To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Authors (Page 1 of 21)

Solo Travel: A How-To

As GTL students travel all over the continent, there may be times where someone wants to go somewhere or do something specific that absolutely no one else wants to do. If you’re one of those people, but you’re worried about traveling by yourself, have no fear! I’m here to tell you how to do it right (as I’ve come to experience) and safely.

One thing you have to keep in mind is how you appear to others. If you’re worried about getting pick-pocketed or being scammed, try not to look über-touristy. Save your fanny pack for another time and maybe zip your jacket up over your American flag t-shirt. If you’re lost, stop and find a map or look at your phone on a spot away from a street corner where you would stand out. Maybe try to go to less-touristy places instead. I mean, there’s so much to see in these incredible places you’re exploring, and especially being by yourself, you’re more likely to chat up a local in a neighborhood art gallery than in the London Eye.

I recently went to Stockholm by myself and got to enjoy a goblet of strawberries, the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had, and an overpriced – but refreshing – cucumber soda. If I had been there with anyone else I’m not sure I would’ve paid them any attention anyway.

This leads me to my next point: talk to people! Be open to it! That was very hard for me to figure out how to do, not being the most social butterfly of the bunch. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you then that’s fine, but most often people in a hostel or in a relaxed social setting will be open to conversation. Talking to other travelers is easiest, as you both might feel like outsiders, but I really urge you to try and speak with a local if you really want to get a feel for the culture you’re visiting. It’s so fascinating to me how Europeans perceive America and the contrasts between growing up in these two similar, but also incredibly different atmospheres – and without fail the young Europeans I’ve talked to feel the same.

By now you’ve probably heard earful after earful of “be wary of pick pocketing don’t put down your purse don’t stray from main roads at night,” and unfortunately I’m going to give you yet another earful, but hopefully a meaningful one. Simply be aware. That’s all. Don’t do anything that would put you in a weird situation, especially now since you can’t just call your friend over. Lie if you have to, and I mean this especially for my girls out there – if someone asks if you’re traveling alone, never ever say yes! It gives you a good escape plan with a fake call if it’s necessary, and if they end up being cool and you become lifelong friends, then they should understand your precautions.

I hope this has been helpful. I know there’s a decent number of people that I’ve overheard talking about solo travel, so if you have a friend in need then link them this tidbit right here!

Vlog 2: Luxem-Boujee

Ping Pong-athon

I am not entirely sure why, but for some reason ping pong is the most enrapturing and competitive thing to exist among Georgia Tech student activities. I witnessed this phenomenon all through the spring at GTL, in which all kinds of people – undergrad and graduate, American and French, expert and amateur, bourgeoisie and proletariat – come together over the sacred game that is ping pong.

Photo courtesy of flowperformancepsych.com.

And now it is happening again. This time with a little more gumption, I might add. A ping pong tournament has already been created, with no BDE involvement whatsoever. A fellow classmate asked me to join the roster, definitely because he didn’t want there to be any bye’s and simply needed another person, but I am determined to believe that he saw potential in my swing. Realistically, I could quite possibly be the worst person at ping pong in the entirety of the GTL student body. I can volley maybe a few times, usually hitting the tiny ball way out of bounds or sometimes at the opponent. My aim is random but hey, maybe that’s the power behind my technique…?

Photo courtesy of Imgur.

In contrast, some students have such control over the ball that they can make it go one way and when it hits the table it goes a completely different way. This is some sort of magic to me. I understand that they’re putting “spin” on the ball, it’s been explained to me 14 times, however I still just don’t truly get how in the world they do that. To get more insight on the competition, because I obviously have none, I interviewed local ping pong master, Chris Tugman.

When did you start playing ping pong?

“I played tennis as a kid, but as for ping pong I just played with some friends in high school and didn’t really play too much until I got to GTL.”

So, would you call yourself a master?

“I am beyond a master, I am the Prince of Ping Pong. The Tyrant of Table Tennis. Look out opponents.”

This is all he had to say, so I guess everyone find your partner on the roster and get ready!

Vlog 1: Lubby Goes to Metz

Making the Most Out of a Short Weekend

Europe: Is cold. This is a subjective, grammatically-incorrect statement: however, this is my blog post so I’m going to establish it as fact within the bounds of these internet margins. I’m from Charleston, South Carolina, where people wear their heaviest puffy coats when it gets to be 40 degrees. Coming to Atlanta for college even required some adjusting to, and so when I prepared for January in northern France I tried to be optimistic, thinking “Eh, there’ll be snow so the cold will be worth it.” Fast-forward to January 17th-ish, when I’ve been at GTL for almost a week, the winter-wonderland effect has worn off, and I’m looking back on December 2016 Maddy in pure, unadulterated jealousy.

Dramatics aside, the fall season doesn’t get nearly as cold. Compared to the spring when my cheeks became freezer-burned on the walk to school, a measly low of 32°F is entirely bearable. My southern disposition was scarred, though, and so I began planning my fall around minimizing the amount of time spent as a popsicle. I knew I wanted to experience the Alps in the warmest weather possible. I started researching popular day hikes near Metz, keeping in mind that the first and warmest weekend was also unfortunately shortened by a day. All of the hikes that I found were incredible, of course, but they were mostly farther than I wanted to travel. I had heard of Interlaken from my friends that did the Oxford program in the summer and thought to look it up. Turns out one of the “best hikes in the world” looms right over the incredible town of Interlaken, called the Hardergrat. I saw some photos and was hooked immediately.

I’m going to say it out loud: I am an adrenaline junkie. I love any and everything that goes fast/high, but I also do like to keep safety in mind (death prevents you from continuing to go fast/high). I am a somewhat experienced hiker, having gone to Colorado and Utah to do some pretty amazing stuff in the past, and so I felt prepared for what the Hardergrat was asking of me. Boy, was I in for a surprise. We set out early to get hiking poles and get up the mountain, taking a cog train to the Harder Kulm, a restaurant that overlooks the Interlaken valley.

We spent maybe 10 minutes here admiring the view, and then we set up to the first part of the trail: summiting Augstmatthorn. The trail up to this point was honestly one of the hardest hikes I’ve done possibly ever. It was like climbing stairs for miles, with incredible views, yes, but so SO difficult. There were some horizontal pasture areas with fields like you see in The Sound of Music, but most of it was along a densely forested uphill ridge with an incredible view of the Interlaken lakes.

After about 2-3 hours of huffing and puffing, we could finally see Augstmatthorn. Our hearts sank. Not only was it a good ways away, it looked MUCH steeper than what we’d been conquering since 9 am. We took a quick “I’m tired, but not defeated” break and started on our way.

The summit is the highest point of mountain in this photo: X for XTREME!

We maybe took oh, I don’t know, seven breaks to climb Augstmatthorn? Yeah. It was insane. Some of the stairs had the height of my legs, so I wasn’t necessarily waltzing up like my two tall marathon-running companions. In fact I was nearly

climbing. When we got to the top I collapsed, partly from exhaustion but partly from the scenery. We took in the view while I shoved a sandwich into my face as quickly as I could. You could see off both sides of the ridge we were on: to our left were beautiful pastures and farmland, while to the right were the lakes and the edge of Interlaken. You can see the glaciers and white-topped mountains in the distance: it was absolutely breathtaking.

 

At this point, we had to decide if we wanted to continue to the actual Hardergrat trail (which we hadn’t even gotten to yet), or if we wanted to make our way down. I only had a little bit of water left, and even though the Hardergrat was the reason I’d

We may have died from pure exhaustion, who knows!

chosen to come to Interlaken in the first place, we figured it was better safe than sorry. The photo on the right is the rest of the Hardergrat trail.

Going down was almost as hard as going up, simply because of how steep and slippery the eroding dirt path was. We ran into some cows, had to say hi of course- aren’t they beautiful?? I’m no cow expert but those are some good looking cows.

At the bottom was a cheese-making restaurant, in which I promptly spent ten euros on cold water without looking back. It was worth it.

Long story short: Switzerland kicked my butt, but if it hadn’t then it wouldn’t have really been Switzerland.

The Beginning: Nostalgia & Dreaming

Have you ever had a move-in day like this? A move-in day where you’re completely wiped from traveling for what feels like days and you’re not sure which way is up? A move-in day where despite the weariness your stomach is a bundle of excitement from the culture shock you’ve been anticipating for months now as you walk through the CDG (Charles de Gaulle, Paris’s main airport) terminals and see an explosion of French writing and ads? This could describe many international student’s experiences simply coming to Tech, yes, but arriving at GTL means Europe is now your oyster: this is something totally unique, and I’m so excited for others to experience this incredible opportunity! 

Coming back for my second round of GTL, I’ll admit, I wasn’t as pumped as the first time. With just a summer of office work in between 8 months of adventure, this lifestyle is my norm now. I know it won’t be this way past 2017, and I will be filled with remorse to see this chapter of my life end. However, the idea that this way of living is sustainable is just a fancy lie I like to tell myself: it’s absolutely exhausting. 

Some of you will be totally fine and take the whole continent head on, without stopping for breaks. Some of you will need some weekends in Metz to ground yourself and catch up on sleep/work. There’s no right way to do it: you do what’s best for you. I will say that I tend on the side of “no ragretz,” (translation: “no regrets”) constantly trying to push and see and experience as much as possible, but when I found myself with a stable cold for 2 months and an overdue need of a long night’s sleep, I had to slow down. Walking 10+ miles a day under those conditions is ill-advised. 

On this note, I will give some sage words of advice. Going out and clubbing can be an incredible time (I love dancing and so do Europeans). HOWEVER, if you can’t function the next day, you’re just doing a massive disservice to yourself. How are you going to explore the Churchill War Rooms if all you want to do is sleep? Granted, people come to Europe with different agendas and desires. I’m not judging them if that’s what they’re here for. But for the (I think) majority of us that truly want to experience the culture and see that museum or church we’ve always

How can you hike up 8 miles to see the entirety of Interlaken if you’re too lethargic to move??

been interested in, all I’m saying is be wise with your time as we have so little of it. 

Okay, enough mom stuff. One thing I absolutely love about GTL is that it’s kind of like the fall of freshman year, round two. Everyone is completely open to meeting each other, there’s no boundaries among friend groups yet, and the amount of times I hear “yeah I’m down, what’s your name again?” just makes me smile. 

You won’t believe how close you’ll get to your travel partners. You’ll quickly find out who takes charge, planning and navigating with an itinerary, and who likes to wander and stumble upon things as they go. Over time you’ll learn your friends’ most fundamental personality characteristics and in a variety of ways: sometimes through shouting matches over when you get lost and someone didn’t want to ask for directions (there’s always a dad), or simply ordering a meal through charades. I’m currently seriously missing my old travel group, and while I’m jealous that they’re all together back at Tech, I know I made the right choice to come back to Europe, and I’ll find a new group of my own that will be just as tight. 

 

And so on that note, GO HAVE FUN!!! WOOOO YOU’RE IN EUROPE YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!!! WITHIN THE LAWS OF PHYSICS!! 

The Final Countdown

I can’t believe that this semester is finally coming to end. What has been by far the most memorable part of my time at college is now pretty much over. The language and culture change has been hard on me, and I definitely miss the USA, but this has still been an amazing experience that I’m sure I will never forget. Last year I made an impulse decision to apply for this program, despite never really putting much thought into the prospect of traveling across the Atlantic before. Luckily for me the decision turned out be a good one, and I hope to return to Europe soon if another opportunity ever arises.

Me, eating pizza.

Despite this being finals week, I made the questionable decision to take 3 days to visit some people in Germany I had met online. That sounds even crazier when I write it out, but it really was quite amazing. Being a little bit of a nerd, I play a few online games, and by random chance in a game of DotA (a video game, the title of which is Defense of the Ancients), I met a German girl named Sara, who invited me to play with her group of friends as apparently I seemed like a “nice, normal person.” Over the next 2 months I got to know this group pretty well and spent a considerable amount of time talking over a voice chat channel and playing video games with them. As they knew my time in Europe was coming to an end soon, they invited me to come visit them in Northern Germany for a weekend, which, given my spread-out finals schedule, actually worked out. The weekend was so much fun and now I have 6 new German friends that have asked me to come visit again if I ever find myself in Europe. The one thing that I felt was missing from this semester was making close friends with some people that live here and in my very last weekend I got to do just that. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up my European experience.

A picture I took of the Eiffel Tower on my first trip.

Looking back over everything now, there were a lot of awkward moments, but also many incredible ones. Some frustration, but more delight. Despite the negatives, there is no doubt that overall this was an incredibly positive experience. The same can be said about being a blogger on this trip.

Although I sometimes dreaded writing articles every week, I am so glad I took the opportunity to write for GTL and to hopefully share some of my positive experiences with others. I really do feel like much more of a global citizen now, and that is one of the most important things I hoped to get out of this semester. Also, holy cow, the food was so good. You can’t discount the way that incredible food can improve an experience, and even my own cooking was something that I came to be very proud of by the end.

As someone who as only ever left the United States a few times, and never beyond the North American continent, I now value travel so much more than I did, and understand now how important it is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations every now and then. I have most certainly grown, both as an individual and as a member of the world’s population (but unfortunately not in height) and I am excited for what the future holds for me and everyone who has been a student here over the past 4 months.

Final Blog Post *sobs*

Well GTL, this is it. This is my last post. Amidst the impending chaos of final exams and the packing and cleaning of dorm rooms, I think it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that this is the last week we have as a group in Metz. Reflecting on my semester, it seems like only a week ago that a very jet-lagged and food-poisoned girl walked into orientation and met her professors for the first time. Now as an engineer, it is my job to provide you with the hard data results of travels.

Weekends Traveled: 15

Countries Visited: 9

Cities Visited: 20

Museums Visited: 18

Classes Taken: 4

Travel Mishaps: 8

Now, before you go making graphs, fellow engineers, I would like to share that a GTL experience cannot possibly be measured with just numbers. Not in the above statistics: The amazing lifelong friendships, the feeling of being alone in a place with a language and culture far different from your own, identifying with a city where you don’t even speak the language, and learning more about the history of the world than you have in your whole life prior to coming. This feeling of novelty, of being out of my comfort zone, and this feeling of wonder when I learn new things about the world I didn’t know before will be hard to hold onto when I go back to the US.

Now that I am done uncontrollably sobbing about going home, here is a detailed account of some of my favorite memories every weekend. Planning a trip to one of these places? Check out my favorite things!

In Heidelberg, the first city I visited, my favorite memory was standing in the Heidelberg Castle grounds, looking at the city below. I will never forget the look on my friend’s face as he looked out over the valley. It was his first time in Europe.

In Paris, I loved the Hall of Impressionists in the Musee D’Orsay. I remember the light feeling I had looking at the Degas paintings, inspired to dance and do ballet again. This is when I truly made a new friend, my fellow blogger Sam.

In Salzburg, I loved talking to the Australian guy in our hostel. He came with our group to get dinner and we learned so much about his culture, and he about ours.

In Prague, I loved going to the communist museum. Reading about the communist occupation of the Czech Republic from the perspective of someone who lived through it was truly eye-opening. It proved to me that we can’t be complacent in the world, because terrible things were happening in our parent’s lifetimes.  

In Garmisch Partenkirchen, I skied with an infinite view of the top of the world. It reminded me how small I was, and how lucky I was to experience such beautiful nature. I also got to know a really great group of people, and experience their wacky skiing mishaps with them. It really brought us together.

In Venice I loved going to the Doge’s palace. I learned about the immense wealth and power the city state had, and how much that sea-based land could be worth.

In Rome, I loved the Roman forum, standing in the footsteps of the greatest ancient civilization and realizing that our world has come a long way since Roman times. The ruins reminded me that nothing is forever.

In Florence, I learned that art is captivating, and the more life-like the painting or sculpture the more talented the artist. I also became friends with two amazing people here. (What up Bryston and Peugh!)

In Cinque Terre, I loved hiking to each of the villages. Each were unique in their own right. I felt strong and happy.

In Amsterdam, I thought the Van Gogh museum was beautiful. It reminded me that things don’t have to be exact to be beautiful, and don’t have to be completely real to make you feel.

In Berlin, I loved going on the walking tour. It showed me that my love of history doesn’t just belong to me. Looking at all of the people in my group made me realize I love this earth, and we can learn a lot from our history, good and bad.

In Krakow, I visited Auschwitz. I walked the path of the millions that were slaughtered. It reminded me that hate cannot be allowed to win, and acceptance is the only course of action.

In Munich, I loved the Deutsches Museum. It reminded me why I became an engineer, and gave me back that childlike sense of wonder for science that I had forgotten in school.

In Interlacken, I learned to push myself. I didn’t give up, and rode 28 miles on rough hilly terrain. Even though I needed to rest I pushed through and I am very proud of myself.

In Stuttgart, I visited my exchange student and attended Wasen, the big festival. I made great friends and I really felt a part of traditional German culture.

My experiences are unlike anyone else’s. They are uniquely mine, and I am infinitely lucky to have been able to experience them. So if you can, come make memories. Travel. Be outside your comfort zone. Because you will grow so much. Thank you all, and to all good night.

StrasBurke

As crazy as it feels, the semester is finally winding down, I just finished my last midterm and handed in my last assignment, so it’s just finals, finals, finals from here on out. But before I descend into the cocoon of studying, I planned a few more trips. I feel like I might be a little bit crazy, but I scheduled a trip to visit friends in northern Germany during finals, so this weekend actually constituted my second to last trip of the year. In addition, it also happened to be my birthday, so there was no way I was staying at home to study. Strasbourg is a very beautiful and bustling city right on the German border and was a wonderful birthday getaway destination.

Strasbourg Cathedral

My girlfriend and I arrived in Strasbourg on Friday night, ready for a little night-time exploring and some local food. For some reason, the area we were staying in seemed to be completely taken over by Italian-themed restaurants and since we both had not had pizza in a very long time, we caved and decided to eat at a cute little restaurant near our AirBnB. All the times I’ve previously traveled with Sarah this semester have been in German speaking countries, and as she is fluent in German, communication has never really been a problem. However, now that we decided to travel in France this time, we were faced with a harsh language barrier right off the bat. Neither of us speak French very well, and not all French speak more than one language. As such, our pizza night was quite an awkward adventure where I seemed to make a fool of myself trying and failing to speak French every time we came in contact with our waiter. Still, we made it through and had fun laughing about it afterwards, and were ready for another day of awkwardness.

On the one real day of being able to experience the city, we had a light breakfast from a bakery and decided to just walk around and see what we could see. Neither of us are really much for planning, so that seems to be how most of our trips go. Strasbourg has some really amazing architecture that includes this enormous cathedral that we even had the privilege of getting to see from the inside. For lunch, we decided on a traditional French restaurant near the city center, and I don’t know if it was because I had spent a little time brushing up on my French the night before, or more likely that since we were in the center of town the waiting staff was much more accustomed to serving non-native French speakers, but the interactions I had were overall very positive. That is until the end of the meal when I assume the server asked if we were done with our plates, and Sarah misinterpreted and responded by saying “Bien” and smiling. I laughed about that for awhile. After lunch we of course stopped for ice cream, finding a fun gelato place that shaped all their ice cream into flowers. After more walking around and such, we decided we would cook dinner ourselves, so we went to the grocery store to obtain the supplies necessary for mushroom, bacon, swiss bbq burgers. Of course the cooking didn’t quite go as well as planned, but we enjoyed attempting to make something that reminded us of home.

I’ve enjoyed traveling this semester so much, and it’s sad to see it all come to end. The countries I’ve visited – France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and more – have been truly amazing, and I can’t wait for my very last trip next week. Of course, despite all the fun this year has been, I am more than ready to go home and be able to walk into a store and talk to the clerk in English. It’s the little things that you miss when you’re away from home, but I love the little things I experience here in Europe every day just as much.

Meet Remi Gourdon: New Grad Student with New Ideas

I met with Remi right outside his robotics class. Sidestepping a moving robot as another student navigated it through the hall, we sat on the couches to talk. Remi was friendly and helpful, clearly a hard-working person. At GTL for only four months, he has been here as long as we have. He was able to give me some insight in the differences between U.S. and French education. Here are his responses to some of the questions that I asked him.
What made you want to come to GTL?
I spent a summer as a U.S. university for professional development in Ohio in a small town. I had the opportunity to come to Georgia Tech from my school, and I took it. I wanted to experience more U.S.-style education.
What is your favorite part about GTL?
I like the way the courses are taught. It is very different from French engineering school. There are a lot of projects and practical work, as opposed to lots of lectures and tests. It gives time to read books and learn material and is more interesting when you can apply the theory you learn right away.
Are you working on any research right now?
I am working on a special problem in the robotics lab. It is not what you think of when you think of a traditional robot. Its function is the detection of faults in metal plates using ultrasonics. I am in charge of the processing of the signal, but we have lots of people who work on other aspects like mechanical and electrical.
What do you like to do for fun?
The amount of work here is different from what we are used to. This limits what I can do outside of school. This last weekend though, I visited Metz in daylight for the first time. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed to walk there.
Do you have any advice for new GTL students?
Be prepared for some cold. Be prepared [for] a much smaller campus. I spent a summer at a large campus and it is much different than here. At the same time it is good to have a small group that you can get to know. Make friends with the people, because they can help you in school and in travels.

Page 1 of 21

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén