To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: James Fogel (Page 2 of 3)

A Strong Sense of Community

In previous blogs, I mentioned a great sense of community encompassed here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine by our great Resident Advisers (RAs). Yesterday, on a good friend’s birthday I witnessed this community firsthand in our residents.

We soccer lovers go downtown to play soccer at a local field. Each Tuesday at 6pm you can find us talking to the locals, passing, running, kicking on this tiny little field. Yesterday was no exception, and as we finished up, we all decided we have to help Luke celebrate his birthday the right way.

We started the walk back and fell into great conversations with each other, covering really every topic conceivable. We started with sports, since we had just played some, then TV shows, movies, childhoods, dream jobs, on and on. As we neared the Lafayette dorm, it was time to shower and eat and celebrate with Luke. The scene was very odd; as I approached Luke’s room in the “D” wing of the complex, I said “hi,” left and right to all these close friends I’ve been getting to know over these months. As I opened his door, I saw a roomful of people. The “hello’s” began again, and we started celebrating.

As the night wore on and we fought about the correct ways to get downtown, the mood was completely different than what I was used to. Everyone here knew each other and liked each other. You can go anywhere anytime. However, here at GTL, each moment is unique. Everyone wakes up the next morning with a story, a great tale of the day’s escapades and glories. In my opinion the best part of these get-togethers of ours, is that you get to know other people, other ways of thinking. You really start to open up and experience new things. And you always have something to talk about, like places to visit next weekend, or for fall break.

Thinking back now, this in fact is not the first time I have experienced or witnessed this here at GTL. A few weeks ago we had a local game night in the GTL Lounge hosted by our student run BDE organization. We had the works, poker, board games, and more. Yet the night hinged on the famous ping pong tournament. Everyone was wondering if the great Ola would be beaten – could it be done? In fact it was done (not by me unfortunately). I lost to Ola 25-27, but by the end of the night, it wasn’t about that. People really bonded with each other through the ping pong, poker, whatever medium that was used to initiate socialization. Now, as I walk the halls of Lafayette and GTL it is quite clear these friends here will be some of the best I have, likewise for others.

This blog is more a thank you to our great RAs and faculty here who strive to make this study abroad experience different and unique. Initially I wasn’t sure how it could be done, but now I see, and sincerely thank you.

Truly Unique

Throughout my 19 years of life and about 15 years of schooling, I’ve had many teachers. Teachers or professors come in all walks of life. Each leave us with something to take forward in life, all have an impact on our life in some way. My most memorable teachers all had a distinguishing feature about them – something that I remember about them even to this day. Mrs. Stanson always talked with confidence, and she was the first teacher who instilled passion and dreams into me. Mr. Sturgill, or just Sturgill to me, was the first relatable teacher I ever had: always down to earth and truly authentic in every way imaginable, a great friend. Finally, Mr. Corcoran was by far my favorite teacher; always teaching even when we weren’t reading from the Russian, Greek, and American classics.

Coming to GTL I didn’t expect my list of all-time greats to be in contention. I am glad to say it indeed is, due to the great work and personality of Sonia Serafin.
Madame Serafin is my French 1001 professor this semester and really one of the soniabest professors I’ve had in quite some time. All the above mentioned “professeurs” are on the list due to one distinguishing factor; however for Madame Serafin, it is quite hard to pin point what makes her such a good teacher. From day one she made it clear that she will try to really teach us and help us learn French. To her, the grades don’t matter as much as her job. Accomplishing the task – teaching her students French – is what drives her motives.

Oh, and her motives. I chuckle just remembering them, when we started learning the more complicated speech of French such as liasons, and accent aigues,  she started pantomiming. Making gestures, and dances, whistling, the list goes on. Each one stood for a mistake. During in class exercises when we practiced speaking French she would do these. In case I forgot a liason, she would whistle and draw the motion of the liason with her finger. The most amazing one is related to her jokes about the Spanish language, saying “leave for Spanish at the door.” Meaning approach French differently in pronunciation, even thought it might be spelled similarly.
Perhaps the most notable of Madame Serafin’s characteristics is her love for subject. I remember one class during which she had assigned a huge amount of in class work and just before we were about to begin, a fellow classmate asked her a question.

“How many languages do you speak?”

The response took the rest of class and boiled down the story of her childhood. Born Italian to parents who spoke multiple languages including French, She went on to live in England, the Netherlands, and America learning each new language as it came. She explained the beauty behind language as the “real life application” of what we were doing in class. Language is a state of mind, and really only in the advanced stages of a language can you understand this. When I finally passed the threshold in my mother’s tongue of Hungarian I, too, understood this. You no longer think in terms of direct translation to English. You think and behave in that language, forming thoughts and ideas.

In the end, the simple answer boiled down to 7; seven ways to speak, think, and act. She looked at her watch and gave us a sly smile, joking that we wasted all class. Yet, she understood we truly cared and dismissed us for the day knowing she had impacted all of us.

So Close

As the semester heats up and the money dries out, the recurrence of weekends in Metz increases. This weekend was no exception, and while everyone went to Barcelona I spent perhaps the best-weathered weekend in Metz chilling with my friends  planning fall break. Thursday night we headed downtown to grab more of the local food and see more of our host city for the semester.
Strolling these ancient cobblestone streets, I see the glistening sidewalks and stones darkened by the recent rains. Interestingly enough, France was not as cold as I expected. This far north and still no snow, and I am truly surprised. Back home in Detroit by Thanksgiving it’s snowing already, and you can bet its cold. After some small talk being made, we finally decide to eat at a place we’ve circled three times.

As we sit down and overlook our Italian choices each of us start talking about fall break and the future. Italy is the big buzz with the rest of our classmates. However, my friends and I seem to be the only ones thinking of going north. I guess we’ve accepted winter is here better than our colleagues. After quite an amazing lasagna we head back to ‘Republique’ the bus station and head home. A very calm weekend ensues. Hanging out with friends, homework, hours of FIFA, some pickup soccer, and more.
As Monday hits, and the local GTL lounge gradually fills, there is a noticeable difference in people. Everyone is abuzz, as the weekend seems to be rushing at us. Man United’s game vs. Liverpool interrupts my studying for statics and thermofluids. People flock to my room to watch the rather boring encounter of two great teams. To the soft lines of thermofluids notes I fall asleep that night. “twilililing twilililing…… twilililing.” The song I once loved rudely awakes my 6 hours of sleep. Bright and early I must rise, with more studying to do. “It’s just for today, come on man,” I tell myself. Eating a bowl of cereal I turn on my computer and wake myself up with the laughter of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. Finally conscious and able to comprehend, I begin the day’s work; statics, then thermo, and 20161019_165558back to statics. The day goes on. Before I know it, it’s test time, and off to GTL I rush, listening to my newly acquired French songs. “On va le faire, va le faire….”! Translating to ‘we will do it’ in English, a perfect motivator for the day ahead. After the first test it’s all a blur. Tuesday is gone in a flash. All that remains of the day is the evening. A night to remember. Our great leaders of BDE, Jack and Abbie organized an indoor skiing trip for us at super low cost. As people board the bus I can really feel the weekend now, less than 24 hours and fall break is on. Tearing through the hearts of European cities our GTL crew will go, leaving behind no regrets, no sights, no sounds, no experiences unturned.

Tips for Traveling Europe

Posted by James

For the last month I’ve been traveling all over Europe, as evidenced by my many blog posts on soccer games. As each week has progressed I’ve learned more skills when it comes to planning the perfect weekend. The public transportation systems here are amazing and something that should be taken full advantage of if you wish to lessen your burdens when traveling. For any future travelers I recommend two great apps, Transit and DB Bahn.

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Photo Courtesy of Netted.net.

Transit, pictured above, is for local transportation. This app uses GPS to find all buses, trams, subways, ubers, etc., that run near you. It works offline only using Wi-Fi to update the already consistent time schedules. I’ve used this many times when dropping into a new country for a few days. It’s great to locate the local shuttle or train to get you to downtown.

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Photo courtesy of itunes.apple.com.

The second app, pictured to the left, DB-Bahn is for your international travel. If buying a Eurail pass, this makes going from one country as easy as walking into a train station and sitting on the correct train. The app is a database of all the timetables for every train in Europe. So when you enter your departure and arrival locations it does some magic and finds you the perfect path. The app can also work offline if you save the trip in your favorites. It gives you real-time scheduling updates as you reach stations along your main path. Other apps such as the Eurail planner simply can’t compare. I began with Eurail planner early in the semester and quickly switched to this magnificently German-engineered marvel. So take my advice and you’ll be breezing across Europe in no time.
Apart from using these great travel apps, another piece of advice I would offer is the Eurail pass. My advice may seem biased considering the circumstances for my own Eurail Pass; writing this and other blogs is in fact got me my Eurail Pass. However, prior to winning the GTL Eurail blog contest, I was planning to buy the pass on my own. Having this pass is, in short, amazing. Anytime you wish to travel, you merely need to find a train station. It’s that simple.

There are usually no reservations or tickets needed to be purchased. While special, more crowded trains may require them, the process of obtaining the reservation is very simple. A quick trip downtown to the Metz-Ville Gare (train station) and talking to a few people is all it takes. Using both the DB Bahn app and the Eurail Pass is an unstoppable combination.

The beauty of the DB app guarantees an accurate route and reliable route. Pairing this with a travel ticket (Eurail!) that is  accepted almost everywhere in Europe, allows you to breeze your way from point A to B. In my personal opinion, it is more convenient than flying. No boarding passes or special security is required. Changing plans can also cause problems for a tightly packed weekend schedule, but not with the Eurail or DB app. Just a month and some into the semester and I’ve already used the DB app to plan a different return trip the day of! In short, if you have either of these travel apps or a Eurail you will be ready to plan your heart away, especially with all three!

 

Finally Some Exploring

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In a weekend that initially seemed doomed came the best and most exhilarating experiences. Sunday morning of last week I woke up in the Lafayette residence dorm and began booking my plans for the next weekend.
Sunday, September 25th
“There, we’re all set for the weekend: 4 beds, 3 nights, in Marseille!” As I finished booking my housing for the weekend. As the school week began I started tracking down my travel buddies, Clyde, Luke, Cannon. However, after each conversation I had no one willing to join me for a trip to Marseille. Luke was the only one willing to join me. At this point I hadn’t known him that long – sure, we played soccer together on Tuesdays, but traveling together is a whole other story.
Friday, October, 7th
As I woke up in my hostel and reached for my phone, I felt different. Arriving last night, I noticed a distinct change in weather and air quality. The air felt salty, there was always a slight breeze, and everything seemed more natural. The hostel was no different. And as i checked for any messages regarding Luke’s arrival, I felt truly rested for the first time in a long time.

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He got in around 10am, and we started for the mountains. My plan for the day was to hike in one of Marseille’s national parks, go swimming and the likes. After a short delay we found the correct buses and made our way toward Mont Puget. As the climb progressed, we started talking and getting to know each other. Within 20 minutes we were laughing and having a great time, the awkward tension I feared from it just being the two of us was nonexistent.

An hour or so later, we noticed that our paths we taking us around the mountain 20161007_162007and not up to the top. We both agreed the view would be legendary from the top, so we decided to shear face the side of the rocks. My legs burned from the ascent and scratches of thorny bushes as we grabbed edges and corners of massive boulders and made our way upwards. Both the pace and path were almost always set by Luke, getting lucky at every turn and decision. Luke raced up the hill, and as I finally caught up to him I was able to look up for one of the first times and really see the city of Marseille, the Olympic de Marseille (soccer stadium), the city center, the shore line, island in between the bay, and more. The view was truly breathtaking and won’t be one I forget anytime soon.

As we descended and made our way towards the shore, we both understood that the water would be cold, but the view and experience would be well worth it. By 4:30 pm we had made our way down to the cove and noticed we were the only ones about to swim. A good group of people were already in towels shivering and telling us it was too cold to swim, but that was to no avail for Luke as he cannon-balled in and convinced me to follow.

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The locals were right; as I jumped in, a cold shiver ran through my spine, and salt water rushed up my nose and mouth. Gasping for air, I rose to the surface and tried to remember what warmth felt like. I looked over my shoulder to see Luke climbing a small island boulder. As per usual I followed – and so began our cliff diving experience. After a few jumps I couldn’t take the heat, or lack thereof. Luke kept on, jump after jump, varying his style and approach. Finally we took off for home, shivering and planning tomorrow’s excursions.

The rest of the weekend consisted of traveling all along the bay, catching local experiences, food, activities, Bochy ball, wind surfing, paddle boarding, and so on. And by mid Sunday as we boarded the metro for the train, we both agreed, someday we’ll come back, and maybe someday we’ll live in Marseille.

One Week Off

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I slowly come to, as I squint, protecting my rested eyes from the mid-morning sunlight just peeking through my curtains. As I roll over I check my phone for the time, it’s somehow 10am. Considering that I came home only six and half hours ago, I would expect to feel more tired. Knowing it’s a “class-less” Friday morning, I force myself to go back to sleep. As the day finally gets going around 2pm, I start to feel a sadness come over me, and so begins my weekend off, free from the “burdens” traveling.
There are no ridiculously early trains this weekend, no hostels to find, no trying to sound polite in a new language or practicing an old, familiar one. Everything about this weekend is familiar. I sit in my same room, looking at my same computer, catching up on new, and then later homework. Soon I began to realize I’ve become addicted to the phenomenon of travel. Every hour or so, my mind begins to fade. Over and over again I go back to thinking of what could’ve been. What if I traveled this weekend? Where might I have gone? What might I have done? On and on the thought train goes. Eventually I come to the conclusion that I made my choice and must live with-it. And as little comfort as that provides it is correct. Sometimes you have to be an adult.
I’ve been having so much fun this first month and half in I forgot this is indeed a real semester, full of tests, homework, etc. The GTL weekends make it all more bearable than an average semester. The new sights, sounds, friendships all cloud over you so quickly you’re lucky if you remember the ride. Time passes much slower here than on a train or in a foreign country. The weather certainly doesn’t help, the day began with downpours and finishes the same. As I look out the window and barely make out the sun, the day seems to drag on.

As I finish statics after what seems an eternity, I glance at my watch. It’s only 5pm. Barely three hours of my day is used. Next comes my Aerospace homework, then Differential Equations and so on. A much more productive weekend is in play as I begin to knock things out. But still I feel guilty. I know that sometimes we must be grownups and do work, yet it still feels like a bed rail. To fly across the Atlantic and be in a study abroad program, then not travel is disappointing. Unfortunately this is what we do, students study and so while my weekend was not as glamourous as others it sets me up for an easy coming week. One in which I can plan an even better weekend and get right back on track.
However, I sit here writing this, on a Saturday night. You never know what the future brings, and with one more day of the weekend left, anything is still possible.

Fire ‘Em Up!

Posted by James

It was Thursday afternoon, and as I attended my last class of the day I couldn’t help but get elated. Cannon and I turned in our travel document sheets at the front of the class, and then turned and left differential equations early. As we walked out we both just gave each other a stare.

“That felt like such a weight was lifted off my shoulder” I said.

“Budapest here we come,” Cannon chanted. And as far as weekend trips go, this is one of the most I looked forward too.
Our trip starts in Metz-Ville Gare (train station) as always, but ends much farther away: Budapest. Being Hungarian, I was definitely going to visit Hungary at some point during this fall semester. Earlier in the semester I sent out messages on our Facebook group trying to assemble a crew to visit “the homeland” with me. That Thursday evening at 6 pm we boarded our first of 6 trains and began our 15-hour trek to central Europe.
Friday, September 23rd:
I feel the sun on my face as I open my eyes; they’re sore from the night before from frequently waking to change trains. In the background I can hear a strange but familiar sound: people talking, talking in Hungarian. As my ears begin to convert the words I feel a sense of relief and joy come over me. I wake and look around me. Noticing we are on the outskirts of the city, I tell me friends that the weekend is about to start.
A traditional way to begin a day or holiday with family and friends begins with palacsinta (pancakes) in Budapest. I led our crew to my favorite palacsinta spot on the “Buda” side of the city. I was set to do the whole while acting as their personal tour guide retelling the history of each part of the city, just as it had been told to me by my mother, my father, my grandmother, my uncle, and the rest of my family. After finding our hostel, I set out for my weekends work. My primary goal, apart from visiting friends and seeing my mother’s birthplace another time was to show my travel buddies the gems of Budapest. We started the day by taking some trains downtown to eat some authentic “Magyar” food. As I ordered all our rounds of food I felt a calming sense come over me. It may have taken a day and a half to get here, but as the guylas and spicy paprika warmed our throats we all began to agree it was worth it. The second course consisted of csusza and csirke paprikas, heavy cream based foods filled with cottage cheese, potatoes, and chicken.
An iconic feature of Hungary are the ruin pubs. A key part of these bars is the architecture and the environment. Each pub has their own look and vibe that corresponds to the drinks and food they serve there. Hungarians are a very somber people and seldom go to these pubs the same way as Americans or other cultures go

Szimpla Kert in Budapest

Szimpla Kert in Budapest

to drink. These often represent hang out or meeting places, often a way to start the evening.

Saturday consisted of mostly the same, touring different parts of the city eating guylas once again and enjoying the city’s beautiful unique attributes. And as we boarded the train Sunday morning at 5 am, all thanked me for the weekend. Yet, I deserved none of the thanks, I was just lucky enough to help my friends see the beauty of my parents’ homeland.

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One Month In

Posted by James

One month into our studies here at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and already life has changed. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about just this.

He said, “What do you miss most about home?” And for the longest time I couldn’t think of an answer. It took me two days to finally produce something tangible. The reason for such a time lapse is based on how I’ve approached this study abroad. As in earlier blog posts, the advice I’ve gathered from others or given myself has to do with being open minded. As Americans we tend to believe our way of doing this is better than other countries. Not the case, for many things.

For instance, today I went on a tour of our local superstore CORA. Harry has already written about its marvelous wonders. The importance of this tour was that it was given by our French professor. She explained to us the ins and outs of how local French people shop. As we were leaving one aisle she stated, “Real quick, I want to show you all the sweets before we end class for the day!” Instantly I was thinking of chocolate and ice cream, my common comfort foods, but she showed us “petit Suisse” or little Swiss, a dairy-based product that most French people eat with sugar. This is just one of the many things that is different between French and American culture. So one month in, I’ve been soaking it all in, thinking and observing all the minute differences: the fact that Europeans only seem to drive hatchbacks, that French people eat bread with every meal, the different attitudes people give you when you approach them in their native language, how Europeans do their shopping daily, and that soccer is ingrained in everyone on this continent, and more. The list goes on and on for differences in terms of culture and ways of living.

In terms of academia there is also a large difference between the teaching dynamic here at Georgia Tech Lorraine and of the teaching in Atlanta. In Atlanta, class sizes are usually much larger even for selective classes in selective majors. The maximum number of students living here at GTL this semester is slightly under 200. Due to the much smaller class sizes, classes seem to be more intimate. The professors will tell jokes to lighten the moods during difficult lectures. Professors also pay more attention to the individual then in Atlanta, and the class size allows for this to happen. I find myself having one on one conversations with my professors on an almost daily basis. Here, the emphasis is on learning the material. To quote my AE professor Dr. Zaid, “we want to make sure you understand the concepts first, the big ideas!”

In closing, some more advice. These last weeks have flown by, mainly because I was paying attention to them. If you open up to the differences and accept them you will see the joy it can cause. Everything is a new experience, which is very rare for anyone over 5 years old. Every day I wake up not knowing what part of my day will be filled with amazing adventure. However, I know it is bound to happen. This is the beauty of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a foreign environment.

 

Sometimes You Plan

Posted by James

In a 4 month study abroad program, there are bound to be some instances of trouble and failed plans. And this weekend bore witness to the first of mine.
4:50 am Saturday, September 17th
Knock, knock….knock, knock……KNOCK!
I roll out of bed and go to the door. My friend Cannon is there backpack on, fully dressed, ready to go.

“Did I wake you?”

“No, I woke up an hour ago. I’ve just been trying to get some sleep.”

I start getting dressed and collecting my vital items: Eurail pass, passport, and Borussia Dortmund tickets. By 5:30am the two of us are in downtown Metz, at the Metz-Ville Gare (train station) waiting for our first of three trains for the day. The plan for this weekend was as follows: Borussia Dortmund Soccer game followed by Oktoberfest in Munich. We were looking forward to being in Munich for the start of the festival and to experience some truly unique European culture. Alas, things didn’t go our way.
12:30 pm Saturday, September 17th
The first sign of things taking a toll for the worse came when we entered Dortmund. Cannon had booked our hostel just days before. Originally we were planning to spend Saturday evening in Munich and sleep there. However, all hostels and hotels were booked across the board for the festival. Yet once in the train station we looked up where our hostel was in Dortmund. It was far outside the city center and quick a trek to get there. One tram and a 2 kilometer hike later, we found our quaint Airbnb on a German hillside. Our host, Thomas was very polite; however it was he who opened our eyes to the failed planning.

As we were telling him our plans, he asked “When are you going to Munich tomorrow?”

“Our train leaves at 4am” I answered.

“Oh no, you’re not going to make that, you have to get to the city from here and the earliest train is 8am!” My eyes met Cannon’s, and we both had a moment of silence. Still, we couldn’t think about that now, we had a game to get to.

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15:30pm Saturday, September 17th at Signal Iduna Park (Dortmund)
As the teams kicked off a local match, the famed “best soccer atmosphere in Europe” was not disappointing. We were lucky enough to get tickets in the infamous “Yellow Wall,” the Dortmund Home fans section. And as thousands of supporters piled in screaming, chanting, waving flags, and stumbling off beers the atmosphere was truly remarkable. We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal: 7 minutes in and Dortmund took the lead. While that may have been the only goal for that half, Dortmund came out strong in the second and scored 5 more! Cannon and I each caught a goal on camera. Enjoy below:


And now, as I sit on the train ride back from Dortmund I find myself in a position to give advice. While the GTL schedule may seem easier GT-Atlanta’s, the contrary may be true. Strapped with AE homework, Cannon and I planned late and consequently missed out on one of the best festivals in Europe. The 3-day weekends can be both a blessing and a curse. For current and future GTL students, maintain a steady consistent work week and always plan well in advance.

Dreams Can Come True!

Posted by James

May 28th, 2011. The day of the famed Champions League Final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC. I remember talking to my friends at school, “Rooney is going to score 2 goals, Messi will get one back but it will be too late in the end. I got Manchester United (United) winning it all!”

“Really?” My friend Mark wasn’t convinced. He thought Barcelona (Barca) would prevail and sadly they did winning 3-1. Long before this UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) final I was a huge fan of Manchester United. It is often considered one of, if not the biggest clubs in the world. Many people who side with United are considered “band-wagon” fans, just picking the winning team for a change. Not me! I fell in love with United because of Wayne Rooney, the prolific goal scoring machine and arguably England’s best player for the last decade.

As a kid, we didn’t have access to the fancy “European” sports channels, so I grew familiar with his work by the likes of YouTube and other internet sources. I remember watching him play, always so intelligent, decisive, powerful: the complete Striker. Rooney was my idol, I would always try to emulate his playing style whenever I played soccer. His style was my ideal way of playing so naturally I gravitated to him. And that sad day in late May as I cheered for United’s equalizer and then cried as moments later as Messi and Barca stole the cup marked an important moment for me.

Following this day, the US began investing massive amounts of money into the English Premier League. So for the next 5.5 years I would began seeing more of my favorite team and favorite player. Waking up early mornings and annoying my parents as I cheered for goals year after year. Yet despite the increased coverage I always felt like something was missing. To cement yourself as a real United fan one must make the famed pilgrimage to Old Trafford -their mighty home stadium. So when I decided I would be studying abroad this semester, this was one of my first concerns and largest trip budgets.
And this last weekend, my dream of seeing the Red Devils live at home finally came true. As the week progressed I remember feeling more and more nervous that something might go wrong, I’d miss the bus, or plane, the tickets might not arrive, something felt off. And then it hit, it just felt too good to be true. Something I’ve dreamt of for years was finally coming true.

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A shot of the field of Old Trafford, “The Theatre of Dreams.”

Friday, September 9th
“Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, CHIRP, CHIRP!” My alarm sounds. I snooze knowing its 4 am. A couple minutes later I drag my corpse-like body out of my bed and begin getting ready. Today my dream is coming true!! Yet right now all I can think about is sleep. After only a few hours of sleep, I begrudgingly pack my bag and run through my checklist. As I come out of the bathroom I look at my watch. 5:10?? The bus! I grab my passport and tickets and burst out the door of Lafayette. As I board the 1st, then 2nd bus, then the train to Paris something begins to change in me. With each step of my journey completed the dream starts to become reality. Finally, I make it to the airport and walk on to my plane all smiles.

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Football fans entering the stadium under huge advertisements for the football players.

As I exit my cab and walk into the best hostel I’ve ever seen, I suddenly tense up: now the moment of truth. Did my tickets arrive? I walk up to the receptionist and begin checking-in. I “casually” mention that I bought tickets to the Manchester Derby and that they should have arrived. She notices my conflicting emotions of joy and anxiety. Finally she returns from the stockroom with an envelope in her hand, and my heart legitimately skips a beat. I began thanking her, probably too much, as I open up my package, once again all smiles.

Saturday, September 10th: The Manchester Derby
I wake casually around 10, shaking the night before. Late into the day, the true ability of football was witnessed as I became good “mates” with someone from my

James in front of “The United Trinity” statue in front of Old Trafford.

hostel. His name was Sam, and he had flown 31 hours all the way from Sydney, Australia for this game. We both grab some traditional English breakfast and start making our way down to the game. The first timers and foreigners become interspersed among the locals in the massive crowds as we approach the stadium. As we near, we hear the singing and chants of the local United fans, all “preparing” for the game.

As Sam and I round the corner we see it! Old Trafford, instantly we both become children jumping up and down and shoving each other with excitement. “Oh my god, will you look at this Sam!” My heart is racing, blood pumping we begin a fast sprint to the stadium. As we find our separate gates and wish each other a good match, time stops. I scan my ticket and walk through the gate.

The security guard says, “Welcome to Old Trafford, and thank you.” As I move through the gate I almost yell, “No THANK YOU SIR!” And what happens next no words can truly describe, seeing that stadium gradually fill with fans, then eventually the players can’t be put into words, certainly not by mine. And while we did not win the match, much like back in 2011, it was a life changing moment. I can still hear the iconic roar and chants of fans throughout the game. One moment that will always stay with is linked below, click to experience a little of the Red Devils at Old Trafford.

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