Category: Authors (Page 6 of 25)
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.
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
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.
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
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I flew into France within the first couple days of the New Year, and that was the first time that I truly traveled solo. Landing in Paris was pretty scary for me: I was lumbering around with a huge suitcase and no idea where to go next. Without luck, I was walking around the airport, looking for the meeting point for the shuttle that was supposed to take me and some other students over to GTL. On top of an already stressful situation, I was made fully aware that I was in a country in which English was not the primary or even secondary language spoken. This not only made me feel extremely uncomfortable and out of place, but it just made my primary objective that much harder to complete. Finally, after the supposed last call for the shuttle to leave, I found them all and made it in the van just in time. That was one of the most nerve-wracking situations I’ve ever been in. I thought that I was going to be stranded at the airport, all by myself, without being able to communicate to others that I was definitely not supposed to be both at the airport or alone. I would have really been fine with just taking one of those two options.
That was back in January, and I just recently made another solo trip, but this time it was about three days long, and in the Czech Republic (where their official language is literally not spoken anywhere else). Now, I feel a lot more comfortable with being in new and unfamiliar situations. I’m able to ask questions to locals without the thought that they are going to see me as dumb looming over my head. I can now confidently say that living in another country really matured me in aspects of my life I never even considered as problematic. Even talking to my friends and others in English, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more confident in myself, and it’s a nice feeling to have!
In the past, I would too often get caught up in what others thought of me, and would always try to please them, even if it was at my expense. Many times, this would result in me missing out on activities or events I wanted to attend. This is what I’ve learned from living here: if you ever get a chance to do something, but no one will go with you, go by yourself! There is nothing wrong with it, and you will most likely regret not going at all more than going solo. You’ll also probably meet some interesting characters and have new material for stories to tell at dinner parties!
Although traveling solo can seem daunting, you’ll be amazed at how adaptable we, as humans, are. With time, you’ll be riding the metro and ordering your meals like a pro. Whenever I’m speaking to locals, I try to start off the conversation in French, and then if I can’t get my point across, I switch to English and hope they can understand me. Weirdly enough, even if neither of us can understand what the other is saying, I can usually decipher what they’re telling me using hand gestures and context. And while I highly recommend learning at least a little bit of French before coming to GTL, this way isn’t too bad!
This weekend I got to see my family again! The weekend kicked off in Riquewihr, a small town in France dating back to the 1500s, known for its beautiful vineyards and amazing architecture. Every house looked like a gingerbread house, the cobblestone streets were winding and sloping, and the roofs were topped with old tile or thatch. We spent the day walking through the town, hiking through the vineyards and sampling local foods. I even had frog legs!
As we walked through the town, we couldn’t help but notice that there were witches hanging in every doorway. These wooden or porcelain doll witches ranged from scary to cute, and dark to colorful. We walked through the streets puzzled, until we found a shop that sold witches exclusively. After talking to the clerk, we learned the reason. Legend has it that a young widow was banished from the town for being a witch. As she gathered her things and left, she spotted enemy soldiers approaching the town. She ran back as fast as she could to warn everyone, and the town was able to protect itself from attack. As a result, hanging a witch by the door or the window as a lookout will bring good luck and help you keep your enemies out.
The next day we hopped in our rental car and began driving north. Destination: Brussels. We stopped in Strasbourg for lunch, eating in the old city and admiring the tudor-style houses. Next, we forged on to Metz so my family could see where I am going to school and spending my weekdays. I showed them the cathedral and my dorm. Late that night, after a great deal of rain and traffic, we arrived in Brussels.
My mother and sisters flew back to the USA the next morning. My dad had business in London and would stay with me another day. After dropping them at the airport, we decided to take a quick train ride over to Bruges, an economic capital of Europe where luxury goods were traded and crafted. Famous for its tapestries and lace, this old city gives off an air of luxury. All of the facades of the houses were carved in amazing detail, and many roofs and windows were gilded. After a nice lunch of traditional stew, and a waffle for dessert we browsed the lace and tapestry shops. It is amazing how intricate these two thread-based art forms are; many pieces can take years to complete. We returned to Brussels that night and went to sleep.
The last day, we woke up early for a nice breakfast. We then decided to take a long walk through the city to see the Sablon district, famous for its antiques and old books. We then made our way over to the European Parliament and the Victory arch. After a brisk morning of walking and photo taking, we returned to the Grand Place, the big square surrounded by old fancy buildings. After a bit of sightseeing, we had to part ways.
All in all, it was a lovely weekend.
Last night, a whole gaggle of GTL students piled onto a bus and ventured forth to embark on a snowy winter adventure. Snow, in 60 degree weather you ask? Well, the wonderful BDE (a sort of the student council of GTL) organized a trip to Snow Hall, one of the largest indoor skiing facilities anywhere. We all chatted excitedly as the bus sped through the countryside. The group, a mix of beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders, were bristling with anticipation as we entered the facility. The French-speaking students took the lead as we spoke to the friendly staff to acquire our skis and snowboards.
After acquiring my skis, boots, poles, and helmet, I was able to proceed to the facility. Temperature-controlled at exactly 0° Celsius and covered in powder, the facility was quite vast. Built up the side of the hill boasting a beginner slope, intermediate slope and terrain park, two ski lifts and a friendly staff, it was crazy to imagine that all of this fit inside a warehouse. The beginners headed to the bunny slope and the old timers headed toward the intermediate.
Watching the way the GTL community came together to help the new skiers and snowboarders was truly amazing. From helping them pick the best equipment, to making sure they knew how to use the lifts, to teaching them the basics, it was truly great to see everyone so helpful to each other. In the words of brand new skier, Mr. Ben Frumpkin, “This was a crazy amount of fun.”
When people fell, GTL acquaintances were there to help them up and get their equipment back together. Everyone was friendly, waving and cheering each other on as they passed on the ski lift. There were friendly competitions on who could get the most air on the small bumps on the slope. The BDE staff, especially Zivan, who helpfully handed out and collected cards, and sprinted between the bus and the desk to make sure that everything had been returned properly.
My favorite experience was watching the beginners try the intermediate hill for the first time. Their friends went right behind them to make sure they were all right. Teeth bared and leaning forward they traveled slowly down. Their faces full of determination, and pride at what they had accomplished. I think everyone shared in the excitement of these newbies learning a new skill. It was also really awesome to see some members trying out the terrain park, going over massive jumps and grinding on rails.
All in all, I am very proud to say that I love BDE and I love the GTL community. We have definitely been brought closer together.