To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: September 2018

Johnny Appleseed Came to Visit!

Once 5:30 PM hit, we were all rushing out of the GTL building doors to make it on the bus in time. Cramming into the bus, many of the GTL students and myself were ready to go vegetable and fruit picking for the first time. With the city bus rolling down the street along the dirt roads to the fields, we pulled up to this small building, grabbed our baskets, and started picking the fruits and vegetables of our choice.

We walked out to the fields, and were instantly surrounded with the smell of nature and flowers. It was really cool to see the beauty of nature, and to see the produce in grocery stores actually growing out of the ground. The first stop many of us made and one of my favorites was going to the strawberry fields! Strawberries were nestled in the green leaves decorated by the small white flowers; this made the strawberry bushes seem even more beautiful. I really enjoyed picking the strawberries and raspberries because those are some of my favorite fruits, but it was also interesting to see how tall and wide the plants actually grow to produce such small fruit. For example, the raspberry trees were taller than me with only a couple handfuls of fruit on their branches.

The next stop in the fields were the apple trees! Did someone call Johnny Appleseed to come visit? Rows and rows of apple trees lined about one fifth of the fields. There were a variety of apples that could be picked from the trees: green, red, pink lady, Gala apples, and even more. Walking through the apple trees, I could truly appreciate the amount of work that goes into picking produce. It was even more satisfying to pick produce that was not genetically engineered in the process of their growth. Pear trees also filled the fields right next to the apple trees, standing just as tall and green.

Picking fruits and vegetables reminded me of home, and the peaceful silence of being in a rural area. Many of the GTL students enjoyed this afternoon activity as well because most of us have never been picking before – and it provided us with a much-needed break from classwork and studying too. It was nice that the Georgia Tech Leonardo Program (the new name for Madame Serafin’s cultural program featured before!) organized the entire event and that transportation was provided to and from campus. Students were able to bond more as a GTL class from this experience. While picking fruits and vegetables, I was also able to meet more students that I would see around, but had never met before.

As we left the fields to buy our items that we picked, we exited with a friendly greeting from the facility’s geese, goats, and chickens. That afternoon consisted of good laughs, smiles, small screams from seeing a bug on a leaf, and interesting conversations. This was an experience that I never would have decided to do on my own, however, this was something I will definitely remember from my time at my GTL study program.

Bayeux—A Historic Treasure

Both the Bayeux Cathedral and the clouds were stunningly majestic.

Last weekend marked the official beginning of my travels from Georgia Tech-Lorraine! My friend Sarah and I chose to stay within France for our first excursion, staying in the beautiful town of Bayeux and taking a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel on Saturday.

This unassuming little apricot croissant (I think this qualifies as a croissant? Forgive me if I’m wrong) is the best pastry I’ve had in France so far.

On Friday, we woke up early to a brisk, sunny morning and ventured from our adorable AirBNB into the quiet town. We were staying just a stone’s throw away from the incredible Bayeux Cathedral, which we used to orient ourselves throughout our time there—when we had first arrived at the train station the afternoon before, we hadn’t even bothered to map our way to the town because we could just walk towards the massive cathedral in the distance! After admiring the church and wandering for a bit, we bought pastries at a small bakery and ate them on a bench in a deserted square; it was a very peaceful time.

 

One night, the cathedral was lit up in beautiful shades of pink, purple, and blue (one of my very favorite color combinations).

We then got ticket bundles to 3 museums for only

This stone road marker, used to delineate the distance between towns, is a relic of the Roman Empire; I believe it’s from 46 BC.

12€, which was pretty nifty. The first was the Musée D’Art Et D’Histoire Baron Gérard, which covered a fascinating variety of topics about the region from Stone Age artifacts to lace-making to modern art. Next we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry, a 75-meter long tapestry depicting in intricate detail the story of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. For reference, 75 meters long is more than two-thirds of the length of an American football field (and more than three fourths the length of a soccer field!). Last was the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille du Normandie, telling the story of the Invasion of Normandy near the conclusion of World War II in Europe.

 

These stone arrowheads date back to 2000 BC!

So much history in one day was a lot to process. Especially with our visits book-ended by such a huge time span: we started the day seeing stone arrowheads from thousands of years ago, and ended it with relics of a battle that took place just 70 years ago, so recently and yet so long ago at the same time. It really hit me with how incomprehensibly vast our history is as humans, and impressed upon me the sheer volume of the human experience.

The Battle of Normandy museum was most affecting and most poignant to me—there’s just so much information about an event that took place in such a small period of time (under 2 months), in such a small geographical area, but that was so historically significant. So much planning, so much tension and anxiety, so many lives were forever changed or lost during this one battle in this one war.

That’s the most amazing thing to me, is that there are these places and events that have so profoundly affected the course of history that we have but a cursory knowledge of, and there’s no way to comprehend all of it. Before visiting Bayeux, I hardly knew anything about William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, other than that he conquered something and that he was from Normandy, but someone in the distant past made an entire tapestry about it explaining all the events surrounding his conquest. I had learned about the Battle of Normandy and D-Day in school, but never about the details of the troop movements, the meticulous planning of the military, the journalists who risked their lives to cover the invasion, the logistics of the army hospitals, the reactions of the French towns upon liberation.

Items used and owned by soldiers during the Battle of Normandy, including shaving cream, cigarettes, and a French phrasebook.

Seeing footage of bombs and rubble, of troops marching through the same idyllic French villages I’ve been wandering, I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity not just to enjoy the present, but to learn about the deep history of my home away from home—that I can walk the same streets that have endured so much and picture them in a different era, a different time.

I Just Fell in Love with the City of Love

A couple of weekends ago, I had one of the best weekends of my entire life. It still does not seem real that I visited Paris, France! I was finally able to check this off my bucket list – I always dreamed of going here since I was six years old. Thankfully, Paris certainly did not disappoint.

My first weekend travel was nothing short of great and relaxing. While my week at GTL is usually filled with homework, studying, and trying to eat decent meals; stepping off the Eurail train in Paris completely washed out any negative emotion I may have felt. Flowing into the rush of hundreds of people walking to catch the metro, I ordered my one way tickets to the metro for my stay in Paris. Once my friend and I made to where we were staying, dropped off our bags, and ate lunch at a local café, we headed to the most well-known and must see attractions in Paris, the Eiffel Tower.

The anticipation as we made our way from the metro and saw it ascending towards the sky from a distant had us screeching with excitement as our inner younger selves started to come out. As we got closer to the Eiffel Tower, it grew larger and larger as it filled the center of the city. It was so beautiful that words could not even describe its intricate steel frame-work surrounded by photographers, tourists, people blowing bubbles for kids, and smiling faces from all around the world. I was able to take a ton of pictures and get a better idea of just how big the Eiffel Tower was by taking flights of stairs up to the top. For 5 euros, I was able to walk up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower! You may think that the second level doesn’t sound like much, however, the tower is massive. Massive. I think that walk up flight after flight of stairs consisted of my entire workout for the week. It may be stereotypical and tourist-y, but climbing up the Eiffel Tower and seeing that view is something I would highly recommend for anyone to do if they visit Paris.

To continue our adventures in Paris, we walked around the first day with nothing other designs or plans in our minds. We were just walking around on the streets, people watching, and going into local stores. Being the over-planner that I usually am when it comes to traveling, it was nice to not have a concrete plan for the day as it made the experience more fun, carefree, and memorable. As a result of our wandering, we were able to see the Arc de Triomphe, eat at a local pizza place, see the Hotel de Plaza, and pass by many bakeries. To end the night, I was able to sit in the chilly night air at the top of a boat, as we took a river cruise through Paris passing many of the famous, historical landmarks. The most interesting part of this river boat cruise to me aside from the landmarks was seeing: the restaurants in boats, a dance festival, and the local college crowd leisurely hanging out along the river.

The next day, we were able to visit the Louvre for free, see the Mona Lisa, go shopping in Paris, visit the Notre Dame, and eat the best crêpe I ever had in my entire life! I truly fell in love with Paris when I visited, and would definitely be visiting there many more times to come. French culture is something I am coming to appreciate more and more. The way people interact with one another in France, take their time throughout the day, and gleam with happiness makes me love the country even more.

Moselle Sans Limite

At the gardens they have the new logo of Moselle in the grass! (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bland)

Last week, all of us at GTL went on a field trip to the headquarters of the Department of Moselle in Metz. For other Americans such as myself who aren’t familiar with the term, a department is essentially a political/geographical unit in France that is higher up than a county but smaller than a state. Moselle is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. We were greeted with a lovely welcome from the department, with speeches from the Vice President and the President of the department to us, and also from the president of Georgia Tech Lorraine to the department officials about the great things going on at GTL! The President of Moselle didn’t speak English and had a translator relay his speech to us. It was easy to tell, even in a different language, that he was an excellent public speaker—even without understanding, I was engaged! It was interesting to listen for familiar words in French, and to try to guess which French words corresponded with the English words of the translator.

Some of the main points that I took from the departmental speeches were their words about the many wonderful aspects of Moselle, such as the culture, the food, the business, the history, and much more. They encouraged us to travel around the region and take advantage of these things during our semester in this region of France—a sentiment which, after my fantastic weekend in Metz, I wholeheartedly agreed with!

After the speeches, we moved to the eagerly anticipated and delicious lunch, which consisted of charcuterie plates covered in various meats and cheeses, breads, grapes that looked too perfect to be real (but they were!), and the regional plums, mirabelles.

After lunch, the students split into four groups to visit different sites in Moselle: Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy (Fruit Gardens), Chateau Malbrouck (Malbrouck Castle), the Maison Robert Schuman (House of Robert Schuman), and the Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation (Museum of the War of 1870 and the Annexation). Unfortunately, being in four places at once is not one of my talents, so for some of the locations I didn’t visit, I’ll relay what I’ve heard from other GTL students about their experiences.

The house of Robert Schuman, and the attached museum about his life and role in the formation of the EU.

I visited the Maison Robert Schuman, which is both the house of the French statesman Robert Schuman (not the German piano composer—his name has two n’s) and a museum about his life. He is regarded as the father of the Europe, instrumental to the formation of the European Union after World War II. We toured through his former home and watched a video about his life. When he lived there, he had owned over 8000 books! This seemed to be his only excess, for he chose to live quite simply. At the sight of a piano in his office, I wondered to myself: did Robert Schuman ever play Robert Schumann?

Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

Those who went to the war museum saw relics from the Franco-Prussian war, including uniforms and cannons. They also visited a grave where many soldiers from the war were buried, surrounded by plaques describing the losses in each battalion. The museum also holds pieces of a large panoramic painting from the war, meant to surround a room and make the viewer feel present in the scene.

Part of the panoramic painting in the Musée de la Guerre. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

The students who visited the gardens learned about many different kinds of plants and were given 3 minutes to pick as many mirabelles as they possibly could. My friend observed that if they had had as much time as they wanted to pick the fruits, she probably would have grabbed a more reasonable amount and then stopped; but the pressure of the time limit led them to frantically pick an absurd number of mirabelles! (This in turn led to us holding the Mirabelle Olympics back at Lafayette that evening, where the events included catching mirabelles in our mouths, a mirabelle beauty contest, and other equally prestigious activities.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone about the Chateau Malbrouck, but I heard that both the castle itself and the view from the walls is wonderful!

In all, our field trip through Moselle was filled with times both fun and educational, and if you’re looking for a beautiful area of France to explore that’s packed with experiences for everyone, look no further! They also have a very cool website where you can learn more, at www.mosl.fr.

From Morocco to Metz: Bennis’ Story

I met Bennis Mamoun the first week being at Georgia Tech Lorraine. I remember walking up to him and his friends to introduce myself. Upon meeting him, I found out he is from Morocco! That moment, I realized that not only was I studying in France with students from the Atlanta campus, but I was also studying with other students from all around the world that are at GTL for the same purpose I am.

Bennis, who goes by Ben, is from Morocco and completed his undergraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at the Université Internationale de Rabat. Even though Ben is from Morocco, this is not his first time in France; he previously came to France as a tourist traveling to a couple cities – one of which being Paris. In comparison to being a tourist, he says that his experience of living in Metz has been great (and less expensive).

When it comes to being away from his family back in Morocco, Ben says he feels comfortable as he is used to being away from his family for school due to his previous university being in a different city. Aside from the different cultures between Morocco and France, he has been pleasantly surprised to see how well organized everything is especially when it comes to the school and transportation systems of France. His adjustment to life in Metz has been great, except when it comes to the shift of his meals to consisting mostly of bread, croissants, and delicious chocolate.

At Georgia Tech Lorraine, Ben is pursuing his master’s in mechanical engineering. Even though he is not doing research at the moment, he hopes to begin his research next semester under a mentor. When it comes to future plans for his career, he is very open to see where his career will go. Having his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, Ben realizes the broad and significant number of opportunities he will have in the future. When I asked him what made him decide on getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, he said “It gives you enough tools to work in every other industry.” Long term, he hopes to one day live and work in Europe, and to have an internship experience to discover his interests before completing his master’s degree.

While Ben continues to pursue his asters, he hopes to have some new fun experiences along the way. This semester at GTL, he looks forward to planning a skiing trip, as that is something he has never done. Something many people do not know about Bennis is that he has been to four countries, loves cats, and is a “meme addict” – and for those who do not know what a meme is, it is a picture that has a funny caption on it. He says they make his day just a little brighter. Aside from reading memes, he enjoys watching TV series and playing video games such as League of Legends in his spare time. Best of wishes to Ben in the future as he work toward his master’s in mechanical engineering, try skiing for the first time, and continues laughing at funny memes!

Marvelous Meandering in Metz

After a busy, exciting, and syllabus-filled first week at Georgia Tech Lorraine, what better way to spend the weekend than by exploring the city of our new home? Last weekend, several friends and myself spent our time wandering the beautiful city of Metz and experiencing all that it has to offer. A disclaimer for you, readers: my excitement about some of the things we did, sights we saw, or food we had in Metz is probably going to sound exaggerated because I use lots of superlatives, but I mean them sincerely! It was really that awesome. Now, let’s go! (Or should I say, METZ go? …I’m sorry.)

Pictures don’t do it justice; the movement, optical illusions, and music are what made the experience truly amazing.

On Friday night, our motley group of nine GTL students wandered aimlessly for a long time, trying to decide on a restaurant, plagued by the indecision that increases exponentially in larger groups of people, until finally we stopped walking in circles and just sat down at the nearest place. The restaurant we chose was called Mamie M’a Dit (which, according to Google Translate, means Granny Told Me), and it was excellent! Luckily, we were sharers and we all exchanged bites of our food, so I got to try duck, veal, and what appeared to be the French equivalent of chicken pot pie in addition to the steak that I ordered.

After dinner, we made our way to what would become the highlight (literally) of the night: the light show on the Cathedral that took place as part of the Constellations festival. I don’t know what I was expecting before seeing it but it turned out to be, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life. The sheer scale of the projection, the way the images perfectly complemented and seemed to change the face of the cathedral itself, the way the accompanying music reflected and enhanced it—it was absolutely incredible.

The cathedral in Metz is nothing to sneeze at even when it’s not covered in a projection performance. And by nothing to sneeze at I mean stunningly beautiful.

The other Constellations exhibitions included a lit up arcade; a large, spinning, glowing ring with unearthly music playing in the background; projections on the roof of the ceiling in a museum; projections of pop art onto walls of buildings; colorful paper boats on the river; a glowing line sculpture by the castle on the river; and some glowing mannequins, all interspersed around Metz and all free to experience.

This is my sketch of the view from the park where we were sitting.

On Saturday, we went to the open market in the plaza near the cathedral, where we bought peaches, tomatoes, some beautiful strawberries (some of the best I’ve ever had—again, no exaggeration here), and some kind of pancake-like food that was thicker than a crepe and had cheese and vegetables on it. Then we wandered to a park and sat and talked for a couple hours while I sketched the scene in front of us.

Lastly, we visited the Pompidou, with its lovely color exhibition and some art that was fascinating and other art that was just peculiar. I could talk about the pieces we saw for hours, but I’ll save it for the future post I’m planning about the art I’ve seen in France so far (which is kind of a ton considering I’ve been here for just under three weeks). Strangely, there was also a giant, empty room bathed in pink light with a humming sound in the background that had delightfully soft carpet and was very soothing to sit in.We stayed there for an hour, and it was the best giant pink museum room that I’ve been in in my life. (Ok, now I’m just messing with you. This is still true though!)

One of the main pieces at the Pompidou exhibition.

This post doesn’t even cover all of the great experiences we had in Metz. I could spend ages talking more about how lovely the city is, describing the deliciousness of each pastry we tasted, waxing poetic about the loveliness of each park we explored, of each building, from ornate edifices to quaint cafes…but instead I’ll just recommend that you visit and experience the wonders of Metz yourself!

Metz is an Underrated City and Here’s Why

Before coming to Georgia Tech Lorraine, I heard of other classmates’ experiences and would see all of their lavish travel pictures on their Instagram feeds. I was always in awe to see how students were able to travel to so many different countries in a short period of time while studying as well because of our central location to many major cities in Europe. While I would hear about the coursework, traveling Europe, and funny memories, the stories lacked details about the city whose downtown center I would be less than 20 minutes from: Metz, France.

The Mirabelle festival parade

After completing classes on Friday of the first week, a group of fellow classmates and myself went into the city at night to watch the constellation show on the cathedral. We also toured the city the next day, eating in a local café, shopping, visiting the French market, walking through the cathedral, and visiting the Museum of La Cour d’Or. To conclude the first weekend adventures, I was able to see the traditional Mirabelle Festival Parade that rolls through the center of the city every year. People were crammed in the streets standing on their toes to see the parade, soulful jazz music from saxophones filling the air and colorful floats rolling by. As

A concert for the Mirabelle festival

the Mirabelle Festival was coming to an end in Metz, I was also able to see hot air balloons rising high in the sky from the view of my dorm window.

Last week, I was also able to learn even more about Metz and its neighboring cities during a speech from the President of the local government and a visit around Moselle with this semester’s Georgia Tech Lorraine class. On the tour for GTL, I was able to go to the Museum of the War of 1870 and Annexation. While visiting the museum, I was able to better understand Moselle and the German influences that still exist in Metz today!

The Cathedral of Metz

From touring the city and experiencing the jaw-dropping constellation show and parade, I can truly say that Metz is a beautiful, unique city to be in. Walking along the streets you can see the history and growth in the architecture, the peace and happiness in the air and locals’ mannerisms, and the fascinating history in the museums and artifacts. From the few days that I was able to walk through the city, I was able to appreciate more where Georgia Tech Lorraine is located.

Overall, I am truly in awe at how beautiful and historical Metz is: from the museums and architecture to watching the skills of a baker or musician while roaming through the city. From my experiences, I can say that Metz is underrated; it does not get the credit and exposure that it deserves. It is truly a beautiful, friendly, art-loving, cultural city. While it is not a typical tourist city, it is beautiful to observe a more local life of France, and gain better knowledge on French history and culture.

Living and Learning in France – and Loving It!

I can’t believe that I’ve already been in France for a week. I also can’t believe that I’ve only been in France for a week—the days have been so packed that it feels like much longer. I arrived early to spend some time with my family in Paris, so each day from Wednesday to Sunday was filled to the brim with tours, trains, restaurants, and wandering the streets of the City of Lights.

My family’s arrival to France was not without its obstacles. At the Minneapolis airport, a couple of hours before we were supposed to board, we discovered that my mom’s passport expired within three months and that she wouldn’t be able to take our flight; my brother and I would go alone, and she would attempt to get an expedited passport and arrive the following day. My mother is an airline pilot and is consequently a pretty experienced traveler and planner (this snafu is an anomaly for her, trust me) so entering France unexpectedly without her was a little intimidating, but also exciting. (Not that you aren’t exciting, Mom.) It felt sort of symbolic, in a way, reminding me of the fact that I’d be navigating unfamiliar countries throughout my semester abroad.

As our plane finally approached Paris after a long overnight flight, I eagerly took in the red rooftops and rolling fields of the countryside. When my brother and I walked through the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I listened, uncomprehending but fascinated, to the sounds of softly spoken French around me, and silently mouthed the words on every sign and ad I saw to practice my pronunciation. I started processing that yes, I really was here, in France—there were the kisses on the cheeks between family members as they were reunited. There were the Euro signs on the taxi driver’s dashboard as we sped on our way to the city. There was the Eiffel Tower in the distance as we neared Paris, and the shimmering Seine as we crossed one of the many bridges on our way to our hotel.

I soon found that the Eiffel Tower was even more beautiful when viewed at night from a boat on the Seine!

Throughout my travels with my family, I had to keep reminding myself that this was the country where I would be living not just for the next couple of days, but for the next four months. It didn’t seem possible, in the midst of many tours and stereotypical vacation destinations, that I would be remaining in such an amazing place. Now, though, I’ve gone through the whirlwind of arriving at Georgia Tech Lorraine! Taking the shuttle from the airport, unpacking, seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones, absorbing the info dump that was orientation, going to the grocery store twice, and starting to explore Metz doesn’t seem possible to fit into three days, and yet somehow it did. And that doesn’t even include going to classes! Now that I’m here at GTL, settled into my dorm at Lafayette, and experiencing the joys of Metz, I don’t need to remind myself anymore—I’m living and learning in France, and I’m loving it.

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