To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: March 2019

A Much-Needed Breath of Fresh Air

I think today’s blog deserves a few moments of honesty. First of all, I think it is really important that I stay honest with others and myself because while most of the time everything is truly incredible I do actually have times where I don’t really feel like myself or I feel slightly detached since there is so much to take in. I try exceptionally hard to not let any negativity affect me, but it’s something I do need to accept as reality and move on from. I feel like I am learning so much about myself and what I need to do to make me happy while I am here so it’s been invaluable in that regards.

Last week I ran into some difficulties traveling that made me a little bit unsteady for a short time. Some girls and I had been planning a trip to Budapest, and I wasn’t anticipating being so exhausted after spring break and wasn’t really looking forward to that trip. I think I needed a week off. However, since I had made plans and hotel reservations I went to book the trains when I was in Paris (since it was an overnight train we had to) and they had told me it was all sold out. I tried to book it in Metz, too, and they told me the same. It was quite stressful since I didn’t want to mess up my friend’s plans.

Luckily (but unluckily, just stay tuned), my friend had called the Zurich train station and was able to somehow secure me a seat on the overnight train. While I wasn’t looking forward to the seating situation, after looking at all the fun things to do in Budapest I started getting excited, and Thursday night we made our way to Zurich, the first stop before the overnight train. If you’ve ever had that feeling where things have been going wrong for so long, and it seems strange that things are finally going right, then you know exactly how I felt when I joked that at the Zurich train station where I had to go get my ticket printed something would go wrong. Because it did! Our train arrived at 9:03pm and little did I know that the ticket office closes at 9pm, and they couldn’t print my ticket. So with no other options, my friends left to Budapest and I spent the night in Zurich. Out of all the places to get stuck, it definitely wasn’t a bad place, but after having a kind of rough week emotion-wise it was kind of a struggle that night.

Rainy day in Zurich.

Thankfully I fell in love with Switzerland. It reminded me a lot of Colorado, and I felt so comfortable. I think it was being surrounded by mountains, and the people were so friendly and spoke English so well. Luckily, my aunt who lived in Lucerne invited me to spend the rest of the weekend with them, which made me feel so much better. She picked me up after a day spent exploring in Zurich, and then I stayed in their beautiful apartment in Lucerne.

This very quickly made up for the struggles with the Budapest trip, and there was even a huge festival going on in Lucerne that made the weekend so fun and exciting. My aunt, her twin daughters and I adventured around town and saw all the incredible costumes, listened to different music, and joined in on all the fun. I have never seen so much effort put in by a whole town to make an occasion so joyous and well-intentioned. It was awesome. In addition to the festival, we went to a Swiss grocery store, cooked lunch together, and spent a morning walking around the beautiful lake. I’m really thankful that she was so inviting, and I had a lovely time with her and her family.

The view from the apartment in Lucerne

After that week I figured I’d take the next weekend off, but since it was my last weekend with the Eurail, I knew I had to fit in one more train trip before I couldn’t anymore. Randomly, these two guys that I had met while stranded in Luxembourg on the way home from London, texted the GTL GroupMe asking if someone wanted to join their ski trip. I didn’t think I’d be able to go skiing while here, but my friend had just bought some gear, which she said she’d let me borrow, and I quickly joined their trip.

So here I was going skiing in the Alps with two kids I barely knew, and they mentioned they had an Airbnb booked with a sauna, hot tub, beautiful views, but had “one small catch.” They told me it was a 2.2 km walk up a trail and that the reviews said it was worth the hike, but nothing too bad.  I saw the pictures, it looked incredible, and I decided that it was already weird enough that I was skiing with some guys I barely know, so why not.

I ended up training alone to Munich where I met them at our hostel, where we spent the night. The next morning they left at 5am to go skiing, while I left at 9am (I really value my sleep). I didn’t actually see them at all throughout the day. I was pretty anxious on my way to the resort in Kitzbuhel, Austria, since I haven’t skied in a while and wasn’t really sure how to get to the right place. I ended up meeting a super nice girl who was an instructor at the resort and she told me everything I needed to do. I rented some skis, and then I made my way to the free lifts at the resort. Everyone was so incredibly helpful that I felt so much better. People were also giving me mass amounts of chocolate throughout the whole journey. On the train to Munich the man who worked the food department kept giving me handfuls of chocolate, and the ski people in Austria helped me carry my infinite stuff – and then gave me more chocolate! After they helped me load up my locker, I headed to the lifts. It was really nice because they had three free lifts so I didn’t have to pay for a ticket. While it definitely could’ve been more exciting to go up further into the Alps, I really wanted to work on my technique and my control since it had been so long since I’d skied, and I felt way better by the end of the day. Also the snow was pretty bad, and I heard that visibility was terrible higher up so I felt good about my choice. Later on the boys finished skiing, and we took a train to the city where our Airbnb was. By then it was already dark out, so we got dinner, and I convinced them to at least take a taxi to the trailhead where we were supposed to walk to the Airbnb.

We got to the trailhead, and I realized pretty immediately that this was no “walk.” After a full day of skiing, we now were faced with what ended up being a 2.5 mile hike, and by hike I am talking full incline and lots of stairs, through the middle of a mountain in the complete darkness. We were following some sketchy Google-translated instructions from the Airbnb host and started trekking through the mountain. These poor kids had no idea what they were thinking bringing me on this hike. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to hike if it is what I am anticipating. But I was not ready for this and complained a little bit more than usual (they might tell that part differently :)). Eventually after an hour of hiking we finally reached what we thought was our Airbnb but turned out to be a different random hotel in the middle of nowhere. Then right before we got to the Airbnb, we walked by this creepy mini church that literally LIT UP when we got close to it, and it was terrifying. While I almost gave up, we hiked for another couple minutes and finally made it. Thank God I wasn’t skiing the next day. While I had plans to go to Salzburg, I knew there was absolutely no way I would make it up this mountain a second time.

But the reviews on the Airbnb website were definitely true. When I woke up in the morning and looked out the window I realized it was all worth it. The guys had gone skiing that day too, so I didn’t see them until dinner, but I had a really relaxing day.  My legs were exhausted but I got up and hiked a few miles. In all honesty I have no idea how I made it up the mountain in the first place in my crappy rain boots because the next morning I got so many weird looks from people with their hiking poles and full on gear as I was wearing the most random outfit to hike around. Regardless, it felt so refreshing to be outside and be in such a serene beautiful place. I missed hiking, I missed skiing, and I have to say that while the journey to get here was absolutely bizarre, it was the best weekend I’ve had. I spent some time in the hot tub and sauna, where I met some really nice girls from Munich and talked to them about how weird it was that I was there in the first place. For dinner we ate at the Airbnb, and I had this crushed up pancake that is apparently an Austrian delicacy. The Airbnb host was telling us that it’s named after some emperor that only ever requested that to eat and his cooks were always so confused because out of everything he could’ve eaten he’d request that. I feel like that’s how my mom feels when I order mac n cheese at a restaurant.

The next morning the guys left super early again, and I made my way down the mountain and trained home alone. This weekend was special in the sense that I was finally able to be outside and in nature rather than in the hustle and bustle of the cities. I felt so refreshed after that weekend and was thankful I didn’t stay home. That was also an incredibly long blog, but I am FINALLY! caught up on all of my trips, and can be more up to date from here on out.

I am feeling so much better this week, and I can’t believe it is already week nine of being abroad. I’ll be back home before I know it, and I am not ready. I think I’ll have to come back for sure.

See you soon!

Noa

Meet Hadrian: From MApS to Software Engineer!

This week I met the last graduate student in my Mobile Applications and Services class. This class has been super interesting and a great way to get to develop an actual application that we hope people will use. My group is doing an app that is basically an Uber for kids, and the grad student I met, Hadrien, is developing an app with his group that is promoting being environmentally friendly. The main purpose of the class isn’t only to develop the app, but make sure we have all aspects of a business/startup in place for a competition in April. Tonight I sat down with Hadrien to get to know him a little bit better!

Hadrien is from northern France, where he is doing the dual degree program with ENSEA and Georgia Tech, like many of the other graduate students I have met. He is doing an Electrical and Computer Engineering masters, and taking the MAS class, the securities class, wireless networks, as well as autonomous robotics. He plans on going to Atlanta in the spring semester of next year and is hoping to find an internship in Europe between finishing at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and starting in Atlanta. When I asked what he was interested in, he mentioned that he is mostly a “newbie” when it comes to this degree and even though he did a lot of electrical work before this in his undergrad, he is now delving into the software side of things. He is definitely curious about everything and is interested in development, which is why he is in the mobile applications class and is looking for internships in that field. Hadrien shared that his favorite class is probably securities because it is really new to him, and even if he isn’t good at it necessarily, he is excited about it.

In the past, he did internships specialized in electrical engineering, and even interned in Japan which sounded really amazing! I asked him how he got involved with that, and he mentioned he had a teacher who had told him about that opportunity. “I really wanted to go to Japan because I was really curious about the language and the culture, and to have the opportunity with my former school – I was like yes, I have to go.” Regarding what he wants to do after he graduates, he has no idea, but is really excited to study in the United States since he has never been there. He spends most of his time in Metz, and isn’t able to travel as much as he’d like, given that he works a lot – and it’s a pretty expensive hobby.

I really enjoyed meeting Hadrien and it is always great to be able to talk to people in my classes beyond just a class setting. I’m thankful that this blog allows me to do that and gives me the chance to have more meaningful conversations with other students, especially graduate students that I wouldn’t have otherwise met!

MTV Spring Break 2019 (My Time in Venice)

My spring break began when my amazing parents arrived to Metz on Valentine’s Day. How fun for them that they can spend the day of love with the child they love the most! (I’m one of five and by far the most expensive, so you decide for yourself if that’s true.) Anyway, it was so good to finally see them. I picked them up at the train station, and after convincing my dad that Uber is not an option here, we took a taxi to their hotel, which was a 10 minute walk from my dorm. We gossiped for a while, and then my dad walked me home, which was super sweet since it was really late, but I still feel guilty for making him walk through the mud that we could’ve avoided. Every time I walk through the mud that technically isn’t really a shortcut I remember how I made him ruin his brand new shoes. It’s okay though – I bought three new pairs of shoes for myself since then to compensate for the damage I caused.

The next morning, I took my parents to Fox, a coffee shop downtown that is super hip that I study at probably once or twice a week. After getting breakfast, I showed my mom all around downtown Metz as quickly as possible before we caught a train to Paris since we were flying out of Charles de Gaulle that evening to Venice.

I didn’t really have many expectations for our trip to Venice since I kind of had hoped that since I was with my parents I wouldn’t really have to have anything planned. But I guess they thought that I would because when we landed in Venice it took us a hot second to figure out what was going on. First, I didn’t really do any research whatsoever and failed to realize that Venice was a literal island. I know this sounds incredibly dumb, but then my dad was pretty confused as well when we asked the taxi driver to take us to the hotel and he said it was impossible. My dad looked at him and said, “what do you mean it’s impossible,” and that’s when we realized that my mom had been right all along (she always is by the way), and that we had to take a literal boat to the hotel. We laughed for way too long and were still very confused as we took a boat taxi, in the middle of the night, to our hotel, and the second we reached the island we realized it was all worth it. It was completely quiet when we got off and as we turned the corner to find the hotel we saw the most beautiful gondola next to our incredible hotel with glass chandeliers that looked like candy.

Getting to Venice

The next two days in Venice were absolute magic. We had perfect 60 degree weather, and since it was an off season the crowds (while still pretty big) weren’t too much to handle. The first day we walked all through the downtown, got lost in colorful alley ways, ate some gelato, and ended the day by taking a boat to Burano, an island known for its colorful houses and lace. We stayed there until the sunset, and it felt like I was living in a Disney movie. On the way home we had the tastiest dinner of my entire life. So much pizza, gnocchi, spaghetti, and every single bite was absolutely delicious. Then for dessert we shared tiramisu and chocolate mousse, and I am so hungry just thinking about it. Sometimes I wish that I was in Italy all the time because the food is so much more up my alley than the food in France.

The next day my mom and I went on a tour of a glass factory in Murano, another nearby island that was organized by our hotel. It was really fun because we got to take a private taxi boat, and the weather was still perfect, so it felt like we were in the middle of the summer. Then we met back up with my dad, walked around Venice some more, and eventually took a train to Milan. I’m not a huge fan of Milan since it is so industrial but it was still fun to spend some time there with my parents and walk around the Duomo. My parents had a few meetings planned the rest of the break, so after Milan we headed to Lucerne, Switzerland, where we met my aunt who lives there. While we were in Lucerne for a short time, I actually went back there a few weeks later (which will be in my upcoming blog post) and got to experience more than just a short stay. From there we flew to Nantes, France where my parents had some more meetings. I actually work for my parents too, so I was able to go to some of the meetings as well. It was nice to visit another French city that was different than Metz and Paris. I actually liked Nantes a lot because the downtown was pretty well established and had a lot of smaller, cute boutiques and antique stores.

After Nantes, I had to say goodbye to my parents which was really hard, but luckily right when I dropped them off at the airport, my boyfriend landed and we spent the weekend in Paris. I feel so lucky that he came to visit for such a short time because I really missed him, and it was nice to be surrounded for so long by people I know and love so well. Thankfully, we also had perfect weather in Paris, and I truly feel that Paris is a completely different city based on the weather. We visited Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay (my personal favorite since I love Monet), and drank a whole lot of boba. I also bought a book I’ve been really wanting to read at Shakespeare and Company, and so far it is the best book I’ve ever read.

Quick plug: it’s not that new of a book, but it’s called Flash Boys by Michael Lewis and is about high frequency trading. It’s incredibly interesting, and I’m not done reading it, but it is absolutely insane and worth reading.

Eating banana bread with Danny

Anyway back to my time in Paris: one of the days we just walked along the seine until we got to the Eiffel Tower, and I made us walk for 30 minutes until we found this coffee shop and drank cappuccinos with banana bread. In all honesty, it was the best cappuccino I’ve ever had.

Afterwards we visited Sacre Coeur since I’ve never been, and that pretty much concluded our short weekend together. Luckily he is visiting again in a couple of weeks and I get to see my friend from CU Boulder in Portugal later this week as well as in Ireland in April, so lots of familiar faces coming up. That was definitely one of my longer blogs but so much happened – and I didn’t even share it all! I think that spring break was exactly what I needed.

Another blog is coming very shortly! And then I will finally be all caught up on telling you about all my adventures.

Phone A Friend!

Hello all!!

Things are getting fairly busy here, which is nice since I like having stuff to do, but it’s also nice because it is definitely not a stressful busy. I have class work but I am never rushed and am only really tired from so much traveling! I just got back from Spring break, but I’ll first tell you about my travels, woes, and other choses (that rhymes and proves to you that I am a French connoisseur), up until spring break. I’ll definitely share about my spring break with my family in a few posts!

So to begin describing my time in Milan, it’s important I give some background information about my best friend Christine. Christine is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. She is also the smartest person I know and is exceptional at everything she does.

As a quick aside, in high school, Christine was initially my math tutor before we became best friends. She helped me a LOT and then one day she texted me in college asking ME for some help with something. This was my chance! I could finally repay Christine for the countless hours she spent explaining the intricacies of vectors. Maybe she will even need MY help with math, I wrongly thought, not even considering the fact that she finished Calculus 3 in high school and I hadn’t even reached that level of math. I told my dad how excited I was, and I waited eagerly until Christine finally responded to my “of course I can help you” text with: “what color nail polish would look better with my dress?”

Why am I sharing this story with you all today? First, to give you some context on why Christine and I are a perfect friendship match, because we provide different (some may even say equally valuable – I KID obviously) knowledge to the table. And also to remind us all to stay in our lanes and remember where you come from.

Okay while that was all incredibly irrelevant to my time abroad, Christine is also a very busy woman who I never get to see. Even if we schedule something for the one day she is in Boulder every year, it usually doesn’t work out. But! We have had weird luck, and what I would classify as a “blessing” by somehow planning trips to be in the same place at the same time without knowing. Last year, we both happened to be in NYC the exact same day, had called each other the night before and then found out and were able to meet up! This year, I randomly gave Christine a call, she mentioned she was in Italy (which I had no idea), and I had mentioned I’d be in Italy for exactly one day the next week since I’d found 20 euro round trip flights. Long story short, Christine was going to be in Milan that exact same day right before she was leaving back to the States and I got to see her!

It was perfect and fun. While I don’t like Milan as a city that much in all honesty (will explain in spring break blog), I had the best time with her and her friend. We went into the Duomo, I shopped (but of course), and we had the loveliest dinner where I ate Milanese Cotoletta and spent almost three hours talking and catching up. At the end of my one day in Milan, I actually cried a lot because it was difficult to see someone I love so much for such a short time and then have to go back to my crazy, different life in Metz. It made me miss home and my people a lot, but was exactly what I needed at the same time. Having stability and people that are consistently there for me is something I take for granted sometimes and I am thankful that I have those people that have treated me with respect and have kept a friendship throughout the years.

A Closer Look at the French Immersion Program

Thank you to our guest blogger Sommy Khalaj, who is a BS/MS student in Mechanical Engineering and ALIS studying at Georgia Tech-Lorraine this semester!

Students in the French – Sciences – Sustainability: French Immersion Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine have the opportunity to learn in a hands-on way about sustainable development in local French communities. They are encouraged to engage with local businesses and organizations in such a way that they may practice French conversation and begin to enjoy the nuances of French culture. For example, students recently visited a local organization in Metz known as Maison du Vélo, where volunteers share their love of biking by teaching others how to bike. The immersion program students may opt to help out by repairing bikes in the shop, purchase a bike for a very fair price, or even join Maison du Vélo members on biking trips.

Students also had the opportunity to visit a local LGBTQIA+/minority organization known as Couleurs Gaies. One of the longest-standing members of Couleurs Gaies spoke to the students for about an hour about the history of the LBGTQ and minority community in the area and how the organization came to be.

With regard to sustainable development, the students were exposed to one organization that contributed to the city’s environmental well-being at Maison du Vélo, while students learned about the city’s social well-being at Couleurs Gaies. Experiences like these where students interact with the local community often become the highlight of their study abroad experience.

There Is No “S” in Hotel

Hello again!

I am now the self-proclaimed cheap flight-finding queen. After my 20 euro trip to Milan, I have become slightly obsessed with finding cheap flights because they are less stressful than trains. With trains they can just sort of cancel them, give you no other options at 1 AM, and when you ask for other options they pretend to Google things for 25 minutes until telling you in German that you could take a taxi for 400 euros.

That being said, I quickly found a cheap trip to London for the next weekend! My friend and I decided we would give a hostel another chance since it wasn’t as last minute as Amsterdam. Also, for those who don’t know, one of my best most avid readers, my 12 year old sister, kindly sent me an edit saying, “you wrote hotel wrong, you put an s in it btw just lettin’ you know.” Just in case any other 12-year-olds reading my blog are confused, hostels are a version of a hotel that you do not want to stay in. The s stands for “super bad.” 

When we got to the hostel in London, called the Wombat, it was actually “Super great!”  Everything was clean, the staff was really nice, and there were no cats in our beds. We got in really late so we went to bed, and the next morning we had a free breakfast at the hostel before we all split up. I visited Oxford Street and walked around all of the shops until I met up with my friend in Chinatown to drink boba. I may be inconsistent about posting my blogs, but at least I am consistent about my nutrition. From there we decided to head over to Camden Market, which I absolutely loved. It reminded me of Pike Place Market in Seattle a bit, but also those indoor jewelry markets in NYC. Definitely up my alley. I love unique jewelry and art vendors, so it was really fun to see.

After the markets we met up with our third friend at an incredible taco restaurant. I cannot remember for the life of me what it was called, but they were exactly what I needed. The most exciting part of London for me was that a few days before with the help of my families convincing, I bought a ticket to see the Book of Mormon. I was worried spending a lot of money on a ticket, but let me tell you that after watching that show I would pay triple what I had paid for. It was by far the funniest show I have ever seen. So crude and hilarious, and the cast was so talented. I have not stopped listening to the music ever since, and I can’t wait to watch it again one day.

To end the night my friends and I sat at a jazz speakeasy, which was really nice. We met a good group of people that had recently graduated from Cambridge, and we spent the rest of the night hanging out with them. The next morning we woke up after only a few hours of sleep, walked around Notting Hill and Kensington Palace, and headed back for the flight home.

These weekends are extremely quick but every one of them has left me with memories that I hope will last me a lifetime. I am feeling really lucky recently and am thankful for everyone in my life. I’ll definitely let you all know about my spring break as soon as I have another chance to write!

For now, thanks for reading!

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