To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Julie (Page 3 of 4)

Spontaneous Graduate Studies and Sock Collecting: Meet J.D.

J.D., visiting the final resting place of General George S. Patton at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

J.D., visiting the final resting place of General George S. Patton at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

Name: J.D. Hill

Major/Field of Study: MS ME

Year in grad school: 1st semester

Undergraduate Institution: Texas A&M

Why did you choose GTL? Spontaneous decision to take on the opportunity

Favorite part of GTL: Traveling and interacting with French graduate students

Best recommendation for other graduate students: Just do it.

Dream destination: Skellig Michael Island, Ireland

Interests/Hobbies: Travelling, country dancing, sock collection

Meet J.D.

He’s a pretty cool guy. Why, do you ask? He’s a graduate student here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine (that’s not the only reason, though; his story is even more interesting). The funny thing is, this is J.D.’s first semester with Georgia Tech, and it’s not on the Atlanta campus. Even funnier? He may never even step foot on the Atlanta campus.

When J.D. graduated as an Aggie of Texas A&M brandishing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, he already had a job with General Electric working in the oil and gas field. General Electric must care about its employees, as it funds their continuing education: the Edison Development program pays for his Master’s degree. J.D. had the choice between NC State and Georgia Tech, but when it came down to it, he made the (fabulous) choice to be a Yellow Jacket.

After digging deeper into his options at our university, he stumbled across Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and due to great timing with his job, it was an opportunity too good to pass up – even though deadline had sort of already passed him up. Some serious communication and finagling later, he worked to catch up on all the deadlines and was accepted to the program to study his first and only semester on campus at Georgia Tech (albeit, on the French campus).

And now, well, he’s here! Is all of this as great as J.D. expected? He thinks so. J.D. travels a lot, unlike many of the French graduate students, but he still fits in pretty well with them, whom he says are very welcoming and accepting. It’s one of his favorite things about being here (besides the traveling): chatting with and learning French from them.

As you may have guessed, traveling and seeing new things are among his favorite hobbies. His favorite destination he’s checked off was Rome, Italy – he says he could walk around for days, there is so much to do – but he still wants to make it to Skellig Michael Island in Ireland. He does do other things too, though: when he’s not traveling, you can find J.D. stringing up a laundry line to dry the subset of his super cool sock collection that he brought along or country dancing.

What’s in store for J.D. after this semester? He’ll be returning to his job in Oklahoma City, but he hopes to end up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. He likes his job currently, as it’s stable, but chose mechanical engineering for its flexibility, so who knows where he’ll end up in the long run? He’s along for the adventure.

His advice for the graduate students contemplating the benefits of a program like Georgia Tech-Lorraine echoes similar sentiments: make like Nike and just do it! The administration is very helpful, and it is a unique opportunity to travel and experience other cultures.

Posted by Ije and Julie

Ghostbusters: GTL Edition featuring Karen Pierce

KPierceName: Karen Pierce

Position: Area Manager of Residence Life

Phrase That Best Describes GTL: “Broadening one’s horizons”

Favorite Color: Blue


Favorite Food:
Italian

Interests/Hobbies: Salsa dancing and amateur photography

Posted by Julie

Welcome to Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Once you step off of the bus, who is the first person you’ll meet? More than likely Karen Pierce.

As her official title “Area Manager of Residence Life” conveys, she is the main point of contact about housing, but what you may or may not know is that she represents the main point of all contact between students and staff here at GTL. She does so much at which her title doesn’t even begin to hint: Karen is the main source of information for resources, non-academic support and because of this fields any questions – from who to talk to about scheduling to travel to laundry – to help ease a student’s time in a new place. She might as well have a theme song like in Ghostbusters, because she’s who you’re gonna call!

It’s her favorite thing about her job, too: she builds bridges over the cultural differences for students, and helps them when in need. She’s even there for mental and emotional support – on call 24/7 to help us. This, according to Karen, is the most fulfilling part of her job. She connects with people and helps them through even the toughest times.

And so, when I asked her what she would say to students if she could, I knew that she would have a good idea as to what might help. Her recommendations? Two things: one, remember, there are no elevators in the residences, so lugging those three suitcases up might be a chore. Two, the culture of France is different: the United States is convenience-oriented, while France is family-oriented, which then affects convenience. This cultural difference is something to be aware of, so it’s better to mind the gap!

She isn’t just a person behind a desk, though; she has interests just like you and me. Karen’s favorite color is blue. She loves salsa dancing, and continues to dance here in Metz, and has taken up amateur photography as well. If you need recommendations for Italian restaurants, she’s got you covered; it’s her favorite style of food, and there are apparently an abundance in Metz!

KPierce_Photog

Georgia Tech-Lorraine is a fantastic experience, and Karen agrees. Her phrase of choice to describe the experience of studying here was “broadening your horizons,” as the program is unique, with an incredibly large concentration of American students and lease to travel, experience, and explore – and she’s here through it all. It’s great to know, though, that through all of our hiccups and ups and downs, she is someone we can rely on for answers and support.

So this here is a huge thank you to Ms. Karen Pierce from past, present, and future GTL students – all of whose lives you’ve made easier!

A Weekend in Venezia: Carnivale Edition

20160206_141334

Posted by Julie

Ah, Venice: the epitome of charm and romance – alongside Paris, of course. Venice has been made up to be this fantastic, magical place in everything that I’ve seen and read, so I’ve imagined this mystical aura over the town and had fantasies about the stone lions roaring to life from atop their towers at the stroke of midnight.

Forgive me, maybe this sounds childish – and even if it does, what is so wrong with a little whimsy? But since I was little and stayed up late reading The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke with a flashlight after my parents tucked me in (sorry, Mom and Dad), I’ve dreamed of Venice, but this weekend I actually got to go. Not only did I get to go, but I got to go during Carnivale. (Be still, my heart.)

On the train down, the story was running through my head. Scipio and a black mask with the long, birdlike nose and the gold and silver spoons and the anonymous antagonist on his boat were all images swirling inside my head in a jumbled mess, as it’s been several years since I’ve reread the tale. I had a lot of time to sort it out and think through it, though, as it took a grand total of 18 hours to reach Venezia by train; there were so many stops and layovers in cold stations. Each time we changed trains, the number of people traveling from GTL dwindled until it was just us at a station to whittle away an hour and half before the rest of our journey.

Arriving in Venice was craziness with a pinch of revelry: tracking everyone down from their different trains, organizing for our walk to the AirBnB through the masses of people, and clamoring over the colorful masks at every street stall. Despite the walls of feathered, beaded, and bejeweled masks, there were few other indications that Carnivale was in full swing. There was some confetti here and there, and an occasional Renaissance noble strolling the street, but otherwise everything was calm – normal, even – until Saturday, when those who had costumes arrived at the famous Saint Mark’s Square for photoshoots and revelry. The colorful costumes, strange movements, and immovable visages captured everyone’s attention and imagination.

Venice, not surprisingly, looks exactly like the pictures; however, these visual representations capture the appearance, but not the character. It can’t capture the feeling of traversing a maze of buildings with Google Maps only to be lead to a dead end at a waterway, the sound of fisherman conversing while throwing the catch of the day to their friend on the boardwalk, the calm aura created by the halo of early morning light and quiet in residential areas, the easy rock of the gondola as the cloudy teal waters of the Grand Canal rush up and slap the sides, or the clink of jewelry and snap of professional cameras with each dainty, calculated motion of the masked and costumed in Saint Mark’s Square.

DSC_0109

A white figure in the crowd at Saint Mark’s Square.

One can only wonder who these characters are – do they lead regular lives in Venice just to don wigs and twirl into the spotlight during the traditional festival? Venetians themselves are hard to find, though; few live on the island anymore with the increasing tourism and rent pushing them off the island that they have known and loved. According to Franco, the sixth-generation gondolier who toured the city by waterfront with us, many have left for cheaper waters. He himself, born in southern Venice, now lives a bus ride away because of the outrageous housing costs. Most of the city has become hotels or other dedications to the 26 million people that visit annually, so I was worried that the magic was just funded by capitalism.

20160206_121558

A quiet residential Venetian street – complete with clothes on the line.

Despite the vast amounts of money to spend and make, there is a true magic to the city – but it’s not just in the buildings. The vibrancy comes from the environment and culture and traditions. You can see it in the early mornings when the river glows in the soft light and where you can see old friends catch up with the owner of the small café on the corner over an expresso at a table outside. I saw it in the way that Franco looked as he spoke about his home away from home.

So yes, although I didn’t get to see the stone lions fly from their cultural pedestals at midnight, I am happy to report that Venezia is very much magical, and at the very least, navigating their streets is mystical. All is right with the world.

Redefining Normal

20160122_154639

A letter from the desk of Robert Schuman, the creator of the European Coal and Steel Commission (ECSC), which was the predecessor of the European Union.

Posted by Julie

“Normal” is such as powerful word: it can cause a multitude of emotions, exclude and include, and rationalize and alienate. Often the idea of a regularity inspires more humor nowadays; people aren’t afraid to stray from the status quo, and so many believe “normal” doesn’t even exist.

I’m seeing a lot of this light-hearted approach to normalcy nowadays, especially here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Walking around the student lounge, you can hear things like “Oh, this is just a normal week,” or “Yeah, it’s just a normal trip,” – but when placed in context, these ordinary statements about the dull humdrumness are absolutely comical.

It’s fun to remind people that hey – it’s a normal week, but in the center of Europe on a program that allows us to travel every weekend at significantly reduced prices due to student discounts and to places we’ve only dreamed of since we were kids. Typical, right?

Now, Georgia Tech is not an ordinary school; in fact, it prides itself in being different, innovative, and unique. Classes are difficult – more than your ordinary class. The campus is incredibly diverse, the research sector is booming like no other, and Buzz is the most high-energy mascot the world has ever seen. Maybe we’re used to this ordinary out-of-the-ordinary so much so that we have entirely redefined our normal.

Or maybe our definition has changed because we’re living it: we’re right in the middle. We see all of the work it takes to travel on even a small trip, and all of the confusion when you don’t know that French word; it’s not new anymore, and we’re adjusting.  This has become our status quo, so it’s harder to see how different this really is.

IMG_20160124_224137

Just hanging out in Colmar, France.

It’s harder to see how absolutely amazing it is that I went to Paris last weekend and was in Germany before that. This opportunity is extraordinary – and I’m trying to keep that in mind as I’m walking around Metz, France, seeing buildings that are nearly two thousand years old and speaking French everywhere I go. This, right here and now, is anything but normal.

Portes Ouvertes & Open Minds

DSC_0491

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.

No Plans for the Evening?
 Let Me Give You a Hand(ball)

Photo courtesy of fr.wikipedia.org.

Posted by Julie

As I’m sure many of you are aware, just as we’re settling into our new homes for the next few months in Metz, our entire home country is gearing up for the grand culmination of one of the most popular sporting events across America: the Super Bowl. Now, don’t cry; you can stream that in your dorm at 2AM.

Now, you’re in Europe – where sports are different. Football doesn’t mean kicking around the pigskin; here the widely used connotation (okay, everywhere else but the United States, so denotation?) of the term is the same as the word soccer in our culture. However, you’re now more specifically in Metz, France, where the women’s handball team is known to serve up victory since its establishment in 1967.

And now, the team is gearing up for the quarter finals – and possibly even the championship! No matter who plays in the Championship, though, it will be held in Metz, so we can go watch some intense sporting close to home. The quarter finals are next Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm.

Before you write this off, check out the sheer intensity of the sport in this video of . Know also that we are in the presence of the masters of greatness, as Metz HB, the 2013 European Women’s EHF Cup runner-up, possesses basically all of the records:

  • 19 French Championships (all time record)
  • 6 French Cup Championships (all time record)
  • 8 French League Cup Championships (all time record)[1]

No big deal, really. (Just kidding, I’m a bit star-struck, and I don’t even follow handball.)

maxsportsworldtwo266300

Photo courtesy of france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr.

The best part of all? The arena is less than 20 minutes away by car, and easily accessible via bus. Score – which is what the team will be doing during the match! Check out this website for the Metz bus system for instructions on which bus. For your information, the departure address is that of the GTL space, while the arrival address is the arena.

Check out not only the current team roster, but also when they’re hitting the field at the Euro Handball site. You can buy your tickets here. For 9€ (which includes the student discount), the high-level competition and energy is more than worth the trip. Who needs the college football playoff championship?

Okay, I still do, but this will certainly help me cope with the loss of the football season and prepare for the Summer Olympics in Rio.

A word of warning: the ticket website is in French, but Google Chrome can translate pretty accurately.

metz_handball01

Photo courtesy of metz.fr.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metz_Handball

Declassified: A Briefing on Your Elected BDE Officials

Posted by Julie

Welcome to your new home, GTLers! While you’re here, there is so much to do and experience, and the Bureau des Etudiants is here to facilitate that. With our organization and the funds from your GTL fees, we will be hosting many events and activities for YOU!

Your team was assembled Tuesday afternoon, and I thought it’d be nice to get to know to whom you can talk and suggest ideas. We’re here to work with you, so come talk to us!

Here you’ll find each of their short interviews, during which they were asked to answer four questions. Hopefully this gives you an brief idea as to who they are and why they’re on the BDE.

 

AJ, President (BS ME)

received_10204326401915061sqWhy are you at GTL?

I’m here because I’ve wanted to travel and see what the rest of the world has to offer. It’s so easy to just say “I’m fine here in the U.S.,” but then you’re cutting off potentially millions
of opportunities – so that’s one of my main reasons. Plus word on the street is Europe is pretty beautiful.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I want to partner with other BDEs to put on events during the week so that we can all get a chance to meet folks outside of GTL and practice our French (for those of us who are trying to practice French). By meeting these other students, they can help us enjoy an authentic European experience instead of just what’s on the tour guide, and partnership will also help us find our differences in culture and celebrate them.

What is your dream travel destination?

My ultimate dream is a tie between Brazil, Australia, and Kenya. I really want to visit the Amazon in Brazil, the Outback in Australia, and the savannas of Kenya. Maybe I’ll be able to go on a world tour of all 3 one day.

What is your favorite food?

Easily gumbo because I love seafood sooooooo [sic] much. I think I’m going to make some while I’m here for GTL, so be on the lookout.

What is your favorite quote?

I can’t decide between these two:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Julie, Vice President (BS IE)

Why are you at GTL?IMG950174

The value of studying abroad is extremely important to me, and after visiting France once before after studying the language and culture for years, I have fallen in love. GTL seemed like a wonderful opportunity to live and learn other cultures, as the culture of the program is one of pursuing new experiences.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

My hope is to bridge the many communities we have stemming from GTL through activities and cultural experiences. Whether this be cheese tasting, indoor skiing, or seeing a handball championship, there is so much to do in Metz. In a similar way, there is a lot we can learn from the people surrounding us, and I want to make all of this more accessible.

What is your dream travel destination?

Either Ireland or Norway.

What is your favorite quote?

“What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.”- Ray Charles


Indiana, Treasurer (BS AE)

Why are you at GTL?12562460_10206353817871159_1548857519_osq

I have been really fond of France and French culture since I studied it in high School. Also, I get the chance to travel throughout France and Europe as well, while I get to improve my French

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I want to make sure, as treasurer, the students here get the most out of each event, while having as many events as we can!

What is your dream travel destination?

Paris, France; Cairo, Egypt; and Agra, India.

What is your favorite quote?

“One way to get the most out of life is too look upon it as an adventure” – W. Feather

 

Ije, Secretary (BS IE)

Why are you at GTL?received_10209069070550751sq

Georgia Tech Lorraine is great for students who seek both international
and cultural experience. Not to mention, GTL is a worldwide renowned engineering institution. The GT Lorraine program is so great because, outside of living in Metz, France, there too is the opportunity for exploration and adventure in neighboring cities and countries. Europe is a very interconnected continent, extremely rich in history and culture. I came to GTL because I wanted to immerse myself in a culture different from my own while living in a beautiful and historical environment.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I want to help the BDE plan some really great and unique events this year. One idea I have would be for us to take a trip to an amusement park, once they open up again in the spring. Also as secretary, I plan to keep in constant contact with all students in the program to keep them up to date on the executive board’s plans, while also receiving their input.

What is your dream travel destination?

My dream travel destination is Ibiza, which is an island off the coast of Spain. Its beaches are absolutely beautiful and the atmosphere seems amazing!

What is your favorite food?

My favorite food has always been French Fries (ironically). It’s no surprise that the fries here taste a lot better.

 

Réné, Sports Coordinator (BS ME)

Why are you at GTL?received_10205746821337377sq

This is a great opportunity to study abroad because it’s always good to take classes in other countries. I took classes at Tech [Atlanta], but I wanted to experience the French culture and culture of other countries in Europe.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

As the Sports Coordinator, my hope is to make sure we organize soccer games a few times over the semester, to the goal of connecting GTL and the surrounding French schools through sports.

What is your dream travel destination?

Paris, France and Italy because they are iconic, Germany for the technology, and Spain for the beautiful cities like Barcelona and Madrid.

What is your favorite quote?

“Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems.” – Réné

 

Eduardo, Webmaster (BS CS)

Why are you at GTL?received_10207475811407015sq

I love traveling.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

I haven’t thought that through yet – this was a bit spontaneous. [Eduardo was appointed Webmaster due to his CS skills.]

What is your dream travel destination?

Everywhere – I love different cultures and places, and I’d like to visit them all!

What is your favorite quote?

“It’s your horse, you ride it!” – Eduardo

 

Asmaa, College Interaction Coordinator (MS ME)

Why are you at GTL?received_445826672272976 (1)

I wanted to grow as a person and a scholar. GTL is a distinguished research environment – a world class engineering environment – and somewhere to seek an international career. Personally, I came to make new friends, experience a different culture, and travel to see new places.

What do you hope to accomplish in your position?

My personal dream in my second semester as College Interaction Coordinator is to create a collaborative painting with ICN; I’m working with the Bureau des Arts there to bring this to life. I also would like to bring the GTL community together through service and volunteering. And always I’m ready to help with others’ new ideas as well.

What is your dream travel destination?

The Eternal City – Rome. To make a wish in the Trevi fountain and to visit the Colisseum would be wonderful, as the city means a lot to me – historically and culturally. I love the Italian language and feel it matches personality.

What is your favorite food?

Ice cream! With the two scoops, I usually go with my favorite, vanilla, but like trying something more eccentric for the other.

Bao, Game Night Coordinator (BS EE)

The writer didn’t have a chance to catch up with Bao, but will soon! Say hello to Bao if you seem him and get to know him.

Connecting the New & Old with Innovation

20160116_124727

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.

12510071_938856856169735_777304468_o

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.

New Country, New Experiences

Posted by Julie

Needless to say, touching down in France was an exciting experience. Strangely enough, hulking tubes of metal flying through the air around 600 miles per hour are not generally my thing, but an even more pressing emotion was the excitement of arriving in a new place. Everything becomes an adventure when abroad – even traversing the airport.

My day, though typically over several hours before we landed, was far from over, as there was luggage to collect, a bus to find and catch, and a dorm to move into. Thankfully, all of those steps went seamlessly. If anything can be said about the whole process, it’s that after twenty-five years, all the lovely people at Georgia Tech-Lorraine know what they’re doing.

And after twenty-five years, they’re still welcoming and excited to help us. A pizza party was held in our honor upon our arrival, and a welcoming party the next day. My favorite part of the last few days, though, was the donation free-for-all; I think its existence really shows how much thought they have put into the program – and how much they do to make things easier for the students. Uprooted from home, where we have built our lives already, and leaving on a jet plane, it’s hard to take some things with the limiting factors. We could definitely drop one hundred euro easily on prepping our rooms just with the basic necessities – from hand soap to loose-leaf paper – but they have organized a program to ease that pain.

"La politesse" reigned at the GTL-dorm equipment-free-for-all

“La politesse” reigned at the
 GTL-dorm equipment-free-for-all

The donation session consisted of a room chocked full of donations from previous students – anything they couldn’t or just didn’t want to bring back home. The tables and floor were covered with everything from fancy bowls to laundry basket and drying racks to fans and hair dryers to old textbooks and school supplies. Nearly everything that any student could dream of having was sitting in this land of plenty, and we had two minutes to select all that we wanted (i.e., all that we could carry). I’ve never been hardcore Black Friday shopping, but I would imagine this invoked a similar sentiment – though everyone was gracious and no one started brawling over items.

Now that the adrenaline has waned, though, it’s time to settle into classes for the semester. I’ve already heard great things about course topics and teachers, and we’re only through our first full day! Here’s to a fulfilling semester for all of our goals, whether academic, experiential, travel-oriented, cultural, or otherwise.

Leaping Out of
 the Comfort Zone

My plane from the windows of Hartsfield-Jackson airport in July 2014.

Posted by Julie

Five hundred and forty-four days. That, my friends, is the equivalent of 11,712 hours, or 4.7 × 107 seconds. (A third of which I’ve probably spent sleeping, as painful as that thought is.) It is also the length of time since I last embarked on a journey that has left my stomach this tightly in knots. I can feel my chest tightening, where the stress epicenter builds just beneath my rib cage a few inches below by collarbone. My arms also somehow seems nonexistent, almost as if the nerves have quit sending their neuropathic messages to my brain – or my brain has stopped listening.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am lucky enough to be able to say that I have been abroad before; in fact, I was just settling into my designated seating area for the next nine hours of my flight into Charles de Gaulle, the international airport in Paris, France just 488 days ago. That happened to mark the start of my first international flight, let alone my first trip outside the United States ever, and I was taking that journey alone. Just for the record, I was definitely not scared out of my wits.

(Except I was.)

Before the parental hugs, removing my shoes for security, the terrific little rolls on the plane, and touching down in a city that was much colder than I ever imagined could be in the middle of July, I had never spent more than a week away from my family, and those weeks were always spent at camp, so the independence was still limited. I was a doe-eyed high school graduate who only knew she wanted to travel the world, and had managed to convince her parents of the benefits of this foreign exchange program. So, I had reasons to be terrified then, but I had to ponder a bit more as to why I’m terrified now.

I have always been a firm believer that sometimes being thrown in the deep end is the best option you’ve got. Life has a funny way of taking you places you never imagined, but that trip put me in a better place than I had been previously. Rewind to January 5th, 2014: my acceptance to the Georgia Institute of Technology arrived. Fast-forward a bit to late April the same year: my college plans were set in stone (or at least printed on the deposit receipt to Tech), and while I was happy that I even had the opportunity to go to college, I was worried about my happiness both on campus and beyond in my career. Was this really what I wanted to do with my life? I was so drenched with worry even a raincoat wouldn’t help, but as I was boarding that plane, steadily the experience took over until my brain was so lost in the present and so entirely detached from the worry that I was able to think clearly – logically even – about my future.

Now, after changing my major and other major life events, I have some more questions to ponder while I live in a foreign country 4,523 miles away from my home (in a place that doesn’t even use miles as a unit of measurement), so let’s just say I’m more stressed out than a cat on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. But I’m all right with that. Everything is A-OK with me, because my toes are on the edge of the diving board, and I just might even discover something new during my swim.

Care to join me?

Page 3 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén