the day was spent wandering until we made our way towards the train station and headed to our next destination: Trier. According to a friend of

mine who was studying abroad in Germany, Trier was the place to

Quaint Trier

Quaint Trier

go if we wanted the traditional German experience. The oldest town in Germany, it is full of history: a cathedral, old town square, Basillica dating back to the 4th century, and the Roman baths. After hopping off the train and making our way to our last minute airbnb, we realized that Trier was the perfect place for us girls to spend a weekend. It was calm, traditional, quaint, and the most important part– it had delicious gelato.   

We still did not really have a plan at this point, but we just spent the rest of our weekend exploring. When we passed the palace and gardens, we took time for a photo op. When the rain began to pour, we found a local cafe that served Wiener-Schnitzel. When our feet began to drag, we found an international music festival to sit down and listen to.

The unexpected and unplanned weekend was a little anxiety-filled for me at first, but I could not think of a better memory to look back on. So I guess these train strikes are not as unfortunate as I thought. I was with three wonderful friends enjoying company and culture. We might not have made it to the castle of Neuschwanstein or the city of Munich, but I think our adventure in Koblenz and Trier made up for it. No train strikes could bring us down.

Visiting the Doctor While at GTL

MK-doctor

What do you do when you get sick abroad? Everyone gets sick occasionally, especially when we travel as much as we do. Last week, I caught the common cold, and just like at the Georgia campus if you are too sick to go to class you have to go to the doctor. There are a few English-speaking doctors near GTL – the one I visited is located right off the Mettis bus line, and is the GTL-recommended physician.

After getting sick, I headed to the doctor with the cost of the visit in cash. This doctor doesn’t accept credit cards and it is advised to bring exact change; 23€. Just make sure to keep your receipt as the GTL insurance will reimburse you later. Seeing the doctor here was different than visiting one in the US though. The doctor’s office is located in the back of a large apartment complex right next to the bus station.

After walking into the building I was expecting to see a reception desk or a hallway which lead to an office with a reception desk. That was not the case; when you walk into the building there are a few chairs and this is where you wait for the doctor to come and ask you into his office. Once this happens, you go in and tell him what is wrong. There is a difference in the office setting as well; while in the US you would typically talk to the doctor in an examination room whereas at this doctor’s office, you talk to him in his office.

Unlike in the US where you can make an appointment with a general physician, in France the doctor has open hours where you go to wait to see him. This makes it slightly difficult to get in to see the doctor. Be sure to make it to the open hours early to try to limit the time that you spend waiting to see the doctor when you are sick.

Overall, while the experience was new, the entire visit was quick and effective. I walked out of the office with a prescription for some cold medicine and an excused absence note for my professors.

Time Management

Posted by Morgan

“There are never enough hours in the day”

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL)

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL)

My mom always told me this as she attended my soccer games, cooked my sister and I dinner, spent the day coding at her job, attended my band concerts, picked me up from field hockey, sorted the junk mail, cleaned the house, and helped me with my homework. As a child, I did not understand this statement, but as a student at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I could not hear her any more clearly.

Packing your weekends with sightseeing, train rides, 12 mile walks through the city, and a few hours of sleep is tiring. When the school week finally returns and your back at GTL, you want nothing more than to collapse in your dorm room and sleep. But, being Tech students, we don’t really have that option. The classes are hard and while the professors are understanding, the pace is still fast. As a result, I have had to learn how to manage my time efficiently.

While this was a skill I learned my freshman year of college, the rules are different here at GTL. Instead of balancing school, social life and sleep, you must balance travel, social life, school and sleep. I’ve learned a little bit along the way though that I think has helped.

  • Study Groups: Even if you don’t know anyone in your class at GTL, the class sizes are small, so you have to just grab someone and ask them to study with you. It reduces the time you spend mulling over problems and actually helps you learn the concepts better.
  • Office Hours: Yes we have these in Atlanta too, but often times you can get more one on one time with your professor. You can ask them to explain a concept or work through a detailed problem with you. They are the equivalent of your TA now.
  • Studying on the Train: When I say “study on the train,” I do not mean bring your textbooks and laptop. You simply will not have the patience or time for that. Instead, pull out a few notes you think are necessary or important. Then try downloading power-point presentations onto your phone. It will save you space and time.
  • Sleeping on the train: Find sleep whenever you can. If you’re on a train, but wide awake and don’t want to study, close your eyes. Just do it. Even if you’re not tired now, you will be later and you will be thankful you took the time to rest on a train instead of sleeping through your travels.
  • Plan your week: Plan out your week ahead of time. If you have a test the following week but are taking a 20 hour train ride to Budapest the weekend before, you are not going to want to study that much the day you get back. Start early so that you are prepared.
  • Plan your travels: This makes life so much easier. Don’t wait until the last minute to book a train otherwise you will be standing in line forever and might not even get a ticket to your destination of choice. You should also try to book an airbnb or hostel about two weeks in advance. It greatly diminishes the time you spend searching for that perfect price. 
  • Cook with Friends: Feeding yourself in France takes a little more patience. You have to walk to the supermarket, carry all of your groceries back, and you don’t have the same resources you would back home.  Then you have to spend the time actually cooking your food. Cooking with friends though reduces the time and counts as part of your social life!

These tips and tricks have been vital to my survival here at GTL. I am still tired after a long weekend of travels, but these tips help me stay on top of my studies and still have the full GTL experience.

Making a Train Reservation in French

Traveling can be difficult, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language. Here are a few tips that should help you when you get to the train station.

LM3_1Before you go to the train station you should have a few things ironed out. You should have the trains that you want to make reservations for already, and a backup itinerary in case those trains are booked. That means that you should know the train ID number and the time that it is departing and from which station. It is also important to note that all trains don’t require a reservation, and if you have a Eurail pass you just need to get on the train.

After gathering this information it is time for you to head to the train station.

 

Introductory Formalities

<<Bonjour>> or <<Bonsoir>>: The attendants at the desk will greet you with one of these greetings typically. Bonjour is a greeting used before the evening where Bonsoir will be used later in the day. You should repeat the greeting back to them.

Requesting Your Reservation

<<Je voudrais réserver un billet de train . . .>>

This is the start of your statement saying the you would like to make a reservation for a train. After this you need to provide the information about your journey.

<< . . . Pour [Insert Departing Station] le [Insert Date – first the day, then the month] et arrivée de [Insert Arriving Station] sur le [Insert Date – first the day, then the month] s’il vous plaît>>

The only other thing that should be in French will be the dates and times of the trains. In French, they list the day first and then the month. Below is a table with the months and days in French.

January – Janvier

February – Février

March – Mars

April – Avril

May – Mai

June – Juin

July – Juillet

August – Août

September – Septembre

October – Octobre

November – Novembre

December – Décembre

0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf
20 vingt
21 vingt et un
22 vingt-deux
23 vingt-trois
24 vingt-quatre
25 vingt-cinq
26 vingt-six
27 vingt-sept
28 vingt-huit
29 vingt-neuf
30 trente
31 Trente et un

One last thing to note is that you should always check the times and dates on your reservation before you buy them, because depending on the situation they might not be exchangeable or refundable. Typically the attendant will show you your ticket before you purchase it, so make sure to check the dates, times, and stations.

 

Praha

Posted by Morgan

Being a student at Georgia Tech is challenging, stressful, tear-jerking, and let’s face it, at times it makes you question why you decided to put yourself through such misery. I was asking myself this exact question, “Why did I choose Georgia Tech?,” as I downed my coffee, pried open my eyes, and hit the books during finals week.

I knew that my summer semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine was ensuing and I needed to start planning trips in advance so I could try and save what little money I had, but of course my studies took precedence. It wasn’t until three days before I left for France that my friend and I randomly decided we wanted to fly to Prague for our first weekend in Europe.

It was a spontaneous decision to say the least. I was sitting down watching “Chasing Liberty,” a clichéd but enjoyable chick flick that follows a rebellious teenager as she travels around Europe.

All I needed to see was the Charles Bridge, and that was it. I wanted to go to Prague. The clichéd “rom-com” had sold me on some destination I knew very little about, but it was new, different, and fun, which was exactly what I wanted after finals. Next thing I knew, a week later my best friend, Mirna and I were strolling the streets of Prague.

I am fortunate enough to say that I have traveled to many different places in Europe, but never have I been to a place as magical as Prague. You see, when you walk around Atlanta, or Amsterdam, or Barcelona, even some place as beautiful as London, you come across those buildings that try so hard to be the quintessential piece of modern art when in actuality they are nothing more than an ugly brown cube.

The same could not be said for Prague.

I saw only one ugly building–only one ugly building in the entire city. I know that sounds superficial and inconsequential, but believe me, it was a wonderful surprise. Perhaps that is why our trip was so enjoyable having had little to nothing planned. Everywhere we looked there was an old, beautiful piece of history. Even the McDonald’s was coated in ornate, romanesque architecture. It was just so easy to live in the moment, forget about the worries of school, and enjoy the beauty around us.

The cheap yet delicious food definitely helped intensify this atmosphere. When walking around old town for example, Mirna and I stumbled across a charming traditional Czech dessert. At first we were taken aback. What were this things? They looked like ice cream cones but they were being roasted over the fire. We figured the only way to answer our question was to perform a professional taste test! I can safely say that they were worth the few euro.

When our trip was coming to an end, we decided to celebrate our first successful adventure (no passports or money was lost, no people were injured!) with a traditional Czech dinner. We ate in a Ratskeller and oddly enough were seated next to two recent UGA graduates.

Of course, we took this opportunity to tease them over the rivalry, a rivalry they could care less about, but they had no qualms in admitting the supreme intelligence of our school (even though they believed their football team to be superior). It was a fun experience to be half-way around the world but still be so connected to our roots.

As I endured the laborious and long journey back to Metz, I thought back to that horrible time during finals week. This was why it was all worth it. This experience. This education. This adventure. Even our new University of Georgia friends seemed to agree.

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