To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: July 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

The Studying in Study Abroad

With all of this traveling, it is easy to forget the reason why we are in France sometimes: to further our education. Rather, we forget the labors of studying and replace that spot in our mind with our dream travel destinations: Zurich, Berlin, Naples, Budapest, London. But then test week comes around, and we are quickly slapped back into reality.

This upcoming week is test week for most students at GTL, and I can say with absolute clarity that I am feeling that sharp sting of reality. Of course, I have stayed focused in my classes; I will even go so far to say that I thoroughly enjoy my classes, but that does not mean I have spent my weekends preparing myself for the Georgia Tech-level tests that are impending. So while I wanted to spend this two-day weekend in Bruges, Belgium, friends and I decided it might be better to stay in Metz for the weekend to prepare for the upcoming hell-week, and boy am I glad that I did.

I spent Friday catching up on sleep. Like most of my GTL experience so far, I did not plan this. I planned to study vigorously, but with traveling every weekend I was exhausted. My meager attempts at studying became simply futile because I was so run down. I needed a break.

After a nap, some of us went to CORA, the Walmart of France, to pick up some food for a family dinner. We cooked some hamburgers in the kitchen together and had a fresh fruit salad! It was easy and delicious. Finally, we finished the night off with a freshly baked strawberry tarte and then we hit the hay!

Thankfully, I was feeling refreshed Saturday morning after a very, very, very, long, deep sleep and was able to get some studying in. I worked with my friend Mirna in preparing for our Industrial Engineering test, but of course we had to have a little bit of fun, especially seeing MK-StudyLux1as it was Tim’s birthday! Next thing you know, a group of us pulled out Eurail train passes, hopped on the train to Luxembourg, and prepared to divulge into some delicious Mexican food at a popular restaurant. It was a perfect way to celebrate Tim’s birthday and take a break from studying (even though Briana brought her notes with her on the train). The meal was delicious. While we all love the fresh baguettes and artisan cheeses here in Metz, we have missed the amazing Mexican food that we are spoiled with in Atlanta.

That is the wonderful thing about Luxembourg. It’s not the most interesting place to travel to-at least in my opinion-but there is an aura of comfort and familiarity. You can hop on a train and in 45 minutes you are watching Finding Dory in English, doing a little shopping at American stores, or like us, devouring tasty Mexican food.

This weekend, while anti-climactic, was a much needed, relaxing time. Taking that breath, that break from adventure, made me realize that you can’t do it all! Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize why you are at GTL in the first place: to study. If there is any advice can give to future GTL students, it is to plan breaks every now and then! I have already started seeing students start dropping like flies from their run down immune systems, and let me tell you, the last thing you want is to be underprepared, sick, and asleep during a Thermo Exam.

Making Your Way to the Airport

As the semester begins to wrap up it is now the time to figure out how to make it to the airport to return home. Georgia Tech-Lorraine provides shuttles from our campus to the airport if there are enough students going to a particular airport, but this isn’t guaranteed. The Brussels airport and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris typically have shuttle service provided.

What is one to do if there isn’t shuttle service provided? Well the first thing that you need to worry about is getting to the city where your flight leaves from. So if you are leaving out of Luxembourg Airport at 8 am, you should try to get to the city a couple  of hours before your flight, allowing an hour to get from the city-proper to the airport.

One way to get to the airport is to take a train. We have been taking trains all summer so this should feel like an old hat at this point. After you are in the destination city, give yourself an hour or so to get from the train station to the airport. You can take a bus or a metro is one is available. In Paris I find that the metro is the fastest option, but in Luxembourg you will have to take a bus.

But what if you cannot get the train reservation you want or there aren’t any trains that get you there early enough? You have the option to get to the city a day early and stay at a hostel until the next day, but that isn’t always ideal.

Another method is to take a shuttle from Metz to the airport directly. Flibco is a shuttle service that will pick you up near the train station and drive you to many predetermined airports. I personally have taken Flibco from Metz to Luxembourg airport, and when you buy your tickets early enough it is really cheap — my ticket was only 5€. The only issue with this is that the shuttles can run at odd hours. For instance, my shuttle left Metz at 2 am on a Sunday, and the buses don’t run that late, so I just took a taxi.

This information is helpful for most people for the return trip home, but it also applies for any planes that you are trying to catch during the summer.

To Beach or not to Beach?

MK-Lagos2Posted by Morgan

My mom loves telling the story of my first time at the beach. As she tells it, she was stranded with two little toddlers, my older sister and myself, a few oversized coolers, and 4 unnecessary beach chairs while my dad casually went to go park the car. Meanwhile, my sister was running around in panic for fear that crabs would come snap off her toes, and I was apparently terrified of the sand, crying my head off anytime my feet touched the ground. To this day my family has never really been a beach vacation kind of family, and I have yet to outgrow my fear of sand.

Perhaps this is why I was wary of a weekend trip to Lagos, a city on the coast of Portugal. My friend, Brianna, had found the destination earlier on in the spring and had showed us beautiful photos of beaches, caves and stunning rock formations. Mirna was enthralled, quickly saying yes to this destination. I needed a little more convincing though. I didn’t want to waste a weekend lying on the beach, but when they showed me a plan of hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling, I decided, why not? I’ve never really done anything like this before and I am always saying that I want to try something new.

So I booked a plane ticket.

Thank goodness I did because I could not have been more impressed with Lagos. It was stunning. Breathtaking. Magical.

Our 3 hour kayaking trip was the highlight. Leading us around the coastline, our guide took us in and out of the caves and past the beautiful cliffs. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty of the area. How could some place be so perfect? How was it that I was here? It was almost unreal, and I had to take the time to soak it all in.

The three hour tour also gave us time to make a new friend, Lars, a student about our age from Germany who was traveling around for a few weeks before heading back to his internship. We conversed for a while on our journey, discussing our schools and cultures, before finally parting ways at the end.

After the very long kayaking trip, it was clear that Mirna, Brianna, and I needed a break…a really, really long break with lots of food and ice cold water and maybe even some ice-cream. As we made our way through the center of town, we took our time to stop and scour the menus for the best price and best looking food. We ended up choosing a traditional Portuguese restaurant and resting our feet for a while.

Standing up to leave, content with our meals and now satisfyingly refreshed, we bumped into our new friend, Lars. Talking for a while, we made plans to meet up later that night to watch the euro cup match, Italy vs Germany. But first, we decided to head back to our bed and breakfast, a ten minute drive out of town, to freshen up and take a quick nap. While the location of our bed and breakfast was inconvenient, it was also beautiful.  Located on a vineyard, complete with a personal balcony, it was the perfect place to sit back, take a nap, and relax before heading back out to meet up with Lars.

Once we were all ready, we began our journey back into town. We met up with Lars in a bar, where it was packed so tightly we could barely see the tv let alone breathe. It was fun though! I ended up cheering on Germany with Lars and even making some new friends from London who cheered along with us. When it came down to the penalty shootout, things got interesting. Some people were shouting for Italy and some people were shouting for Germany, but when Germany finally won, the bar went wild. It was an amazing experience and something truly unique to the culture of Europe.

The following day was not so enjoyable. Being my stupid self I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my feet the day before, and, seeing as I was sitting in kayak for three hours with the sun beating down directly on my feet, I got burned. I got burned badly. My feet were bright red and swollen the next day. I had tried to go out into town and do some things with my friends but it was painful. One woman even came up to me and offered me sunscreen.

It was a hard decision, but I decided that I needed to go back to the bed and breakfast and rest my feet while Brianna and Mirna explored. I was surprised to discover as I lied  there in bed that I wasn’t too upset with this. It might have been dull, but I got some rest, took some ibprofen,  applied some aloe, and enjoyed the picturesque views of Portugal from my window.

By the time dinner came, I was feeling better and ready to head out again with Mirna and Brianna. We grabbed some food and then walked to the beach to look at the stars. It was a sight I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

Growing up close to Philadelphia, I was never really able to see the stars. Not much changed when I came to Tech in Atlanta. But here, in Lagos, lying on the beach, the stars were shining bright above us. While it was a simple experience, lying on the beach watching the stars, it somehow managed to put me at ease, something I never thought possible while lying on the sand (I’m not really a fan of the beach don’t forget). Maybe the beach wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe even my family could be a beach family…or at least we could be a beach family when it comes to Lagos.

RA Profile: Jonathan Gosyne

Posted by Lindsay

Jonathan Gosyne

Jonathan Gosyne

Name: Jonathan Gosyne

Major/Field of Study: ME

Year in undergraduate: 4th year

Other Universities: Presentation College, Chaguanas, in Trinidad & Tobago, where he completed the equivalent of an associates degree

 

Favorite Quote: “As each has been given a gift, use it to serve one another”

Favorite Song: “New York, New York” – Frank Sinatra

Interests and Hobbies: Learning and playing musical instruments and how they can express different cultures, as well as taking road trips and traveling

Why GTL?: GTL had all the courses that he needed to take for the summer, and it had the added bonus of being abroad.

Favorite Part of GTL: The company – the students here are fun to talk to and travel with

What dorm do RA for?: RA for Lafayette

RA Experience: Was an RA for two years at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus at Crecine. Also was a prefect (similar to a daytime RA) at his old university

Recommendations to other RA’s coming to GTL: Understand that you don’t know the culture and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the SA’s because they know the culture. Build rapport with the students. Be polite and manage your time well.

Recommendations to future GTL students: Know that your plans will change and fall through, and don’t let this bother you too much. Do non-touristy things as well as the major tourist attractions and be open to suggestions. Try to make an effort to learn some phrases in the native language of the countries that you are visiting.

Any places that you didn’t visit, that you would like to visit in the future?: Ireland and Scandinavia

Will you do another study abroad?: Maybe one of the master’s program study abroads in South England

What’s Next?: Firming up plans about completing a masters. He has two more semesters before he graduates in May 2017

 

The Euro Cup Mania

Posted by Morgan

Note: this was written before the finals of the Euro Cup.

MK-EuroCup1

Football, the people’s favorite sport– the sport that causes fans to rally together chanting sometimes obscene statements–the sport that convinces men and women to cover their faces in paint, their bodies in colorful sports clothing, and their hands in foam fingers–the sport that brings people together with little in common except for their love of football. I am not talking about American football though. I am talking about European football, about soccer, the world’s favorite sport.

In America, soccer is not the most popular sport. While we do have the best women’s national team in the world, our men’s team is seriously lacking in talent- at least in comparison to most European teams- and consumerist America simply prefers watching a sport where commercials play every 5 minutes instead of an intense atmosphere of nonstop 45 minute halves. As result, when tournaments such as the World Cup, the Euro Cup, or even the CONCACAF Cup air on TV, most of America just changes the channel. The same cannot be said for Europe.

GTL students were fortunate enough to experience this part of European culture this summer as this year was the Euro Cup, a popular soccer tournament that is held every 4 years and is being hosted in France this year. While back in America, citizens are eagerly anticipating the Olympics, Europeans couldn’t care less about the Olympics. Their eyes are all on soccer.

This past week was a monumental game for France; the semifinals against Germany which determined whether or not France would move on in pursuit of the coveted Euro Cup trophy. Like any soccer fan, I dragged my friends with me to downtown Metz to watch the game on television. They obliged and made the journey with me into town. Nothing prepared them for what they were about to witness though. The squares were piled with people, pushing their way through crowds to get the best view of the TVs which lined the streets outside of bars and cafes. People’s faces were painted with the French flag; children were dressed in crazy red wigs in support of France; and just about every man had one oversized beer in his hand. It was a crazy atmosphere.

The game itself was enjoyable. While my eyes were glued to the television at every point in time, I somehow managed to miss both French goals in those rare moments I would turn to speak to a friend. Of course, we all knew what had happened as the crowds went wild, screaming, jumping, pushing, singing.

I was somewhat disappointed during the game though. I guess I forgot to mention that I was rooting for the enemy–Germany. The fact that Schweinsteiger and Mueller, two fantastic German players, were not able to help score against the MK-EuroCup2French made me very annoyed. Not to mention that Germany had possession of the ball the majority of the game! I had to hide this annoyance as best as possible from the French though for fear of being attacked by some of those crazy fans.

The final result: France won. While I myself was upset with the outcome, the rest of the country was ecstatic. Metz went crazy. People started setting off fireworks, dancing in circles, singing songs, breathing fire, shaking police vehicles that lined the streets. It was quite the sight.

As one friend of mine put it, “This would never happen in America.”

And that’s the truth. Even when a particular team wins the Super Bowl, crowds do not rush the streets setting off fireworks or shaking police vehicles. People would be arrested. But in France, in Europe, they do. It is a national sport, a national emblem for a country, and we were able to experience this joyous moment with the French people. It’s an experience I will never forget. Sure traveling to Italy and England is awesome, but this was an unmatched experience — not related to a travel destination — that I will most likely not have again.

While the night was late and long, I was glad to be able to see such a sight. The next day of class might have been rough, but when I entered my Industrial Engineering class the following morning, I noticed the heavy eyes of my IE professor.

“So, what did you guys think of the game?,” asked my professor.

Well, clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought a little less sleep was worth it to see France win.

Faculty Profile: Nico Declercq

Professor Nico Declercq

Professor Nico Declercq

Name: Dr. Nico Declercq

Position: Tenured Associate Professor

Favorite Color: Green

Favorite Food: He doesn’t have one but he recommends that the GTL students try food from the south of France.

Interests/Hobbies: Spending time with his family

Educational Institutions:  Ghent University, Belgium, 2005 – PhD in Engineering Physics; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2000- Master’s in Astrophysics; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 1996- Bachelors in Astrophysics

Dr. Declercq teaches thermodynamics this semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. He has taught at both the Lorraine campus and the Atlanta Campus teaching dynamics courses. Dr. Declercq is also doing research into ultrasonic nondestructive evaluation of materials and acoustics here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. During the weekends he travels back to Brussels to be with his family.

Some advice imparted by Dr. Declercq was that GTL students should travel but they should also make studying a priority as well.

Back to Paradise

Places to Relax Around Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Posted by Lindsay

The mixture of traveling every weekend, and studying all week can be tiring. But there are some awesome places around campus to relax and take a break.

The Student Lounge

The student lounge in the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building isn’t just for studying. The lounge has a ping pong table where students can play for free. There is also a small lending library where students can borrow books and just return them when they are done reading them. The lounge also has nice comfortable chairs which are great to read in, as I can attest. This is also where most of the BDE events, like game night and trivia, are held.

 

The Lake

LM-Relax1

Across the street from the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building there is a small lake with a track around it. There are several benches around the lake to sit and enjoy the scenery. There are also ducks that are found at the lake, as well as swans. It is always nice to sit in the sun and watch the ducks swim.

 

Paul’s

Paul’s is located in between the GTL building and the Lafayette dorms. They have indoor and outdoor seating where you can order a coffee and sweets and enjoy the weather. There aren’t many Starbucks located around GTL, so Paul’s is the next best thing, with the added benefits of freshly made sweets and bread.

 

The Dorms

If all else fails, the dorms offer a lounge where students can relax as well as study. It is also not unusual to walk down the hallways of the dorms and see all the doors open and students chatting in the hallway. This open and welcoming community of students is a great way to make new friends. There are also usually pickup games of soccer or Ultimate Frisbee happening around the dorms.

 

London Calling

Posted by Morgan

Oh how I’ve missed the English language. The language where I understand whether the sign says “train delayed” or “train departing.” The language where I understand whether the bottle of liquid says “makeup remover” or “rubbing alcohol.” The language where I understand whether the menu says “steak” or “beef brains.” As you can probably guess, after a month in France, I was missing the ease of communication I had with the people in the states, so when a three day weekend arrived my sorority big, Dana, and I decided to go to London!

Dana and I had decided on London at the last possible minute. She was suffering from the GTL plague and was not exactly up for planning a trip, and me, being my indecisive self, was spouting off about ten different destinations we could go to. Thank goodness she was a good friend and put up with me for this. I swear each day leading up to our three day weekend I had an entire new trip planned: Budapest, Lyon, Florence, Salzburg. But in the end, the 3 hour journey on the Chunnel, the train that goes from Paris to London under the English Channel, and the English language was what hooked us on our destination: London.

I love London. I have been there before and it just has this classiness and ease to it. Of course there are those people that think of the charming British accents or The Spice Girls when they think of England, but my mind always wanders to a charming tea, the elegant queen, or the beautiful architecture of Big Ben. It’s my kind of place.

Lucky for us, It just so happened that the weekend we were there was also the celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. I learned this from a friend of mine who was interning for a publishing company in London. I had told her of our plans to visit and she suggested meeting up for the Queen’s birthday parade.

We met at the Piccadilly Train station and then walked over towards the Waterloo steps to get a good spot to see the queen. We caught up on how our lives in college were going and how we were enjoying our summer of traveling. It was so fun to be with a friend from my home town, thousands of miles away!

Unfortunately, we waited for much longer than anticipated to see the queen; however, the long wait gave us time to people watch and talk to the people around us. Oddly enough, this was an enjoyable way to pass the time. We saw a man dancing around in a skirt that was far too short and protesting about the debate over Brexit. We heard a group of older women discussing what color they thought the queen would wear: lavender or lime green (this debacle made us chuckle to no end, and she ended up wearing lime green believe it or not). Then, to make our wait even more interesting, we met a woman next to us whose son went to Georgia Tech! We conversed over the Georgia Tech-Lorraine program and how her son was excited for his final year at Tech. What a small world.

We saw the queen!

We saw the queen!

When the queen finally came, the crowd went wild, waving their British flags in the air and shouting. For about two minutes, I was able to see the speck of lime green that was the queen. That was pretty much the extent of the parade, but it was still a fun experience and now I can say, “I’ve seen the queen. Have you?”

Afterwards, Dana and I ventured over towards Westminster Abbey. We took the time to be stereotypical tourists, snapping cheesy photos and jumping up and down. When we were done, the hunger pains started ringing and we began to look for lunch. Being a lover of soccer, I forced Dana to go to a traditional British pub with me so I could watch the Euro Cup. I loved this. As I ate my fish and chips, fixated on the tv, the men around me cheered on their team, cursing off when they thought a foul should have been called and yelling with excitement when a goal was scored. It was a cultural experience and clearly a highlight of my trip.

Just us being tourists.

Just us being tourists.

The rest of the day was spent exploring. This meant we got lost a lot, which is probably why our feet hurt so much by the end of the day. Even though we had a subway card, Siri told us we walked 12 miles that day. When the evening came, we decided we needed sleep after all that walking, so instead of seeing a bit of London at night we went back to our hotel and were in bed by 11pm. Such fun college students we are!

The next day involved much less walking- only five miles this time! We went to Camden Market and just walked around. It was an assortment of cool shops and artwork. Then there were the food stands that shoved their free samples in our face to try and get us to buy something which only filled me with overwhelming anxiety; however, the day was finished with a relaxing evening at the theater. According to our research, which consisted of Google, we learned that NYC and London had some of the best theater in the world, so we bought tickets to see the Lion King. I can confidently say that it was one of those instances where Google was right.

The Market.

The Market.

The show was amazing: the costumes, the music, the acting! Dana left with a feeling of contentment and I left with the tune of Hakuna Matata stuck in my head. It was a great way to finish our trip.

Sitting on the train on our way back to Metz, France, Dana, the person who doesn’t get excited by much, had a huge smile across her face. “I loved London,” she said. “I’m going to live there when I get older. Do you think they have jobs for chemical engineers there?”

Clearly London was a hit, and it made me happy that she loved the city just as much as I do. As we entered back into the Metz train station, the signs were now all in French, the restaurant menus, now all in French, the conversations around us, now all in French. It was time to go back to the confusing state of mental disarray, but at least we had a weekend in English. At least we had London.

 

 

 

 

 

Off the Beaten Track


This past weekend was the first four day weekend of the summer, and traveling to Barcelona, Spain was the plan. Barcelona was very busy this past weekend, and my friend, Izzi, and I couldn’t find a room in Barcelona for the first night. Instead we decided to take an additional train to Tarragona, which is about an hour train ride from Barcelona.

Tarragona is known for the Roman ruins of Tarraco that can be found there.

As Izzi and I walked to our hostel, we didn’t have high expectations for our day in Tarragona. It was a small town compared to Barcelona, and it was a holiday so most shops were closed.

The first thing that we wanted to do after traveling for 19 hours was head to the beach. After a quick 20 minute walk we reached the beach and we were in for a surprise. The beach wasn’t crowded at all, and it lacked shops, peddlers, and a lot of other tourists.

This was a completely different experience compared to the beaches that awaited us in Barcelona.

We sat out at the beach for a couple hours listening to the waves without interruptions.

While it was a holiday, there were still restaurants open for the evening. Izzi and I wandered down to the main square in the old town Tarragona and found it filled with people awaiting some form of entertainment. After waiting a couple of minutes we started to see people rising from the crowd while standing on others shoulders.

Come to find out these people were building a castell, or a human tower.

This tradition originated near Tarragona, though now it is a popular tradition practiced through Catalunya. These castellers build a human tower with no safety equipment aside from a helmet for the youngest castellers. The Castell is created on cobblestone in the main square and any mistakes can be fatal. The top of the tower is made by the youngest castellers, who are 6 years old.

This was such an unexpected delight to see this tradition. Afterward we sat in the square and had a dinner, which was delicious and also a great price!

We spent the rest of the evening walking around Tarragona and enjoying the sights that Tarragona had to offer.

The next day we were off to Barcelona. While Barcelona was a wonderful city full of tourists attractions, Tarragona was by far my favorite part of the weekend. The city was gorgeous, and the quiet calm was a nice reprieve from the constant buzz of typical tourist cities.

Traveling to Tarragona was delightful, and even though most people didn’t travel there, or won’t travel there, it provided not only a great experience and tourist sites, but it came without the tourist feel. Traveling off the beaten track can be fun and rewarding.

 

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