To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Julie (Page 3 of 4)

Grad Student Profile: Meet Emanuele Testa!

Name: Emanuele Testa

Major/Field of Study: MS ECE

Year in grad school: 1st semester

Partner Institution: University of Brescia

Home Country: Italy

Favorite quote: “(He) who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly. …”  
from, “Die Slowly” – Martha Medeiros

Favorite Song: “Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd

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If you don’t know Emanuele, you’re missing out. And I’m not just saying that because he’s in my group for the CS 4261 app.

Emanuele, unlike many graduate students, hails from Italy, and surprisingly, that comes up more often than you’d think. People tend to think that here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine there are two types of students: French and American – and no deviation. Even I started with this frame of mind, as I introduced myself to him, asking where he was from, and it wasn’t Paris, Lyon, or another French city. We had a presentation in class that narrowed the entire scope of logging into the app based on whether the student was American or French – and I couldn’t help but see if he responded to the exclusion. He’s very gracious about it; it’s not mean spirited – people just don’t know!

At the beginning of our shared computer science class, we had to share our interests to the class to be more comfortable with each other’s interests and skill sets, and I remember even then Emanuele describing his interest in robotics. So then, it’s no surprise that his dream job lies in designing robotic medical machines for tasks like surgery or rehabilitation. It’s also not a surprise that his favorite class is ME 6407 (a.k.a. robotics).

Like I’ve often seen in Europe, a Master’s degree is not seen as optional in some fields – and Emanuele agrees, citing the need to specialize in something. He chose Georgia Tech-Lorraine specifically, though, because we have a dual-degree program with his home university, the University of Brescia. He seems to like his decision, though; when asked for his best recommendation for other graduate students, he recommended attending, describing Georgia Tech-Lorraine as “an amazing opportunity.” As he says, “An American degree definitely makes a difference in your future employment opportunities, [whether] you want to work in Europe or in any other part of the world. It’s a multicultural and creative environment and a great opportunity to improve your English!” His favorite part of Georgia Tech-Lorraine, though? The people, as the “students are very friendly and the staff here is very helpful.”

When he’s not studying or hanging with friends, Emanuele is probably playing the piano, watching the latest awesome movie, or traveling (not such a surprise hobby at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.) His dream destination? Bali, Indonesia.

Brussels in the Heart of Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Posted by Julie

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the recent events: a terror attack carried out by ISIL agents struck Brussels in its airport and a metro station near the hub of the European Union. All across our screen, new channels flash images of smoking airport terminals, people running haphazardly in the streets, and first responders caring for victims wrapped in shiny security blankets. As of tonight, 31 dead and 271 wounded.

And even before that, but much more quietly, innocent civilians on a beach in the Ivory Coast on the 14th of March. 22 dead and 33 wounded.

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Image courtesy of USA Today.

Tuesday morning would have been just like any other for Georgia Tech-Lorraine students shaking off the sleep with coffee and class, but just after 8am, our classmate posted in our GroupMe. We all watched closely – whether via Reddit threads or CNN feeds or elsewhere for details. Many of us have visited Brussels, and some of us were even in Brussels this weekend, in the very spots where the horrifying events took place. Many have friends and family living, working, visiting. All of us had settled back into our routines at our “home base,” but watching the events unfold was still heartbreaking.

Terror attacks both move and paralyze humanity. They prey on the fear of the unknown, causing chaos and suffering as the world stops to watch. However, every single one of them has hit the core of humanity – from Paris to Syria to Thailand to Egypt to Nigeria, and now the Ivory Coast and Brussels. The thing is, though, they are a worldwide endeavor of radical organizations – even in the United States, such as in San Bernardino or Chattanooga. It’s a reality, and a grotesque one assuredly. It shouldn’t exist, but it does, and it can happen anywhere. The best thing to do is to love above all – and to prepare and be vigilant.

Unpredictability is a hard enemy to fight, but to all parents: everyone at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is doing everything in their power to keep your child safe while studying abroad. Even things that I cannot describe for our own safety! Parents, if you’re curious, ask your student. From the moment we are waiting at the airport to leave, people in both Atlanta and France are prepared, watching, ready to help if anything goes wrong – I specifically remember Mme. Bass saying that they stay up to make sure that students arrive safely – to touching back down in the United States.

Due to constant vigilance, there is constant improvement. More safety measures have been put into place even since last November; there are meetings about our safety – even one already drawn together to discuss the attacks in Brussels – and how to best respond and protect. Weekly updates, as well as emergency ones, inform us on the state of affairs and important events and advise how best to avoid problem areas.

Information is one of the greatest powers garnered by travel and wielded by Georgia Tech-Lorraine to promote the well-being and security of staff and students. Some channels remain voluntary, such as notifying Georgia Tech-Lorraine staff as to where one travels during the weekends for emergency purposes (though I highly recommend it, as I was told it was a great help to confirm the security of all students after the Paris attacks). However, most aspects are integrated into life at Georgia Tech-Lorraine to maintain the success and safety of the program.

Scroll back through the previous posts of this blog, and you’ll find it celebrates the absolute opportunities attainable at Georgia Tech-Lorraine – and in some cases, no other place. You see so much good going on here, and there is so much done to protect it. This experience has changed my life beyond my words to describe, and I am a big fan of words – which is part of why I love writing. And by extension, I love the words said by others people (a.k.a. quotes). I could throw the cliché ones at you (FDR’s “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” anyone?), but here’s by far my favorite quote about fear:

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

There is an undeniable amount of uncertainty to any facet of life. At any given moment, another person’s path may come careening into ours, intentionally or unintentionally, crashing and smashing the plans we had so neatly laid out. We get in our cars, risking accidents; we climb the mountain, risking injury. Never before has this proved a reason to cower and hide, and it shouldn’t be now. Fear is the tool of these attacks, and we cannot let it manipulate us into not living on our own terms. There is too much good in the world to stop seeking it, though not without reason and sense.

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Image courtesy of PBS.org.

And so, we here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine mourn the people we lost in Brussels and Cote d’Ivoire. Remembering their lives in peace rather than anger, we look to tomorrow and pursue a better world.

Meet Katia, Queen of GTL Student Events

Name: Katia Ménard Pons

Position: Academic Office & Campus Life

Favorite Part of Position: Working with open-minded students. Helping students settling down in Metz and leave the school with great memories at GTL besides classes!

One Thing to Tell Students: Living in a foreign country teaches you so much not only culturally, but also personally.

Phrase That Best Describes GTL: Cultural exchange

Favorite Color: Depends…  Everything should match to the situation, so I won’t have the same answer if it is to decorate my house or to dress as I think everything has to fit with its environment! So it can be red, yellow, or blue!

Favorite Food: Is the quiche Lorraine a good answer? You should try and judge by yourself ! J

Interests/Hobbies: Spend time with my children and watch a good movie at the cinema with friends.

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Katia is in the top row, second from the right.

Katia is one of the names that most GTLers are most likely to recognize. Whether due to direct contact or mentioned in passing, her name is on a great many things that we see on campus: our distance learning and field trip classes, BDE event support and scheduling, Portes Ouvertes (a.k.a. Open House), health insurance for Master’s students from outside of France.

I, myself, as a member of the BDE have had the pleasure of working closely with her for some time now. Try to imagine seven American college students sitting in a classroom scheming about events for the student body – from paintball to a banquet – and Katia’s sitting there right alongside us, steering us away from havoc.

Working with students is her favorite part of the job, though, so maybe it’s not as crazy as it seems. She particularly loves speaking with 20% of students who are eagerly pursuing learning and speaking French – so don’t be afraid to test out your language skills with her! She supports GTL as a new experience, and that’s what she wants you to know: it expands horizons not only culturally, but personally, as a “challenging situation which gives you the opportunity to open your mind to a new environment and a different way of living.”

There’s a lot to learn when living abroad, and there’s also a lot to learn about Katia! Her favorite food? Quiche Lorraine (and she recommends trying it). Her favorite pastime is spending time with her children, or going to see a particularly great film at the theater with friends. And don’t ask her what her favorite color is, as that all depends on what the subject matter is. She won’t have the same answer depending on whether it’s for the house, clothes, or otherwise (but she listed red, yellow, and blue, so if you’re getting her a birthday card, shoot for those).

Mastering Living Abroad: Meet Sarah Malak

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Posted by Julie

Name: Sarah Malak

Major/Field of Study: Masters (soon to be PhD) in Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 3rd semester

Undergraduate Institution: The University of Akron

What do you want to do with this field? Become a professor.

Why did you choose GTL? It allowed me to attend my favorite university while staying in France.

What research are you pursuing? I am currently doing a project about composites; I will be starting a PhD soon, possibly studying shape memory alloys.

Favorite part of GTL: Having a taste of home here in France.

Best recommendation for other graduate students: Go abroad! Every person should have the experience of living in a country where they don’t speak a word of the language.

Dream destination: To live, the south of France; to visit, Angkor, Cambodia or Bali, Indonesia.

Interests/Hobbies: music (piano, balalaika, Irish fiddle, darbuka, and flute) and dance

 

Moving to France is apparently very, very difficult for non-European Union citizens, but that wasn’t going to stop Sarah Malak, a graduate student here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Technically, she’s working at an internship this semester, but she’s still nearby and on campus occasionally – and still living her dream.

Her dream was to not just visit, but live in France, and she stands by her choice, thus supporting her reason why graduate students should study abroad: it is invaluable experience to move to a place where you don’t know a single word, and you have to make that learning curve of learning the basics like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” All the simple things like buying groceries and ordering fast food become abnormally difficult, but the learning to adapt is the lesson, and one that will be cherished. For her, GTL was a prime choice, as you get a helping hand in coming to Europe with the basics like housing, but you’re “free to learn and grow on your own.”

In fact, she’s learned a lot: she moved here four years ago, and so between living in France and having a French-speaking husband, is basically fluent (you go girl!). Currently, she’s doing the internship segment of her dual-degree with Georgia Tech-Lorraine and ENSAM here in Metz, where she’s studying composites, but when she returns, she’ll finish her Master’s degree, then pursue a PhD studying shape memory alloys. France was a dream destination for Sarah – and still it remains, as she wants to settle in the south of France.

Outside of school, Sarah maintains her extraordinary lifestyle, as a dancer as well as a musician of multiple instruments, the long list including the piano, balalaika, Irish fiddle, darbuka, and flute. Maybe she lost her flute a while back, but some things you just don’t forget.

Brussels and Perspective on the European Union

Posted by Julie

I would consider myself a travel buff. Weekend mornings, my parents watched travel shows while sipping teas, and I actually have some of those DVD’s with me. The main use for my Pinterest? Travel planning. (And cool free font-searching!) If I’m on Buzzfeed, it’s a travel destination list (the last one I looked at was the most beautiful libraries around the world).

Travel is this grand adventure, but it requires some thought and planning before takeoff. Everyone has that list of dream destinations and a repertoire of details and facts about places they have been or will go, right? Well, I do, too.

And to be honest? Before this weekend all I knew about Belgium was chocolate, waffles, the Atomium, and Stromae. (Embarrassing, I know. Not Stromae, – he’s the bomb.com – but my limited perspective.)

The International Affairs 2221 class headed by the renowned Mme. Serafin and Dr. Birchfield ventured across the French-Belgian border to experience Brussels, the capital of Belgium. The class, which studies the politics of the European Union, toured the Parlamentarium, which is the hub of the European Parliament. Sure, they have their monthly meetings in Strasbourg, but most of the work and committee meetings happen here.

The giant museum situated in part of the complex housed so much history, I couldn’t get past the second floor before we had to go! (And there are three. I didn’t get to sit in the comfortable armchairs and watch videos, either.) Needless to say, I know quite a bit more about the European Union – its three main facets (the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council), how these facets interact and cooperate (or not sometimes), and the struggles faced by and currently facing the European Union.

Afterwards, though, we had a tour from a Brussels businessman and guide. The guided tour by a native was a fantastic opportunity to discuss his thoughts on his city – past and present – as well as get a first-person perspective on current events surrounding Brussels as well as the significant sights and opportunities.

We stopped by the Atomium – which I seriously considered to be the symbol of Brussels. Don’t be fooled, though; you can’t stop to see that one structure and have seen all of the city. We walked from downtown to uptown, passing through Le Sablon – where all of the prestigious chocolatiers reside – and past the Royal Palace; many of the national embassies to both Belgium and the European Union were in close proximity to the work palace of the King and all of the ministers of Belgium.

Just walking around made me happy – solely because of the architecture and art. I was practically drooling from the moment our bus was driving up toward the Parlamentarium, when I saw what remains my favorite building I saw in Brussels, even after walking through the city for several hours. I don’t even know what it is – but someone thank the architect for me. The city itself was apparently leveled by the French in 1695 during the Bombardment of Brussels, making way for a wide mix of architectural styles.

Brussels was an unexpected pleasure – one previously not on my list, but now I want to go back!

A Winter Spring Break

Posted by Julie

Spring break is a lovely invention: a week-long break from school in the middle of the semester when all you really want is a break from the homework and a reason to put off those end-of-semester projects. Even when studying abroad in France, spring break looks like the promised land. In response to all of the exasperated sighs that sentence received: surprise! Yes, we’re studying abroad in France, and yes, that is really awesome, but it’s still studying for Georgia Tech classes. And though the motto is “never get tired of travelling,” you can certainly get tired from travelling.

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A patriotic drawing on a whiteboard in the student lounge at GTL in the week before winter break. It has not been confirmed whether the theme was inspired by the looming break’s freedom from academic responsibilities, though.

Now, you might say, “Julie, it is way too early for a spring break. It isn’t even spring!” And in both statements, you would be correct. This was, in fact, our winter break. (We had two winter breaks, because we’re cooler. Pun intended.) France has a winter break, instead of spring, earlier in the semester.

No matter its name, many people chose a location that qualified more as a spring break – opting for warmer temperatures. The majority of students went on a variation of Italy itineraries – whether southward, northward, and even with Greece sprinkled on the end for some. Many routes intersected in Rome in the middle of the week, so there was a rather large concentration of GTL students roaming the streets. Others went south to Spain and Portugal, taking in the cost – and some ventured even as far as Morocco, flying down to spend three days in the desert.

There were also many who chose the snow over the beach: Norway and Denmark were popular destinations, especially after the 1€ flights to Oslo were advertised by Ryanair for just a few hours. With castles and fjords and more, there was much to see, though the northern lights were a bit far. Many people started in Eastern Europe, touring Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, and other cities, then jetting down south to join in for the last segment of other trips.

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A map of Italy in the Museums of the Vatican.

Now, you might begin to understand the madness that was planning out nearly a week and a half of travel while handling classes, homework, and projects. After several weekends of travel and significant research, many people are realizing that there are some places it just takes longer to get to, and this was the prime opportunity to realize those distant dreams.

The best and worst part about traveling at GTL is certainly that everyone is excited to see everything. This may sounds strange – why is that a bad thing? Let’s roll back to that italicized word: everything. There are millions of places that one could go, and many people are trying to squeeze all of the highlights of Europe into one semester. In trying to accommodate everyone’s dreams, we ended up sacrificing some things.

It’s best to keep things in perspective, though: we’re traveling Europe. The craziness was overshadowed by the immensity of our then-current situations: on the water of the Grand Canal, overlooking the city of Florence, under the shadow of the Colosseum, and on the coast by colorful houses tucked into the mountainside. Everyone came back from winter break with glory stories and starry eyes – so all of the planning and all of the sacrifices were worth it.

Spontaneous Graduate Studies and Sock Collecting: Meet J.D.

J.D., visiting the final resting place of General George S. Patton at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

J.D., visiting the final resting place of General George S. Patton at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

Name: J.D. Hill

Major/Field of Study: MS ME

Year in grad school: 1st semester

Undergraduate Institution: Texas A&M

Why did you choose GTL? Spontaneous decision to take on the opportunity

Favorite part of GTL: Traveling and interacting with French graduate students

Best recommendation for other graduate students: Just do it.

Dream destination: Skellig Michael Island, Ireland

Interests/Hobbies: Travelling, country dancing, sock collection

Meet J.D.

He’s a pretty cool guy. Why, do you ask? He’s a graduate student here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine (that’s not the only reason, though; his story is even more interesting). The funny thing is, this is J.D.’s first semester with Georgia Tech, and it’s not on the Atlanta campus. Even funnier? He may never even step foot on the Atlanta campus.

When J.D. graduated as an Aggie of Texas A&M brandishing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, he already had a job with General Electric working in the oil and gas field. General Electric must care about its employees, as it funds their continuing education: the Edison Development program pays for his Master’s degree. J.D. had the choice between NC State and Georgia Tech, but when it came down to it, he made the (fabulous) choice to be a Yellow Jacket.

After digging deeper into his options at our university, he stumbled across Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and due to great timing with his job, it was an opportunity too good to pass up – even though deadline had sort of already passed him up. Some serious communication and finagling later, he worked to catch up on all the deadlines and was accepted to the program to study his first and only semester on campus at Georgia Tech (albeit, on the French campus).

And now, well, he’s here! Is all of this as great as J.D. expected? He thinks so. J.D. travels a lot, unlike many of the French graduate students, but he still fits in pretty well with them, whom he says are very welcoming and accepting. It’s one of his favorite things about being here (besides the traveling): chatting with and learning French from them.

As you may have guessed, traveling and seeing new things are among his favorite hobbies. His favorite destination he’s checked off was Rome, Italy – he says he could walk around for days, there is so much to do – but he still wants to make it to Skellig Michael Island in Ireland. He does do other things too, though: when he’s not traveling, you can find J.D. stringing up a laundry line to dry the subset of his super cool sock collection that he brought along or country dancing.

What’s in store for J.D. after this semester? He’ll be returning to his job in Oklahoma City, but he hopes to end up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. He likes his job currently, as it’s stable, but chose mechanical engineering for its flexibility, so who knows where he’ll end up in the long run? He’s along for the adventure.

His advice for the graduate students contemplating the benefits of a program like Georgia Tech-Lorraine echoes similar sentiments: make like Nike and just do it! The administration is very helpful, and it is a unique opportunity to travel and experience other cultures.

Posted by Ije and Julie

Ghostbusters: GTL Edition featuring Karen Pierce

KPierceName: Karen Pierce

Position: Area Manager of Residence Life

Phrase That Best Describes GTL: “Broadening one’s horizons”

Favorite Color: Blue


Favorite Food:
Italian

Interests/Hobbies: Salsa dancing and amateur photography

Posted by Julie

Welcome to Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Once you step off of the bus, who is the first person you’ll meet? More than likely Karen Pierce.

As her official title “Area Manager of Residence Life” conveys, she is the main point of contact about housing, but what you may or may not know is that she represents the main point of all contact between students and staff here at GTL. She does so much at which her title doesn’t even begin to hint: Karen is the main source of information for resources, non-academic support and because of this fields any questions – from who to talk to about scheduling to travel to laundry – to help ease a student’s time in a new place. She might as well have a theme song like in Ghostbusters, because she’s who you’re gonna call!

It’s her favorite thing about her job, too: she builds bridges over the cultural differences for students, and helps them when in need. She’s even there for mental and emotional support – on call 24/7 to help us. This, according to Karen, is the most fulfilling part of her job. She connects with people and helps them through even the toughest times.

And so, when I asked her what she would say to students if she could, I knew that she would have a good idea as to what might help. Her recommendations? Two things: one, remember, there are no elevators in the residences, so lugging those three suitcases up might be a chore. Two, the culture of France is different: the United States is convenience-oriented, while France is family-oriented, which then affects convenience. This cultural difference is something to be aware of, so it’s better to mind the gap!

She isn’t just a person behind a desk, though; she has interests just like you and me. Karen’s favorite color is blue. She loves salsa dancing, and continues to dance here in Metz, and has taken up amateur photography as well. If you need recommendations for Italian restaurants, she’s got you covered; it’s her favorite style of food, and there are apparently an abundance in Metz!

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Georgia Tech-Lorraine is a fantastic experience, and Karen agrees. Her phrase of choice to describe the experience of studying here was “broadening your horizons,” as the program is unique, with an incredibly large concentration of American students and lease to travel, experience, and explore – and she’s here through it all. It’s great to know, though, that through all of our hiccups and ups and downs, she is someone we can rely on for answers and support.

So this here is a huge thank you to Ms. Karen Pierce from past, present, and future GTL students – all of whose lives you’ve made easier!

A Weekend in Venezia: Carnivale Edition

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Posted by Julie

Ah, Venice: the epitome of charm and romance – alongside Paris, of course. Venice has been made up to be this fantastic, magical place in everything that I’ve seen and read, so I’ve imagined this mystical aura over the town and had fantasies about the stone lions roaring to life from atop their towers at the stroke of midnight.

Forgive me, maybe this sounds childish – and even if it does, what is so wrong with a little whimsy? But since I was little and stayed up late reading The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke with a flashlight after my parents tucked me in (sorry, Mom and Dad), I’ve dreamed of Venice, but this weekend I actually got to go. Not only did I get to go, but I got to go during Carnivale. (Be still, my heart.)

On the train down, the story was running through my head. Scipio and a black mask with the long, birdlike nose and the gold and silver spoons and the anonymous antagonist on his boat were all images swirling inside my head in a jumbled mess, as it’s been several years since I’ve reread the tale. I had a lot of time to sort it out and think through it, though, as it took a grand total of 18 hours to reach Venezia by train; there were so many stops and layovers in cold stations. Each time we changed trains, the number of people traveling from GTL dwindled until it was just us at a station to whittle away an hour and half before the rest of our journey.

Arriving in Venice was craziness with a pinch of revelry: tracking everyone down from their different trains, organizing for our walk to the AirBnB through the masses of people, and clamoring over the colorful masks at every street stall. Despite the walls of feathered, beaded, and bejeweled masks, there were few other indications that Carnivale was in full swing. There was some confetti here and there, and an occasional Renaissance noble strolling the street, but otherwise everything was calm – normal, even – until Saturday, when those who had costumes arrived at the famous Saint Mark’s Square for photoshoots and revelry. The colorful costumes, strange movements, and immovable visages captured everyone’s attention and imagination.

Venice, not surprisingly, looks exactly like the pictures; however, these visual representations capture the appearance, but not the character. It can’t capture the feeling of traversing a maze of buildings with Google Maps only to be lead to a dead end at a waterway, the sound of fisherman conversing while throwing the catch of the day to their friend on the boardwalk, the calm aura created by the halo of early morning light and quiet in residential areas, the easy rock of the gondola as the cloudy teal waters of the Grand Canal rush up and slap the sides, or the clink of jewelry and snap of professional cameras with each dainty, calculated motion of the masked and costumed in Saint Mark’s Square.

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A white figure in the crowd at Saint Mark’s Square.

One can only wonder who these characters are – do they lead regular lives in Venice just to don wigs and twirl into the spotlight during the traditional festival? Venetians themselves are hard to find, though; few live on the island anymore with the increasing tourism and rent pushing them off the island that they have known and loved. According to Franco, the sixth-generation gondolier who toured the city by waterfront with us, many have left for cheaper waters. He himself, born in southern Venice, now lives a bus ride away because of the outrageous housing costs. Most of the city has become hotels or other dedications to the 26 million people that visit annually, so I was worried that the magic was just funded by capitalism.

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A quiet residential Venetian street – complete with clothes on the line.

Despite the vast amounts of money to spend and make, there is a true magic to the city – but it’s not just in the buildings. The vibrancy comes from the environment and culture and traditions. You can see it in the early mornings when the river glows in the soft light and where you can see old friends catch up with the owner of the small café on the corner over an expresso at a table outside. I saw it in the way that Franco looked as he spoke about his home away from home.

So yes, although I didn’t get to see the stone lions fly from their cultural pedestals at midnight, I am happy to report that Venezia is very much magical, and at the very least, navigating their streets is mystical. All is right with the world.

Redefining Normal

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A letter from the desk of Robert Schuman, the creator of the European Coal and Steel Commission (ECSC), which was the predecessor of the European Union.

Posted by Julie

“Normal” is such as powerful word: it can cause a multitude of emotions, exclude and include, and rationalize and alienate. Often the idea of a regularity inspires more humor nowadays; people aren’t afraid to stray from the status quo, and so many believe “normal” doesn’t even exist.

I’m seeing a lot of this light-hearted approach to normalcy nowadays, especially here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Walking around the student lounge, you can hear things like “Oh, this is just a normal week,” or “Yeah, it’s just a normal trip,” – but when placed in context, these ordinary statements about the dull humdrumness are absolutely comical.

It’s fun to remind people that hey – it’s a normal week, but in the center of Europe on a program that allows us to travel every weekend at significantly reduced prices due to student discounts and to places we’ve only dreamed of since we were kids. Typical, right?

Now, Georgia Tech is not an ordinary school; in fact, it prides itself in being different, innovative, and unique. Classes are difficult – more than your ordinary class. The campus is incredibly diverse, the research sector is booming like no other, and Buzz is the most high-energy mascot the world has ever seen. Maybe we’re used to this ordinary out-of-the-ordinary so much so that we have entirely redefined our normal.

Or maybe our definition has changed because we’re living it: we’re right in the middle. We see all of the work it takes to travel on even a small trip, and all of the confusion when you don’t know that French word; it’s not new anymore, and we’re adjusting.  This has become our status quo, so it’s harder to see how different this really is.

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Just hanging out in Colmar, France.

It’s harder to see how absolutely amazing it is that I went to Paris last weekend and was in Germany before that. This opportunity is extraordinary – and I’m trying to keep that in mind as I’m walking around Metz, France, seeing buildings that are nearly two thousand years old and speaking French everywhere I go. This, right here and now, is anything but normal.

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