To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: December 2018

‘Tis the Season for Christmas in Metz

The iconic ferris wheel near the Cathedral.

We have reached that time in the semester of the season that keeps on giving, and Metz surely knows how to give to its locals the Christmas spirit. Everywhere you walk in Metz in places like coffee shops, grocery stores, and the city itself is decked out in decorations and Christmas cheer is spreading. I have heard from faculty and even some friends of mine that have been to France before that some of the best Christmas markets and festivities from around the world are located in France, one of those happens to be in Metz! I experienced first hand some of the Christmas festivities that Metz has to offer.

The decorations around the Christmas Markets were darling!

I went to the Christmas markets in downtown Metz near the Metz Cathedral. The night air was chilly in the alleyways as other GTL students and I walked along the streets of Metz to the Christmas markets with glee. Once we reached the markets, I was immediately hit with a mixture of wonderful scents filling the air such as apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Walking through the markets I could see couples walking around arm in arm comforting each other for warmth, kids running around getting on amusement rides, and people ice skating holding onto rails to keep themselves from falling on the slippery ice. I felt as if I was in one of those cliché Hallmark Christmas movies! As I continued walking through the market, I decided to try some of the traditional Christmas pastries and drinks. I was able to try a hollow cone-like pastry covered in sugar, and one of the many traditional drinks served warm and ladled from big pots containing the drinks. After all the GTL students and myself got our food and drinks, we ended up trying some of each other’s pastries and enjoying the festivities.

Metz Cathedral in the Night

In the Christmas markets, there are many pastry and food vendors selling a whole variety of food like crepes, beignets, the sugary cone I mentioned, dried fruit, roasted chestnuts, fondue, fish and chips, and cheesy potatoes. Also in the market were little vendors sprinkled throughout selling Santa Claus hats, kids toys, scarves, and handmade gifts for family and friends. This was my first time experiencing a traditional Christmas market, and I really enjoyed it! Some of the other activities that are available in Metz during the Christmas time is the Saint Nicholas Parade, the trail of lanterns, a large Ferris wheel ride which is one of the largest Ferris wheels in Europe, the gourmet market, and the traditions market on Place Saint-Louis.

Being a person that absolutely loves Christmas, I start counting down before Thanksgiving, watch at least one Christmas movie each day during the weekends, and love spreading Christmas cheer – so I thoroughly enjoyed the festivities. Being able to experience the Christmas markets were like a small dream come true because I feel like I finally made it to a Hallmark movie. While GTL is challenging at times with school, travels, and feeling a little homesick during the holiday times, the small community we have formed among ourselves and things such as the Christmas markets help you to feel a bit more at home. As my time at GTL is comes to a close, I hope to experience a Christmas market in another French city – or even when I return back to the United States.

Learning to Cook in Lafayette

Friendos with cinnamon apples, a chocolate mug cake, and vanilla ice cream!

I am always very excited about my mug cakes.

One aspect of Georgia Tech-Lorraine that has been both fun and difficult is cooking my own meals. On the one hand, it’s fun to try to learn new recipes and make and eat new things; on the other hand, the lack of an oven as well as the difficulty of buying a reasonable number of ingredients somewhat limits what one can reasonably make. The thing about cooking is, it’s pretty difficult to make anything substantial just for yourself without resigning to eat only that thing for the rest of the week. Especially because, given the busy travelling schedule of GTL students, we’re usually only in our dorm for three or four nights out of the week anyway, so we have to make sure we eat all our leftovers so they don’t go bad while we’re traveling over the weekend.

Sarah made amazing fajitas, which we had with many yummy toppings!

The solution to this problem that my friends and I have been utilizing lately is to have little mini dinner parties in our dorm rooms! One person will offer to cook for one night of the week and will have a couple of people over to eat whatever they make. This way, everyone gets fed, everyone gets to try a variety of meals, and everyone gets to try their hand at making something new! Sometimes people will contribute different things—one person will make the main course, but others will bring side dishes, little appetizers, desserts, or the ubiquitous and always yummy baguette. All this combined with good conversation or a card or board game makes for a night full of fun and deliciousness!

One of my favorite things to contribute to dinners are microwave mug desserts. Upon arriving at GTL, I knew that the lack of an oven meant I would be utilizing the microwave a lot, so I bought a cookbook that has a bunch of recipes just for mugs in microwaves! There’s one recipe for a melty chocolate mug cake that I’ve made several times—it only takes five minutes and it tastes amazing served with vanilla ice cream.

Itzel had already taken a bite when I asked for a photo to prove to my mom that I’ve actually been cooking.

Unfortunately, we can’t use this system every night. We’re still GTL students, so many evenings, we don’t have enough time to spend cooking big meals because we’re working on homework or labs. On these nights, the leftovers problem becomes a convenience instead. I’ll often eat leftovers of a big meal or pasta on busy nights like this, or I’ll make a sandwich out of a baguette. One of my favorites to make is a light sandwich with tomatoes, brie, pesto, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Sometimes, after a long day at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I won’t feel like cooking at all, so I’ll walk down the street past Paul to the little sandwich shop by the car wash. They make incredible sandwiches right in front of you, and on a fall day a warm sandwich straight from the oven is often just what I need. On the whole, GTL is a great place to get out of your comfort zone and try cooking new things, but after all, this is France—you can find amazing food easily if you look!

Fall Break: A Week of Travel Adventures

Running to catch trains, being gross from long travels, eating some of the best food I have ever eaten in my entire life, seeing architecture my eyes only ever dreamed of, and experiencing moments of a lifetime is what my fall break consisted of. In comparison to Georgia Tech’s fall break, it is actually a break, a week to just relax without having to worry about school. I really appreciate how during fall break, I was not required to do a lot of schoolwork and had time to get it done beforehand so I could enjoy my travels fully. And so for fall break some GTL students and I decided to take a mini-tour of Portugal and Spain.

At the beach in Porto, Portugal

The first stop on my fall break was Porto, Portugal. I arrived in the city around 8 AM and did the one thing I knew how to do best: search for food like the hungry college student I am. I was able to find a café that was open around that time of the morning and was able to eat a nice, hearty breakfast and get my daily intake of coffee. Porto was a lot different from I expected it to be. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the amount of Portuguese being spoken, however, something very unique to Porto was that since it is so close to France and Spain, there are many languages spoken there even though Portuguese is the national language. Some of the things I enjoyed doing in Porto were seeing the beach and watching my friends surf for the first time in cold waters, visit the bookstore with the red staircase that inspired the Harry Potter books, and eat traditional pernil con queijo sandwich from Casa Guedes. Porto was a lot windier than I expected, but so beautiful at the same time with the yellow and pink tones cascading through the hills on houses with red rooftops.

 

 

The morning we arrived in Lisbon was the day I got the workout of the century, as we woke up late to catch our bus to Lisbon, and all the public transportation was not running at the time. We only had 30 minutes until our bus would leave, and too many hills to climb in Porto to reach the very top of our destination. With a “we can do this” and fitness instructor enthusiasm we made it to the bus station just in time! Once we arrived in Lisbon, the city was full of food and beautiful sites to see. I believe the highlight of my time in Lisbon was getting to try the local fish and traditional custard tart pastries. A sight I could not miss while in Lisbon was the one from Castelo de Saint Jorge, as I was able to see a panoramic view of the entire city of Lisbon from one of its highest points and learn more history about the city as well.

Lisbon, Portugal

7AM flight to Madrid, Spain from Lisbon, Portugal

The next stop on my fall break trip was Spain! The country is absolutely gorgeous and a place I dreamed of going to since I was younger. I have always had a deep admiration and appreciation of Hispanic culture. Spain was a dream: I was able to visit Valencia, Madrid, and Barcelona for a few days. On Halloween night, Valencia came to life with parties for college students and satisfied my paella dreams, as I ate two different styles of paella while I was in Valencia. By the time I reached Madrid, I was exhausted from traveling to so many places, and I was only halfway through fall break! In Madrid, since we arrived later in the day and it was raining, I did what most locals do during this type of gloomy day: I went to Primark! For those who may not know what Primark is, it is the store of your fashion dreams as everything has very low prices for pretty good quality. After shopping, I had some amazing tacos at Takos and the best churros and chocolate in the city. Lastly, I made it to Barcelona with the group I was traveling with. I would have to say that Barcelona was the highlight of my trip, as we spent the most time here, and I did not feel rushed to eat and see everything in one day. While in Barcelona, I was able to meet new people at the hostel we were staying at, take a walking tour in the city, see Gaudi’s architecture casually decorating the streets of Barcelona, and of course see the infamous Sagrada Familia!

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Overall, my fall break consisted of a lot of traveling, satisfying my hunger, seeing historical landmarks, and making new memories with fellow GTL students. From traveling to different cities in Spain and Portugal, I was able to see  how different each one was from the people, slight variations in culture, and food. I have gained a new perspective and appreciation of those countries from traveling there. When planning fall break, I would recommend making plans early to save money on travel, and to visit fewer places because traveling can be exhausting, and it minimizes all the things you can see and experience of each city.

What Drives You—An Interview with Timothée Despruniee

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Timothée Despruniee about his time as a graduate student at Georgia Tech Lorraine! This is his first semester at GTL, and he’s studying mechanical engineering. He is also getting a dual degree with one of GT-Lorraine’s partner institutions ENSAM, which stands for Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers.

Tim is on the front right, and his little brother (who is also studying mechanical engineering) is to the left.

At Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Tim is taking three courses on campus and one that is online with a teacher at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus. He has a bit more additional work due to his double degree with ENSAM, the equivalent of maybe two or three added courses. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s manageable for Tim because he, like some other French students, was in the classes prépas system prior to this. This classes prépas system required 45 hours of presence in class per week, with midterms every Saturday for different courses for at least four hours—this adds up to almost 70-75 hours a week of work! About GT-Lorraine, he says, “It’s a bit difficult, but not too much because there are not so many hours of courses, you just have to work a bit when you’re home. It’s very good, but it’s not as tough for those of us who did classes prépas. We are quite comfortable here, and the teachers are very nice, so that’s pretty cool.”

     I asked him which classes he was taking at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and ENSAM, and he mentioned acoustics and continuum mechanics as some courses he was taking. About the differences between ENSAM and GTL, he said, “At ENSAM, it’s more permeable, I would say. It’s not, ‘this class is about only this and you don’t do anything else,’ it’s a bit broad. I’ve been at ENSAM for two years now and it’s always been like this: a lot of presence in class, but very broad topics. It’s not the same, but it feels refreshing to have courses here since it’s very different from what we’re used to having. It’s less volume in hours and a bit more work at home, but it’s always in the idea of mechanical engineering to conceive, to think.”

When I asked Tim what he’d like to do after he finishes his degree, he talked about “I would want to be in the automobile industry. I’m very passionate about that. Since Georgia Tech is very well known for its mechanical engineering degree, I would want to use it to be able to go to interesting firms like Ford, Tesla, stuff like that. I’m really excited about the fact that the degree is well known, that it’s recognized and that I feel it gives me a lot of tools to be able to be a better engineer in the future.” He also told me about his passion for working on cars: he has a small red car that he’s made some alterations to, and it doesn’t look it, but it can go really fast!

It was great to talk with Tim and to hear about his passion for both mechanical engineering and the automobile industry—best of luck as he finishes the rest of his time at GT-Lorraine!

Some Fun-don in London

In mid-October, we decided to go across the pond and spend the weekend in lovely London! (I’m not sure if “across the pond” can be used for going across any large body of water, but I like the phrase so just bear with me.)

Our trip began with us taking the Eurostar train LITERALLY UNDER THE OCEAN! I still can’t get over how marvelous modern engineering is that somehow, we as a species managed to run a high-speed train under the sea. The Chunnel links France and England under the Strait of Dover, sitting at 250 ft below the sea bed at its lowest point, and with its undersea portion stretching a total of 23.5 miles (37.9 km), the longest of any tunnel in the world. Actually going through the tunnel was pretty underwhelming because, you know, it’s just darkness like any other train tunnel, but thinking about the sheer amount of water that was sitting above us made it more exciting.

The fish and chips to go was a nice idea in theory—in practice it was messy and difficult, but still delicious!

Upon disembarking at St. Pancras station, we were quite hungry, so we decided to walk to a restaurant serving a quintessentially British food: fish & chips. We got our orders to go, but fish & chips proved very difficult to eat without forks and while walking, so we sat down on a deserted curb to have our delicious feast, then took the Tube to our AirBNB.

On Saturday, we had a leisurely morning and ate lunch at the ubiquitous Pret a Manger. (I found it ironic that the classic London fast food chain has a French name.) Then, we went to go see the British Museum. Even without the incredible exhibits it houses, the sheer size of the building was impressive—the center of the museum is a huge open expanse of white marble, with sunlight streaming in through the roof and a massive stone pillar of rooms rising out from the center of the cavernous space. Highlights of our visit included the Rosetta Stone, giant Egyptian statues, and an interactive exhibit about a man mummified thousands of years ago.

Soren showed us the Royal Courts of Justice building in London. The pointed arches and circular window are reminiscent of Gothic cathedrals, which we’ve been studying extensively in HTS 2084 at Georgia Tech Lorraine!

At the museum, we met up with one of my best friends from high school, Soren, who’s currently studying abroad at the London School of Economics! After we were done wandering around the exhibits, he showed us around his campus. We saw his dorms, a couple of lecture halls, and the giant LSE library, among other places. He’s studying there for a year, but he’s only been there for three weeks so far, so it’s a very different feeling for him than for us, who already have two months at GTL under our belt. Seeing how he’s just starting his study abroad experience really made it hit home that we were already halfway done with ours.

Lastly, we decided to go to the famous Brick Lane for dinner to get Indian food! The whole street was filled with different Indian restaurants, with people outside each one trying to entice customers to choose theirs. We chose one based off of reviews we had read beforehand and chose several dishes to share between us, including butter chicken, chana masala, vegetable biryani, and naan, of course.

Hannah and Sarah with our delicious Brick Lane meal!

Overall, we had a marvelous time in London with good friends and good food, and I would love to visit again someday to see more of the bustling but beautiful city!

Never Settle: Meet Michelle George

Michelle George is taking advantage of all Georgia Tech has to offer! As a graduate student at Georgia Tech Lorraine pursuing her Masters in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in systems and controls, also completed her Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. Originally from Massachusetts, when Michelle went to Georgia Tech for her undergraduate degree, it was her first time ever being in the south – and therefore the state of Georgia.

Even though her time at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and being abroad while pursuing her Masters has been fun, she hopes to live in the northeast when she begins working full-time in automation controls. With this being Michelle’s first semester at GTL, it was nice to hear her comparison of going to Georgia Tech in Atlanta and in Metz, France, since she has been exposed to both as an undergraduate and graduate student. She says, “At Georgia Tech in Atlanta, the community is huge in comparison to that of GTL. Here there are much fewer students, and even fewer graduate students so I have been able to get tight with a lot of them. It’s also a really different atmosphere than the campus in Atlanta because it’s more personable, and I get to know all the administrators and teachers more personally. It’s really nice.” She emphasized how much more comfortable she is going to office hours to speak with professors. We both shared how before at the campus in Atlanta, how we would usually not go to office hours, while at GTL it feels much more comfortable to do so. We both agreed that since GTL really has a strong community aspect, class feels less impersonal and we feel more connected with our peers as students.

While at GTL, Michelle has had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places, knocking Cologne, Colmar, Brussels, Zurich, and London off of her travel bucket list! Since traveling around France and Europe, she says that it has helped build more confidence in herself and she has become more comfortable with traveling to different places. Before traveling around France, she would be worried about doing something wrong, not knowing the language, or unintentionally disrespecting others cultures. As she has traveled more, she has overcome those fears and now believes that as long as you try your best and get out of your comfort zone, that’s what truly matters. Michelle has become much more confident than when she first came here – even taking a couple solo trips – and remains determined to travel as much as possible.

Michelle enjoying all that London has to offer!

Something really cool that I learned about Michelle is her interest and appreciation of theatre and the arts. When Michelle is in Atlanta, she usually would volunteer her time at theatres in Atlanta. Since Europe is such a rich place to experience and learn about the arts, Michelle has really tried to take advantage of seeing what it has to offer in Europe and in Metz! When she was in Brussels, she went saw the Belgium National Orchestra. “It was incredible,” she sais. “They had this one soloist that’s insanely good, and he played my favorite piece I never heard before live, and it blew my mind!” It was nice to hear that even though she is studying engineering, which isn’t strongly associated with the arts, she tries to enjoy the theatre and arts when she can.

Michelle George is a fun, hard working young woman that truly goes for it, and doesn’t try to take the easy way out of things. She is passionate about what she likes and what she wants, and will not let anyone stop her. When she isn’t practicing her French, watching operas, traveling, or studying, she is working on staying true to what she wants for her future and not settling.

The Unspoken Challenges of Studying Abroad

The glamorous side of studying abroad that most people see.

Let’s get real for a minute. Studying abroad is amazing, and the glamorous pictures shared with family and friends and on social media may make it seem like a breeze. However, there is a side of studying abroad that many people do not talk about much, and others don’t know about. The cramming in the days before the test after a weekend of travel, grinding out homeworks quickly or even not turning it in on time, and stress of planning trips and staying focused in school all at the same time. The balance is what makes studying abroad challenging at times.

I’m definitely a coffee drinker so sometimes the caffeine helps with the long study days!

Since being at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I have had my fair share of highs and lows when it comes to my school work. However, I was able to quickly learn from my mistakes, and understand what I was personally capable of being able to handle when it came to traveling and school. The purpose of studying abroad is to enjoy being abroad and make the most out of those opportunities – and to be successful in your studies. One of the biggest challenges about studying abroad is being equally committed to both throughout the semester. By being organized, keeping a schedule, working hard, and remembering to do the best I can throughout my studies I have been able to decently handle this challenge, and would like to share some things I did to do so.

A good example of what a typical Thursday night before travels looks like for me: Netflix, dinner, and homework!

When I did have some low points in semester, I realized it was because I was straying away from what works best for me when it came to studying, and was not focusing on understanding the material. During the beginning of the semester I had the mentality that as long as I finished my homeworks each week, I would be perfectly fine. However, after the first round of tests I saw where I could improve: focusing on understanding the material throughout the week, and then letting my homeworks be a way to practice. Something I would highly recommended to save you stress while cramming for a test is to understand the material as much as you can while it is being taught.

Day trips with friends means being able to study more during the weekend.

Some other things that helped me stay on track with my studies was sticking to my old study methods; I tried changing them and regretted it. Personally what works for me is writing on whiteboards my notes and problems, but I know that doesn’t help everyone. Always make sure to do things that work for you! That is key. When other people may go back to the dorms to study, eat, and nap, you may need to be in a more structured environment to study or vice versa, and know that’s perfectly okay. Some other things I recommend doing is eating healthy and decent meals, keeping a checklist or weekly plan of all the things you need to get done, and getting all homeworks and important studying completed before leaving for weekend travels.

I believe balancing school and travel while being abroad is important to have a conversation about. The challenge is a real one, and I feel often isn’t discussed among our peers either out of embarrassment or self regret. It is also important to stay in close contact with family and friends while studying abroad, not only so can discuss your travels, but also to maintain your support system. Regardless of the distance, the people you are closest to will always be there to encourage you and may even help pinpoint ways to help you do better. I know it can be easy to get sucked into the whirlwind while studying abroad, however, I realized that’s where I find my greatest comfort and motivation at times. Also, remember that others studying abroad are going through similar things; you are not alone. While you are studying and grinding out those homeworks, don’t forget to check up on your fellow classmates as well because at the end of the day that’s all we have while abroad –  each other.

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