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A Reflection on the French SLS Program

As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently taking a class, French 3011, which allows me to be a part of the French Sciences and Sustainability program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. This has been such an incredible experience for me that I thought it would be best to devote an entire blog post to it! Initially when coming to GTL, I wasn’t anticipating taking any French classes since I haven’t taken French since junior year of high school. I was a little bit nervous at first, even just coming to France, that my French might not be at the same level that it used to be. However, after talking to Professor Ippolito, he mentioned that my level of French will probably be just fine for the class, and I felt much more confident coming in to the program.

The primary focus of French 3011 is to learn about France today, and understand the environmental, political, and societal circumstances in France today, as well as in Metz. Our class consists of in class presentations, two essays, and a final project of our choice about topics that we’ve focused on. While it is taught in French, I definitely do feel that it is at a good level for me, and if anything my French has improved exponentially being immersed and in this class. Another important aspect of this class, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is that we are able to go downtown to visit and volunteer with different associations in Metz about once a week. The nice part of this, is that other students from other classes, such as FREN 3813 or FREN 3500 (also taught by Ippolito) also can come downtown and be given the opportunity to volunteer as well. It really has made me feel more welcome at GTL, because I have been able to get to know a lot more students on our downtown visits. It also has improved my confidence in French, and visiting downtown, because I understand a lot more about the history of Metz itself.

Our downtown visits usually begin with us meeting at Place St. Jacques, and then Professor Ippolito shows us around giving us information about different histories about the architecture or how Metz came to be. Afterwards we head over to one of the associations he has selected for that day. The associations we have visited include:

  • Metz a Velo, an organization that helps people in Metz familiarize themselves with biking and fixes their bikes as well.
  • Couleurs Gaies, who provide a safe, educational space for LGBTQIA people.
  • Carrefour, who provide living and support for students as well as refugees
  • the Institut Européen d’Ecologie, who educate and promote the importance of ecology and the environment in Metz as well as hold a yearly film festival for this purpose
  • BLIIIDA, a space for upcoming startups, designers, and inventors

The fact that we are given the opportunity to get to know Metz beyond just visiting downtown or being a student at GTL is extremely rewarding and has given me a sense of community and confidence during my time abroad. I would recommend this program to anyone coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and I truly think that it sets the program apart from many study abroad programs because of the fact that you can fully immerse yourselves with local people.

Meet Sanhita: Grad Student Extraordinaire

I completely have not accepted that I will be back in the States in about a week. With all of my most recent travelling and gearing up for finals, time has flown by even faster than before. I’ve spent the last few days in Barcelona, which has been absolutely magical, but before I left I got the chance to talk to one more graduate student! Her name is Sanhita and she is completing her master’s degree at GTL in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Originally from India, Sanhita completed her undergraduate there and then decided to apply at Georgia Tech Lorraine because it is a “great school with a very high ranking and an opportunity to do two semesters in France and two in the United States, which is unheard of.” After this semester, like the other graduate students, Sanhita is doing a six month internship starting pretty immediately after this spring term ends. She hasn’t decided if she wants to work elsewhere or continue to research with the company she is planning on working with this summer. The company is an oil fields company where she will be working mostly in controls based engineering. Things like how the oil is drilled, the pressure, etc. It is definitely something that she is interested in working in the future and is also something that aligns with her past work which is why she thinks she will be a good fit for the company. When I asked about which classes she is taking, she listed autonomous robotics, network securities, non linear controls. (She let me know that “this is a really hard semester, by the way.”) Her favorite this semester has been network securities, which has been interesting for her and different than the rest. Since this semester has been rather hectic, Sanhita has had less time to travel, but mentioned that last semester she visited Switzerland and Germany which was really fun. I had a really nice time talking to Sanhita. She hasn’t been to the States before, so she’s looking forward to going to Atlanta, and I wish her all the best!

 

Meet Robert: Applying Mechanical Engineering to Medical Devices

As the semester is nearing its end, I was very thankful that I met another grad student, Robert, before I leave Metz. Robert is from Kentucky, where he completed his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and is now living in Metz where he is getting his graduate degree, also in Mechanical Engineering. Unlike some of the other grad students I’ve met, particularly the ones from France, Robert is not going back to Atlanta to study, but is rather doing a year at Georgia Tech-Lorraine (this is his second semester), and then going to a partner French school in Paris to finish off his degree as a dual masters student next semester. While he doesn’t speak much French, he is working on it and is excited to be spending his time in France. Initially he didn’t know much about Georgia Tech-Lorraine since he isn’t a Georgia Tech student, but after applying to go to Georgia Tech  as a master’s student, he learned about the feasibility and affordability of Georgia Tech Lorraine.

He felt it was “too good to be true” and didn’t want to let up such a great opportunity. I asked what his favorite class is at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and similarly to some other student’s I’ve talked to, it’s acoustics. He wasn’t anticipating it being very “applicable,” but it ended up having a lot to do with his interests in the biomedical field. Robert mentioned that he does see himself using the knowledge he is learning in this class, among others, in the future, especially because he hopes to work on medical device design. When I asked if he wants to stay in France or the States he said that staying in France would be a “cool experience,” but it really depends on what the job offers are later on. In the past, he has worked in this field at Ethicon Endo surgery in Cincinnati, where he worked on endoscopic device design. He mentions that “ever since then I’ve known that’s what I want to do and it was really enjoyable.”

For fun, Robert’s best experience has actually been at the music room at ALOES. He met some French students, formed a band with them where he plays the drums, and actually performed at a gala for a graduation. He’s also traveled quite a bit, and for spring break he visited Italy, where he went to Cinque Terre and said it was the most “beautiful scenery possible” with sensory overload. Since this is his second semester here, he’s traveled a little bit less, but this way is able to spend some weekends in Metz as well as save some money since travelling every weekend is pretty intense.

I had a wonderful time getting to know Robert and I wish him all the best with his plans for the future! I hope to meet a few more graduate students before I leave Metz, and am thankful for all of those I have met during my time here.

No “Go, Go, Go” Mindset

Hello –

So you must be thinking: you travel a lot! We get the abroad part, but are you actually studying? What goes on during the week?

That in all honesty is a fair question. While I’m usually out of town Thursday night through Sunday, I do actually spend some time in downtown Metz and stay on top of my school work. Since everyone here is in this “go, go, go” mindset of seeing everything Europe has to offer, I think that the teachers have eased up a bit here in comparison to studying in the States. I also believe that part of the lack of stress on the school front here is because aside from classes, I don’t really have the same commitments I did back in school. In Boulder I was working several jobs, a part of multiple extracurriculars, and tried to balance a way heavier class load which my classes here don’t really compare to. Don’t get me wrong, my classes are still intellectually challenging, and I have coursework and projects to complete, but I am a lot less stressed than I am when I am back home. Another nice part is that each class is only twice a week, which gives me time to do all of the other things I’ve described in past blogs.

This past week I decided it was probably in my best interest to travel less. I’ve been pretty exhausted – and so is my bank account, especially after planning and reserving everything for the month of April. Also this past week I had a fairly large portion of my CS project due, and so I spent most of Friday and Saturday working on my code. Saturday morning I was planning on taking a Flixbus to Paris but when I woke up at 6am and saw that there was a train later at night for cheap, I canceled my bus and spent the rest of the day doing homework. It was really nice because my friend Taylor stayed back in Metz most of the weekend too, so we got dinner downtown before my train left. We ate at this burrito place which was actually pretty good… nothing compared to burritos back in the States, but a good temporary replacement. The reason I went to Paris that evening was because my boyfriend Danny is on his spring break, and I was going to meet him Sunday afternoon, so I thought I’d make a little day trip out of it. I stayed in a hostel that was fairly nice, but I have never in my life experienced that much noise from other people at night. The man underneath me was snoring so loudly I thought he might die, and the girl in the bed that was connected to mine kept moving so intensely that all the beds collectively shook. It was quite challenging to stay asleep. Especially when the entire 8 person room all woke at the same time at approximately 4am and started packing up their stuff, “quietly” whispering to each other, and stomping out. I tried to sleep in since check out was at 12pm, but woke up to the cleaning ladies stripping the beds at 9am. It was a truly bizarre experience, but I hopped out of bed and made my way to a breakfast place.

After my açai bowl experience in Lisbon last week I kind of had to relive it. But the açai bowl I had in Paris was nowhere near the fresh taste or cheap price that I had had in Lisbon. Regardless, it was pretty yummy, and I headed to a nice park where I finished my book I’ve been reading and then bought some new jeans at a mall nearby. I promised myself I would finish the book before buying a new one so after some lunch (I had a burger of course, at Steak-n-shake, which I found out they have in Paris) I headed to Shakespeare and Company to buy another book. I ended up getting the book Boomerang by Michael Lewis, which is the same author as the book I had read before (Flash Boys, would recommend). Once I bought the book I grabbed some boba next door and headed to the train station where I met Danny, and we trained back home to Metz.

It was finally nice to have a laid back weekend, especially because the month of April will be very travel-heavy for me.

Love, Noa

Meet Thomas: Making the Most of Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s Master’s Program

In the midst of a very busy time for many graduate students who are preparing for exams and working on projects, I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, a French graduate student studying Mechanical Engineering. I met with Thomas in the student lounge, found him working with Sommy, another graduate student I’ve met, and stole him away for a few minutes to hear about his experience at GTL!

Thomas comes from a small city south of Paris, and before GTL he studied Mechanical Engineering at a French engineering school called UT in Troyes. This school partners with GTL so that he can do the dual-degree program similar to many other grad students I have met. Thomas explained that while this is his first semester at GTL, he will do an internship in the summer/fall and move to Atlanta in the Spring of 2020, where he plans to graduate.

After college he isn’t quite sure what field he wants to work in, but he did say he has worked in the automotive industry in past internships. This internship was done with French automotive company Renault, and while he said it was very interesting, he said that the field he works in all depends on where he ends up initially after he graduates. Thomas has been to California when he was young, but he said he would be willing to try to find work in the States or another country if it works out. Later on though, he does see himself coming back to France.

Currently he is taking linear elasticity, acoustics, a mathematics class, as well as another mechanical engineering class at GTL. His favorite is linear elasticity, because “it’s used with many things that I’ve worked in at my years at UTT.” The other thing that Thomas mentioned he really likes about being at GTL is that it’s nice to have to be in an environment where everyone speaks English. While I asked him if it’s challenging, he said it’s not too bad – that it’s just the right amount of difficulty. I am honestly always so impressed by the French graduate students because taking a technical class in a completely different language sounds so challenging but they do it without no complaints.

For fun, Thomas likes to spend time with the rest of the graduate friends and tries to organize things to do with them. Last weekend, they went to Strasbourg, which was really nice, and he has gone to Paris with some other friends. He mentioned that “for me, it’s new to have the weekend start on a Thursday, so it’s nice to organize many things to do on the weekends with the other graduate students.” It’s definitely great to see that graduate students are also able to partake in the similar experiences that us undergraduates have, such as travelling and being a part of GTL-sanctioned events.

Meeting Thomas was really nice, and I hope I get to meet a few more graduate students before this semester ends. Their experiences really makes me consider graduate school myself and inspires me a ton!

Meet Zaineb: At the Crossroads of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Another graduate student I met, this time not in my CS class, was Zaineb, who I got introduced to through Sommy, a previous grad student I interviewed! Zaineb is a mechanical engineering student with an aeronautical background. I first asked her why she chose Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and she mentioned that she initially had a chance to study in Mississippi and pursue an aerospace masters, but decided it was not interesting for her since she already has a bachelor’s in that. Georgia Tech-Lorraine, on the other hand, offers both a mechanical engineering degree with an emphasis on aerospace, so it was much better suited for her. Also, GTL allows for an international experience where she is able to meet people of all cultures, unlike in America where, well, there are definitely more Americans. The last reason she chose coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine is because Metz is so close to so many other countries like Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, which gives her so many opportunities to travel around.

Originally, Zaineb is from Morocco, where she did her undergrad in an international university that partnered with Georgia Tech-Lorraine, which is how she found out about her program here. She is on her third semester and had an internship in Paris prior to this semester doing research and development with an oil and gas company! It allowed her to develop her software and teamwork skills and get to know a diverse set of people while working on different models and simulations. Their goal was to optimize a control loop, and she would definitely be interested in going back into that field. She just wants to be in a field that she can develop her knowledge and not “stay stagnant.” Her primary goal is to not do something that is redundant and wants to be constantly doing something important.

Unlike the other graduate students I met, Zaineb will not be studying in Atlanta, since she would rather just visit there and is going to stay at Georgia Tech-Lorraine for the course of her degree. At GTL, she is taking a few mechanical engineering classes, as well as a special topics class in acoustics. After graduating from school, she would love to move to Germany, because she really wants to work on her German and thinks that they are very strong in the mechanical engineering field, and so it would be an excellent place to work. The job hunt is definitely going on right now, and she’s excited to see where she might end up!

For fun, Zaineb has been lucky to travel to Luxembourg, 5 different cities in Germany, Belgium, as well as Spain and Portugal. Her favorite has been Iceland though, because she got to see the Northern Lights almost every day and it was absolutely beautiful.

I had a really nice time chatting with Zaineb. She was so positive about her experiences at GTL and it was inspiring to see someone with so much interest and passion in her field! I hope to see her around more and am thankful again to get to meet so many graduate students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

Meet Hadrian: From MApS to Software Engineer!

This week I met the last graduate student in my Mobile Applications and Services class. This class has been super interesting and a great way to get to develop an actual application that we hope people will use. My group is doing an app that is basically an Uber for kids, and the grad student I met, Hadrien, is developing an app with his group that is promoting being environmentally friendly. The main purpose of the class isn’t only to develop the app, but make sure we have all aspects of a business/startup in place for a competition in April. Tonight I sat down with Hadrien to get to know him a little bit better!

Hadrien is from northern France, where he is doing the dual degree program with ENSEA and Georgia Tech, like many of the other graduate students I have met. He is doing an Electrical and Computer Engineering masters, and taking the MAS class, the securities class, wireless networks, as well as autonomous robotics. He plans on going to Atlanta in the spring semester of next year and is hoping to find an internship in Europe between finishing at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and starting in Atlanta. When I asked what he was interested in, he mentioned that he is mostly a “newbie” when it comes to this degree and even though he did a lot of electrical work before this in his undergrad, he is now delving into the software side of things. He is definitely curious about everything and is interested in development, which is why he is in the mobile applications class and is looking for internships in that field. Hadrien shared that his favorite class is probably securities because it is really new to him, and even if he isn’t good at it necessarily, he is excited about it.

In the past, he did internships specialized in electrical engineering, and even interned in Japan which sounded really amazing! I asked him how he got involved with that, and he mentioned he had a teacher who had told him about that opportunity. “I really wanted to go to Japan because I was really curious about the language and the culture, and to have the opportunity with my former school – I was like yes, I have to go.” Regarding what he wants to do after he graduates, he has no idea, but is really excited to study in the United States since he has never been there. He spends most of his time in Metz, and isn’t able to travel as much as he’d like, given that he works a lot – and it’s a pretty expensive hobby.

I really enjoyed meeting Hadrien and it is always great to be able to talk to people in my classes beyond just a class setting. I’m thankful that this blog allows me to do that and gives me the chance to have more meaningful conversations with other students, especially graduate students that I wouldn’t have otherwise met!

What Drives You—An Interview with Timothée Despruniee

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Timothée Despruniee about his time as a graduate student at Georgia Tech Lorraine! This is his first semester at GTL, and he’s studying mechanical engineering. He is also getting a dual degree with one of GT-Lorraine’s partner institutions ENSAM, which stands for Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers.

Tim is on the front right, and his little brother (who is also studying mechanical engineering) is to the left.

At Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Tim is taking three courses on campus and one that is online with a teacher at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus. He has a bit more additional work due to his double degree with ENSAM, the equivalent of maybe two or three added courses. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s manageable for Tim because he, like some other French students, was in the classes prépas system prior to this. This classes prépas system required 45 hours of presence in class per week, with midterms every Saturday for different courses for at least four hours—this adds up to almost 70-75 hours a week of work! About GT-Lorraine, he says, “It’s a bit difficult, but not too much because there are not so many hours of courses, you just have to work a bit when you’re home. It’s very good, but it’s not as tough for those of us who did classes prépas. We are quite comfortable here, and the teachers are very nice, so that’s pretty cool.”

     I asked him which classes he was taking at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and ENSAM, and he mentioned acoustics and continuum mechanics as some courses he was taking. About the differences between ENSAM and GTL, he said, “At ENSAM, it’s more permeable, I would say. It’s not, ‘this class is about only this and you don’t do anything else,’ it’s a bit broad. I’ve been at ENSAM for two years now and it’s always been like this: a lot of presence in class, but very broad topics. It’s not the same, but it feels refreshing to have courses here since it’s very different from what we’re used to having. It’s less volume in hours and a bit more work at home, but it’s always in the idea of mechanical engineering to conceive, to think.”

When I asked Tim what he’d like to do after he finishes his degree, he talked about “I would want to be in the automobile industry. I’m very passionate about that. Since Georgia Tech is very well known for its mechanical engineering degree, I would want to use it to be able to go to interesting firms like Ford, Tesla, stuff like that. I’m really excited about the fact that the degree is well known, that it’s recognized and that I feel it gives me a lot of tools to be able to be a better engineer in the future.” He also told me about his passion for working on cars: he has a small red car that he’s made some alterations to, and it doesn’t look it, but it can go really fast!

It was great to talk with Tim and to hear about his passion for both mechanical engineering and the automobile industry—best of luck as he finishes the rest of his time at GT-Lorraine!

The Unspoken Challenges of Studying Abroad

The glamorous side of studying abroad that most people see.

Let’s get real for a minute. Studying abroad is amazing, and the glamorous pictures shared with family and friends and on social media may make it seem like a breeze. However, there is a side of studying abroad that many people do not talk about much, and others don’t know about. The cramming in the days before the test after a weekend of travel, grinding out homeworks quickly or even not turning it in on time, and stress of planning trips and staying focused in school all at the same time. The balance is what makes studying abroad challenging at times.

I’m definitely a coffee drinker so sometimes the caffeine helps with the long study days!

Since being at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I have had my fair share of highs and lows when it comes to my school work. However, I was able to quickly learn from my mistakes, and understand what I was personally capable of being able to handle when it came to traveling and school. The purpose of studying abroad is to enjoy being abroad and make the most out of those opportunities – and to be successful in your studies. One of the biggest challenges about studying abroad is being equally committed to both throughout the semester. By being organized, keeping a schedule, working hard, and remembering to do the best I can throughout my studies I have been able to decently handle this challenge, and would like to share some things I did to do so.

A good example of what a typical Thursday night before travels looks like for me: Netflix, dinner, and homework!

When I did have some low points in semester, I realized it was because I was straying away from what works best for me when it came to studying, and was not focusing on understanding the material. During the beginning of the semester I had the mentality that as long as I finished my homeworks each week, I would be perfectly fine. However, after the first round of tests I saw where I could improve: focusing on understanding the material throughout the week, and then letting my homeworks be a way to practice. Something I would highly recommended to save you stress while cramming for a test is to understand the material as much as you can while it is being taught.

Day trips with friends means being able to study more during the weekend.

Some other things that helped me stay on track with my studies was sticking to my old study methods; I tried changing them and regretted it. Personally what works for me is writing on whiteboards my notes and problems, but I know that doesn’t help everyone. Always make sure to do things that work for you! That is key. When other people may go back to the dorms to study, eat, and nap, you may need to be in a more structured environment to study or vice versa, and know that’s perfectly okay. Some other things I recommend doing is eating healthy and decent meals, keeping a checklist or weekly plan of all the things you need to get done, and getting all homeworks and important studying completed before leaving for weekend travels.

I believe balancing school and travel while being abroad is important to have a conversation about. The challenge is a real one, and I feel often isn’t discussed among our peers either out of embarrassment or self regret. It is also important to stay in close contact with family and friends while studying abroad, not only so can discuss your travels, but also to maintain your support system. Regardless of the distance, the people you are closest to will always be there to encourage you and may even help pinpoint ways to help you do better. I know it can be easy to get sucked into the whirlwind while studying abroad, however, I realized that’s where I find my greatest comfort and motivation at times. Also, remember that others studying abroad are going through similar things; you are not alone. While you are studying and grinding out those homeworks, don’t forget to check up on your fellow classmates as well because at the end of the day that’s all we have while abroad –  each other.

Moselle Sans Limite

At the gardens they have the new logo of Moselle in the grass! (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bland)

Last week, all of us at GTL went on a field trip to the headquarters of the Department of Moselle in Metz. For other Americans such as myself who aren’t familiar with the term, a department is essentially a political/geographical unit in France that is higher up than a county but smaller than a state. Moselle is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. We were greeted with a lovely welcome from the department, with speeches from the Vice President and the President of the department to us, and also from the president of Georgia Tech Lorraine to the department officials about the great things going on at GTL! The President of Moselle didn’t speak English and had a translator relay his speech to us. It was easy to tell, even in a different language, that he was an excellent public speaker—even without understanding, I was engaged! It was interesting to listen for familiar words in French, and to try to guess which French words corresponded with the English words of the translator.

Some of the main points that I took from the departmental speeches were their words about the many wonderful aspects of Moselle, such as the culture, the food, the business, the history, and much more. They encouraged us to travel around the region and take advantage of these things during our semester in this region of France—a sentiment which, after my fantastic weekend in Metz, I wholeheartedly agreed with!

After the speeches, we moved to the eagerly anticipated and delicious lunch, which consisted of charcuterie plates covered in various meats and cheeses, breads, grapes that looked too perfect to be real (but they were!), and the regional plums, mirabelles.

After lunch, the students split into four groups to visit different sites in Moselle: Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy (Fruit Gardens), Chateau Malbrouck (Malbrouck Castle), the Maison Robert Schuman (House of Robert Schuman), and the Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation (Museum of the War of 1870 and the Annexation). Unfortunately, being in four places at once is not one of my talents, so for some of the locations I didn’t visit, I’ll relay what I’ve heard from other GTL students about their experiences.

The house of Robert Schuman, and the attached museum about his life and role in the formation of the EU.

I visited the Maison Robert Schuman, which is both the house of the French statesman Robert Schuman (not the German piano composer—his name has two n’s) and a museum about his life. He is regarded as the father of the Europe, instrumental to the formation of the European Union after World War II. We toured through his former home and watched a video about his life. When he lived there, he had owned over 8000 books! This seemed to be his only excess, for he chose to live quite simply. At the sight of a piano in his office, I wondered to myself: did Robert Schuman ever play Robert Schumann?

Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

Those who went to the war museum saw relics from the Franco-Prussian war, including uniforms and cannons. They also visited a grave where many soldiers from the war were buried, surrounded by plaques describing the losses in each battalion. The museum also holds pieces of a large panoramic painting from the war, meant to surround a room and make the viewer feel present in the scene.

Part of the panoramic painting in the Musée de la Guerre. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

The students who visited the gardens learned about many different kinds of plants and were given 3 minutes to pick as many mirabelles as they possibly could. My friend observed that if they had had as much time as they wanted to pick the fruits, she probably would have grabbed a more reasonable amount and then stopped; but the pressure of the time limit led them to frantically pick an absurd number of mirabelles! (This in turn led to us holding the Mirabelle Olympics back at Lafayette that evening, where the events included catching mirabelles in our mouths, a mirabelle beauty contest, and other equally prestigious activities.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone about the Chateau Malbrouck, but I heard that both the castle itself and the view from the walls is wonderful!

In all, our field trip through Moselle was filled with times both fun and educational, and if you’re looking for a beautiful area of France to explore that’s packed with experiences for everyone, look no further! They also have a very cool website where you can learn more, at www.mosl.fr.

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