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Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Academics (Page 2 of 3)

I Want a BMW

Posted by Harry

Photo courtesy of BMW.

(Harry’s personal view on the “A VIP Experience of German Engineering” piece)

Sometime down the line in our future, we will be faced with a decision of buying a car. Now I don’t know about you, I find this really exciting, yet nerve-racking at the same time. We need to find one that fits both our needs and price. For me, that’s probably going to be anywhere between a Lamborghni and Ferrari (jokes). In addition, I think we’d all like a luxury car at some point. I didn’t know what I want, but I think after this class field trip to the BMW Headquarters, the choice is a little clearer.

I’m enrolled in a class called Society and Technology in a Modern World: Regions of Europe (a.k.a. HTS 2100). This class gives me a little break from all those engineering courses I’m enrolled in and takes me and others to cool site visits of particular industries. This past field trip was to the BMW headquarters in Munich, as part of the automobile industry. We started with an introduction to industrial engineering and technological innovations at BMW: they’re not only coming up with new designs and concepts to make their products better, but also making the process more efficient and safer for the workers. After a nice lunch that consisted of a couscous salad, sautéed vegetables, pan-seared duck and noodles, and dessert (the details of the lunch are critical to the story), we headed off to take a tour of the plant.

Now unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside of the plant due to privacy but what I saw in there pretty much blew my mind. A lot of work is done by robots, and these robots were big, powerful, and extremely precise. Some of the small, detail oriented work you’d expect a human to do was actually done by some of these amazing robots. Our tour guide also gave us some neat information, such as:

• About 1000 cars are produced in the Munich plant PER DAY
• Of those cars produced, two-thirds are actually custom ordered and the last third is sent off to standard dealers.
• To make another statement on the individuality of cars, it’s highly unlikely that out of all the cars that the Munich plant produces in a year, two cars will be alike just due to the sheer combination and consumer needs.
• A lot of other cool information.

Another unfortunate fact is that we were unable to go to test out some of these sweet rides because the test track was somewhere else. Still, to see the process from beginning to end where a big heap of materials turns into a luxurious vehicle was incredible. There’s just something about seeing a product being made and the work that goes into it makes it that much more attractive.

The BWM i8. Photo courtesy of BMW.

If you’re ever in Munich, I would highly recommend checking out the headquarters as you can not only tour the plant, but also visit the BMW Museum and the “Welt”. Otherwise than that, I would also recommend taking the HTS 2100 class for future GTL-ers if you’re interested in taking visits to some awesome sites such as this one.

A VIP Experience of German Engineering

Hey, there, everyone! Our bloggers, Harry and James, are enjoying a much-needed fall break this week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool things going on at GTL!

These GTL students got treated to an extra special tour of BMW.

This particular adventure has been in the works since spring 2014. As you may know, GTL has pioneered some fantastic, excursion-supplemented courses over its 25 years in France, including INTA 2221: Politics in the EU: Metz as a Gateway for understanding France and Europe Today (taught by Dr. Birchfield and Professor Serafin), and HTS: Technology and Society (taught by Dr. Stoneman).  These tie in the studies of the area with field trips to sites specifically related to topics discussed in class.

Visiting BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Visiting BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Well, on Friday, October 14th, 2016 – two years after the incipience of the idea – a small group of GTL students in this fall’s HTS 2100 course, which aims to demonstrate how the relationship between technology and culture has changed in the modern age, ventured to the BMW headquarters in Munich. Mr. Frank Woellecke and his team at BMW put together a “BMW Exploration Day” for the students, which included professional seminars, a VIP plant tour, an HR talk on internships and employment opportunities, and a closing workshop, as well as lunch and refreshments. The students were (understandably) impressed – one even describing it as the highlight of her time in Europe.

All smiles after that awesome experience!

And so, even with all of the amazing opportunities just by being in Europe, we can definitely add this to the list of experiences classified under “only at GTL!”

 

One Month In

Posted by James

One month into our studies here at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and already life has changed. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about just this.

He said, “What do you miss most about home?” And for the longest time I couldn’t think of an answer. It took me two days to finally produce something tangible. The reason for such a time lapse is based on how I’ve approached this study abroad. As in earlier blog posts, the advice I’ve gathered from others or given myself has to do with being open minded. As Americans we tend to believe our way of doing this is better than other countries. Not the case, for many things.

For instance, today I went on a tour of our local superstore CORA. Harry has already written about its marvelous wonders. The importance of this tour was that it was given by our French professor. She explained to us the ins and outs of how local French people shop. As we were leaving one aisle she stated, “Real quick, I want to show you all the sweets before we end class for the day!” Instantly I was thinking of chocolate and ice cream, my common comfort foods, but she showed us “petit Suisse” or little Swiss, a dairy-based product that most French people eat with sugar. This is just one of the many things that is different between French and American culture. So one month in, I’ve been soaking it all in, thinking and observing all the minute differences: the fact that Europeans only seem to drive hatchbacks, that French people eat bread with every meal, the different attitudes people give you when you approach them in their native language, how Europeans do their shopping daily, and that soccer is ingrained in everyone on this continent, and more. The list goes on and on for differences in terms of culture and ways of living.

In terms of academia there is also a large difference between the teaching dynamic here at Georgia Tech Lorraine and of the teaching in Atlanta. In Atlanta, class sizes are usually much larger even for selective classes in selective majors. The maximum number of students living here at GTL this semester is slightly under 200. Due to the much smaller class sizes, classes seem to be more intimate. The professors will tell jokes to lighten the moods during difficult lectures. Professors also pay more attention to the individual then in Atlanta, and the class size allows for this to happen. I find myself having one on one conversations with my professors on an almost daily basis. Here, the emphasis is on learning the material. To quote my AE professor Dr. Zaid, “we want to make sure you understand the concepts first, the big ideas!”

In closing, some more advice. These last weeks have flown by, mainly because I was paying attention to them. If you open up to the differences and accept them you will see the joy it can cause. Everything is a new experience, which is very rare for anyone over 5 years old. Every day I wake up not knowing what part of my day will be filled with amazing adventure. However, I know it is bound to happen. This is the beauty of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a foreign environment.

 

The Student Lounge

Posted by Harry

Panorama of the student lounge.

One of my favorite places to be is the student lounge. If I had to find the “heart” of Georgia Tech Lorraine, it’d be here. This is where all the students (both undergrad and graduate) come to do a variety of things. GTL has always been known to be a “community,” and this is a huge contributing factor. From morning until night, this place is always bustling with people.
Located conveniently on the first floor (in France, this is actually the 0th floor, known as rez-de-chaussée) right past the front door, it’s easily accessible to all. Here, you can meet all the wonderful cohorts that are on this adventure together. Whether it’s talking about what happened the past weekend or what you’re going to do the next weekend, no one is a stranger here. Sharing and hearing experiences of others has been very fulfilling and rewarding and gives me a place to add to my bucket list!
There’s also quite the academic side to this room as well. There’s a plethora of desks and chairs on wheels to (1) make a custom desk set-up (2) move to a custom location of choice (3) super tables for group work sessions (4) any other fun things you wish to do with desks and and chairs on wheels. Computers with various software are also made to accommodate our academic needs.
Finally, my personal favorite aspect is the ping pong table and pool table. It’s a wonderful way to let some competitive energy out and take a nice break from the hard work that we put in during the day.
Come one, come all! There’s a place at the student lounge for everyone!

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. 

 

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.

The Best Study Spots at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Having just completed hell-week, the most tumultuous, tiring, tear jerking time next to finals week, I have discovered a few of the best places to study. Here they are!

Studying in the lounge

Studying in the lounge

The Student Lounge: The equivalent of the culc, if you are looking for a convenient place to casually work in between classes this is the place! While there is no starbucks or gorgeous views of Atlanta, there are some comfy couches and a coffee and vending machine. Plus, it is a great place to run into people and say hi!

 

The Lake: On those rare days that it is not raining, this is the most tranquil and beautiful place to study. The campanile pales in comparison. Take your notes with you and sit on a bench or lie under a tree! There is no better spot!

Studying by the lake

Studying by the lake

 

An Abandoned Class-Room: If you want some peace in quiet in a central location, this is the way to go. It’s kind of like the equivalent to our library or a study room. At the end of your day you can meet up with a classmate and go over work in a quiet and peaceful place. Since classes tend to die down around 5 pm you can usually find an empty classroom around then. No long distance walking to dorms is necessary!

 

Dorm room kitchen

Dorm room kitchen

The Kitchen: The kitchen has been my favorite place to work on CS hw. I can pull out my laptop and spend an hour or two with friends writing some code. We don’t have to worry about disrupting other people, and the best part, we can cook and eat dinner while we work! Multitasking is key if you want to be a true Tech student!

 

Your Dorm: This is the best place for people who like to work late into the night. The GTL building is not the culc, open 24 hours a day. Because most people at GTL have their own rooms, working in your dorm with your light on at 1 am is an viable option. While I don’t find it to be the most enjoyable atmosphere, it is the best place for me to knock out some work!

Dorm room

Dorm room

These are the places I study at most often! Believe me, you will study on this study abroad, so find the right place for you so that you make the most of this experience!

One Room Schoolhouse

When I started looking at colleges in high school, the one thing I knew that I wanted was a large school, a school so large that I could easily meet someone new every day of class. Georgia Tech proved to be a nice compromise to this desire with a student body of around 15,000. Having recently completed my freshman year at Georgia Tech I can honestly say that the classes, the people, even the professors in the large lecture halls were exactly what I wanted. Then came GTL, where the class sizes quickly drop from 250 to 20 students, the office hours are held by request instead of daily, and the TA’s are non-existent.

MK4_1

Walking into the GTL building, you realize the sheer meagerness in size. It is not the Clough Commons where your legs tire from walking in search of your classroom. The entire campus is made up of one building. There are only about 10 classrooms, each colored coded instead of listed by room number. Instead of huge projector screens that span across the walls, there is one small screen at the front of the room. Add the fact that there is only one outlet in every room instead of a personal outlet rooted into your desk and it makes me feel like I am in a one room schoolhouse.  I did not think I would particularly enjoy this small environment of learning, yet GTL classes have given me a positive, new perspective for my education.

MK4_2

There is a personal feel to it. For example, my computer science class has only about 20 students or so and one professor. The usual size for this class is closer to 150 students, but our small class size allows us to have a one-on-one relationship with the professor. The ability of our professor to ask us our opinions on tests and quizzes and then give feedback right away would have been impossible in Atlanta. Students can also ask in-depth questions, hold conversations such as “what works better, the enumerate function or a for loop?,” and can even take the time to learn more details about the professor on a personal level. I have learned, for instance, that Professor Simpkins is afraid of heights but used to be in the air force.

In short, my classes have a calmer more personal atmosphere, but I am still able to “enjoy” the rigors of sitting down and debugging some code with friends after class. With one building for a campus, we students get an idea of what a small college feel is like. While it might not be the hustle-bustle of Georgia Tech Atlanta, it is still a stimulating environment that we enjoying coming to, even if it is at 8:30 in the morning.

Time Management

Posted by Morgan

“There are never enough hours in the day”

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL)

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL)

My mom always told me this as she attended my soccer games, cooked my sister and I dinner, spent the day coding at her job, attended my band concerts, picked me up from field hockey, sorted the junk mail, cleaned the house, and helped me with my homework. As a child, I did not understand this statement, but as a student at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I could not hear her any more clearly.

Packing your weekends with sightseeing, train rides, 12 mile walks through the city, and a few hours of sleep is tiring. When the school week finally returns and your back at GTL, you want nothing more than to collapse in your dorm room and sleep. But, being Tech students, we don’t really have that option. The classes are hard and while the professors are understanding, the pace is still fast. As a result, I have had to learn how to manage my time efficiently.

While this was a skill I learned my freshman year of college, the rules are different here at GTL. Instead of balancing school, social life and sleep, you must balance travel, social life, school and sleep. I’ve learned a little bit along the way though that I think has helped.

  • Study Groups: Even if you don’t know anyone in your class at GTL, the class sizes are small, so you have to just grab someone and ask them to study with you. It reduces the time you spend mulling over problems and actually helps you learn the concepts better.
  • Office Hours: Yes we have these in Atlanta too, but often times you can get more one on one time with your professor. You can ask them to explain a concept or work through a detailed problem with you. They are the equivalent of your TA now.
  • Studying on the Train: When I say “study on the train,” I do not mean bring your textbooks and laptop. You simply will not have the patience or time for that. Instead, pull out a few notes you think are necessary or important. Then try downloading power-point presentations onto your phone. It will save you space and time.
  • Sleeping on the train: Find sleep whenever you can. If you’re on a train, but wide awake and don’t want to study, close your eyes. Just do it. Even if you’re not tired now, you will be later and you will be thankful you took the time to rest on a train instead of sleeping through your travels.
  • Plan your week: Plan out your week ahead of time. If you have a test the following week but are taking a 20 hour train ride to Budapest the weekend before, you are not going to want to study that much the day you get back. Start early so that you are prepared.
  • Plan your travels: This makes life so much easier. Don’t wait until the last minute to book a train otherwise you will be standing in line forever and might not even get a ticket to your destination of choice. You should also try to book an airbnb or hostel about two weeks in advance. It greatly diminishes the time you spend searching for that perfect price. 
  • Cook with Friends: Feeding yourself in France takes a little more patience. You have to walk to the supermarket, carry all of your groceries back, and you don’t have the same resources you would back home.  Then you have to spend the time actually cooking your food. Cooking with friends though reduces the time and counts as part of your social life!

These tips and tricks have been vital to my survival here at GTL. I am still tired after a long weekend of travels, but these tips help me stay on top of my studies and still have the full GTL experience.

A Field Trip to Verdun

This past week GTL students took our first field trip of the semester. During this field trip we traveled to Verdun in northeastern France to the location of the Battle of Verdun.

For those of us not well versed in major battles that occurred during the First World War, the battle of Verdun was one of the largest battles during WWI. The battle was fought between the French and Germans from February 21 to until December 20, 1916. By the end of this battle the casualties and losses totaled nearly 500,000 on the French side and 400,000 on the German side.

One of the Verdun cemeteries outside of the Douaumont Ossuary

One of the Verdun cemeteries outside of the Douaumont Ossuary

One of our first stops was Fort Douaumont, one of the largest forts that surround the city. The majority of the fort is located underground and as we walked further into the fort the living conditions of the solders could be seen immediately. It happened to be pouring down rain the day that we visited and the rain water had sunk into the fort covering the walls and floor and lowering the temperatures.

As the tour through the fort continued the guide mentioned that this was the place where the soldiers rested for a short time before they were expected to go back out to the front lines. At each new discovery it became apparent how dedicated the soldiers were to their cause and how much they sacrificed for that cause.

After leaving the fort we drove to the Douaumont Ossuary. Throughout the ride the countryside could be seen and it still bore the results of the war. Everywhere we looked there were huge divots in the ground where shells had hit during the war. Even after a century the changes and effects of the war could still be seen on the land.

The Douaumont Ossuary is the site of the final resting place of many of the unidentified soldiers from the war. We were told about the rooms where 130,000 unidentified soldiers from both the German and French side that were located right below our feet. This Ossuary was built by Charles Ginisty, the Bishop of Verdun, from donations that he gathered to create a cemetery for the bones of the fallen, and a place for families of MIA soldiers to come mourn their loss.

At the end of this day all the GTL students walked away with a different understanding of what the war meant. Viewing the living conditions of the soldiers, the battlefields, and the cemeteries makes WWI more tangible to us. It is far different to read about the numbers and events of WWI in a textbook compared to seeing firsthand the life of a foot solider.

Shell blast holes in the countryside

Shell blast holes in the countryside

One of my fellow students put the feeling that we were all feeling, but didn’t know quite how to express, into words:

“There is nothing quite like climbing out of the damp darkness, stepping into the sun that is just breaking through the clouds that have been hanging over it since morning, and scaling steep steps up the side of the fort. Standing atop the highest point in the countryside with the wind in your hair ….and realizing you’re standing on the bones of thousands of men that never made it out.”

 

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