To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Julie (Page 1 of 4)

BMW: Driving the Future

Written by guest bloggers Alex Rahban & Nicolette Slusser.
 

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“The Ultimate Driving Machine.” A motto held by one of the most well-known auto-manufacturers of the world, BMW – a company forged from aircraft engines and redefined through luxury automobiles. BMW’s history is filled with a rich racing past. Enthusiasts remain true to the brand for its buttery smooth inline 6’s and long throw manual transmissions, but today, the students of Georgia Tech Lorraine experienced a different side of BMW.

Far from the well-known four-cylinder building, we were given private access to BMW’s autonomous vehicle development location. Beyond the unpaved walkways, wet concrete, and yellow caution tape lay the secrets to BMW’s future in mastering level 4 autonomous driving.

Although BMW had previously trod lightly on the topic of self-driving cars, commenting that they wanted to be certain not to dilute their renowned automotive brand, they shared the structure behind how such a system would work. Students were made aware of the difficulties of developing the technology to make self-driving vehicles fully functional on the road. They require advanced software that must be able to process the frames of an image, classify the different objects in the Image, and determine how to interact with them safely. Just one hour of driving produced several terabytes of data which the vehicle had to process in order to function properly. The test vehicles at BMW required a full trunk of hardware to perform this task (weighing in at over 500lbs); however, they indicated when released, the hardware for their vehicles would only require as much space as a shoe box.

From the visit, it is clear that BMW is making a full effort to produce this technology, yet at this moment, they are several years from completion. We had the privilege of being the first group to ever tour the facility; unfortunately though, photographs were not permitted. Although BMW has chosen to be quite secretive with the public about their participation in autonomous vehicles, we can expect BMW to produce truly revolutionary vehicles exceeding both the highest automotive and technological standards.

 
 

For the Love of Chocolate

Written by guest bloggers Amira Abadir and Tiffany Chu.

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Metz in a small residential area: a brown, modern storefront stands with the smell of chocolate wafting through the street. Early one Friday morning, a van of unassuming Georgia Tech students arrived there at Fabrice Dumay Maître Chocolatier.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Dumay social media.

As our group entered, we were first shown the main storefront, which housed a counter with dozens of flavors of bonbons, or candies, along with shelves lined with varying displays of chocolate bars and gift packages. Towards the back of the store was a large window that peeked into a large, gleaming white kitchen. The window, as we were later told by Mr. Dumay, is there so that his customers can be certain that his candies are produced in-house.

After piling into the kitchen, Mr. Dumay told us a bit about himself. He spent 7 years as a chocolate patissier in the Vosges mountains, then 12 years as a chocolatier before opening his own store. He considers himself to be the only “master chocolatier” in Metz making artisanal chocolates.

Mr. Dumay explained to us the process of chocolate making from cacao seeds into cocoa beans, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter, with the aid of samples. We sampled the three traditional types of chocolate in his shop – dark, milk, and white – each 

with varying combinations of sugar, vanilla, and milk. The last bar chocolate we sampled was new: blonde chocolate. Blonde chocolate emerged just 2-3 years ago and is rare to find in stores. It is a special white chocolate that took 7 years to develop has been “smoked” or cooked until the sugar has caramelized with an even, smooth texture.

We next moved on to other chocolates such as the pralines and ganaches, beautifully crafted with perfectly creamy and crisp texture.

Finally, we witnessed M. Dumay’s legendary house specialties – liqueur filled chocolates, chardons, that come in spiky colorful balls of every color. We tried the raspberry and mirabelle liqueur chardons and were blown away by the strength, flavor, and freshness of the artisanally produced chocolates – quite different from industrially produced chardons. M. Dumay sells approximately 3 tons of these high-quality chardons every year!

Throughout the trip, Mr. Dumay’s passion for chocolate was evident. Before visiting his shop, we wondered: what makes chocolate artisanal? Modern processed chocolate – the candy bars we buy at the grocery store – is a product of the Industrial Revolution. By contrast, artisanal chocolate is an intense labor of love. While many corporate candymakers have found ways to automate the chocolate-making process, people like Mr. Dumay make as much of their product by hand as possible. Dedicating their lives to the art of chocolate making, the master chocolatier’s artisanal chocolate is an entry point for people of all cultures to share and enjoy the heart of chocolate, made with love.

This was a field trip of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine class HTS 2100, “Science and Technology in the Modern World: Regions of Europe.” For more information, see Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s website, www.lorraine.gatech.edu.

Meet Your RA: Elaine

Elaine sat in her chair, blonde braid slung casually over one shoulder, working on some circuits homework when I approached her. Even though I had disturbed her studious work, she was very enthusiastic to talk to me. It was easy to tell right away that she would be an amazing RA; she was personable, welcoming and friendly. Elaine, a second year Materials Science Engineering (MSE) major, is a really very wonderful person. Here is her story.


Why did you come to GTL?
“I absolutely love travelling. In highschool, I lived in Germany for a year, and I really wanted to come back and have the opportunity to explore on my own. Plus, the in-state tuition is an awesome added bonus.”


Why did you become an RA?
“Being an RA is an awesome way to interact with people because they have to talk to you! But all joking aside, it is a really great way to meet people and establish a connection. I love talking to my residents because everyone is so friendly. I have definitely made a lot of new friends since coming here.”


What is your favorite memory of GTL so far?
“I absolutely loved Venice. What a cultural experience! We were there during Carnivale, and we bought the elaborate masks. There was a costume contest being held, and seeing all of the amazing Carnival costumes was a great experience. Buying a mask and really immersing myself in Venetian culture was truly amazing.”


How would you describe your personality?
“I am more of a free spirit than ‘Type A.’ I love talking to people and making connections, and I am an expert at going with the flow.”



At this point, Elaine had to rush off to an RA staff meeting. But it was really great to get to know her a little better.

Bon Appétit: GTL’s Dinner Exchange

What has become one of Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s signature events is its French family dinner. And it isn’t just the food that sets this apart, but the company! Sure, GTL students aren’t just eating another sandwich from local bakery Paul, but they’re also spending the evening in the homes of Metz residents who have opened their doors and set their tables for a fun, friendly evening of cultural learning.

The 6th edition of this exciting tradition was a raving success, with thanks to the Metz-Nancy Academy and all of their support. Because of the partnership of the state of Georgia with the Nancy-Metz Academy (Board of Education), the two groups have been working very closely on this project with GTL. (In fact, Atlanta has many close ties to France, with projects including GTL, the France-Atlanta conference, the Atlanta-Toulouse Sister Cities Project and Startup Exchange, Georgia Tech’s close relationship with many top-tier French universities and research groups, and more!) But due to all of the effort and care of so many people, local host families volunteered to take in a total of 33 GTL students for dinner in their house for the evening on Tuesday, November 8th.

As always, this venture was a great experience for all involved. GTL students has the opportunity to meet a French family and see how they are living while speaking a bit of French, and it is always a pleasure for host families to welcome a foreign student and to speak English for the evening.
It was a real opportunity to organize this event again this semester, and everyone enjoyed it. Don’t believe me? Read the testimonials (and see the smiles) below!


From GTL students:

Jessica and I really enjoyed it! We highly recommend.” – J. Peasant

“I had so much fun at the dinner! I loved talking and learning so much about the family’s culture and the food was amazing!! We were not able to communicate with the parents, but their daughter was really good at English so she translated for us. They were so friendly and welcoming. Thank you.” – D. Dawes

“It was a wonderful experience, and it was a great taste of local culture. It was interesting to be able to see in the inside of someone’s house, and to see the way they lived. At dinner, I had homemade pate because the family knew someone with a farm. After the main courses, I had four different types of cheeses, and they were all delicious. Although the food itself was a highlight, even better was being able to talk to the family themselves. I felt that they were really interested in our views (I went with a friend), and I learned a bit about the way they live their lives in Metz. I was very satisfied with the experience. At the end, instead of shaking my hand, they did the goodbye with kisses on the cheek which was very new to me. I woulddefinitely recommend this French dinner to anyone, and I would love to do it again.” – Mae (Duke undergraduate student)
“It was a fantastic evening. Thank you for letting me be part of it.” – Giuseppe (Masters student)


From host families:

“C’est avec grand plaisir que je vous transmets quelques photos de la soirée de mardi. Cet échange était très enrichissant, nous avons justement beaucoup échangé et la bonne humeur était au rendez-vous !
Daniel et Jeffrey étaient vraiment sympathiques, agréable et d’une grande courtoisie, le fait qu’ils viennent à deux c est plus facile. De plus, ils ont fait grand honneur à la cuisine française !
Nous réitérons cette expérience avec grand plaisir dès que l’occasion se présentera vous pourrez compter sur nous »

// “It is with great pleasure that I send you these phots of Tuesday evening. This exchange was very enriching, and we just talked about so much and the mood was great! Daniel and Jeffrey ere really nice, agreeable, and polite, and it was easier that they came together. Also, they have loved and experienced the French cuisine. Truly, this experience was a great pleasure, and you can count on us to participate in the future.” – Mme Brandenburger

 

« Nous avons passé une excellente soirée en la compagnie d’Hugh, c’est un garçon très charmant et très intéressant, et vous remercions de nous avoir permis de le rencontrer. »

// “We spent an excellent evening in the company of Hugh, who is a charming and very interesting young man, et thank you for arranging for us to meet him.” – Mme Duval

 

« Bravo pour votre initiative, nous avons passé un bon moment. »

// “Bravo for this initiative, because we had a great time.” – Mme Ruiz

 

« Excellente soirée avec Camille et Alexander. Vraiment sympathiques. Nous avons proposé de garder un lien pour réitérer. »

// “Wonderful evening with Camille and Alexander. Very nice. We exchanged information to keep in contact.” – Mme Royer

 

« Nous avons en effet passé une très bonne soiree; riche de partages. Remerciements »

// “We spent a very nice evening, rich with sharing. Thank you again.” – Mme Turck


Thank you again for all who were involved; your work and care means so much to these students and families and has greatly impacted their experiences here at GTL.

A VIP Experience of German Engineering

Hey, there, everyone! Our bloggers, Harry and James, are enjoying a much-needed fall break this week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool things going on at GTL!

These GTL students got treated to an extra special tour of BMW.

This particular adventure has been in the works since spring 2014. As you may know, GTL has pioneered some fantastic, excursion-supplemented courses over its 25 years in France, including INTA 2221: Politics in the EU: Metz as a Gateway for understanding France and Europe Today (taught by Dr. Birchfield and Professor Serafin), and HTS: Technology and Society (taught by Dr. Stoneman).  These tie in the studies of the area with field trips to sites specifically related to topics discussed in class.

Visiting BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Visiting BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Well, on Friday, October 14th, 2016 – two years after the incipience of the idea – a small group of GTL students in this fall’s HTS 2100 course, which aims to demonstrate how the relationship between technology and culture has changed in the modern age, ventured to the BMW headquarters in Munich. Mr. Frank Woellecke and his team at BMW put together a “BMW Exploration Day” for the students, which included professional seminars, a VIP plant tour, an HR talk on internships and employment opportunities, and a closing workshop, as well as lunch and refreshments. The students were (understandably) impressed – one even describing it as the highlight of her time in Europe.

All smiles after that awesome experience!

And so, even with all of the amazing opportunities just by being in Europe, we can definitely add this to the list of experiences classified under “only at GTL!”

 

Meet Your Wardens: Ola Johnson

Posted by James

ola-johnsonIn the last installment of “Meet Your Wardens” we take a look at our “temporary RA,” Ola Johnson (pictured on the left). Ola is considered the third tier RA and provides assistance to Angel and Lara. This includes filling in for them when they travel, assistance in situations needing extra care, etc.
Ola is a third year Mechanical Engineering Student from Lagos, Nigeria. Speaking to Ola, it is clear to see how his life and personality have affected him. Ola speaks in a very passionate and direct manner, usually with ensuing laughter or smiles all around. From my first days at Georgia Tech Lorraine I kept hearing the name “Ola.” Ola’s so good at Ping Pong, Ola the cool RA, Ola this, Ola that. He was very popular and made friends with everyone early on. Friendships and getting to know people were one of Ola’s many reasons for becoming an RA. He didn’t plan to travel as much and simply wanted to become involved in a community while studying abroad. Working as a PL, or Freshman Experience Peer Leader, at the Atlanta campus every semester, Ola felt it was time to take the next step with more responsibility. Once again, the term community is part of our RA’s vocabulary. The signs bode well for the GTL campus becoming a close-knit group of friends.
Ola has only recently become acquainted with the US, visiting the first time for college in Atlanta. Originally planning to follow his family to London and pursue higher education there, Ola has an interesting story for picking Georgia Tech. The sister of his high school roommate went to Tech and invited him for a visit. After seeing the rankings and visiting, he became a fully-fledged Yellow Jacket. Since then Ola has been completing 2.5 straight years of school or 7 straight semester of Tech. From speaking to Ola it is clear to see he is a very intelligent, driven young man. Midway through the interview the conversation turned as he began asking questions of me and used his inquisitive nature to gain yet another friend. The topics quickly change to our travel plans and where we went in past weeks. This in turn led to bond much stronger than just friendship, but one between soccer fans, one between United – Manchester United – fans!
Eventually getting back to the interview, Ola revealed his reasons for his particular major. He chose Mechanical Engineering to be able to work in any field. He wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do later in life. Stating “I didn’t want to choose something specific, I knew I didn’t want to be specialized.” This prompted him to choose a field that has very wide applications. However, one thing he is truly interested in is computer science and artificial intelligence. Therefore, he is also pursuing a minor in Artificial Intelligence.
Our second RA who is an international student, and our third who speaks multiple languages, Ola rounds out our already impressive roster of RA’s for this semester. With community being part his motto as well, Georgia Tech Lorraine students can sleep well assured that this semester will be unlike any in Atlanta, and perhaps the rest of college.

On to the Next Adventure!

Time is a lot like looking at a map: the drive was hours long, but on the veined paper, all the ground you’ve covered amounts to a grand total of 3 inches. Looking back at this semester is a lot like a map of the world: I’ve been a few places, done a few things, but now I’m going back to Atlanta. Life will return to normal Georgia Tech days of searching for a seat in the CULC and waiting for the blue route.

But I don’t think I’ll be the same.

The best part of Georgia Tech-Lorraine is that it presents you with a very distinct choice: you can try something new or you can stay where you are. It’s a choice we get every day, but it’s presented with more boldness here: it’s in the sound of a train on the tracks and in the conversations with friends about weekend plans. Living abroad can change a lot of things; of course, the degree of that depends on how far you delve into the lives here. The best way to do it is thrust yourself headlong into the experience.

I’ve grown up a lot this semester – and maybe you’ve seen some of that in the blogs, I’m not sure. I’ve made friendships that I’ll cherish and memories that I can revisit in times of reflection, and I’ve learned things about myself (for example, I’m better at speaking in front of people than I ever thought I was – especially if I am passionate about the topic). A huge thank you to everyone who I’ve met along the way, and all those with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working.

This semester has been life-changing for me – on the same level of sliced bread, I’d say. In all the conversations I’ve had with friends and peers, that’s a common descriptor of our time here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine: life-changing. Sometimes it takes a change of frame to see the picture in a different way, and Georgia Tech-Lorraine is just the frame I needed.

Thanks for sticking with me through the semester. I wish you all the best!

The 7 Best Apps for GTL

Phones are handy doohickeys: they can do lots of things and make our lives loads easier. After studying what makes a good app in my mobile apps class this semester, I’ve realized just how integrated these devices can become in our lives. Now, at the end of the semester, I wanted to jot down quickly some of the applications for my phone that made my life a whole lot easier abroad, and especially when traveling.

railplanner

 

  •  RailPlanner
    • As with many at GTL, trains are the main source of
      transportation. Especially if you have a Eurail pass, this app is helpful: you can see what trains go where and when –
      and there’s even a handy little checkbox for “Non-reserve Only,” meaning with the Eurail pass you need no reservations and the travel is free. It’s the mobile version of raileurope.com, and it works offline!

couchsurfing hostelworld airbnb

  • AirBnB, HostelWorld, Couchsurfing
    • Depending on how you like to travel and who you’re traveling with, any of these apps may be helpful to you. They are all temporary housing accommodation services, and all are relatively cheap (or with Couchsurfing, free). AirBnB’s usually are in residential areas, as they are homes put up for borrowing, and if you split it with a friend or two, it’ can be just as affordable as a hostel from HostelWorld. Hostels are great for large groups, though.

google maps

  • Google Maps
    • Google Maps is a lifesaver – whether you have data or not. You can save maps offline, as well as certain locations. You won’t have play-by-play directions, but you can follow the road on the map to navigate to where you want to be. Plus, online, it’s all of the usefulness of Google, including nearby restaurants and reviews.

translate

  • Google Translate
    • Google Translate is notorious for its strange translations, but it’s gotten better recently because of its effort for fluent speakers to edit and append to translations. Now, you can download whole languages – so if you’re going to Prague, you can translate things into and from Czech offline.

convertpad

  •  ConvertPad
    • This is more just if you have space. I have always had trouble converting between the metric and standard systems, so this was helpful in terms of translating kilometers to miles. And it doesn’t have to be this specific app – just something similar.

Paintballs and Châteaux

Posted by Julie

The season of BDE events is upon us, and week after week there are events lined up. One of the largest events occurred just the other day north of Metz in Veckring.

Now, I’ve never played paintball. It’s never been on my radar – the balloon painting from that scene in The Princess Diaries is more my style. However, at the beginning of the semester we were given a list suggested events from previous BDE’s, and when we polled the student body, paintball was a very popular choice. After much debate and many more phone calls, we had organized what was quite possibly the BDE’s largest financial commitment of the semester. Students paid just 25€ for three hours of playing time on a field that was cooler than any of us had imagined.

Paintball Veckring is situated nearby Ouvrage Hackenberg and the Maginot Line up in the northeastern part of France, and its “map,” or playing field, consists of an assembly of an abandoned château and old military buildings. Yes, that means we were playing paintball in dilapidated buildings. And we were the only people there, as the event took place on a Friday, and most people still have school or work and such. You can imagine the intensity – it feels like you’re creeping around on a mission.

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The group assembled to discuss what style game we would play next in a room of a military building.

Adjusting to the unique map took some time, but everyone had a great time. We were slipping around in the mud from the previous day’s rainfall, climbing in windows, creeping through basements, and at the end of all of it, covered in splotches of paint. And there were so many paintballs that we had leftovers even after it was time to wrap up that people took turns shooting at randomly specified targets.

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One last picture with the dog in front parading his new water bottle around.

The cherry on top was the adorable, water bottle-chewing dog of an employee they had wandering on site, which wandered between our group as we removed our muddy shoes in preparation for the bus back to Metz.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Vicki Birchfield

Name: Dr. Vicki Birchfieldfd1d715c2a5b1582-8a5ff

Position: Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs; co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies; affiliated with the Jean Monnet
Centre of Excellence

Favorite color: hues of blue

Favorite food: French cuisine – especially “les fruits de mer,” a.k.a., seafood, and above all lobster

Interests/hobbies: Paris marathon in 2001, Chicago/Atlanta half – yoga, cooking, reading, theater/arts

Educational institutions:

Auburn University – Bachelors;

Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) – Diplôme d’études supérieur;

Auburn University – Master’s thesis on French women in electoral politics in political science;

University of Georgia – PhD in comparative political science in international relations

 

Throughout middle school the running joke was that teachers had a blow-up air mattress beneath their desks – and so basically did nothing outside of the classroom. Ha-ha, so funny! Except that’s never the case, and we knew it. Even in college, we don’t see half of what our professors are up to. All people are more interesting once you’ve taken time to get to know them: they have stories and perspectives different from anyone else. And now, let me assure all you middle schoolers: teachers are way cooler than you think.

Take Dr. Vicki Birchfield, for instance. She’s a co-teacher for the International Affairs class, and because the class is co-taught, we haven’t spent as much time in the classroom with her, but I got the chance to sit down and talk to her just a bit ago.

Our International Affairs class centers around the politics of the European Union in terms of Metz and the region of Lorraine. The inspiration of Professor Sonia Serafin, the other co-teacher of the class (and one of the French teachers here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine), brought this class to life, and Professor Birchfield helped to create a curriculum to fulfill the Global Perspectives requirement. The region of Lorraine has a rich history in terms of the European Union, and they know it. In fact, that’s what Professor Birchfield really wants GTL students to tap into: there is so much information and history at our fingertips.

Dr. Birchfield believes strongly in the value of a higher education – but also knows that there is a privilege to it, and coupled with it the “responsibility to be critical consumers of information and formulate one’s own view.” As this world become more and more saturated with information, it becomes harder to discern the factual, unbiased truth, but equipped with the tools of education, we can dig a little deeper for a better understanding.

That’s part of what she tries to bring to Georgia Tech-Lorraine with her class: the opportunity to bring the history of the European Project to life through site visits and class discussions. She creates this during her summer program in both Paris and Brussels, which takes 300 students to discover what Europe is – both culturally and politically. That’s also why she finds teaching one of the most rewarding part of her position in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs: opening their minds to the complexity in a career to essence of the life of the mind. She can bring her passion in her research into the classroom, and this coexistence between the spheres is beneficial, as it inspires a deeper conversation.

The mark of full professorship requires dedication in the three spheres of the position: education, research, and service. Dr. Birchfield has worked since 2000 at the Sam Nunn School an instructor, making waves along the way. Today, she runs a summer study abroad program, is affiliated with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, and has multiple publications. With all of the dedication she’s brought to her career and to Georgia Tech, Dr. Birchfield has been awarded full professorship, and it’s understandable that achievement represents one of her most cherished professional achievements.

However, when I asked the question “What is your biggest accomplishment?” that wasn’t her first response. In fact, she believes her greatest success lies in “the deep joy and fulfillment in relationships,” especially with her family. She’s accomplished quite a bit, but her husband and daughter bring her much happiness.

Another great source of pride is the being inducted as a Chevalier into l’Ordre Nationale du Mérite of France in 2012. Dr. Birchfield studied French extensively, even attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland for her Diplôme d’études supérieur. As a bit of a Francophone myself, this would be a wonderful dream come true: to be recognized by a country and culture that you’ve studied, lived in, and loved. For all the work she has done to promote understanding and the studies of France and Europe, she has been knighted by the country of France in a National Order of Merit created by Charles de Gaulle himself. If that’s not an indicator that you’re making an impact, I don’t know what is.

Her work is reflected across the Georgia Tech-Atlanta campus. She works closely with the French Consulate and, on top of her work with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, she organizes speakers – from diplomats to a panel of speakers on “Brexit” (the impending vote of the British people on their future in the EU) to a Danish filmmaker who created a documentary on the Denmark refugee dilemma.

So, yes, Dr. Birchfield has accomplished so much, but she has a life outside of work, too. Currently, she loves a good yoga session, and in years past, she’s run quite a bit, participating in the Chicago Half and the Paris Marathon. She really enjoys cooking, as well as reading and the arts – especially theatre! (The Atlanta theater scene is vibrant, and I love volunteering at a theater near Georgia Tech, so I was elated to hear this.) She’ll be spending some time here in France, though, so that will have to be explored when she returns to Georgia Tech-Atlanta. She loves travel just as much as the rest of us at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, too: her favorite places? Definitely in France: the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the Emerald Coast of Brittany, and Belle-Île, a small island off of the coast of Brittany.

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