To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Morgan Kehoe (Page 1 of 2)

Expect the Unexpected

Posted by Morgan

expect the

Before coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was fortunate enough to have traveled a lot. I traveled across the US; I traveled outside of the country; I traveled without my parents. In short, I wasn’t expecting that the GTL experience would be that hard, taxing, or new- just exciting. I was prepared. I was prepared for the travel, and my first year at Tech had prepared me for the classes. And yet somehow, after ten weeks in France, I am leaving with the realization that I wasn’t all that prepared. But that’s the thing about the GTL program. Nothing can really prepare you for the experiences, the experiences of unmatched fun, the experiences of studying till the wee hours of the night, the experiences of being so incredibly out of your comfort zone.

If only something had prepared me for my interesting adventure through Paris. My friend and I had reserved an apartment through airbnb, a familiar and trustworthy site, but I was excited that I had searched through all the places on my own and found the perfect place–no help–no guidance–just me. When we arrived at the airbnb, I was told the maid was going to bring me a key. I waited an hour until two men in a car pulled up and started speaking to me in French, and they wouldn’t leave (a sketchy situation to say the least). They kept pointing at their ignition key, but they did not look like the maid, Maimona, and they did not speak English, so I kept waiting. Next thing I know a half hour later the guys come back, hand me the key, and then walk off. It was the weirdest experience ever, and it left me wondering how safe this place really was. But my friend and I needed a place to sleep, so up the five flights of stairs we walked.

What met our eyes was one of the most charming apartments I had ever seen. It was stereotypical French, complete with a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. Even with all of the commotion, I had done it. I had prepared for something, and gotten it right, albeit with a lot of anxiety and worry. I was not prepared for this type of situation. I was not prepared for this “experience,” and I don’t know if anything could have prepared me. That’s the thing about GTL though; just when you think you’ve seen it all–the horrifying thermo tests, the spill of toxic liquids in chem lab, the 90 degree plus heat of Atlanta–Tech likes to show you that you haven’t!  

Fortunately for myself, the rigorous planning and ensuing worrying died down at the end of the trip. If one hasn’t noticed, I am not a go with the flow kind of person. I plan everything by the minute and then have two backup plans. By the time my last trip came around, Grindelwald, Switzerland, I couldn’t plan any longer. I was tired, so about all I did was look up some train times and book a hostel.

I remember getting ready to board the train, and Tim saying, “Morgan, one of these trains requires a reservation…”

What left my mouth next was the most un-Morgan-like statement ever heard, “We’ll figure it out Tim.”

And we did. We figured it out as we went, and I left Switzerland with the realization that it was one of the most fun, memorable experiences of GTL yet.

I have the GTL program to thank for these experiences. I was not being hand-held through my trips, or taking easy elective classes. I was essentially being pushed out on my own and given free reign. Of course, there were those times that I wished I had a schedule designed for me on what trains and planes to take or what museums and tourist attractions to see at a particular time instead of Google searching on my iphone at the last minute, but I don’t think I would change any of those experiences- after all they do make the best stories.

Faculty Interview: Professor Simpkins

MK-SimpkinsWhen I shuffled into my computer science 2316 class on the first day of the summer semester, I was not looking forward to the impending 10 weeks. There are some kids who just get computer science; it just clicks for them, and that’s great. But I am definitely not one of those kids. I am the kid that sits in front of my laptop, staring at the screen for an hour trying to debug code only to find that I named a variable incorrectly (something as simple as “doctors” instead of “doctor”). As you might presume, this does not bode well for my relationship with CS; we are not what you would call “sympatico.” Not to mention, my first ever CS professor’s voice had the same effect on me as Nyquil. It’s safe to say, I was not expecting much for my second CS class.

However, CS 2316 has been a nice surprise for me, not simply because of the topic, data manipulation,  but because of the professor. I mean, having a coding assignment that utilizes the themes and characters from Grey’s Anatomy is pretty awesome. Not to mention, having a student do a public dance in front of the class as punishment because his phone went off is hysterically entertaining.

Just recently, I decided it was time to sit down and talk to the professor who was responsible for my slowly improving relationship with computer science: Christopher Simpkins. I was able to learn how he got started in in the field, and believe me, it is pretty interesting… and a little unexpected.  

Professor Simpkins did not begin his career in computer science; actually, he began his career in the air force, attending the Air Force Academy. Clearly, this was quite a switch, a pilot to a computer science professor. He always knew that he wanted to go into a technical field though. Originally he thought he would end up somewhere like MIT or some other tech school, but when he and his father, a member of the air force himself, were watching an Air Force football game one day, he was asked the question if he had ever thought of attending the Air Force Academy.

That question started a long and tedious two year process of applying to the academy, which Simpkins was later accepted into. Realizing that it was the highest honor, he decided to attend the school and major in engineering.

After completing his academics, Simpkins began flying tankers, and even became the designated computer guru for his squadron. While he had originally planned to do a crossflow program to transition into being a fighter pilot, he soon realized that the air force life was not well suited for families. Having two small children, he wanted to be an involved father, so he switched his career path towards software engineering in Atlanta.

Still, having taught in the Air Force, Simpkins knew that his passion was in teaching, so he decided to go into academia. That’s when Simpkins found Georgia Tech. A great location, advanced engineers, and a high-class university, Georgia Tech became his new end goal. His experience with Georgia Tech graduates in the Air Force had provided him with a good idea of the type of people at Georgia Tech, and fortunately his expectations did not disappoint him when he became a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Now, Simpkins is a computer science professor for one of the top universities in the country in his field. Just like that, he made the switch from the Air Force into academia. Clearly a dedicated and motivated individual, I asked Professor Simpkins for any advice he could give to students at Georgia Tech Lorraine:

“Pace yourself with the travel. You’re taking real classes; you have a real Georgia Tech workload. Travel is like another class.”

For Simpkins, he suggests spending those few two day weekends exploring Metz, catching up on sleep, and getting some studying done. He also suggests taking advantage of the small class sizes, i.e., “take advantage of the access to professors.” Office hours is one of his own biggest tools in teaching his students. There have been many a day when I have attended Professor SImpkins office hours, and soon enough it is like another small lecture class with multiple students asking questions and example problems ensuing. I can definitely say that taking his advice is worthwhile.

While Professor Simpkins loves teaching, he still takes time to travel on the weekends with his family who are spending the summer in Metz with him. A highlight of his trip was seeing the Paris Opera Ballet perform, Giselle. His wife, a former professional ballerina, loves Giselle and has clearly passed on her passion for the arts to her husband. I am sure that it was a nice break from the tedious grading of my CS class’ homework assignments (although I am pretty sure he has written code that basically performs the grading for him).

All in all, it’s pretty neat to know that Georgia Tech is enabling its students to learn from such interesting faculty members as Professor Simpkins. Now, if only I could learn how to fit all of my homework, studying, sleep time, cooking time, and traveling into one twenty four hour day.  

Finals Week

Posted by Morgan

MK-Finals

Finals week: the dreaded experience of taking tests students spent way too long studying for; zombie like students roam the halls; witnesses have reported seeing students collapse after testing.

This definition is a universal definition for most colleges, and a definition that I am sure Georgia Tech students know all too well.  So I am sure you’re wondering, how does it change for the study abroad experience?

Well, the experience here is still just as stressful and exhausting, but somehow I seem to see many more smiles at the GTL lounge this week than I did at the CULC, the major study spot in Atlanta, during finals week. Maybe it is because everyone is still on the travel high. Maybe it is because everyone is excited that it is almost time to go home. Or maybe it is just because of the small, tight knit community here at GTL.

As I wander through the lounge, content with the fact that I only have my French final to prepare for, I see laughing faces and group discussions. I wave to my friends and stop to say hi to some people. It’s a small and tight knit atmosphere, an atmosphere not easily found on the Atlanta campus.

Those who are not studying for their finals are either taking a break playing ping pong or working on group projects. Due to time crunches, final projects are a common replacement for final exams here at GTL which I can safely say is not necessarily better, just a trade off. Other students munch on their PAULS lunches, provided by the GTL staff to help us get through this tiring week.

Nonetheless, everyone is busy studying here. Many people actually refrained from traveling this past weekend to continue studying for their difficult exams, so it’s pretty clear that finals week is not all that different at GTL. Just maybe a smaller group of people still suffering through the miserable test week with some good friends. 

 

Undergraduate Research Student: Sarah Selim

Posted by Morgan

MK-Selim2Studying abroad is hard for engineering students: the classes, the rigor, the balance with travel. At times it may seem that a Georgia Tech engineering student will never gain that exciting abroad experience. This is not the case for Sarah Selim though. A rising 3rd year in mechanical engineering, she always knew she wanted the study abroad experience, but she also knew that she wanted the undergraduate research experience as well. Fortunately, she found the answer in GTL.

For myself, I did not even know that undergraduate research existed at GTL. I figured that my only option was to come to Metz, take a couple classes, and spend my weekends traveling. The same was true for Sarah. But Sarah knew that she wanted to find a work abroad program for the summer and that the paperwork hassles that come along with working abroad are not exactly appealing, so she did a little digging into the research opportunities at GTL. While Sarah was aware that the research opportunities at GTL are usually only available for graduate students, she had the drive to convince them otherwise.

At first, she wasn’t sure if any professor would let her come work at GTL, but after multiple emails to different professors and GTL administration, she finally found a professor that was eager and willing to let her participate in undergraduate research. What a typical tech student- ambitious and motivated!

While her weekends do not fall on the same days as most GTL students (she only gets two day weekends and one three day weekend a month), she finds solace in the type of work she gets to take part in each day. Her project involves robotics research called non-destructive testing which uses a robot that moves along metal surfaces to detect if the surfaces have any defects. Most of her day to day work consists of cad modeling for the project, and because she works with three other graduate students, she is able to get feedback when needed.

So far, Sarah is loving her undergraduate research experience. She has hands on work in her chosen field which provides her with great experience for future endeavors. Sarah also mentioned the balance she receives as a result of working at GTL. She is able to work inside of her comfort zone, being surrounded by Georgia Tech students and faculty, but still be pushed a bit outside of her comfort zone while working in a foreign country, France. After talking with Sarah, it’s safe to say that I am a little jealous. While I’m taking tests on the different forms of “to have” in French, she gets to play with robots all day in the lab.

You might be wondering what kind of travel experience one can get while working abroad. Does one even get to travel? While Sarah’s busy schedule is definitely difficult to coordinate with her friends who are taking classes, she still manages to take short weekend trips and make the most of her time.

Her favorite place so far was Barcelona, mostly due to the fact that Gaudi’s stunning MK-Selim1architecture fills the city. While I find Gaudi’s work to be overt and eccentric, Sarah loved his style; “he created floors that weren’t even flat and he just kind of went for it!”. I might not understand Gaudi, but I understand why Sarah loves him so much. He took risks, was ambitious, and broke the mold, just as Sarah took a chance in searching out her undergraduate research at GTL. Well, clearly it paid off – for both Gaudi and Sarah.

The Studying in Study Abroad

With all of this traveling, it is easy to forget the reason why we are in France sometimes: to further our education. Rather, we forget the labors of studying and replace that spot in our mind with our dream travel destinations: Zurich, Berlin, Naples, Budapest, London. But then test week comes around, and we are quickly slapped back into reality.

This upcoming week is test week for most students at GTL, and I can say with absolute clarity that I am feeling that sharp sting of reality. Of course, I have stayed focused in my classes; I will even go so far to say that I thoroughly enjoy my classes, but that does not mean I have spent my weekends preparing myself for the Georgia Tech-level tests that are impending. So while I wanted to spend this two-day weekend in Bruges, Belgium, friends and I decided it might be better to stay in Metz for the weekend to prepare for the upcoming hell-week, and boy am I glad that I did.

I spent Friday catching up on sleep. Like most of my GTL experience so far, I did not plan this. I planned to study vigorously, but with traveling every weekend I was exhausted. My meager attempts at studying became simply futile because I was so run down. I needed a break.

After a nap, some of us went to CORA, the Walmart of France, to pick up some food for a family dinner. We cooked some hamburgers in the kitchen together and had a fresh fruit salad! It was easy and delicious. Finally, we finished the night off with a freshly baked strawberry tarte and then we hit the hay!

Thankfully, I was feeling refreshed Saturday morning after a very, very, very, long, deep sleep and was able to get some studying in. I worked with my friend Mirna in preparing for our Industrial Engineering test, but of course we had to have a little bit of fun, especially seeing MK-StudyLux1as it was Tim’s birthday! Next thing you know, a group of us pulled out Eurail train passes, hopped on the train to Luxembourg, and prepared to divulge into some delicious Mexican food at a popular restaurant. It was a perfect way to celebrate Tim’s birthday and take a break from studying (even though Briana brought her notes with her on the train). The meal was delicious. While we all love the fresh baguettes and artisan cheeses here in Metz, we have missed the amazing Mexican food that we are spoiled with in Atlanta.

That is the wonderful thing about Luxembourg. It’s not the most interesting place to travel to-at least in my opinion-but there is an aura of comfort and familiarity. You can hop on a train and in 45 minutes you are watching Finding Dory in English, doing a little shopping at American stores, or like us, devouring tasty Mexican food.

This weekend, while anti-climactic, was a much needed, relaxing time. Taking that breath, that break from adventure, made me realize that you can’t do it all! Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize why you are at GTL in the first place: to study. If there is any advice can give to future GTL students, it is to plan breaks every now and then! I have already started seeing students start dropping like flies from their run down immune systems, and let me tell you, the last thing you want is to be underprepared, sick, and asleep during a Thermo Exam.

To Beach or not to Beach?

MK-Lagos2Posted by Morgan

My mom loves telling the story of my first time at the beach. As she tells it, she was stranded with two little toddlers, my older sister and myself, a few oversized coolers, and 4 unnecessary beach chairs while my dad casually went to go park the car. Meanwhile, my sister was running around in panic for fear that crabs would come snap off her toes, and I was apparently terrified of the sand, crying my head off anytime my feet touched the ground. To this day my family has never really been a beach vacation kind of family, and I have yet to outgrow my fear of sand.

Perhaps this is why I was wary of a weekend trip to Lagos, a city on the coast of Portugal. My friend, Brianna, had found the destination earlier on in the spring and had showed us beautiful photos of beaches, caves and stunning rock formations. Mirna was enthralled, quickly saying yes to this destination. I needed a little more convincing though. I didn’t want to waste a weekend lying on the beach, but when they showed me a plan of hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling, I decided, why not? I’ve never really done anything like this before and I am always saying that I want to try something new.

So I booked a plane ticket.

Thank goodness I did because I could not have been more impressed with Lagos. It was stunning. Breathtaking. Magical.

Our 3 hour kayaking trip was the highlight. Leading us around the coastline, our guide took us in and out of the caves and past the beautiful cliffs. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty of the area. How could some place be so perfect? How was it that I was here? It was almost unreal, and I had to take the time to soak it all in.

The three hour tour also gave us time to make a new friend, Lars, a student about our age from Germany who was traveling around for a few weeks before heading back to his internship. We conversed for a while on our journey, discussing our schools and cultures, before finally parting ways at the end.

After the very long kayaking trip, it was clear that Mirna, Brianna, and I needed a break…a really, really long break with lots of food and ice cold water and maybe even some ice-cream. As we made our way through the center of town, we took our time to stop and scour the menus for the best price and best looking food. We ended up choosing a traditional Portuguese restaurant and resting our feet for a while.

Standing up to leave, content with our meals and now satisfyingly refreshed, we bumped into our new friend, Lars. Talking for a while, we made plans to meet up later that night to watch the euro cup match, Italy vs Germany. But first, we decided to head back to our bed and breakfast, a ten minute drive out of town, to freshen up and take a quick nap. While the location of our bed and breakfast was inconvenient, it was also beautiful.  Located on a vineyard, complete with a personal balcony, it was the perfect place to sit back, take a nap, and relax before heading back out to meet up with Lars.

Once we were all ready, we began our journey back into town. We met up with Lars in a bar, where it was packed so tightly we could barely see the tv let alone breathe. It was fun though! I ended up cheering on Germany with Lars and even making some new friends from London who cheered along with us. When it came down to the penalty shootout, things got interesting. Some people were shouting for Italy and some people were shouting for Germany, but when Germany finally won, the bar went wild. It was an amazing experience and something truly unique to the culture of Europe.

The following day was not so enjoyable. Being my stupid self I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my feet the day before, and, seeing as I was sitting in kayak for three hours with the sun beating down directly on my feet, I got burned. I got burned badly. My feet were bright red and swollen the next day. I had tried to go out into town and do some things with my friends but it was painful. One woman even came up to me and offered me sunscreen.

It was a hard decision, but I decided that I needed to go back to the bed and breakfast and rest my feet while Brianna and Mirna explored. I was surprised to discover as I lied  there in bed that I wasn’t too upset with this. It might have been dull, but I got some rest, took some ibprofen,  applied some aloe, and enjoyed the picturesque views of Portugal from my window.

By the time dinner came, I was feeling better and ready to head out again with Mirna and Brianna. We grabbed some food and then walked to the beach to look at the stars. It was a sight I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

Growing up close to Philadelphia, I was never really able to see the stars. Not much changed when I came to Tech in Atlanta. But here, in Lagos, lying on the beach, the stars were shining bright above us. While it was a simple experience, lying on the beach watching the stars, it somehow managed to put me at ease, something I never thought possible while lying on the sand (I’m not really a fan of the beach don’t forget). Maybe the beach wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe even my family could be a beach family…or at least we could be a beach family when it comes to Lagos.

The Euro Cup Mania

Posted by Morgan

Note: this was written before the finals of the Euro Cup.

MK-EuroCup1

Football, the people’s favorite sport– the sport that causes fans to rally together chanting sometimes obscene statements–the sport that convinces men and women to cover their faces in paint, their bodies in colorful sports clothing, and their hands in foam fingers–the sport that brings people together with little in common except for their love of football. I am not talking about American football though. I am talking about European football, about soccer, the world’s favorite sport.

In America, soccer is not the most popular sport. While we do have the best women’s national team in the world, our men’s team is seriously lacking in talent- at least in comparison to most European teams- and consumerist America simply prefers watching a sport where commercials play every 5 minutes instead of an intense atmosphere of nonstop 45 minute halves. As result, when tournaments such as the World Cup, the Euro Cup, or even the CONCACAF Cup air on TV, most of America just changes the channel. The same cannot be said for Europe.

GTL students were fortunate enough to experience this part of European culture this summer as this year was the Euro Cup, a popular soccer tournament that is held every 4 years and is being hosted in France this year. While back in America, citizens are eagerly anticipating the Olympics, Europeans couldn’t care less about the Olympics. Their eyes are all on soccer.

This past week was a monumental game for France; the semifinals against Germany which determined whether or not France would move on in pursuit of the coveted Euro Cup trophy. Like any soccer fan, I dragged my friends with me to downtown Metz to watch the game on television. They obliged and made the journey with me into town. Nothing prepared them for what they were about to witness though. The squares were piled with people, pushing their way through crowds to get the best view of the TVs which lined the streets outside of bars and cafes. People’s faces were painted with the French flag; children were dressed in crazy red wigs in support of France; and just about every man had one oversized beer in his hand. It was a crazy atmosphere.

The game itself was enjoyable. While my eyes were glued to the television at every point in time, I somehow managed to miss both French goals in those rare moments I would turn to speak to a friend. Of course, we all knew what had happened as the crowds went wild, screaming, jumping, pushing, singing.

I was somewhat disappointed during the game though. I guess I forgot to mention that I was rooting for the enemy–Germany. The fact that Schweinsteiger and Mueller, two fantastic German players, were not able to help score against the MK-EuroCup2French made me very annoyed. Not to mention that Germany had possession of the ball the majority of the game! I had to hide this annoyance as best as possible from the French though for fear of being attacked by some of those crazy fans.

The final result: France won. While I myself was upset with the outcome, the rest of the country was ecstatic. Metz went crazy. People started setting off fireworks, dancing in circles, singing songs, breathing fire, shaking police vehicles that lined the streets. It was quite the sight.

As one friend of mine put it, “This would never happen in America.”

And that’s the truth. Even when a particular team wins the Super Bowl, crowds do not rush the streets setting off fireworks or shaking police vehicles. People would be arrested. But in France, in Europe, they do. It is a national sport, a national emblem for a country, and we were able to experience this joyous moment with the French people. It’s an experience I will never forget. Sure traveling to Italy and England is awesome, but this was an unmatched experience — not related to a travel destination — that I will most likely not have again.

While the night was late and long, I was glad to be able to see such a sight. The next day of class might have been rough, but when I entered my Industrial Engineering class the following morning, I noticed the heavy eyes of my IE professor.

“So, what did you guys think of the game?,” asked my professor.

Well, clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought a little less sleep was worth it to see France win.

Back to Paradise

London Calling

Posted by Morgan

Oh how I’ve missed the English language. The language where I understand whether the sign says “train delayed” or “train departing.” The language where I understand whether the bottle of liquid says “makeup remover” or “rubbing alcohol.” The language where I understand whether the menu says “steak” or “beef brains.” As you can probably guess, after a month in France, I was missing the ease of communication I had with the people in the states, so when a three day weekend arrived my sorority big, Dana, and I decided to go to London!

Dana and I had decided on London at the last possible minute. She was suffering from the GTL plague and was not exactly up for planning a trip, and me, being my indecisive self, was spouting off about ten different destinations we could go to. Thank goodness she was a good friend and put up with me for this. I swear each day leading up to our three day weekend I had an entire new trip planned: Budapest, Lyon, Florence, Salzburg. But in the end, the 3 hour journey on the Chunnel, the train that goes from Paris to London under the English Channel, and the English language was what hooked us on our destination: London.

I love London. I have been there before and it just has this classiness and ease to it. Of course there are those people that think of the charming British accents or The Spice Girls when they think of England, but my mind always wanders to a charming tea, the elegant queen, or the beautiful architecture of Big Ben. It’s my kind of place.

Lucky for us, It just so happened that the weekend we were there was also the celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. I learned this from a friend of mine who was interning for a publishing company in London. I had told her of our plans to visit and she suggested meeting up for the Queen’s birthday parade.

We met at the Piccadilly Train station and then walked over towards the Waterloo steps to get a good spot to see the queen. We caught up on how our lives in college were going and how we were enjoying our summer of traveling. It was so fun to be with a friend from my home town, thousands of miles away!

Unfortunately, we waited for much longer than anticipated to see the queen; however, the long wait gave us time to people watch and talk to the people around us. Oddly enough, this was an enjoyable way to pass the time. We saw a man dancing around in a skirt that was far too short and protesting about the debate over Brexit. We heard a group of older women discussing what color they thought the queen would wear: lavender or lime green (this debacle made us chuckle to no end, and she ended up wearing lime green believe it or not). Then, to make our wait even more interesting, we met a woman next to us whose son went to Georgia Tech! We conversed over the Georgia Tech-Lorraine program and how her son was excited for his final year at Tech. What a small world.

We saw the queen!

We saw the queen!

When the queen finally came, the crowd went wild, waving their British flags in the air and shouting. For about two minutes, I was able to see the speck of lime green that was the queen. That was pretty much the extent of the parade, but it was still a fun experience and now I can say, “I’ve seen the queen. Have you?”

Afterwards, Dana and I ventured over towards Westminster Abbey. We took the time to be stereotypical tourists, snapping cheesy photos and jumping up and down. When we were done, the hunger pains started ringing and we began to look for lunch. Being a lover of soccer, I forced Dana to go to a traditional British pub with me so I could watch the Euro Cup. I loved this. As I ate my fish and chips, fixated on the tv, the men around me cheered on their team, cursing off when they thought a foul should have been called and yelling with excitement when a goal was scored. It was a cultural experience and clearly a highlight of my trip.

Just us being tourists.

Just us being tourists.

The rest of the day was spent exploring. This meant we got lost a lot, which is probably why our feet hurt so much by the end of the day. Even though we had a subway card, Siri told us we walked 12 miles that day. When the evening came, we decided we needed sleep after all that walking, so instead of seeing a bit of London at night we went back to our hotel and were in bed by 11pm. Such fun college students we are!

The next day involved much less walking- only five miles this time! We went to Camden Market and just walked around. It was an assortment of cool shops and artwork. Then there were the food stands that shoved their free samples in our face to try and get us to buy something which only filled me with overwhelming anxiety; however, the day was finished with a relaxing evening at the theater. According to our research, which consisted of Google, we learned that NYC and London had some of the best theater in the world, so we bought tickets to see the Lion King. I can confidently say that it was one of those instances where Google was right.

The Market.

The Market.

The show was amazing: the costumes, the music, the acting! Dana left with a feeling of contentment and I left with the tune of Hakuna Matata stuck in my head. It was a great way to finish our trip.

Sitting on the train on our way back to Metz, France, Dana, the person who doesn’t get excited by much, had a huge smile across her face. “I loved London,” she said. “I’m going to live there when I get older. Do you think they have jobs for chemical engineers there?”

Clearly London was a hit, and it made me happy that she loved the city just as much as I do. As we entered back into the Metz train station, the signs were now all in French, the restaurant menus, now all in French, the conversations around us, now all in French. It was time to go back to the confusing state of mental disarray, but at least we had a weekend in English. At least we had London.

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons Learned

Posted by Morgan

Each week, after my travels have occurred and my adventures have been taken, I quickly post an instagram-worthy photo to my social media account, hoping to share with family and friends the amazing time I had in some new and beautiful country. Soon after, the likes on my photos increase and the list of comments become longer. It is clear that my friends, sitting at home or taking classes, are jealous, and why wouldn’t they be? I am spending my summer traveling around Europe! But the photos do not always capture those horrible times of stress that each student has faced or the exhaustion that each student endures. Just the other night for instance, as a group of GTL students and myself waited for the bus from the Metz train station back to our dorms, my friend got pickpocketed. Her phone was stolen, and she was left in a terrible state of confusion, anger, and disarray. I am sure the photos that she will soon post of her weekend in London will make her friends envious, but little do they know the dismal end to her trip.

Along the way, I’ve learned how to manage the stress of traveling and what precautions to take. It’s not always easy, but hopefully for those that study abroad later on, they can learn from my mistakes!

Paying for things: When traveling around with friends, you often end up paying for things of theirs and vice versa. Whether it is because a restaurant will not split a check or a friend is all out of cash, it inevitably happens. At first, I tried to log all of Venmothese occurrences on my phone, but it is an unorganized and hasty method. If you want to study abroad, you need to download venmo! It has made my life so much easier. Friends can easily pay each other back within a few minutes. All you need to do is convert from euros to dollars and connect a credit card or atm card to the app. This has helped me not forget who owes who and keep myself on track for my budget.

Travel with a backpack: Do not attempt to spend a weekend traveling by train, bus, or plane with a wheely suitcase or oversized duffle. It is simply too hard, and if you are running around trying to make a train, it becomes nearly impossible to manage the trip without your arms falling off. I learned this the hard way after my trip to Germany, hiking up a mountain with a duffle threatening to break off my arms. Ever since this trip, I have used a backpack, and let me tell you, it is a decision I have never second guessed.

portable charger[1]Bringing a portable charger: If you happen to have an overseas data plan or if you only ever take pictures with your phone, these things come in handy. You would be surprised how quickly my phone has died after using gps or looking up train times. A dead phone can cause a lot of commotion if you lost a travel buddy or even if you just don’t know how to get toyour next destination. Now, I can easily pack my handy dandy portable charger in my bag and I am good to go for the rest of the day! It takes up little room and makes sure that I am not left in any sticky situations.

Airbnb: I had never used airbnb before this trip. I was used to staying in hotels with my family when we traveled or in hostels while on my high school study abroad trip. Airbnb can be good or bad. It’s usually easy and you have the added MK-Lessons1convenience of having a place all to yourself, but you might be surprised at the hidden costs. Hostels usually have soap, towels, breakfast, and are centrally located, whereas with airbnb’s this is not always the case. Just this past weekend we stayed at a vineyard in Portugal, which, while amazing, cost an arm and a leg to taxi into town. Try and budget these additions into your trip when planning.

Eurail: The Eurail is what makes everyone’s life easier at GTL. It allows you to hop on and off trains throughout Europe without the purchase of a ticket or at least at a significantly reduced price. Of course, this handy dandy travel item comes at a cost: anywhere from 500 to 1200 euros, depending on how long you plan on traveling. Two weeks? Two months? Three months? I recommend purchasing the 17 days MK-lessons2within 2 months pass. While you are at GTL for longer than 2 months, most people end up flying somewhere. My one friend purchased a very expensive 3 month unlimited pass and is now left with little money to spend on flights. Try planning your trips before hand and then deciding on which pass to purchase!

Buy a lock for valuables: This comes in handy if you plan on staying at hostels. While hostels are safe, it is still always a good idea to take that extra precaution and lock up your things when you are sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. The hostel will usually provide you with a cubby to lock up your things, but if you want to save a few dollars instead of renting a lock, bring your own! When I stayed in a hostel, I accidentally left my wallet sitting out for a few hours. Thank goodness my roommates were kind and honest people, but I was definitely left in a state of panic when I arrived back and noticed I had left my valuables out in the open.
While these are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned to manage the stresses of traveling, I’ve also had to learn to expect the unexpected sometimes. Not everything goes perfectly when you are traveling. I assure you that every GTL student here has had some major fiasco occur, whether it was a medical problem, a stolen item, a missed train, anything! Our amazing photos don’t always capture these occurrences, and from the outside everything probably seems perfect. Meanwhile, we are dealing with problems like a stolen phone. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The stresses, the trials, the tribulations, have all been worth it, and I am sure each student at GTL would agree.

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