To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Julie (Page 2 of 4)

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.

A Spring Potluck to Remember

Posted by Julie

Springtime is something to celebrate here in Metz. The clouds have retreated for a bit and the sight of the sun warms our hearts. With all of the rain, every snapshot of Metz overflows with a lively green, and these gargantuan dandelions have sprung up by every sidewalk.

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Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the springtime!

While all of the outdoors celebrates warmer temperatures, we are celebrating, too. This semester has been pretty amazing: Georgia Tech-Lorraine has brought us so many opportunities – from traveling on the weekends to meeting new people in a social environment unlike any other I’ve seen – and we all see that.

At the Spring Potluck, we gathered to commemorate all the great things that have happened at Georgia Tech-Lorraine over the past months. It was easy to see how far we’ve come: from awkwardly introducing ourselves to the other people sporting Georgia Tech gear to laughing and joking over a plate of turkey and an assembly of our friends’ dishes.

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The potluck was brimming and delicious.

The picture of amity, the Georgia Tech-Lorraine lounge was transformed into a banquet hall with colorful tables and decorations, and a long, beautiful assembly of food. The BDE provided raffle prizes featuring jerseys, mini speakers, and Kinder Bueno – a favorite snack of GTL students. The president revealed the winner of the March Madness bracket competition, as well as the winners in each of the five categories of the photo contest: best food picture, best group picture, best landscape or architecture picture, best cultural picture, and – because we’re millennials – best selfie. There were so many amazing entries; students really have an eye for beauty. Who says engineers aren’t creative!? (The winners can be seen here.)

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Maybe the preparation for this event was intense, but the results were pleasing. It was great to be a part of bringing together the students for some friendship and bonding. And food – don’t forget the food. We’re college students, after all.

Thank you to all of the volunteers that helped set up, and to all of those who helped clean up after. You are appreciated!

Making More Than Just Train Connections

Posted by Julie

Studies have classified three ways of learning: auditory, visual, and hands-on, which are generally reflected in how we experience anything. There are a great many ways experience travel, and really no bad way; you can learn a lot no matter how you experience a locale. As far as I’ve seen, though, traveling can also be divided into common experiential thought processes: shopping, eating, historical sites, museums, art, and activities. Of course, there are some other outlying processes, and most people pursue a mix of the thought processes.

However, there is another way to learn about a city and its culture that I’ve seen as increasingly beneficial: personal connections. This is on the rise, with the increasing popularity of shared economy companies such as AirBnB and Couchsurfing; the latter especially encourages interacting with hosts and experiencing a city with them. This personal touch from someone in the area leads to memories that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, as it adds more knowledge than one could gleam out of all of the blog posts about a space.

Not only do you get recommendations on all of the experiential thought processes and the related points of interests of each, your new friend can impart knowledge or even funny stories, and the personal connection can be invaluable. Most people I know have met fascinating people along the way, whether via rooming or just wandering the city, and are still connected with them through Facebook, or even actively talking to them!

20160326_173035

AJ playing with the kids we met on the train.

Why I do I bring this semi-obvious point up? Well, it’s story time. Quite possibly my favorite part of  Easter weekend was our short train ride between Prague and Berlin, and no, not because we finally sat in a car similar to those of the Hogwarts Express. (EEP.) We did sit in a similar carriage, but the important details were our neighbors: two German sisters, each with their respective kid. After settling in, my friend pulled out a deck of cards, and AJ has a really great fancy-shuffle he can do. (That’s a technical term.)

The kids were immediately spellbound by his magical card manipulation, and from there he taught them how to do his bridge shuffle, played Uno, and learned the word for “red” in German. The family spoke little English, and AJ and I spoke close to no German, so communication was limited, but I had a conversation with the adults. We stumbled through broken English about life in Germany and their policies. It was interesting to see a different normal and to learn about their experiences more than anything. Though a difficult conversation, it was certainly the most rewarding during my trip.

The value doesn’t always rest in conversation, though. The personal connection can be just as powerful. AJ hung with the kids, who knew some English from their studies, but they were more interested in the cards than politics. Ask him (like I did), and he would say it was the best part of the trip too. (“Most definitely the best.”) From what I saw, our car was the most fun, as there was a kid watching the

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Some of the candy I received from the German family.

action from the corridor window. We both knew as the events were unraveling that this would be one of those moments that we would never forget.

So, what is my recommendation in life and in travel? Talk to and interact with people. Perspective is a powerful tool to understanding more of the world, and every other person has it. And often, it leads to places you never imagine.

Bonus: your new friends might graciously donate the rest of their candy to you, too.

 

Medecin(e)s Without Borders

Photo courtesy of music.msu.edu

In all of the preparation we did for studying abroad in France, one of the (huge) tiny details was insurance. Really, it was pretty simple; fill out a form and make a fixed payment. I didn’t really give much thought to insurance at all, except extending it. Why we needed international insurance, I didn’t know, but I am here to reaffirm the statement that the lovely people in the Georgia Tech-Lorraine office in Atlanta know what they’re doing.

Health insurance is important. Yeah, we drag our feet about it, but it’s for the moments we don’t see coming – those images that whiz by and you have that sudden dread as you see it hurtling toward you.

(For me, the “it” was the ground.)

Metz had just recently opened up into gorgeous blue skies and nearly warm weather – but with all the running we were doing playing soccer, I was still in a t-shirt. We had made friends with students from Supelec and started a great game of football, and everything was going great. Then I collided with a couple friends, and soon after the ground.

Without all the details, it boils down to this: initially, things were a little confusing. My head hurt a lot, but I wasn’t too worried. But there were people who were concerned: Ed, my friend and an RA walked me back to GTL, and he told Karen (the awesome person I wrote about before). Concussions are serious. I got a follow-up call at 1am that morning, and the next day.

I didn’t have all the symptoms, but we decided it was necessary to go to the doctor – just to be safe. And besides, more terror had struck. Turns out I’m allergic to whatever brand of mosquitoes they have here, and my eyelids were pink and swollen.

(You see? The foreshadowing came true. Everything hit me at once.)

Well, we went to the doctor. Yes, we had to wait a couple hours without an appointment, but I got a prescription, and an official diagnosis. (No concussion!)

And it’s not just me who has been sick; many people have come down with something. There’s a lot to do around here, and between school and traveling like it’s a second job, it’s pretty easy to get worn down, but the Georgia Tech-Lorraine staff have done this before. They have the English-speaking contacts and connections to get us to the right places at the right time. And I can file with the insurance to get my money back. (Bonus round!)

Advice from Real-Life GTL Students

Posted by Julie

At this point, we are well over halfway through the semester. We’re about two and a half months older, and quite a bit wiser. We aren’t sages yet, but we do have some thoughts about how we would have approached this semester and what we would have done differently. So, for all those planning on coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, or even for those just generally traveling, here’s our thoughts on traveling, Europe, Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and travelling Europe at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

 

Don’t worry so much about things not going as planned. Things end up working out in the end.  – Jessica

Jessica’s advice holds true for j12779022_10208896617761798_4447155126991845723_oust about any experience, but especially for travel: there will always be something that doesn’t go as planned, but honestly? There’s no need to overly stress. We have lots of opportunity to travel, and the rules at Georgia Tech-Lorraine allow for a certain flexibility, so if your train gets stuck in Frau, Austria, generally it’s fixable. Also, I’ve found, personally, that when things don’t go as planned – that’s when the magic happens. Those are the memories you’ll keep. (Like wandering around Naples at 10pm with your friends to find that one pizza restaurant that guy in Rome recommended. Totally worth it, by the way.)

 

Interact with the students around you – especially the French ones – more. – Joy

All I remember about our first orientation meeting is my extreme skepticism12768270_1233192183361624_3995472953783433646_o toward one statement made by Ms. Bass: “GTL students become like a community.
You will know everyone, and you will probably be friends with most everyone.” 200 students, and I’m going to be friends with all of them? Riiight. But it’s not so far from the truth. Between classes, activities with the BDE, mutual friends, the Universal GroupMe, or just walking up to someone in the student lounge, there are many ways to meet people. You just have to go for it. All the people here are in the same boat as you, and really, most of them don’t bite. Ask to borrow sewing kits, where to eat downtown, and people to travel with for the weekend, and you’ll generally find a friend.

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Spend a little more time planning out your travels. – David, Pranav, Ije

This was quite a popular remark. People come with grand dreams, but realize there are some realities to study abroad, train travel, and the limits of mortality. It does help to plan out where exactly you’d like to go, and prioritize your dreams, but be aware that if you want to travel with others (which I highly recommend), sometimes there will be curveballs.

 

Don’t just follow other people when choosing where to travel. – Indiana12783787_10206586667692259_9026917480081343070_o

This follows the last one pretty closely. Define your dreams, try to travel with others and make friends, but don’t limit yourself to what others want to do solely because all of your friends are going somewhere else. People have realized throughout the course of the semester that cities aren’t nearly as interesting as adventuring and hiking, or maybe Italy was not everything it’s cracked up to be. Form your own opinions and pursue them.

 

Budget anything and everything. – AJ12573928_10208349260392297_2029775313939866714_n

A basic, but vital necessity. Fall semester, I made a massive spreadsheet, detailing fees, tuition, food, trains, activities, and any other thing for which it is possible to spend money. There was extensive research: I frequented the Georgia Tech-Lorraine page, but researched on train ticket websites, travel blogs, packing lists, and more. There is more to living abroad than one might realize, and it is necessary to consider all possibilities. (Including, dare I say it, nightlife, for those legal and willing.) It’s easy to spend way too much, but if you have a form laid out, you can see what steps you need to take so you aren’t high and dry and begging your parents for money at the end of the semester.

 

Branch out and do new things despite 773593_10206494390895489_5985898670448672616_othe cost. – Sienna

Now, we’ve been responsible; we’ve budgeted for our trips. However, that being said, if something really compels you, and you know you’d regret it later on, DO IT. #majorkey

 

Politeness at PAUL

Logo_Paul

PAUL logo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine generally have a few choices for lunch: make your own (but pasta gets a bit old after the first 15 times), go to CROUS (the student cafeteria for French schools which is actually amazing), or stop by Paul (or Boîte de Pizza, a new addition this semester).

I am of the personal opinion that Georgia Tech-Lorraine students represent a large chunk of our local Paul’s revenue. A mix between a boulangerie, patisserie, sandwich stop, and resto (the French abbreviation for restaurant), Paul is right on the path for many students – particularly those who live in the Lafayette dorms.

So, if you’re on your way to class, stop by for a croissant or “le Parisian,” but to avoid appearing as tactless tourists, it’s nicer to try to speak the native language. And so, I’m going to give you a quick rundown on how to order at Paul without offending anyone. Copy any of these into Google Translate to get a feel for pronunciation.

 

INTRODUCTORY FORMALITIES

You may hear the employee say «En suite,” which means “Next.”

«Bonjour» or «Bonsoir»: Depending on what time of day it is. “Bonjour” is more for mornings and early afternoons, but “Bon soir” is for late afternoon and on. They will say it first, and to be cordial, you say it back.

 

ORDERING

« Je prends…»/« Je voudrais…»/ « J’aimerais…» = “I’ll take…”/ “I would like…”/ “I would love…”

All are acceptable to begin your order, but many (especially in fast food) skip this formality as well.

Then [insert food item here].

Check out their delicious menu here to get a heads up on what you can add to end that sentence.

If all else fails, and you don’t know what something is in French, you can ask « Comment on dit en anglais?» or “How do you say this in English?”

« Et aussi… » = “And also…”

If you want multiple items.

« Ça c’est tout?» = “Is that all?”

Asked by the server. Easiest reply, if you are finished? “Oui.”

 

PAYING

« Comment on paye?» = “How are you paying?”

Asked by the server. Generally cash or card – but it’s best if your card has a chip in it!

« Par la carte» or « Par la carte bleue» = “By credit card”

« Avec l’argent » = “With cash”

 

TEARFUL GOODBYES

The server says «Merci» and «Bon journée» or «Au revoir».

You repeat for politeness.

 

Other good words to know are basic numbers (as I would be impressed if you wanted to order 96 pains au chocolat). Check out this article for basic food words like chicken, allergy, and vegetarian to make your life easier.

The Great Collaboration

Posted by Julie

A few weeks ago, something big happened: I met new people! This, of course, isn’t newsworthy in and of itself. In fact, that statement has become so regular here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine that the fantastic feeling of shaking hands with a new person happens probably about daily. It’s more whom I met, and why I met them.

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A small subset of both the GTL BDE and the Supélec BDE.

There was a meeting – top secret (not really) – between some members of the Bureaus des Etudiants of three major universities here in Metz. (A Bureau des Etudiants, generally referred to as the BDE, functions similarly to the Residence Hall Association back home in Atlanta.)  Students from Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Supélec, and ENIM gathered to plan a job fair called Mission: First Job for their students.

The meeting was entirely in French, which was a struggle for a few of us Atlantans – but it was a good test of my French skills for sure! Details were discussed and plans laid out, then we were sent to fulfill our respective duties.

The meeting itself was productive and interesting, but my favorite part of the night was the little soiree afterwards. The Supélec BDE invited us to snack with them after, presenting us with a host of delicious foods, as well as interesting conversation. I got to learn what life was like in our neighbors’ houses, and even for students that bridge the gap between our schools, as one member is a student both at Supélec and Georgia Tech-Lorraine as a dual-degree program participant.

Topics like daily student life in our respective countries were broached, as well as perspectives on our home countries. It inspired some very interesting conversation, and there were many common experiences, such as schooling tracks, and some very different ones, such as the elections for BDE officials.

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The Supélec BDE Président and the GTL BDE Président.

What most excited me about this meeting? It was the start of a great relationship with our fellow students. We’re already working together on one project, and several more were pitched throughout the course of the night – the dreams of connecting our students for maximum experience possible. This is why I wanted to join the BDE: I wanted to connect our cultures as much as possible for more of a first-hand experience with people our age in another country. And so, I am frightfully excited about our future plans.

Stay tuned!

Leaving Our Mark on the Community

Posted by Julie

That last week has been the best Metz I’ve ever seen – a balmy 60° underneath blue skies and gold-tinted sunbeams. Personally, I think it was the universe getting excited about our volunteering event at Fort Queuleu.

Students have asked for an opportunity to volunteer, and while there are too many hoops to jump through for volunteering genres such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters, we found this early on and have been working to make it happen for a while.

You may remember that one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my International Affairs trip, which included Fort Queuleu, a former internment camp just a 20 minute walk from Georgia Tech-Lorraine. The tour was particularly impactful – from the storytelling of our guide to the creative, connecting visuals. I was amazed that so much history was hidden in the hills so near us, so I was incredibly excited about this opportunity.

We joined a group of maybe ten other dedicated volunteers who convene twice a month to clean up and preserve the history of the region. Many spoke little English, so it was a great way for the group to brush up on their French, or even learn a little for some. We still had conversations and laughs with the others, despite the language barriers.

While some cut back bushes and undergrowth, we were assigned to work with a few people on the refurbishment of the entry gate. For my group, the morning crew, we brushed off the moss and rust with metal brushes and painted on a first coat of protective glaze, after which the afternoon group painted on several more.

With the weather as perfect as it was, and the people so nice, I don’t think I have enjoyed a BDE event more. Of course, there are several lined up soon – so that title may be tested!

My favorite part? As I was walking out of the park area in which Fort Queuleu is situated, another French woman was leaving as well. She started up a conversation, and I explained why our students were there. She was very happy and impressed that we wanted to help the community as much as we did. I found that this was also her first time volunteering, as she had recently found out that her mother was a part of the underground movement to overthrow Nazi rule during occupation during World War II – which is when Fort Queuleu was used as an internment camp for French resistance.

It was so nice to be a part of something bigger than me; something that has such a personal connection to the people that live here. It’s nice to say that I didn’t just visit Metz, but I lived in and contributed to the community.

 

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