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Category: Academics (Page 2 of 2)

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.

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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.”

 

On to the Next Adventure!

Time is a lot like looking at a map: the drive was hours long, but on the veined paper, all the ground you’ve covered amounts to a grand total of 3 inches. Looking back at this semester is a lot like a map of the world: I’ve been a few places, done a few things, but now I’m going back to Atlanta. Life will return to normal Georgia Tech days of searching for a seat in the CULC and waiting for the blue route.

But I don’t think I’ll be the same.

The best part of Georgia Tech-Lorraine is that it presents you with a very distinct choice: you can try something new or you can stay where you are. It’s a choice we get every day, but it’s presented with more boldness here: it’s in the sound of a train on the tracks and in the conversations with friends about weekend plans. Living abroad can change a lot of things; of course, the degree of that depends on how far you delve into the lives here. The best way to do it is thrust yourself headlong into the experience.

I’ve grown up a lot this semester – and maybe you’ve seen some of that in the blogs, I’m not sure. I’ve made friendships that I’ll cherish and memories that I can revisit in times of reflection, and I’ve learned things about myself (for example, I’m better at speaking in front of people than I ever thought I was – especially if I am passionate about the topic). A huge thank you to everyone who I’ve met along the way, and all those with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working.

This semester has been life-changing for me – on the same level of sliced bread, I’d say. In all the conversations I’ve had with friends and peers, that’s a common descriptor of our time here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine: life-changing. Sometimes it takes a change of frame to see the picture in a different way, and Georgia Tech-Lorraine is just the frame I needed.

Thanks for sticking with me through the semester. I wish you all the best!

Brussels and Perspective on the European Union

Posted by Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field Trip Chronicles: La Grange aux Pains

This past weekend my History & Sociology class took a special field trip to La Grange aux Pains. La Grange aux Pains is a boulangerie and pâtisserie located in Montigny-les-Metz, France, owned by husband and wife Priscilla and Rémi Pruvost. The bakery has achieved tremendous success since its opening in 2009, and is frequented by local and loyal customers from surrounding areas. It is the ideal spot for one craving a fresh baguette or pastry on their way to work. La Grange aux Pains is recognized as a boulangerie and pâttiserie because each day, everything item is baked fresh, (Fun fact: Large bakery enterprises such as Paul cannot call themselves a boulangerie or pâttiserie for this very reason), from chocolate covered croissants to curry chicken paninis to mini beignets. And that’s what makes La Grange aux Pains all the more special.

Our trip began with a detailed tour of the facility. Priscilla led us to the back room of the bakery, where they receive daily shipments of ingredients and supplies. Next, we entered the main baking room, where all of the magic happens. We watched as two apprentices prepared croissants from scratch, folding triangular pieces of dough into perfect half-crescent moon shapes. Granted, all of our mouths were watering at this point, and our tour had just begun. Next we were shown the different pieces of machinery used in the baking process. A giant 3-level oven took up a large portion of the room. Priscilla and Rémi use the oven to bake baguettes, bagels, and other various forms of bread. Other machines in the room included a spiral mixer in the corner, along with a dough cutter and a baguette moulder placed along a table. These machines, now used frequently to help speed up production, did not exist some time ago. French bakers hand-crafted their bread and pastries with art and precision, often beginning the baking process at early and odd hours. Modern machinery has since replaced the need for so much manual labor. However, it is still necessary that skilled bakers like Priscilla and Rémi are present. For example, water temperature is an extremely important factor to consider when baking bread, as it can affect bread consistency and size. Often times, a baker is needed to go outside and get a feel for the weather. Depending on whether it’s hot, rainy, or cold, the baker will then adjust the water temperature accordingly. This is certainly not, and may never be, a job for an industrial machine.

Next, Priscilla led the group to a smaller room, where we ate samples of some of her staple bread and pastries. She pointed out the key differences in two of the baguettes she served us, regarding their shape, size, texture, and color. One baguette had been hand-made (formally called a banette), and the other had been made by a machine. We could barely tell the difference as Americans, but according to Priscilla, the French can point them out quite easily. After lunch at the Botanical Garden of Metz (ham sandwiches and chicken paninis prepared by none other than Priscilla), we returned to La Grange aux Pains for a special baking lesson. Yes! We got to bake our very own baguettes and bagels from scratch! Each of us found a spot alongside a long, wooden table, fresh dough in hand, and watched Priscilla and Rémi as they gave step-by step instructions on to how to shape our soon-to-be bread. The best part? We got to take everything we baked home with us! And to top off an already wonderful baking experience, Priscilla gave each of us a parting gift: a loaf of sweet bread topped with tiny white chocolate chips.

I’ve been on some pretty cool field trips in life, but I have to say, my experience at La Grange aux Pains takes the cake (pun intended). How many students can say they baked fresh bread, under the instruction of two highly-skilled French bakers, at an authentic boulangerie and pâtteserie this semester? Only fifteen, and I’m so thankful I was one of them! 

 

Portes Ouvertes & Open Minds

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Posted by Julie

Welcome to la France: where there are some things that are really different (baguettes for days –literally), and some that are quite similar (so many corny advertisements) to the United States. No, everyone doesn’t walk around in black and white stripes with a cigarette in one hand and a baguette in the other, though everyone seems to be pretty stylin’.

This weekend was Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s “Portes Ouvertes,” which translates literally to “Open Doors.” This annual two-day event revolves around community involvement and advertisement, and I was so lucky to volunteer to talk to students from middle school age up to high school age. Not only was this eye-opening culturally, but it was so much fun just to talk to some of the students.

Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten to know a bit more about one more difference, through both Portes Ouvertes and the French graduate students I’ve met on campus and in my computer science class. It’s a big one, and maybe one you wouldn’t expect: their education system. Maybe you already know that their college doesn’t cost nearly as much as in the States, but there are reasons for that. (Also, “collège” en français is the equivalent of middle school, just so you know. I learned that a while ago in French class, though, so thanks Prof!)

However, the organization and perception of the education system varies quite a bit. For example, once students hit lycée (high school), they choose a concentration of studies. Now, I don’t know about you, but I got questions for years up until applying for college about what I wanted to do, and I didn’t have a clue, – I ended up changing last minute to Industrial Engineering at FASET orientation – so the prospect of that scares the color out of me.

Their entrance exam is rough: le BAC, an abbreviation for “le Baccalauréat,” is basically the equivalent of our SAT’s or ACT’s – except more difficult and competitive. They prepare for it throughout high school, and receive notice as to whether they can attend college (referred to as l‘université here). According to my study abroad advisors, their université focuses on intensive studies initially, then application projects in later years, unlike at Georgia Tech, where we get hands-on in our material in many classes.

However, the emphasis we see on Tech campus for job experience? Not so prevalent here. In fact, my friend Taha told me that when applying for a job, the question asked isn’t “What experience do you have?” but “How many diplomas do you have?” Therefore, graduate studies are commonplace, whereas I could probably enter the workforce with my co-op experience and Bachelor’s.

graduation-bioinfo

Photo courtesy of bioinformatics.gatech.edu.

The approach to education and experience varies much more than I ever thought, but I couldn’t say if one is better than the other. It seems to me that everyone is happy – it’s just another cultural difference; it’s what they do here. I never would have learned that without volunteering with my peers for Portes Ouvertes, or taking this computer science class that makes me just slightly nervous (in a good way – I’m ready to learn at an exponential rate).

Some advice: there’s no shame in staying home from the grand travels everyone has planned. Even when staying in Metz on the weekend, there are things to learn; even when you’re at home, there are things to learn – it’s just a matter of what you do.

Connecting the New & Old with Innovation

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The Roman Baths in Trier, Germany.

Posted by Julie

Saturday morning began my first weekend travels while on board at Georgia Tech-Lorraine with a scheduled trip for my International Affairs class. Let me assure you, however, that despite not choosing the destination myself, I certainly enjoyed the destination: Trier, Germany. This oldest city in Germany hosts many other places – from basilicas to bridges to Roman baths – all a boasting part of the same epithet “the oldest.” It seems that everything in Trier is Europe’s oldest!

Yes, everything we saw was thousands of years old, but we connected with it because we as engineers build and sustain a lifestyle through that which we build, similar to the Romans and their aqueducts and baths. The preservation and history at the first layers of the city amaze me, and the more modern pieces sprung up around the centerpieces of a former culture. If anything, I think that shows that the plan of a Roman city is as useful and applicable to our needs today as they were in 300 AD.

The International Affairs class I am taking focuses on the European Union and its politics, and this visit to Roman ruins and the city built from them were meant to connect the past to the present to promote understanding of what the EU is as what it is remains under debate. By the comparison and contrast of these enormous powers and organizations, we start to draw lines between the two – lines which lend themselves to the definition of the European Union as well.

The European Union has always been this organization blooming on the other side of the ocean, unifying countries I’d only heard of in my history classes and shaping an entire continent. I knew little about it, except that I liked its initiatives, and it had many similar complaints lodged against it as the United States’ government. Now, the lettering in textbooks is morphing into a livelihood and culture.

Through this voyage, we learned a lot about what the EU is as a system of organization and legislation, but were able to see its effects in just our travels to Trier alone. We crossed the borders of three countries within a two hour bus ride without stopping for passport checks or border control. In fact, the border control checkpoints were almost all torn down – and the only one we saw was in the process of destruction! (I think the fact that we had visited three countries in two hours was a bit dizzying for me, as I would have to drive probably about a day or more to leave the United States from my home.) For our traditional German lunch of sauerkraut, bratwurst, and potato dumplings, we were able to pay with the same money we used in our home base of Metz.

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Notifications from my friend’s phone company of changes in service country.

The ease of travel and experience was a beautiful benefit to the legislation brought into effect by the European Union, but we discussed the drawbacks as well. These drawbacks were seen in recent days, too, and are under fire due to happenings such as the Paris attacks. It was interesting to know that there is such a dramatic difference between the sides of this Euro coin.

On a serious note, this is also my plug for how beneficial traveling can be in terms of education and understanding of other cultures, lives, and viewpoints. Travel can not only be a wonderfully personal experience of something new, but also something so touching as interacting with someone else who lives and breathes a life and language different than one’s own is absolutely unforgettable.

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