To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: July 2016 (Page 2 of 2)

Lessons Learned

Posted by Morgan

Each week, after my travels have occurred and my adventures have been taken, I quickly post an instagram-worthy photo to my social media account, hoping to share with family and friends the amazing time I had in some new and beautiful country. Soon after, the likes on my photos increase and the list of comments become longer. It is clear that my friends, sitting at home or taking classes, are jealous, and why wouldn’t they be? I am spending my summer traveling around Europe! But the photos do not always capture those horrible times of stress that each student has faced or the exhaustion that each student endures. Just the other night for instance, as a group of GTL students and myself waited for the bus from the Metz train station back to our dorms, my friend got pickpocketed. Her phone was stolen, and she was left in a terrible state of confusion, anger, and disarray. I am sure the photos that she will soon post of her weekend in London will make her friends envious, but little do they know the dismal end to her trip.

Along the way, I’ve learned how to manage the stress of traveling and what precautions to take. It’s not always easy, but hopefully for those that study abroad later on, they can learn from my mistakes!

Paying for things: When traveling around with friends, you often end up paying for things of theirs and vice versa. Whether it is because a restaurant will not split a check or a friend is all out of cash, it inevitably happens. At first, I tried to log all of Venmothese occurrences on my phone, but it is an unorganized and hasty method. If you want to study abroad, you need to download venmo! It has made my life so much easier. Friends can easily pay each other back within a few minutes. All you need to do is convert from euros to dollars and connect a credit card or atm card to the app. This has helped me not forget who owes who and keep myself on track for my budget.

Travel with a backpack: Do not attempt to spend a weekend traveling by train, bus, or plane with a wheely suitcase or oversized duffle. It is simply too hard, and if you are running around trying to make a train, it becomes nearly impossible to manage the trip without your arms falling off. I learned this the hard way after my trip to Germany, hiking up a mountain with a duffle threatening to break off my arms. Ever since this trip, I have used a backpack, and let me tell you, it is a decision I have never second guessed.

portable charger[1]Bringing a portable charger: If you happen to have an overseas data plan or if you only ever take pictures with your phone, these things come in handy. You would be surprised how quickly my phone has died after using gps or looking up train times. A dead phone can cause a lot of commotion if you lost a travel buddy or even if you just don’t know how to get toyour next destination. Now, I can easily pack my handy dandy portable charger in my bag and I am good to go for the rest of the day! It takes up little room and makes sure that I am not left in any sticky situations.

Airbnb: I had never used airbnb before this trip. I was used to staying in hotels with my family when we traveled or in hostels while on my high school study abroad trip. Airbnb can be good or bad. It’s usually easy and you have the added MK-Lessons1convenience of having a place all to yourself, but you might be surprised at the hidden costs. Hostels usually have soap, towels, breakfast, and are centrally located, whereas with airbnb’s this is not always the case. Just this past weekend we stayed at a vineyard in Portugal, which, while amazing, cost an arm and a leg to taxi into town. Try and budget these additions into your trip when planning.

Eurail: The Eurail is what makes everyone’s life easier at GTL. It allows you to hop on and off trains throughout Europe without the purchase of a ticket or at least at a significantly reduced price. Of course, this handy dandy travel item comes at a cost: anywhere from 500 to 1200 euros, depending on how long you plan on traveling. Two weeks? Two months? Three months? I recommend purchasing the 17 days MK-lessons2within 2 months pass. While you are at GTL for longer than 2 months, most people end up flying somewhere. My one friend purchased a very expensive 3 month unlimited pass and is now left with little money to spend on flights. Try planning your trips before hand and then deciding on which pass to purchase!

Buy a lock for valuables: This comes in handy if you plan on staying at hostels. While hostels are safe, it is still always a good idea to take that extra precaution and lock up your things when you are sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. The hostel will usually provide you with a cubby to lock up your things, but if you want to save a few dollars instead of renting a lock, bring your own! When I stayed in a hostel, I accidentally left my wallet sitting out for a few hours. Thank goodness my roommates were kind and honest people, but I was definitely left in a state of panic when I arrived back and noticed I had left my valuables out in the open.
While these are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned to manage the stresses of traveling, I’ve also had to learn to expect the unexpected sometimes. Not everything goes perfectly when you are traveling. I assure you that every GTL student here has had some major fiasco occur, whether it was a medical problem, a stolen item, a missed train, anything! Our amazing photos don’t always capture these occurrences, and from the outside everything probably seems perfect. Meanwhile, we are dealing with problems like a stolen phone. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The stresses, the trials, the tribulations, have all been worth it, and I am sure each student at GTL would agree.

My Favorite Aloes RA: Rachael LeRoux

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Posted by Morgan

Hometown: Suwanee, Georgia

Major: Industrial Engineering

Year: Rising junior

 

Don’t be alarmed by my title. I rarely choose favorites because I hate confrontation; however, in this case I just had to do a light stab twist at the other RA, Tim, who insists he is the funnier and better Aloes RA. Sorry Tim!

Tim and Rachael

Tim and Rachael

Jokes aside, Rachael is pretty awesome! I might be biased because she is my sorority sister, but if you met her you’d understand why. She has a genuine personality and is easy to talk to which makes her such a good RA. While she doesn’t always know the answers to our questions (it is her first time here too) she has no problem in trying to help us out, even if it means politely asking the French Aloes residents to quiet down at 1am on a Tuesday night…and then staring down the French residents until they quiet down.

For Rachael, her decision to apply as an RA was due to the fact that she felt she would work better if she had more responsibilities. Netflix is time consuming as are those much needed naps, but the light duties of a GTL RA help her keep the Netflix tab closed and the IE 3039 notes open. Maybe I should have applied to be an RA then?

Outside of classes, Rachael leads a busy life. She is very involved in her sorority, Alpha Phi, working as director of sisterhood. This means she helps plan events and keep the documentation organized. She is also secretary for the foundation for international medical relief of children. Next year, she hopes to volunteer at the Humane Society and possibly get a Coop. Clearly she keeps a busy schedule but that doesn’t stop her from working hard in the classroom.

Her favorite part about the GTL classes are the professors, who use the small class size to their advantage. Rachael commented on the professors saying, “I like that the professors are more laid back because they know that you are here to get international experiences and traveling.” That is by no means to say that the professor will exempt you from a test so you can leave a day early for travel, but they will work with the class and discuss a good test day if one week is heavier than the other. Clearly the GTL professors have a good relationship with the students.

But what about travel? Being an RA doesn’t prevent you from traveling or keeping up on your studies according to Rachael. I’ve also learned from her that you don’t have to go very far to have fun; her favorite experience so far was actually going to the Metz fair. A prior French exchange student of her family lives in Metz, so he took her around and gave her the real French experience. She got to go on all the fun rides and get a feel for Metz from a non-tourist perspective. That’s something I wish I could say!

While she didn’t have to travel far for this experience, she does have to travel far to get to Italy, the place she is most excited to visit. “There is Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast.” She wants to see it all! This is something I am excited to do with her as we will travel around Italy together. If you can’t tell already, she is a pretty cool person to have as a travel buddy.

Me and my travel buddy

Me and my travel buddy

All in all, Rachael enjoys being an RA. “Believe it or not being an RA with the Tech students is easy,” it’s “having to deal with the French students who live on my hall that’s hard,” says Rachael. She usually does her rounds around 8pm, making sure there are no problems or disturbances and she keeps a phone on her for emergencies while she studies. Thanks to Rachael though the aloes residents can rest easy, being assured they have an RA to go to for questions, to get advice, and even to help with those “cultural differences”-aka late-night partying French students.

 

 

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