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Month: November 2016 Page 1 of 2

Planning With The Parents

Photo courtesy of Travel Trazee.

As a tangent to a blog post I had a couple weeks ago about doing fall break with my parents, I’ve decided to give an overview of coordination and planning to help assist those who might want to do trips with their parents while at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the future!



Well first off, you and your parents have to pick a time to do the trip. Popular choices are usually before the semester starts, fall break (since it’s a week long), and after the semester ends. Some parents decide to just drop by for a weekend, and that’s not usually too tough to plan since it’s a couple of days.

Next, is the “where” of the trip. I’d say this is pretty important since this is a picking a place that both you and your parents want to go and visit. It’s also very important because from here, train or flight schedules need to be made to match. I offered to buy tickets for my whole family but my parents opted to buy them online. We simply decided around a certain time to leave cities and I let my parents book first. After they got their tickets, I cross referenced them with my Eurail app and proceeded to buy the matching ones. It was quite interesting, as some of the trains they bought weren’t on Eurail plan (ex. Italo in Italy is not part of the Eurail network) so I had to improvise and buy train tickets that were close to the same arrival and departure times.

Once that was settled, we needed places to stay for the night. I let my parents take the reins on this one, as they booked hotels for all three of us.



“All roads lead to Rome” – and that is where we decided to meet. I took my overnight train from Munich to Rome, and they took a shuttle from the airport. I arrived two hours earlier than they did so I did some exploring before meeting up with them. We decided that in case the train station Wi-Fi wasn’t working, there would still be a rendezvous place. Notably, this was going to be the McDonald’s in the Roma Termini station. Luckily the Wi-Fi did work, but we still met at the McDonald’s since it was convenient.


During the Trip

Plan out some things that you would want to see and see what your parents want to do as well! Things should run pretty smoothly from here, since we’re basically all pros at traveling at this point and can point our parents in the right direction. Gotta keep in mind that they aren’t college kids and won’t do the typical “college” things that we’ve come to expect when traveling.



I don’t think there’s anything left to do but to give them goodbye hugs and wishes until you see each other again! Or if you’re traveling with them back to the United States, enjoy the trip back to the homeland.

A Resounding Opinion: Meet Dr. Declercq

Dr. Declerq

As I sat talking to a good friend of mine, Giuseppe, the subject came around to the GTL blog. In no time at all he was telling me that I should interview of one his professors, Nico Declercq. According to Giuseppe, Dr. Declercq was the best professor he ever had. Intrigued I knew I would have to pick his brain and see why Giuseppe rated him so highly. So in this week’s interview, that is exactly what I did.

I knocked on Dr. Declercq’s door somewhat hesitantly not sure what to expect. As he greeted me I could tell there was something different about him. He seemed like someone generally interested and happy when dealing with people, a real people person. His soothing voice and nice smile always reassuring the audience he was there to help. Quite a good trait in a teacher.

Born in Belgium, Dr. Declercq – much like my father – was subject to learn many languages. Declercq currently speaks five different languages: Flemish (a form of Dutch), French, German, English, and Sinhalese (due to his Sri Lankan wife).

Declercq’s path to GTL is quite unlike other professors here. Most are American professors that have decided to come to Europe and branch out in terms of teaching and travel. Dr. Declercq is European and now teaches from Europe (specifically, Metz). He completed all his schooling in Belgium. At 18, he began attending the Catholic University of Leuven and graduated with a degree in Physics. Dr. Declercq then attended Ghent University, earning a PhD in Engineering Physics. His Post Doc work was split between the National Center for Physical Acoustics in the U.S. and Ghent University. Dr. Declercq is now the head of the Mechanical Engineering department here at GTL, so at this point in the interview I was intrigued as to how he came to this position.

Surprisingly Dr. Declercq wasn’t originally interested in Mechanical Engineering. He began telling me of his fascination with astrophysics and the vibration of stars. He got in touch with a professor dealing primarily with the vibration of materials and so began his research into ultrasonics. Seeing the confusion in my face as he uttered these words, he immediately went into professor mode, listing off examples and easy to understand concepts such as Chichén Itzá, Mexico (a Mayan ruin near Cancun). It is a large pyramid that filters sound waves. A common example is when people clap their hands, the sound returning is that of a bird chirp instead of a quieter clap. He listed plenty more to solidify the knowledge in me: the amphitheaters in Greece, libraries’ reading rooms in Viborg, Finland, and so on. Today, you can find Dr. Declercq teaching three courses here, including Acoustics, Waves and Solids, and Engineering Thermodynamics.

In closing, Declercq gave some of the best GTL-tailored advice I’ve heard to date. “Most students try to travel when they’re here. It’s good to travel, however, you need to learn to study while you travel. It’s not easy, but if you can combine travel with study you will be a very good engineer!”

Thanksgiving in France

As strange as the title reads it was true, we did have our own not so little, Thanksgiving in France yesterday. All week I had been thinking about what to write about. What would people reading this blog back in Atlanta want to hear about? What stories and events were happening this week that, once written about, could shape someone’s choice for attending GTL? I wracked my brain everyday trying to partake in meaningful things, and remember each moment, perhaps one fleeting one could represent a post, perhaps not.

In what now seems like a huge blur, I remember first seeing the huge feast before my eyes and being overcome with happiness. Walking in my eyes were instantly drawn to all the orange. The room had been stripped of its usually black chairs and tables and filled with wooden tables with bench seating like at a picnic. The tables were covered with bright orange tablecloths that really reminded you of home. Turning left I finally saw the bounty. It had been a long time since I had seen such “American” portions and boy, were they magnificent. Three or four tables had to be set up stretching the length of the entire room, just to hold all the food. And as the line, more of a mob in truth, formed by the table people kept coming, bringing more and more food.

Finally I got my chance: the line cleared, and I made my way to the table. As the line crawled forward, everyone was so excited, trying food from each plate. By the middle of the table the feast had turned into an ethnic party. People brought in their own versions of family recipes of thanksgiving classics – blackberry jam, roasted carrots, sausage stuffing, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes with skins, and more. The list went on and on. Much like the party that started once we sat down. As the benches began to sag as we ate our fills GTL’s mood felt festive. Halloween had passed us by and while some were festive and dressed up most didn’t partake, but this was different.

This really hit home when the slide show started. Around the time most of us began attacking the desserts, both French and American, the lights descended. This was our cue to turn and face the projector. As the slides showed the memories and locations it really hit me and most likely everyone else, just what this semester had been. Truly remarkable, a real gift! While each week we would stress about the ins and outs of school work, money, or other troubles we still made great memories. Each photo represented a thousand words, amazing stories of things no one here will ever forget. As the lights subsides for the second time we all rose in applause of not just Hannah for making the show, the hardworking chiefs who made this great meal, and not just Abbie and Jack for planning it, but to all who had witnessed and partook in this incredible semester.

A Little Treasure in Our Own Backyard (Kinda)

Posted by Harry

With the semester over in just under 4 weeks, I have begun to see some slight problems I was running into. The first was that the places on my bucket list (e.g. Spain, Iceland, Denmark, etc.) were getting a little far and difficult to travel to. The second of which was that my wallet was running a little dry. Next week, I’ve already planned a pretty epic hunting-of-sorts trip mixed in with a bit of nerdiness (stay tuned!), so this weekend was going to be a little more relaxed. I spent much of the weekend catching up on work and even getting ahead in preparation of what was going to come. One thing though, I did end up finding a little treasure of a hiking trail(s) nearby Metz in an area known as the “Little Switzerland” of Luxembourg.

To get to Luxembourg is about an hour’s train ride. From there, you take another hour bus to Echternach, a little commune in Luxembourg where much of the Mullerthal Trail runs from.

Photo courtesy of

As you can see from the map above, there’s plenty of trails to hike in this area. My friends and I just did a short day hike on Saturday to break up our workdays. The actual distances of each of the three trails are over 20 miles each, but we followed a shorter loop that let us hit the lake near the town and then parts of trails 1 and 2.

The trails weren’t too hard, and it just offered a lot of fresh air when you’re submerged in a forest and get to see parts of Luxembourg that you ordinarily wouldn’t see. It was a great way to spend a day, and would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a simple and close (and cheap!) day trip. Even though two hours isn’t exactly in Metz’s backyard, it can seem that way when a majority of the places you’ve been to have been 6+ hours away!

Maths & Laughs: Meet Dr. Popescu

The first of my classes I attended this semester was Differential Equations. It was an hour and a half lecture on a hot Tuesday. I remember feeling very tired. Everyone had just arrived from their respective airports – Frankfurt, Luxembourg, or Paris. The night before we had been getting to know each other, the Lafayette dorms, and the town of Metz. Everyone was very disappointed summer had officially ended and school started the next morning.

Dr. Ionel Popescu

As we made our way into lecture I looked around, everyone seemed dead tired or just mentally fatigued in some way. But as our “world famous” tech guy patched our connection through to Atlanta, a smiling face came through. Dr. Ionel Popescu. He quickly gauged the room and could tell we were all not in the mood for math. So he began telling us about himself. He was born in Romania, currently doing research on topics associated with differential equations. Then came the jokes, the famous jokes!

Now, it is almost inconceivable for me to think of Diff. Eq. without jokes. Dr. Popescu has a very good talent for timing them well. Just when people start to trail off and lose focus, out comes some hilarity in the form of Irish bar jokes, English humor, or laughs about Russian mathematicians. Some were better than others, yet the amazing thing is his quantity. At least 3 or 4 jokes every lecture, each of them different. So for three and a half months now he has been going strong telling well over 100 jokes in that time. And to be truthful, Dr. Popescu was the first faculty I thought of when I learned I would need to interview professors and students. Mathematicians always have very interesting minds. As Dr. Popescu might say “all this math wears on you and some mathematicians in fact go insane.” He told us a joke about a couple of insane mathematicians, but I’ve forgotten some and will spare telling it for fear of butchering the joke.

Unfortunately I was unable to actually get an interview with Dr. Popescu due to his location difference. You see, Dr. Popescu teaches us all the way from Atlanta through a video conference class. Some casual “googling” was enough to find more about Dr. Popescu. (His website is not only as witty as his lectures but also as informative.) Dr. Popescu received his doctorate at MIT in 2004. He spent the next three years working as a postdoc at Northwestern University doing research. Eventually in 2007 he found his way to us Georgia Tech, where he began as an assistant professor. Currently Dr. Popescu teaches a variety of courses at Georgia Tech ranging from 2552 (Differential Equations) to 4080-Senior Projects, 6221-Classical Probability, and 9000-Doctoral Thesis. Continuing his interest in research, Dr. Popescu focuses his witty talents on stochastic analysis on Manifolds, Differential Geometry, and random matrices just to name a few.

Dr. Popescu also proves a point to many students trying to make it at Georgia Tech; with the right attitude, especially positivity, difficult problems become much easier to solve.

Less Interesting Weekends, But Still Interesting People

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes you need to take a break.

Some of the Lafayette dorms.

At GTL it’s no different. As my funds began to dry up and each exam and quiz becomes more and more important, I have to start weighing things. The days of climbing mountains and visiting major cities are very sadly, coming to a close. Each time I choose to stay behind in Metz, my heart saddens, especially since I still have an active Eurail for another month. Yet, we’re here to learn, after all it is college.

So a “hard” weekend of studying commenced on Friday morning as I rolled out of bed. First came the procrastination, then Netflix and HBO, and finally I did what needed to be done. Reading up on my Thermodynamics and Fluids homework, I couldn’t help thinking of my friends: where had they gone this weekend? What awesome stories was I missing out on? And as the homework load kept piling up, these thoughts kept reoccurring. But, as previously mentioned, school is first.

It wasn’t all boring here at Lafayette though. I knew a few people who had decided to stay for the weekend as well. Luckily enough, they were some of my soccer buddies, so naturally we decided to play soccer. We scheduled everything and got the word out in case any other Lafayette stragglers wanted to play. But in the end it was just the three of us – Jack, Luke, and myself. We reached the fields around 6:50 pm. It was already pitch black outside; only the street lamps ensured we were on the right path to the stadium.

As Jack and I stretched out on the sidelines tying up our boots (cleats), Luke ran around the field with his usual crazed, endless energy. We only had one ball, and as we started passing around we felt at ease. Yet within a minute all that changed as almost instantly the field went black. We glanced up at the lights and noticed they had all gone out. I ran over to my bag, and as the smoke of my cold breath fogged my phone screen I saw that it was only 7:05. Why would the lights go out now? I asked myself.

“Awww man! What do we do now?” Luke asked. “You guys wanna play in the dark?” “Sure, were already here.” And so we did! At first we set up our phones for flashlights, pitching them against our bags and shoes creating a little channel of light. But if you ran more than 5 feet away, the “flashlights” lights turned into blinding and distracting rays of confusion.

So in the end, we just played in the darkness, no lights at all. Yeah, we missed the goal and each other half the time we shot or passed, but that was part of the fun. Just some friends playing pickup on a field in Metz. To tell you the truth, this has been a life changing semester. There have been so many things changing; where I live, cities I see, first time mountain climbing, first this or that. Yet, as the semester goes on I am constantly reminded of the first things I read about on the GTL website back in Atlanta – community! This word has been used many times in posts, my own included. It is true, living in Metz for a semester with only a 100 or so people creates a real community. New friendships are formed, not just between fellow Jackets, but relationships that span thousands of miles, knowing no borders. This is what Metz has given us above all.

Home-Country-er: Graduate Student Djegui Dembele

Posted by Harry

Photo Courtesy of Djegui Djembe.

Name: Djegui Dembele

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st year

Undergraduate Institution: Lycée Chaptal (Paris)

Interests/Hobbies: Playing tennis, solving a Rubik’s cube (11 seconds is his quickest), learning about science and relativity.

One piece of advice for students: “Pay lots of attention to the professor and ask lots of questions in class. If you do, it will save time down the line. Be an active member in class, or otherwise the amount of work doubles if you’re passive. Also, have an active lifestyle, too. And keep your body strong.”

Baguette or Croissant? Both, but baguette is much more flexible as it can be used at any meal. The croissant is only a morning thing.

Meet graduate student Djegui Dembele, who (surprisingly) is the first French Graduate Student I have met. This is also the reason for the title “Home-Country-er”, which is a slang word I made up to describe someone who is a native person to the country. Talking with Djegui was interesting, since we got to discuss some of the differences between French and American education styles. The biggest thing he points out is how much more independence-driven the English education style is. In America, we usually get assigned homework that we must do by ourselves. In France, it is usually done in groups with a teacher guiding them along the way. “It’s much less autonomous, we never work by ourselves,” Djegui describes. In addition, he mentions that in lectures, the professors go over the basics of a topic and leave the rest of the “figuring out” as homework.

Although different from what he’s regularly used to, Djegui is making the most of the opportunity he has with the graduate program and can’t wait to head to Atlanta next year! Best wishes Djegui!

Visiting Van Houten

Photo courtesy of

(Photo courtesy of

I’m going to throw us back to 2012 and 2014, where the book The Fault In Our Stars and the movie came out, respectively. In the story, the main character, Hazel, is a fan of a book authored by Peter Van Houten, who resides in Amsterdam. And if you couldn’t already guess, she ends up taking a trip to Amsterdam to go visit him. Thus, this is where I got the inspiration for the title of this blog post! (Even though I actually did not go visit Van Houten, sorry to disappoint.)

I’ve got to admit; Amsterdam has got to be one of the most aesthetically beautiful cities I’ve visited so far. The first and foremost reasons is the water in the city. If you walk less than 10 minutes in any direction, you’ll stumble upon one of the numerous canals lined up in the city. Sometimes there will even be boats that float by, with people enjoying the luxuries of life on the inside. I even actually got to take a public boat to get to the hostel my friends and I stayed at, crossing from Amsterdam Centrum to Amsterdam Noord and back.

Another point of beauty are the museums in the city. I’m usually not a person to seek out museums, but I actually went to both the Vincent Van Gogh museum and the Rijkmuseum (pictured right past the “Iamsterdam” sign in the photo above). Wow, was I blown away by both of these exhibits. I was transported to the 1800’s in the Van Gogh museum, and was pretty much scattered across the world in all sorts of eras at the Rijkmuseum. I’d even go on a limb and say it was up to par with the Louvre in Paris! That’s how much I enjoyed it.

Photo courtesy of Luke Zeme.

Other than that, just walking up and down the streets is breathtaking. The interior of all the stores are all so elegantly and creatively designed; the food on display looks as good as it tastes; and the jingle of bicycle bells becomes your little hymn as you wander. It’s truly a marvelous city with a charm that I haven’t really found anywhere else. Oh Amsterdam, Oh Amsterdam. For now we part, but only to see each other again in the near future!

Dr. Puybaret & GTL: Two Peas in a Pod

After a bit of running around, I was able to finally track down a fun candidate for interviewing this week. Originally I was all set for an interview with my Differential Equations professor, Dr. Jordan. However, Harry, being the master interviewer, had already snatched him up. Fortunately for me, this led to the interview of one brilliant Dr. Renaud Puybaret.

Upon entering Dr. Puybaret’s office, it was clear he was a step ahead of the rest. His entire door was covered in papers. Entering his office was much the same, as his desk was crowded with more papers and as he turned to greet me, his face seemed like one in thought. On his computer were two open windows, almost identical, showing black backgrounds with slightly lighter dark circles in a pattern across the screen. These were apparently simulations of some Nano-sized photovoltaic cells he was designing.
As you may have guessed Dr. Puybaret is not American, but born and raised in France, earning his degrees in Toulouse. He attended the French University, ENSEEiHT, earning his Masters of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering degree. Our wonderful advertising people here at GTL sold Dr. Puybaret on Georgia Tech’s graduate program. Dr. Puybaret originally had a full job lined up with Airbus following his graduation. He attended a presentation given by Professor Bertrand Boussert about Georgia Tech. “We were college students and they were giving out free food, so of course we attended. Yet, after hearing about all the great things they were doing, my friend and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it’!”

That day, he received his contract from Airbus in the mail. His then professor Dr. Ougazzaden, and now current boss, called him just in time. “Had professor Ougazzaden called me an hour later, the contracts would have be signed and there would be no going back. But instead I decided to be poor and do science.” Despite already having a job already lined up, Dr. Puybaret always felt that having an American degree would be a great thing. Most companies have American offices, and he’d always wanted to go to America. The decision proved both intelligent and fruitful. He began his doctorate in 2009 and officially received his PhD in June 2015. Dr. Puybaret described, with a smile on his face, all the great times he had. “Half the time I spent in America, which was a very good experience. Half my time was in the School of Physics in Atlanta.”
Upon completion of his doctorate, he went through Georgia Tech’s Innovation Corporation, where his thesis for his PhD became the ground for his own Nanotech Company. Dr. Puybaret focuses on fabrication of devices of size 50 to 100nm. There are two categories in Nano Physics: which utilizes graphene, and Inorganic Photovoltaic, using indium gallium nitride. Working under Dr. Ougazzaden, Dr. Renaud Puybaret is a Post-doc creating a company to make LEDs out of the Nanotech developed in his Thesis. However, the brilliance doesn’t stop there — on top of running his own company, Dr. Puybaret is also a professor here at GTL. He teaches ECE 3040 (Microelectronics) teaching the basics of creating transistors and photovoltaic cells.
With amazing researchers and professors such as Dr. Puybaret, it is clear to see why the GTL campus is growing so much.

Bon Appétit: GTL’s Dinner Exchange

What has become one of Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s signature events is its French family dinner. And it isn’t just the food that sets this apart, but the company! Sure, GTL students aren’t just eating another sandwich from local bakery Paul, but they’re also spending the evening in the homes of Metz residents who have opened their doors and set their tables for a fun, friendly evening of cultural learning.

The 6th edition of this exciting tradition was a raving success, with thanks to the Metz-Nancy Academy and all of their support. Because of the partnership of the state of Georgia with the Nancy-Metz Academy (Board of Education), the two groups have been working very closely on this project with GTL. (In fact, Atlanta has many close ties to France, with projects including GTL, the France-Atlanta conference, the Atlanta-Toulouse Sister Cities Project and Startup Exchange, Georgia Tech’s close relationship with many top-tier French universities and research groups, and more!) But due to all of the effort and care of so many people, local host families volunteered to take in a total of 33 GTL students for dinner in their house for the evening on Tuesday, November 8th.

As always, this venture was a great experience for all involved. GTL students has the opportunity to meet a French family and see how they are living while speaking a bit of French, and it is always a pleasure for host families to welcome a foreign student and to speak English for the evening.
It was a real opportunity to organize this event again this semester, and everyone enjoyed it. Don’t believe me? Read the testimonials (and see the smiles) below!

From GTL students:

Jessica and I really enjoyed it! We highly recommend.” – J. Peasant

“I had so much fun at the dinner! I loved talking and learning so much about the family’s culture and the food was amazing!! We were not able to communicate with the parents, but their daughter was really good at English so she translated for us. They were so friendly and welcoming. Thank you.” – D. Dawes

“It was a wonderful experience, and it was a great taste of local culture. It was interesting to be able to see in the inside of someone’s house, and to see the way they lived. At dinner, I had homemade pate because the family knew someone with a farm. After the main courses, I had four different types of cheeses, and they were all delicious. Although the food itself was a highlight, even better was being able to talk to the family themselves. I felt that they were really interested in our views (I went with a friend), and I learned a bit about the way they live their lives in Metz. I was very satisfied with the experience. At the end, instead of shaking my hand, they did the goodbye with kisses on the cheek which was very new to me. I woulddefinitely recommend this French dinner to anyone, and I would love to do it again.” – Mae (Duke undergraduate student)
“It was a fantastic evening. Thank you for letting me be part of it.” – Giuseppe (Masters student)

From host families:

“C’est avec grand plaisir que je vous transmets quelques photos de la soirée de mardi. Cet échange était très enrichissant, nous avons justement beaucoup échangé et la bonne humeur était au rendez-vous !
Daniel et Jeffrey étaient vraiment sympathiques, agréable et d’une grande courtoisie, le fait qu’ils viennent à deux c est plus facile. De plus, ils ont fait grand honneur à la cuisine française !
Nous réitérons cette expérience avec grand plaisir dès que l’occasion se présentera vous pourrez compter sur nous »

// “It is with great pleasure that I send you these phots of Tuesday evening. This exchange was very enriching, and we just talked about so much and the mood was great! Daniel and Jeffrey ere really nice, agreeable, and polite, and it was easier that they came together. Also, they have loved and experienced the French cuisine. Truly, this experience was a great pleasure, and you can count on us to participate in the future.” – Mme Brandenburger


« Nous avons passé une excellente soirée en la compagnie d’Hugh, c’est un garçon très charmant et très intéressant, et vous remercions de nous avoir permis de le rencontrer. »

// “We spent an excellent evening in the company of Hugh, who is a charming and very interesting young man, et thank you for arranging for us to meet him.” – Mme Duval


« Bravo pour votre initiative, nous avons passé un bon moment. »

// “Bravo for this initiative, because we had a great time.” – Mme Ruiz


« Excellente soirée avec Camille et Alexander. Vraiment sympathiques. Nous avons proposé de garder un lien pour réitérer. »

// “Wonderful evening with Camille and Alexander. Very nice. We exchanged information to keep in contact.” – Mme Royer


« Nous avons en effet passé une très bonne soiree; riche de partages. Remerciements »

// “We spent a very nice evening, rich with sharing. Thank you again.” – Mme Turck

Thank you again for all who were involved; your work and care means so much to these students and families and has greatly impacted their experiences here at GTL.

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