To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: December 2016

What Can I Say?

17 free weekends, 4 Planes, 40 trains, 17 Buses, 18 Metros/Trams, 2 Car rentals, 12 countries, and 6,450 miles. These are my statistics from this semester, the numbers I have racked up traveling across Europe. Yet, one run-on sentence can’t describe what this semester has been – not even close. An incredible gift! This is the best way I can think of summarizing this semester. Not everyone is given an opportunity like this in life. While many will just see this as studying in another country, this was much greater than that. By being based in the “Gateway to Europe,” each student that attended GTL was allowed to experience more than just the great country that is France. If we played our cards right, and many of us did, we could get a real glimpse of what the whole continent of Europe had to offer.
 
Early on, before I had even stepped foot on that first transatlantic plane back in August,  I had a mission to experience the most that I could in these short four and half months, and that’s something I proudly think I achieved. Many firsts were had on this adventure. Many great friends made along the way, the kind of friends you don’t just forget or lose touch with. Bonding over new drinks, shisha, football, international travel, both good and bad creates a much stronger friendship. Friendships much stronger than I could’ve asked for.
 
Starting with that first application I wrote, I expressed my ideas regarding photos; how the experiences and moments we share with our friends and loved ones are the greatest triumphs one can achieve during travel. It is these experiences that you will remember for years and years. The photo may trigger them, but it should never be the proof of where you went, the stories you tell may well be all the proof you need.
 
So, as the days counted down, the finals taken each day, a somber mood descended over our Metz family. We all felt the bittersweet moment approaching. Friday morning we would all be flying out, going home, and with a few exceptions, the semester would be over for all. Yet for me it was still grindin’ time, as I still had two finals left. So early Tuesday morning I stumbled into GTL half asleep. “Bonjour,” I said to the security guard, feeling a small ping in my chest as I did so, knowing it would be one of the last times.
 
The afternoon saw one of my longest finals, followed by my last game of ping pong against Giuseppe, I didn’t know it, but we wouldn’t play another that week. A late night saw an early morning, as Wednesday seemed a dreaded repeat of Tuesday. In the lounge by 7am, leaving only to take my final. But it was different; it was my last final. Statics, and all other classes were done, I was a free man.  Downtown we went that night, not to get drunk, or go crazy, but to just spend time with each other. Nothing would ever be like those moments again.
 
We may come back later, but not as students, not as fresh-faced youngsters with burning desires, but rather as old friends. So to ‘La Suite’ we went for some cards and great tea. The usual crew, who I am sad to say I feel I joined too late in the semester: Jahin, Yousef, Rafa, Alexander, and me. A few games of President and the laughs were evenly spread around. It’s something that thinking of now still leaves me feeling sad.
 
The next day would consist of much the same, interspersed with peoples’ bizarre cleaning patterns. As I traversed from room to room, the walls of Lafayette were lined with trash bags and luggage – yet another sign of ending semester. By nighttime, the mood began to change. In true celebratory fashion almost everyone agreed to pull all-nighters for early morning shuttles. From the cleanest rooms in Lafayette, we emerged and filled its halls with song and laughter for one last time.
 
Travel buddies stood side by side telling old stories to new listeners and vice-versa, making sure everyone was on the final page for GTL. As we gathered down in the Lafayette lobby to say our goodbyes to the 2am shuttle people, more than a few shed a tear. As bear hugs went around, I felt bittersweet again. “This feels like senior year of high school,” I said to Jahin and Sara. “It kinda does,” they said. As we waved goodbye to John, Austin, Rob, and more, it was official; the semester had ended.
 
In the end, these are just words, only those who were there with me can share those memories and experiences. What words must I use to convince you that this semester was a life changing experience, that I now look at life differently, and view everything else differently, what more can I say?  This is my story, and I hope you remember it, retell it, and one day add your own chapter!
 

Thanks for the Memories

Well, there you have it folks. I just got done with my last final here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. It was definitely a sigh of relief to finally be done after all the studying I’ve done, but also very bittersweet as it essentially marked the end of my time here. For the past three months, I’ve gotten to see a ton of cool sights, taste some delicious cuisine from all around Europe, and experience all of these memories with some really neat people. Being a Dukie, I had no idea what to expect when it came to Tech people. And now, I know that if I ever get stuck in Atlanta for whatever reason, I’ll have a list of people who would (hopefully!) let me crash at their place and show me the ropes of the city. By the way, the same goes for you guys! If you ever find yourself in Durham or want front row seats to watch Duke stomp GT in basketball on January 5th, we’d be more than happy to accommodate you.

Now, a short list of favorites:

Favorite City: Amsterdam, by a long shot. Absolutely beautiful all around; great vibe and culture; an absolute must. Tip: Try to go when it’s a little warmer 🙂

Favorite Hike: I had two: the Alps of Switzerland (duh) and Les Calanques in southern France. If you’re feeling mountain-y, go for the Alps. Or if you’re feeling ocean-y, shoot for les Calanques.

Favorite Cuisine: German. I’m pretty sure they only have three different food groups: potatoes, sauerkraut, and MEAT; but hey, I’m not complaining one bit! Also, mentally prepare yourself to battle before every meal. Their portions are so big that it’s a test of will to finish all the food. Tip: Go for the pork knuckle, you won’t regret it.

Favorite Country: I might be a little biased, but FRANCE!!! Every city here is filled with rich culture, monuments, and there’s things to do all over. From my time spent in Étretat, Nancy, Strasbourg, Paris, Cassis, Marseilles, Aix-En-Provence, Bordeaux, and our very own hometown Metz (another reason for bias), it’s been filled with good memories.

Favorite Thing That I Did: Snowmobiling. It’ll be the first thing I buy with my paycheck after I graduate.

Now it seems like we’ve all gone to many places all over, but I recently took a look at my bucket list and I feel like I didn’t even make a dent. Part of the reason is that it grew as I heard of other places that people went to, but also because you can only do so much in a semester and 3-day weekends (some places become far to travel to). I guess that’s where my next story would start, tackling on more of it. This experience at GTL has only fueled my desire to see the world, and I certainly will be continuing it on in the future.

Farewell GTL, thanks for the memories.

Photo courtesy of Katia!

Breathtaking

It’s not every day that something you’ve always dreamed of comes true. Everyone in life has dreams they want to achieve: visiting the Colosseum, climbing the Andes, swimming with sharks. Each dream varies with each person, yet somethings are iconic bucket list items, such as skiing the Alps. Growing up with European parents, I always heard stories of these great works of glaciers. Always described in such emphasis and magnitude it always made it hard for me to grasp them as real. This was one of my dreams, ski the Alps – but in my case, snowboard them.

So as I get off the Gondola lift one last time, I turn to take one last photo, one last view of something so beautiful I can only describe it as taking my breath away. I turn to Jahin, bump fists and say “Last run of the day bro – lets smash it!” We start slow winding our way down the steep and now icy slopes. In and out I carve, slowing the board to my comfort level. As I glance behind me I see “J” now slaloming his way down from our 2700 meter start, passing dozens of people.

“Stay with me, we’re going to the left this time” I yell. With each second my heart rate increases and so does the burning in my calves. I make a hard bank turn and ride switch (a.k.a. with the opposite foot forward as normal) for a second to make the left turn, and J’s still behind me as we race down. As we near the halfway point the day’s riding catches up with us. Tired and sore, we both make mistakes and come down hard on snow. Panting and groaning, I make my way to J and help him to his feet, we decide to take the longer, easier way down. As we kicked up snow and made our way down, I shed a tear for the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen, something that no words, especially mine, can describe.

Honestly, it’s hard to remember the exact course we took down and which turn we took or made where. That’s the beauty of skiing and snowboarding, you forget about the finals coming up, you’re current GPA, the next semester, even the next few minutes. You move at speeds that force you to only think in the “now”, to truly experience the moment and only think a few seconds ahead.

Two days of amazing snow, sun, and sky, split between two of the most famous ski regions in the world, Chamonix France, and Courmayeur, Italy. Going home, I now get to tell one of the best stories of my life. How 4 friends of mine and I crammed into a car just after 5pm in Metz and drove down to Chamonix. Bright and early the next morning, we over-packed the car full of all our gear and took the tunnel to Italy. 40 minutes later, 2600 meters high we set started our days smiling and free of all thoughts and responsibilities. Saturday morning we did the same, on the other side of the mountains. A jam packed weekend saw a sleep filled car ride home, and the best memories of my life. In two weeks I can now depart France and go home knowing I saved the best for last!

That Time of Year

As December moves along everything seems to change. The weather, people, scenery, atmosphere, music… Each new day of December things move more towards winter. Christmas is coming, that magical time of year we all know so well. Yet, academically it’s also that time of year – finals! Both the halls of the library and snow on the ground thicken marking a very confused time in a college student’s life.

Photo courtesy of Europe Video Productions.

Walking through Metz the change was evident the first day of December (première jour de Decembre). The once open spaces usually filled with leaf-stripped trees or large squares now house hundreds of holiday items. Near “Republique,” the farthest stop downtown, is a massive ice skating rink surround by a Christmas tree market and dozens of shops. As you make your way down to the river and pass shops, illuminated signs in the shapes of ornaments and various holiday cheers line the streets. Near the Cathedral is a large Santa happily waving back at you.

It took me a while to see the changes myself. I had heard stories from the locals for weeks, Madame Serafin especially. Every French class she would ask us if we had seen the markets yet and what our impressions were. My first time downtown in quiet some time was for the soccer tournament a few weeks ago. As we rode the “Mettis” past the Gare (train station), I was shocked. The once open space was now filled to the brim, with lights, trees shops, the works. Every single thing was decorated with something, even the slightest bit of holiday cheer was taken into account. The details were impeccable.
The timing however, is quite unfortunate.

Arguably the best time of the year to be outside and interact with people will see the majority of “GTL’ers”

Photo courtesy of WordPress blog “Miss Francey Pants.”

doing no such thing. Tuesday marked the last day of classes, Wednesday the first reading period and Thursday the first day of finals. For the next few days all of us will be inside GTL or the dorms studying like no tomorrow. The study sessions are none like I’ve ever seen before. After a whole semester of traveling, there is some inevitable catch up to be had. As Cannon, Keegan, and I argue over correct answers to our thermofluids homework the frustration builds, but a few games of ping pong, and we are back at it. A tough week lies ahead of us, late nights, and early mornings.

But as I put my head down and grind for finals I can do so knowing and seeing that the holiday cheer has arrived well in Metz.

Thinking in Two Tongues: Graduate Student Christian Caracci

Name: Christian Caracci

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st

Undergraduate Institution: Florida Atlantic University

Interests/Hobbies: Skeet, sailing, tennis

One piece of advice for students: “Don’t procrastinate!”

Baguette or Croissant? Baguette

(“I want sandwich for lunch today, ”a mix of Italian and English) – could be something that pops through graduate student Christian Caracci’s head. Don’t understand? I’ll translate it into two different languages 1) English – I want a sandwich for lunch today. 2) Italian – “akslfjlas.” A most interesting fact about our fellow GTL-er is that he thinks in two tongues. He was born in Italy, but has spent time there and in America growing up. It’s been a mix of both countries in his collegiate career as he attended Florida Atlantic University in the United States as an undergraduate and doing the dual degree program that Georgia Tech Lorraine has with Las Sapienzia – University of Rome.

After completing his dual degree program, he hopes to go into the workforce. Specifically, operational excellence on the manufacturing side as in engineering management. In his spare time, you could catch him doing any of the hobbies above, in addition to traveling or playing pool with his graduate school buddies in the GTL lounge.

A quick FYI, we have a pool table that’s behind these board separators in the GTL lounge! It was like finding treasure when Christian and his friends found it and has been incorporated into their daily schedules.

Good luck with your studies Christain, and best of luck in the future!

My Own Thanksgiving Break, Part 2: HackJunction

Photo courtesy of HackJunction.

Being the somewhat nerd I am, the second part of my thanksgiving break was spent in Helsinki, Finland, at a hackathon called HackJunction. Junction is Europe’s largest hackathon, and draws over 1200 programmers from around the world each year to participate. There were 52 countries represented at this year’s HackJunction, working on different tracks that ranged from Financial Technology to Internet of Things. There were expert programmers who have worked in industries for years that attended, as well as inexperienced newbies such as myself. All in all, it was an awesome experience where I could use some of the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to a project or challenge.

First, before anything, let’s talk about the venue. The venue was SICK. The sponsors rented out a place called Wanha Samata, which was this big warehouse with multiple rooms for the different tracks. The coolest part was the laser that stretched from one end to the other that you can see below:

HackJunction’s venue.

The venue also had a snack room that was constantly filled up with energy bars, energy drinks, coffee, etc.; basically, whatever you need to not sleep and keep coding throughout a night! There were also many companies that came to talk about what they do, give out freebies, and network. It was a great space where lots of innovative minds came together to do all things tech.

Since I was a relatively inexperienced programmer, I decided to tackle on some the mini challenges rather than the big tracks that some of the fellow GTL-ers I came with. One such was a music challenge, where there was a jumbled audio clip and we had to figure out the name of the song. At first, there was an inaudible voice that couldn’t be understood. So I threw the clip on Audacity and reversed it and came a clear message this time “Come tell us the name of the song, but it’s not as simple as you think.” That’s honestly about as far as I got as after that, I tried nearly everything: encoding the clip, decoding the clip, modifying the bitrate, tracking down messages in the source code, etc. but nothing really seemed to work. Another challenge I did was mess with some algorithms a local Helsinki tech company provided, which put my creative mind at work with varying success.

One team, made of Ryan and Maria, decided on the track “revolutionizing the bus stop”. Their project was PetStop, where each bus stop had an interactive screen with a puppy that the user can interact with. They can feed it, play with it, walk it, etc. I got to see them demo it and it was really cool!

Being at a hackathon such as this one just opened my eyes to a world of technology; I saw some amazing creations (a guitar hero type platform, but with a real guitar – Yousician Company) and things that I didn’t think I would need until I saw it (a smart, social, interactive coffee cup that was fueled by the thermal energy of the coffee – Paulig Muki Smartcup). Even if you’re not a programmer, I would recommend dropping by a hackathon if it ever comes up. There’s plenty of neat things to see!

The Dream Team!

P.S. You also get a free t-shirt.

Faculty & Building / Security Support Nicolas Jacquet

w17-p1-p1Name: Nicolas Jacquet

Position: Faculty & Building / Security Support

Years at GTL: 11th year

Interests/Hobbies: Car restoration, biking.

One line to describe GTL: “It’s a place of connectedness. We get to be in touch with any different people and different cultures here.”

Piece of advice for students: Taken advantage of what Metz has to offer and explore around. Even though he is from Metz, he still finds himself discovering new things every day!

Meet Nicolas Jacquet, the man with the position of Faculty & Building / Security Support. I like to call him “The Rock” because of the solid foundation of support he provides us as a community. When faculty from Atlanta first come over here, he is the primary point man in the transition, handling all the transfer paper work from Atlanta and helping the families settle in with housing and transportation in France. That’s just one side of his job; on the other half, he works closely with security and Francis Gangloff, our building maintenance supervisor. All the things he does keeps us safe and the building fresh and clean! He’s a very flexible man, and that’s something that Nicolas says he loves about his job. Every day brings about new challenges and he gets to learn new skills by solving them. And if he ever needs a hand, the administration office is very supportive and always willing to help.

If Nicolas isn’t at GTL, you can find him at his garage doing car restoration. Some of his projects have included Swedish, Japanese, and America Musle. One of his prizes is the ’72 Ford Grand Torino, which was shipped from California. In fact, as he was driving it from Northern France to Metz, he was stopped by the police many times. It wasn’t because Nicolas was doing anything wrong, but because they just wanted to admire the beauty!

Check out some of his projects here (all photos taken by Mr. Nicolas Jacquet):

’72 Ford Gran Torino

 

69’ Citroen Ami8

 

90’ Honda CRX (SI)

 

70’ Plymouth Duster

If you’re into cars or just looking for some friendly conversation, don’t be afraid to stop by Nicolas Jacquet’s office in the administration wing!

(Not Really) Free Mobile, But Still a Great Deal

All photos courtesy of Free Mobile.

As the semester draws to a close, I have to give my thanks out to Free Mobile. At first, I wasn’t planning on getting a SIM card. I had just spent the whole summer in Vietnam and I was totally okay without one. But after seeing the deal that Free Mobile was offering, I couldn’t resist.

For 19,99 euros/month + 10 euros (for the physical SIM card) you get:

It’s come in really clutch multiple times. For instance, you can call and send texts internationally for up to a total of 35 days, which is plenty for the semester. This includes the entire European Union (save for Switzerland) and also includes US landlines. It was very clutch when I had to call hostels telling them of late arrivals or contacting my US bank for information. A map of the coverage is here:

In addition, 50 GB of data is HUGE! It’s more than anyone ever needs, so I can use data whenever I wish. This is useful for looking up map information or places to eat/shop when traveling, and can be used as a hotspot for your computer should you decide to bring it on a trip AND when the Lafayette wifi is down.

I’ve found it to be very reliable in most countries I’ve traveled too, but it does tend to have less coverage in some spots. But for 20 euros a month, I’d definitely give it a go.

Note from the editor: It’s pretty easy to start – there’s a vending machine for SIM cards at their store downtown, but make sure you cancel Free Mobile BEFORE you leave! It is very tricky to handle otherwise. There are step-by-step instructions distributed for mail-in cancellation.

My Own Thanksgiving Break, Part 1: Hunting for Auroras

Since I decided it would feel weird to have school when it is usually Thanksgiving break, I decided to make my own vacation! To be honest, I wasn’t planning on skipping class, but after already booking a journey to Helsinki for a hackathon that weekend, I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity of going north and try to catch some Northern Lights while I was at it.

My journey started Wednesday morning with a quick train ride to Paris. From there, I took a flight to Helsinki, and then another flight to Rovaniemi, which is a northern town in the Finnish Laplands.

Photo courtesy of blog do-you-know-about.blogspot.com.

The weather was very cloudy the first evening I arrived, so I decided against hiking out to the middle of nowhere to hunt for lights and just sleep. The next morning, I explored what the town had to offer. I walked around town and saw the Christmas festivities and lights and some views of the frozen surroundings before making a trek up to Santa Claus Village. Oh yeah, did I mention? Rovaniemi is the official town of Santa Claus! It was bit of a long walk, but I thoroughly enjoyed the wintry scenery around and especially the Christmas mood of the village.

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Following that, I went back into town and took a nap. Since the town is so far north and within the Arctic Circle, the sun rose around 10am and set around 2:30pm so by the time I was back at my AirBnB, it was already dark! Waking up, I went to a local bistro and got myself a reindeer sandwich in placement of the usual Thanksgiving turkey. It was quite delicious!

Now came the fun part. Since this was going to be my last trip, with my Eurail expiring the next day, I decided to go all out and book a Northern Lights hunting snowmobile safari! It started with an hour drive to the middle of nowhere where we then hopped on the snowmobiles and rode around to different “prime” locations to see Auroras. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the most generous, as it was cloudy again. However, that meant we got to ride around much more, and that we did. We went on various trails through the forest and when we got to this flat, swampy area, our tour guide let us go on a little joy ride and crank up the speed to about 70 km/h!  Regrettably, my phone died in the freezing temperatures and no photos were taken besides the dashboard of my beast.

Even though it was a short trip, it was definitely one of my favorites and was an excellent way to end my travels with a bang. It also means I must buy a snowmobile in the future, as I had a blast!

The BDE

If you haven’t heard about it already, Georgia Tech Lorraine has a Bureau Des Etudiants (BDE) which translates to “Board of Students”. This small group consists of students who plan out fun activities, food giveaways, and other events for the student population here. They are given a budget for funding and work closely with administration to ensure everything goes smoothly. If this sounds like something you’re interested in during your semester at GTL, definitely go for it! I know some of the board members and they sincerely enjoy what they’re doing.

Here are some of the events they planned/planning this semester:

Pizza Nights in the GTL commons
Game Night
Halloween Party
Karaoke
Breakfast the morning after the election
Indoor Skiing
Bowling and Laser Tag
Thanksgiving Potluck
Christmas Celebration

The Thanksgiving Potluck this past week was quite obviously loads of fun and food, as per the photos below!

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Thanks for an awesome semester thus far BDE! Can’t wait to see what you have planned to round out our time here!

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