To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Quinnell Smith

I Just Fell in Love with the City of Love

A couple of weekends ago, I had one of the best weekends of my entire life. It still does not seem real that I visited Paris, France! I was finally able to check this off my bucket list – I always dreamed of going here since I was six years old. Thankfully, Paris certainly did not disappoint.

My first weekend travel was nothing short of great and relaxing. While my week at GTL is usually filled with homework, studying, and trying to eat decent meals; stepping off the Eurail train in Paris completely washed out any negative emotion I may have felt. Flowing into the rush of hundreds of people walking to catch the metro, I ordered my one way tickets to the metro for my stay in Paris. Once my friend and I made to where we were staying, dropped off our bags, and ate lunch at a local café, we headed to the most well-known and must see attractions in Paris, the Eiffel Tower.

The anticipation as we made our way from the metro and saw it ascending towards the sky from a distant had us screeching with excitement as our inner younger selves started to come out. As we got closer to the Eiffel Tower, it grew larger and larger as it filled the center of the city. It was so beautiful that words could not even describe its intricate steel frame-work surrounded by photographers, tourists, people blowing bubbles for kids, and smiling faces from all around the world. I was able to take a ton of pictures and get a better idea of just how big the Eiffel Tower was by taking flights of stairs up to the top. For 5 euros, I was able to walk up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower! You may think that the second level doesn’t sound like much, however, the tower is massive. Massive. I think that walk up flight after flight of stairs consisted of my entire workout for the week. It may be stereotypical and tourist-y, but climbing up the Eiffel Tower and seeing that view is something I would highly recommend for anyone to do if they visit Paris.

To continue our adventures in Paris, we walked around the first day with nothing other designs or plans in our minds. We were just walking around on the streets, people watching, and going into local stores. Being the over-planner that I usually am when it comes to traveling, it was nice to not have a concrete plan for the day as it made the experience more fun, carefree, and memorable. As a result of our wandering, we were able to see the Arc de Triomphe, eat at a local pizza place, see the Hotel de Plaza, and pass by many bakeries. To end the night, I was able to sit in the chilly night air at the top of a boat, as we took a river cruise through Paris passing many of the famous, historical landmarks. The most interesting part of this river boat cruise to me aside from the landmarks was seeing: the restaurants in boats, a dance festival, and the local college crowd leisurely hanging out along the river.

The next day, we were able to visit the Louvre for free, see the Mona Lisa, go shopping in Paris, visit the Notre Dame, and eat the best crêpe I ever had in my entire life! I truly fell in love with Paris when I visited, and would definitely be visiting there many more times to come. French culture is something I am coming to appreciate more and more. The way people interact with one another in France, take their time throughout the day, and gleam with happiness makes me love the country even more.

From Morocco to Metz: Bennis’ Story

I met Bennis Mamoun the first week being at Georgia Tech Lorraine. I remember walking up to him and his friends to introduce myself. Upon meeting him, I found out he is from Morocco! That moment, I realized that not only was I studying in France with students from the Atlanta campus, but I was also studying with other students from all around the world that are at GTL for the same purpose I am.

Bennis, who goes by Ben, is from Morocco and completed his undergraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at the Université Internationale de Rabat. Even though Ben is from Morocco, this is not his first time in France; he previously came to France as a tourist traveling to a couple cities – one of which being Paris. In comparison to being a tourist, he says that his experience of living in Metz has been great (and less expensive).

When it comes to being away from his family back in Morocco, Ben says he feels comfortable as he is used to being away from his family for school due to his previous university being in a different city. Aside from the different cultures between Morocco and France, he has been pleasantly surprised to see how well organized everything is especially when it comes to the school and transportation systems of France. His adjustment to life in Metz has been great, except when it comes to the shift of his meals to consisting mostly of bread, croissants, and delicious chocolate.

At Georgia Tech Lorraine, Ben is pursuing his master’s in mechanical engineering. Even though he is not doing research at the moment, he hopes to begin his research next semester under a mentor. When it comes to future plans for his career, he is very open to see where his career will go. Having his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, Ben realizes the broad and significant number of opportunities he will have in the future. When I asked him what made him decide on getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, he said “It gives you enough tools to work in every other industry.” Long term, he hopes to one day live and work in Europe, and to have an internship experience to discover his interests before completing his master’s degree.

While Ben continues to pursue his asters, he hopes to have some new fun experiences along the way. This semester at GTL, he looks forward to planning a skiing trip, as that is something he has never done. Something many people do not know about Bennis is that he has been to four countries, loves cats, and is a “meme addict” – and for those who do not know what a meme is, it is a picture that has a funny caption on it. He says they make his day just a little brighter. Aside from reading memes, he enjoys watching TV series and playing video games such as League of Legends in his spare time. Best of wishes to Ben in the future as he work toward his master’s in mechanical engineering, try skiing for the first time, and continues laughing at funny memes!

Metz is an Underrated City and Here’s Why

Before coming to Georgia Tech Lorraine, I heard of other classmates’ experiences and would see all of their lavish travel pictures on their Instagram feeds. I was always in awe to see how students were able to travel to so many different countries in a short period of time while studying as well because of our central location to many major cities in Europe. While I would hear about the coursework, traveling Europe, and funny memories, the stories lacked details about the city whose downtown center I would be less than 20 minutes from: Metz, France.

The Mirabelle festival parade

After completing classes on Friday of the first week, a group of fellow classmates and myself went into the city at night to watch the constellation show on the cathedral. We also toured the city the next day, eating in a local café, shopping, visiting the French market, walking through the cathedral, and visiting the Museum of La Cour d’Or. To conclude the first weekend adventures, I was able to see the traditional Mirabelle Festival Parade that rolls through the center of the city every year. People were crammed in the streets standing on their toes to see the parade, soulful jazz music from saxophones filling the air and colorful floats rolling by. As

A concert for the Mirabelle festival

the Mirabelle Festival was coming to an end in Metz, I was also able to see hot air balloons rising high in the sky from the view of my dorm window.

Last week, I was also able to learn even more about Metz and its neighboring cities during a speech from the President of the local government and a visit around Moselle with this semester’s Georgia Tech Lorraine class. On the tour for GTL, I was able to go to the Museum of the War of 1870 and Annexation. While visiting the museum, I was able to better understand Moselle and the German influences that still exist in Metz today!

The Cathedral of Metz

From touring the city and experiencing the jaw-dropping constellation show and parade, I can truly say that Metz is a beautiful, unique city to be in. Walking along the streets you can see the history and growth in the architecture, the peace and happiness in the air and locals’ mannerisms, and the fascinating history in the museums and artifacts. From the few days that I was able to walk through the city, I was able to appreciate more where Georgia Tech Lorraine is located.

Overall, I am truly in awe at how beautiful and historical Metz is: from the museums and architecture to watching the skills of a baker or musician while roaming through the city. From my experiences, I can say that Metz is underrated; it does not get the credit and exposure that it deserves. It is truly a beautiful, friendly, art-loving, cultural city. While it is not a typical tourist city, it is beautiful to observe a more local life of France, and gain better knowledge on French history and culture.

Getting to GTL and an Electrifying Culture Shock

A Week Before Leaving for GTL

Orientation day at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

As I began getting ready for my semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was overcome by a wave of emotions. I felt ecstatic, nervous, upset about being away from my family, and proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone to study abroad all at the same time. About a week before I left for GTL, I entered what I would call a phase of “extensive research.”

During my time of extensive research, I watched YouTube videos on what to wear in France to blend in with the locals and everyday French customs; went shopping for a more neutral, minimalist wardrobe; and gathered advice from female solo travelers and young students on the best ways to safely travel abroad. This research was a result of my nervousness: by doing this, I felt ready and more comfortable with what to expect while traveling in Europe and living in Metz, France.

As the days began to wind down and I got closer and closer to leaving, my nerves and excitement started to kick in even more. This semester is my first time going overseas; I had no idea of what to expect besides from what I could learn online. This program has provided me with the opportunity to be the first in my immediate family to ever travel and study abroad. Saying this, the last few days were not only nerve-wracking for me, but also for my family.

The last three days before I left, I spent time with family and friends by going out to eat, binge watching tv shows and shopping with my mother, and watching the exhilarating, well executed Mission: Impossible – Fallout with my father in theatres. While I do travel and am away from home due to internships and school often, this experience of studying abroad is slightly out of my comfort zone. This is truly an experience that I am ready to fully immerse myself in every day.

First Week At GTL

Leaving for GTL.

Being at Georgia Tech Lorraine for the first week, my experience thus far has already taught me some lessons and has me eager to learn the mechanical engineering coursework to come. Stepping off the plane in Paris the first day, I was exhausted. I was not expecting my flight to be so long and turbulence-filled. I remember an hour before my plane landed in Paris, I awakened from my 2 hour nap to look at my flight attendant with my sleep eye mask still on my face, as she placed my prepackaged breakfast on the plastic tray in front of me.

As a group of Georgia Tech students and myself made it to our meeting spot at the Paris airport, I collapsed on the ground and patiently waited for the shuttle. On the shuttle to Metz, I had the best sleep I had in 24 hours. The first day, many of the students and myself worked on cleaning our rooms and getting rest to start the next day off the right way, as day 2 would be orientation.

On day 2, everyone went to orientation with bright smiles and excitement in our trot. We took a tour of the Georgia Tech Lorraine building, grabbed leftover items from previous students, and went to class and an after-party. This day, I also truly experienced culture shock for the first time in France. After digging around the leftover items from previous GTL students for appliances and toilet paper like my life depended on it, I had my first French food ordering experience all by myself!

I ordered a sandwich and a Coke from a restaurant on the corner near the Lafayette dorms. The fun part about all this is that I don’t even really like Coke, and I had no idea what sandwich I ordered until I took a bite into it. The reason this happened is because I hardly know any French besides the basic greetings, and the woman who took my order did not know much English. The sandwich actually tasted very good as it had chicken and cheese stuffed in the bread! When I left the restaurant, I was not upset that the woman did not know what I was saying. Yet I realized how ignorant I am to the French culture and that in order to survive and be more respectful to other cultures, I needed to quickly learn some French. After all, I am in France!

Daily walk to class at the GTL campus.

Overall, the first week mainly consisted of getting settled in the dorms, grocery shopping, attending classes, and making weekend plans to see Metz. Already I have learned a few lessons such as: French greetings, how to navigate the GTL campus, and to never again try to carry two 30-pound bags from the grocery store for a mile to the dorms. Regardless of the jet lag and new cultural immersion, in the words of Annie, “I think I’m gonna like it here!”

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