To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

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Looking Back on the Se-Metz-ter

How could I end my time at Georgia Tech Lorraine with anything other than a bad pun? I can’t believe that the semester is already over, it seems to have flown by so quickly. Now that I’m back at home in the USA, it practically feels like I never even left—I’d almost believe that GTL was one long, crazy, wonderful dream if I didn’t have the pictures that proved otherwise! Thankfully, it wasn’t a dream, and I’m so thankful for the friends I’ve made, the memories I have, and the growth I’ve experienced that I know will last.

At Mont-Saint-Michel on my very first weekend trip!

This semester, I rode on a total of 64 trains and 4 flights, visited 10 countries (8 of which I’d never been to before), took 5 classes and 16 exams, and consumed more baguettes than I’m comfortable counting, all over the course of 17 weeks. It was definitely a whirlwind! More important than the numbers, though, is the quality of the incredible experiences I had. There were the big, exciting events, like visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, climbing a mountain, or spending a day in the Lego House. Then there were also the more everyday things, like the food eaten, games played, conversations had, and the many, many jokes laughed at. There were the hours spent in the library and in the student lounge at GTL, and the interesting things learned—from delving into society’s relationship with technology, to calculating that yes, wearing a tin foil hat actually would shield you from certain electromagnetic wave frequencies. All these things together—the highs and the lows, the big things and the small—helped to make my abroad experience as great as it was!

Sarah and I, halfway up the Schilthorn summit in Switzerland!

Laughing at dinner in Portugal over the long break 🙂

As to what I would have done differently, in general, I wish that I had taken more opportunities to push my own limits. Many of the experiences that I’m most grateful for or where I feel like I learned the most are where I was outside of my comfort zone: experiences like practicing my French “in the field,” or speaking to strangers and learning about their country and culture. (Not to mention hiking up a mountain; that was several thousand feet above my comfort zone!) I can think of many instances where I painstakingly composed sentences in French, about to pose a question or try my hand (tongue?) at a conversation, but chickening out at the last second. It may have saved me a couple of trips to Auchan, as well as given me a huge confidence boost, if I had only plucked up the courage to ask a stranger, “Excuse me, do you know where the bouillon cubes are?” Similarly, striking up conversations with people I didn’t know, while intimidating, usually resulted in an interesting conversation where I learned something new about the country or culture I was visiting. The funny thing is, every time I did go for it in these scenarios, I never regretted it. The worst thing that can happen is that someone won’t understand you or they won’t respond, which, although awkward, otherwise has no negative impact on you whatsoever. Bottom line: with things like these, if it scares you, you should probably go for it!

My blue octopus creation at the LEGO House in Denmark!

Although I regret never taking a solo trip to explore a new place on my own, I’m glad that I took a couple of weekends in Metz just for me when I needed to slow down and relax. GTL is filled with lots of fun and excitement, but all that activity gets pretty tiring, so I would recommend setting aside enough time to recuperate. Plus, Metz is such a beautiful city anyway that it’s a wonderful place to spend your time! Studying at Fox Café, walking along the Moselle, and taking in the Metz Cathedral are just a few of the activities you can do that are both fun and a relaxing break from the frequently fast pace of weekend travels.

I can’t even count how many great experiences that I’m grateful I had over the course of this semester. I’m really glad that I visited such a variety of countries that I’d never seen before, and that I had the chance to experience and learn about a wide breadth of cultures. On a more everyday note, I’m also happy that I branched out in the cooking department and tried lots of new recipes—my favorite dish that I made was Thai coconut chicken soup! I do wish that I had gotten to know more people better; there are tons of amazing people at GTL that I wish I had the chance to spend more time with. At the same time, though, I’m really glad that I got to know the people that I did spend lots of time with so well. (And that I’ve accumulated so many funny pictures of them sleeping on trains!)

 I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to come to GTL and experience how amazing it is. I know I’ll treasure these memories for life. Thanks so much for following along with me on this journey, and best of luck to any future GTL students reading—I hope you’re ready to have the experience of a lifetime!

Learning to Cook in Lafayette

Friendos with cinnamon apples, a chocolate mug cake, and vanilla ice cream!

I am always very excited about my mug cakes.

One aspect of Georgia Tech-Lorraine that has been both fun and difficult is cooking my own meals. On the one hand, it’s fun to try to learn new recipes and make and eat new things; on the other hand, the lack of an oven as well as the difficulty of buying a reasonable number of ingredients somewhat limits what one can reasonably make. The thing about cooking is, it’s pretty difficult to make anything substantial just for yourself without resigning to eat only that thing for the rest of the week. Especially because, given the busy travelling schedule of GTL students, we’re usually only in our dorm for three or four nights out of the week anyway, so we have to make sure we eat all our leftovers so they don’t go bad while we’re traveling over the weekend.

Sarah made amazing fajitas, which we had with many yummy toppings!

The solution to this problem that my friends and I have been utilizing lately is to have little mini dinner parties in our dorm rooms! One person will offer to cook for one night of the week and will have a couple of people over to eat whatever they make. This way, everyone gets fed, everyone gets to try a variety of meals, and everyone gets to try their hand at making something new! Sometimes people will contribute different things—one person will make the main course, but others will bring side dishes, little appetizers, desserts, or the ubiquitous and always yummy baguette. All this combined with good conversation or a card or board game makes for a night full of fun and deliciousness!

One of my favorite things to contribute to dinners are microwave mug desserts. Upon arriving at GTL, I knew that the lack of an oven meant I would be utilizing the microwave a lot, so I bought a cookbook that has a bunch of recipes just for mugs in microwaves! There’s one recipe for a melty chocolate mug cake that I’ve made several times—it only takes five minutes and it tastes amazing served with vanilla ice cream.

Itzel had already taken a bite when I asked for a photo to prove to my mom that I’ve actually been cooking.

Unfortunately, we can’t use this system every night. We’re still GTL students, so many evenings, we don’t have enough time to spend cooking big meals because we’re working on homework or labs. On these nights, the leftovers problem becomes a convenience instead. I’ll often eat leftovers of a big meal or pasta on busy nights like this, or I’ll make a sandwich out of a baguette. One of my favorites to make is a light sandwich with tomatoes, brie, pesto, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Sometimes, after a long day at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I won’t feel like cooking at all, so I’ll walk down the street past Paul to the little sandwich shop by the car wash. They make incredible sandwiches right in front of you, and on a fall day a warm sandwich straight from the oven is often just what I need. On the whole, GTL is a great place to get out of your comfort zone and try cooking new things, but after all, this is France—you can find amazing food easily if you look!

What Drives You—An Interview with Timothée Despruniee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Fun-don in London

In mid-October, we decided to go across the pond and spend the weekend in lovely London! (I’m not sure if “across the pond” can be used for going across any large body of water, but I like the phrase so just bear with me.)

Our trip began with us taking the Eurostar train LITERALLY UNDER THE OCEAN! I still can’t get over how marvelous modern engineering is that somehow, we as a species managed to run a high-speed train under the sea. The Chunnel links France and England under the Strait of Dover, sitting at 250 ft below the sea bed at its lowest point, and with its undersea portion stretching a total of 23.5 miles (37.9 km), the longest of any tunnel in the world. Actually going through the tunnel was pretty underwhelming because, you know, it’s just darkness like any other train tunnel, but thinking about the sheer amount of water that was sitting above us made it more exciting.

The fish and chips to go was a nice idea in theory—in practice it was messy and difficult, but still delicious!

Upon disembarking at St. Pancras station, we were quite hungry, so we decided to walk to a restaurant serving a quintessentially British food: fish & chips. We got our orders to go, but fish & chips proved very difficult to eat without forks and while walking, so we sat down on a deserted curb to have our delicious feast, then took the Tube to our AirBNB.

On Saturday, we had a leisurely morning and ate lunch at the ubiquitous Pret a Manger. (I found it ironic that the classic London fast food chain has a French name.) Then, we went to go see the British Museum. Even without the incredible exhibits it houses, the sheer size of the building was impressive—the center of the museum is a huge open expanse of white marble, with sunlight streaming in through the roof and a massive stone pillar of rooms rising out from the center of the cavernous space. Highlights of our visit included the Rosetta Stone, giant Egyptian statues, and an interactive exhibit about a man mummified thousands of years ago.

Soren showed us the Royal Courts of Justice building in London. The pointed arches and circular window are reminiscent of Gothic cathedrals, which we’ve been studying extensively in HTS 2084 at Georgia Tech Lorraine!

At the museum, we met up with one of my best friends from high school, Soren, who’s currently studying abroad at the London School of Economics! After we were done wandering around the exhibits, he showed us around his campus. We saw his dorms, a couple of lecture halls, and the giant LSE library, among other places. He’s studying there for a year, but he’s only been there for three weeks so far, so it’s a very different feeling for him than for us, who already have two months at GTL under our belt. Seeing how he’s just starting his study abroad experience really made it hit home that we were already halfway done with ours.

Lastly, we decided to go to the famous Brick Lane for dinner to get Indian food! The whole street was filled with different Indian restaurants, with people outside each one trying to entice customers to choose theirs. We chose one based off of reviews we had read beforehand and chose several dishes to share between us, including butter chicken, chana masala, vegetable biryani, and naan, of course.

Hannah and Sarah with our delicious Brick Lane meal!

Overall, we had a marvelous time in London with good friends and good food, and I would love to visit again someday to see more of the bustling but beautiful city!

This Is What “Peak” Performance Looks Like

This was the trip that is undoubtedly the high point (literally) of my European travels: Interlaken, Switzerland. Not only was it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, but I climbed my first mountain there, something that I’ve always dreamed of accomplishing!

I could barely take my eyes off of the beautiful, grassy hills and the spectacular mountains, which was somewhat problematic for my stubbed toes.

Interlaken is a lovely town situated between two lakes (hence the name), which looked stunning with a beautiful mountain backdrop as we rode the train into the city. Walking down the main boulevard, we saw many quintessentially Swiss things, from watch stores to chocolatiers to a fondue restaurant, all the while marveling at the soaring mountains that framed the sky. One of the most exciting parts of this walk was seeing hang gliders and paragliders soaring and swooping through the sky! They floated down from the mountains and we sat and watched, fascinated, as they all landed on a huge green lawn in the center of the city.

We stopped to take scenic pictures and have a nutritious lunch of brioche, Nutella, bananas, nuts, and other snacks.

The next day, we were ready to hike! The woman at the tourism office recommended that we walk through the valley of waterfalls, as it was very beautiful and suitable for beginners. We decided not to follow her advice, however—we wanted to see the sights from high up, so we decided to attempt a hike to the summit of the Schilthorn from a little mountain town called Mürren.

After stocking up on food and taking two trains and a gondola from Interlaken to reach Mürren, we were ready to begin. It was 11 am when we started, so our goal was to get as far as we could by 3 pm and then turn around to allow us enough time to catch the trains back to Interlaken. The beginning of the hike took us through rolling hills and many pastures, punctuated by the constant clinking of cowbells and the occasional moo. Sadly, the cows did not really want to be pet.

I found a nice branch early on the hike that I used for a walking stick the rest of the way up. It proved very helpful, especially in the slippery snow!

As the hours passed and we continued to ascend, the trail turned from sharp, steep switchbacks up grassy hills to a flatter, rocky path towards the final summit, and then to no path at all as we approached the most difficult part of the journey. At this point we had truly transitioned from hiking to climbing: we carefully pulled ourselves up rocky ledges, following spray painted arrows through the otherwise confusing landscape, and we gingerly made our way up steep, snowy inclines, testing our weight with every step and hoping that the powder wouldn’t give way

On the way down, I was often prone to sprinting down the mountainside, both because it was fun but also because the steep slope made it hard to stop, so you can see my traveling buddies in the distance behind me along with the foggy mountain peak.

beneath our feet. Near the top, thankfully, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the more treacherous inclines, and railings to hold as we crossed narrow rock bridges towards our goal.

With our tired lungs and aching legs, we finally reached the peak of the mountain—at precisely 3:00 pm! I can’t describe the feeling I had when I reached the top; after 4 hours and after scaling 4,366 feet of vertical elevation, I was so exhilarated, so full of endorphins from the strenuous hike up, and so proud of our achievement that all I could think was “When can I do this again?” I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain at some point in my life, and after actually doing it that desire has only gotten stronger. This amazing trip really opened my eyes to the wonders of hiking and climbing, and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to test my limits and scale taller summits!

On the way down the mountainside, after the rain had stopped, we were treated with an absolutely gorgeous double rainbow!!

Dinner with a French Family (of Students)

Every semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine, the French Family Dinner is organized! Local families in Metz host GTL students in their homes for the evening, giving students a chance to experience French food and culture, to meet a French family and even to speak a little bit of French. Two friends and I took part in the French family dinner together last Tuesday. When we met our family at GTL, we discovered that they weren’t a family at all, but instead a group of friends, students our age who were also studying engineering in Metz!

We had a wonderful time eating, laughing, and playing games with our French family of students! 🙂

Clara and Alexandre drove us to a lovely apartment near the center of Metz, complete with colorful decorations on the walls, a long line of sweet Polaroid pictures on the mantle, and a little dry erase board to write fun notes on. Once there, we met their two other friends, Elodie and Alexia. As they prepared dinner, we talked to them about their time in Metz and what they were studying. Right now, they’re studying for big entrance exams for engineering schools that they’ll take in the spring.

For dinner, we had raclette, which is melted cheese over potatoes and charcuterie meats. You put a piece of cheese (the raclette) in a little tray and then on a special heater so it melts, then you scrape the cheese from the tray onto your food. We also had snails, or escargot, which was on my list of things I needed to try while in France! Apparently, there are special sticks you can use to get the snail out of its shell, but we improvised with forks. The taste was good, as it was cooked in garlic and butter, but the squishy texture was too much for me to handle and I was satisfied with just trying one.

 After dinner we decided to play a game. If you’ve played the game Heads Up on a phone, this was a bit similar to that. We each wrote down something on a piece of paper (writing it in English and in French for everyone’s ease), such as an object or an animal, then taped what we wrote on someone else’s head so that we all had a word on our foreheads that everyone could see except for the person who had it. Then, we had to ask yes or no questions to try to figure out what word was on our forehead.

As someone taking French 1001, I was by far the least bilingual person in the room—one of my two friends there is in the highest French class available at GTL, and the other is too advanced for even that. The French students spoke great English in my opinion, but they frequently apologized for their bad English and sometimes switched between English and French to clarify things to my friends. It was not only fun but educational for me to play this word game because it helped me to learn by listening to them, and I also learned to say some fun new French sentences, such as: “Am I bigger than a table?”

Playing the game and hanging out with the French students was tons of fun, and I’m so glad that we got to have dinner with them through this GTL event! I feel like I got a glimpse into student lives in Metz, and luckily, I made new friends at the same time!

From Robotics to Scale Models – Building with Bilal

Today I got to speak to Bilal Ghader about his time as a graduate student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine! Bilal is from Lebanon, and he got his undergraduate degree there in electrical and computer engineering at the American University of Beirut. When he was originally thinking about grad school, he couldn’t decide if he wanted a PhD or not, so he decided to start with a Master’s degree and see how it went from there.

He is especially interested in the field of robotics and decided to come to Georgia Tech-Lorraine because Georgia Tech is one of the best schools for robotics research. At GT-Lorraine, he’s pursuing robotics research and is currently working on a robot that uses laser scans to approximate its position more accurately than GPS can. In the long term, he’s interested in continuing to do robotics research, whether through a PhD program or through working for a company. “I was looking a bit,” he said, “and I see that there are some good opportunities in France and in Europe in general, so I’m thinking about applying to a few of those.” Depending on whether or not he decides to do an internship next semester or the next, he’ll finish his degree in either summer or fall of 2019.

One of Bilal’s favorite aspects of GT-Lorraine is the small class size and the fact that you can get to know just about everyone. He also likes that this small size allows you to take the classes that you want. In addition to this, he said, “I like the fact that Metz is in a very strategic location. I’ve been to two or three cities already—I’ve been to Strasbourg. I’ve been to Nancy. I’ve been to Luxembourg, and I went to Trier when they did the whole trip. So this is interesting!” He’s eager to take more trips next semester if he doesn’t do an internship now that he has more time and is settled into life GT-Lorraine.

An interesting and cool fact about Bilal that I learned during our conversation is that he enjoys collecting and assembling scale models! Right now, for instance, he’s waiting on an Amazon package that contains both a new car model and a new plane model. “I don’t know how or where I’m going to do them since I’m restricted in space in my dorm,” he pondered. “Basically what happens is that you have gray pieces of plastic, and you start by coloring them. I tend to get creative with the color; I don’t follow the instructions. Then you need to put the pieces together. It’s very delicate and it needs time, it needs precision and focus.”

Bilal also had lots of stickers on his laptop reflecting his interests, and he was kind enough to explain each one to me. Several were from hackathons, others from student organizations for events, and some were fun and artistic stickers that his friends had designed themselves! My favorite was one advertising a Lebanese hackathon called Reboot Beirut, naturally because it rhymed. From robots, to scale models, to hacking and coding projects, I’m sure Bilal’s passion for building and creating all kinds of things will serve him well in his engineering career! Best of luck to you and have an awesome rest of your time at GT-Lorraine, Bilal!

Day Trips Are Delightful

This past weekend was the first weekend that I stayed in Metz since the start of GTL. On Friday I went on a day trip to Luxembourg, and on Saturday to Nancy and Colmar, but at night I came home to my blissfully familiar Lafayette dorm. I’ve loved all of the adventures I’ve had and the gallivanting around Europe that I’ve done so far, but after a busy and stressful week packed with three midterms, I was very ready to have a calmer, more chill weekend. It was quite refreshing not to have to worry about the usual travelling concerns, like lodgings, train reservations and schedules, packing my backpack within an inch of its life, and inevitably forgetting my pajamas.

Our hearts may have been set on the hot chocolate, but these beautiful rainbow-colored truffles were enticing as well.

Pear cinnamon isn’t a flavor combination I would ever have thought of for hot chocolate, but I’m glad someone did because it was marvelous!

It was a beautiful day as we walked around Luxembourg after our short morning train ride. Our first and most imperative stop was at The Chocolate House! They had hot chocolate spoons in a massive variety of strange and wonderful flavors, so we ordered some with hot milk and stirred them until they melted into perfectly delicious hot cocoa. After wandering the city and taking a nice nap in a sunny park, we decided to go to the Mudam, the museum of modern art in Luxembourg. This was definitely one of the coolest museums I’ve seen thus far. (And also free for students! Hooray!) It’s situated on top of an old fort, Fort Thüngen, and the juxtaposition of the ancient brick walls with the sleek architecture of the museum created a very neat aesthetic. The main exhibition was a series of kinetic sculptures themed around wind and water called Spaceship,by Susumu Shingu. My favorite piece was this fascinating moving water sculpture, which we sat and watched, mesmerized, for at least ten minutes.

This is only one side of an amazing sculpture we saw at the Mudam. As you can see, it was a conglomeration of all sorts of random things, including plastic plants, yarn, water, sticks, a fan, some tea, pebbles, etc. Some parts of it moved, too!

The next day, on Saturday, we went to Nancy! It was a lovely city, with lots of gold leaf and casually ornate facades and gates. First we ventured into the city’s cathedral, something I always like to do when exploring a new city. While Gothic cathedrals obviously share many similarities, each one has its own personality and character, and it’s always very calming and beautiful to amble along the ambulatory and look at the stained glass. Later, we stumbled upon a Japanese botanical garden exhibit in a square, complete with intricate sculptures, flowers, a koi pond, and many bonsai trees. It was incredibly beautiful, and it was wonderful to see the local residents enjoying the public art as much as we did.

I really love plants, especially succulents and bonsai trees, so stumbling upon this botanical garden in the middle of Nancy that had both of those things was the most pleasant of pleasant surprises!

After having a hearty lunch at a pizza place, we power-walked to the train station to avoid missing our train to Colmar. There, we wandered around the old town and admired the beautiful houses, cobblestone streets, picturesque canals, and innumerable dogs. We ate some yummy crepes and spent lots of time sitting in a park, just talking and people-watching as a group of teenagers did tricks on their bikes and as children played nearby in a fountain. On the whole it was a lovely, relaxing weekend to explore interesting cities in closer proximity to our home in Metz!

Colmar was just as cute as you would hope an old French town would be (it reminded me a bit of the villagee from Beauty and the Beast!).

Magic in Munich – Experiencing Oktoberfest

During the third weekend of September, I found myself in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! (Quite ironically, in my opinion, but who am I to argue with tradition and warm September weather?) It seemed like half of Georgia Tech-Lorraine was going as well—I myself was staying in a 20-person AirBNB occupied entirely by GTL students, and I saw many others, both undergraduate and graduate students, on the trains to and from Munich.

On Saturday morning, the first day of the festival, we went to see the opening parade, which led through the city and ended on the Oktoberfest grounds where the Mayor of Munich would officially commence the celebrations. It was a lively and fun time: the procession included marching bands playing lively anthems, countless people dressed in traditional Bavarian garb, many horse-drawn carriages, and, incidentally, one cow-drawn carriage.

After the parade ended, we followed the steadily streaming crowd towards the massive Oktoberfest grounds. The huge rides and attractions, the colorful food stands emanating delicious smells, the pervasive souvenir shops and the masses of humanity—all of it reminded me of the state fairs I’d been to back in the United States. The difference was that everything here was steeped in German culture. Instead of shorts and t-shirts, everywhere we looked we saw dirndls and lederhosen. Instead of corn dogs, cotton candy, and endless fried concoctions, the food stands were brimming with schnitzel, pretzels, and gingerbread. Amidst all these Bavarian traditions, however, Oktoberfest was easily one of the most touristy destinations I’ve visited. As we wandered through the crowds, I heard English being spoken as often as not.

As the rides were quite expensive, we decided that we only wanted to try one; so, naturally, we needed to choose the best and craziest one to satisfy our thrill-seeking. The Ferris wheel, rollercoasters, and merry-go-rounds were too mundane—we settled instead on a ridiculous, crazily spinning contraption that looked like a cross between a pendulum and a wagon wheel. Upon vaguely googling this to try to find out what it was, I discovered that there’s a list of carnival rides on Wikipedia! Ours was most similar to one called the Top Scan. I decided to see if I could spend the whole ride with my eyes open as the world spun around me (to test my future astronaut potential), an idea that was actually far more fun and far less nauseating than I anticipated!

The food was by far one of the best parts not just of Oktoberfest, but of my Munich experience in general. At the festival, we tried curryworst, a spicy saucy sausage on a bun that proved incredibly messy to eat but very yummy nonetheless. Our other fair fare (hehe) included apple funnel cake, gingerbread, frites, and a beautiful chocolate covered apple. On the Sunday morning before we left, we walked to an unassuming bakery a few blocks from where we were staying and got sandwiches and pastries, and I had one of the most delicious chocolate-filled donuts I’ve ever tasted. Finally, as we prepared to depart from the Munich train station, I realized my fatal mistake: I had come all this way to Germany and failed to eat a pretzel! I got one for the road before we left and ate it on the train, satisfied with the wonderful taste of Munich that this weekend had given me.

 

Passing Time on Trains and Travels

Throughout the many train trips, bus rides, and long walks that take place as Georgia Tech Lorraine students explore Europe, there are endless ways to pass the time with ones traveling companions. I’ve had tons of excellent organic conversations with people on my excursions so far, but some of my best memories have come from playing games with my friends as we relax on trains or wander cities.

It’s hard to get photographic evidence of verbal games, so here’s a picture of the sunrise as seen from my room in Lafayette, another place where I’ve had great times and conversations with friends!

One of my personal favorites is a word game that my friends and I play quite frequently, called Contact. Contact is a bit hard to explain without actually playing it, but basically it involves trying to guess a word that someone has come up with as you incrementally learn more letters. My friend had given us six letters of the word: c-a-r-b-o-n, but we had exhausted our chemistry knowledge—it wasn’t carbonation, carbonic acid, or any other element-related term. We resorted to coming up with ridiculous car puns to try to think of words. What do you call a tiny tree in a vehicle? A car-bonsai! Obviously, these answers were unsuccessful, and the word eventually turned out to be “carbonara,” but they certainly provided their fair share of hilarity!

 Another great pastime was born out of desperation and travel woes. On our very first weekend of travel, after trying to catch a train that apparently didn’t exist, my friend and I became stranded overnight in a tiny French town with basically nothing but the clothes on our backs, our dead phones, and, luckily, my notebook and pen. Naturally, as we waited all morning for another train that wouldn’t arrive until noon, we decided to write limericks together! (As one does.) Each of us would alternate contributing a line, and we ended up composing eight masterworks, most of them themed around our sorry plight. Here’s the first one we wrote, and my personal favorite:

     Delirious girls at the station,

     Were filled with a great consternation.

     They wanted to go,

     But their train didn’t show,

     So they’re stuck on forever vacation.

Then there’s Make It or Break It, which is where you present someone with a scenario where they’ve met their soulmate, who’s perfect except for one flaw, and they’re asked if that flaw is a dealbreaker. They’re perfect for you in every way, except they can only ever walk backwards. Or, they’re perfect for you, but they can only speak in Justin Bieber lyrics. (These seemed mutually exclusive to me. No offense to any of you Beliebers out there.) This game is both a funny way to learn about new people and a great source of thought experiments. For instance, your soulmate is perfect, except all their hair is grass—do they cut their hair with a tiny lawn mower?

My favorite part about all these games is that they all involve creativity, often laughter, and usually learning something new about someone in the mix!

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