To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Campus Life (Page 1 of 8)

Altissimo: That Love/Hate Relationship With Your Athletic Friends, Metz Edition

Bouldering.

If you’re a used-to-be-good-at-sports-before-the-SAT’s-happened-now-can’t-do-10-pushups kind of person like me, the Altissimo climbing gym is an incredible way for your much more in-shape friends to push you to exercise! I found this out last week when I thought “hey, I’d like to explore Metz a little more, and I haven’t worked out much this semester, so let’s give it a try.”

Lead climbing.

All lazy person passive-aggression aside, it was an incredibly cool experience. You take the L1 bus from Republique towards Tournebride, getting off at the last stop. The gym is open until 10 pm on weekdays, although the last bus back into town comes at 9, so beware: we didn’t know this and had to order taxis.

You can rent all your necessary equipment, including these sick little booties that make your feet extra grippy on the wall. There’s a massive room for bouldering, which is no ropes/harness climbing, so when you reach the top you just fall back on to these thick pads (it’s pretty fun).

Climbing is honestly a very difficult thing: you have to follow a crazy path that involves stretching the entire length of your body. Or, if you’re tall, just an arm, although being tall doesn’t necessarily mean you can just do anything. There’s a lot of technique and strength that goes into it, as I soon learned.

She’s belaying.

You can also lead climb, if you go with someone that knows how to belay others. This is when you’re harnessed into a rope that’s attached to your partner on the ground, so if you’re high up they catch you if/when you fall. This was my favorite out of the two types of climbing we did: I love being up that high, and it’s so satisfying to see the whole wall that you climbed stretched out beneath you. It’s quite a rewarding experience and I suggest you go if you need something new to do! 

Ping Pong-athon

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

Photo courtesy of flowperformancepsych.com.

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

Photo courtesy of Imgur.

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

When did you start playing ping pong?

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

So, would you call yourself a master?

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

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

BDE Skis: The Best Bonding Experience for GTL

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.

La Coupe de Cheveux

For the last month or so I have been plagued with an affliction affecting both appearance and convenience. Something I normally kept under control was turning into a real disaster; I mean my hair, of course. I try to keep a nice, neat trim so that, for one, I don’t look like more of a homeless person than I already do on account of my beard, and for two, because my hair is a disaster to take care of when it exceeds more than 2 inches. Now you might be saying, “Sam, you realize that there is an entire industry dedicated to the maintaining and styling of the hair?” Well the sad truth is, that being the scared anti-social person that I am who speaks little to no French, I have been too scared of the awkwardness to try and go to a hair salon. I’ve been picturing the hairdressers just rattling off rapid-fire French and looking at me like an idiot when I have no idea what to do, and that scary mental picture has kept me away for some time. But eventually, enough was enough, and I decided I couldn’t wait another month to  get my hair cut at home.

To prepare for this daring feat, I put myself through a boot camp of hair-related French vocabulary until I felt somewhere short of confident that I could probably get the majority of my point across about what I wanted. I’d heard from other people that there was a place in CORA, the local superstore, where I could get my hair cut, so off I went. When I got there, I found that there is not one, but two hair salons, next door to each other, inside this store. I hope this gives you an idea about how massive this place is. Consulting Facebook, people said that St. James was the better of the two salons, but upon inspection, the alternative seemed much more inviting, and more along the lines of a Great Clips or something like that. Not being particularly picky about my hair, and the fact that it was cheaper didn’t hurt, I stepped into Diagonal Coiffure.

I started off strong by telling the gentleman at the counter that I need a haircut in what I can only assume was atrocious French. However he seemed to understand, because for guys, haircuts were about all they did. I encountered a bit of a snag afterward when I walked back to the chairs and awkwardly stood there for a few seconds. One of the ladies said something to me in French, and I think I kind of just stared at her, probably drooling, until, through the magic of charades, she gestured for me to sit in one of the chairs. After that my boot camp training kicked in, and I feel like I was able to pretty accurately say, in French, what I wanted for my haircut. This lady seemed to be able to speak some English, but being stubborn and wanting to use the language of the country I’m residing in, I proudly didn’t speak a single word of English the entire time, even managing to tell her that I was an international student studying at GTL in Technopole. After no time at all, I was done and finally sporting a cleaner look.

Although there were definitely some moments of awkwardness, the process was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined, and I even had some fun speaking a foreign language, although some gesturing was necessary due to terrible pronunciation. I feel like I learned a few lessons from this experience. First of all, don’t overthink things. They are rarely as terrible as what you can conjure of in your mind. Second, most people are actually nice and accommodating and will try to meet you halfway if they can see that you are trying. And last of all, a few minutes of being uncomfortable is better that a long period of inconvenience. If you just decide to go for it, whatever “it” is will almost always work out in the end, even if there are sometimes a few snags along the way.

Meet RA Noah Pilz: Master of Eloquence and Pillar of Responsibility

 
After interviewing Noah for GTL, I knew I needed a second interview for the RA section of the blog. He has a way with words that it simply indescribable, and I wish I could write them in his tone of voice. Honestly, if this blog interview was a job interview, I would hire him in a heartbeat. Here are his answers to come of the questions I asked him.

 

 
What made you decide to go to GTL?
There are three main reasons. The biggest one is that I had never been out of the US before – and nothing had really driven me to. When I heard Tech had a program like GTL, I was intrigued. The second reason was talking to people that had done it before. It wasn’t a vague, “I knew people that loved it,” and I knew I didn’t have to worry about the program. The third reason is that classes were in English.

Why did you decide to be an RA?
I always enjoy getting to be a person that people can go to with questions. I am a people person. It really comes down to the fact that I can be in Europe, get my housing payed for, and be a source of info and way to help people getting acclimated. The only problem was I had never been a RA before. However, as I worked on the application I realized it was really something I wanted to do; I loved being a camp counselor over the summer. Although college students aren’t 10-year-olds, it’s still nice to be in a position where I can be a resource for people.

What is your favorite part about being an RA?
That’s a tough one. I can tell you my least favorite. Midnight duty rounds, especially with 8 am classes can be a bit nightmarish. But it is definitely worth it. My favorite part is being able to have people place their trust in me. I value that. I can use that to help others.

Are you more of a Type A or Type B person?
I’m not super organized in my room, but I do like structure and knowing the order of things in a way I can follow. I am definitely not good and sticking to a daily schedule though. Maybe I’m a Type C?

What is your favorite GTL memory so far?
My mom had planned to come visit over spring break, but she couldn’t because of an emergency. After spring break, we found out she could come for the weekend. My mom had never been out of the country before either, but when she was in high school, she hosted a foreign exchange student from Sweden named Tina. They kept in touch, and when my mom came, she was thinking about reaching out to her after 30 years. We decided to visit her.  
 
We flew to Copenhagen, and Tina drove us to Sweden. We stayed in her beautiful, rural farm house. She had 3 amazingly obedient golden retrievers that competed in dog shows. We spent a day playing with them.  Tina then took us to ride Icelandic horses. We rode through the forest. It looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. It was an amazing experience especially traveling with my mom for the first time. We learned about Sweden, went into the city and tried classic Swedish pastries and awesome Swedish fish gummies. It all really came together, and it didn’t really have an initial structure. It was a spur of the moment.

The European Dry

I don’t remember where exactly I heard this but I distinctly remember someone mentioning that in Europe, dryers don’t actually dry your clothes. They just make them less wet. This seems a little odd for me considering the name of the actual machines but unfortunately it seems to be true, at least in the Lafayette dormitory complex.

For whatever reason, I seem to always put off doing laundry until I literally am wearing my last few scraps of clean clothings as I haul my entire wardrobe down the stairs to the laundry room and completely fill up two washing machines. Due to Lafayette charging a small fortune for doing laundry I have to cough up almost 10 euros every 3 or so weeks I clean my clothes. So, due to the machines only taking coins, I have been hoarding those suckers like an old miser.

The very first time I did laundry here in France, I had no idea

My coins ft. cereal.

what I was doing. Since I didn’t know that the machine only took coins (in hindsight that seems obvious) and I really needed to do laundry before leaving on a weekend trip, I ended up having to walk to a gas station and buy a bottle of water in order to get enough change. Now, not wanting a repeat performance of that, I have taken to paying for everything with cash and saving all the coins I get from those transactions so I’ll always have more than enough for my laundry and maybe even get something from the vending machine every now and then.

Now, back to what I think was a faculty member called the “European Dry.” Apparently most European households use a clothesline to dry their clothes and only need the dryers to get the fabric to a damp state. I don’t have a clothesline, and I don’t really plan on getting one, so I have to make do. This is the process that I have been utilizing to actually get dry clothes.

  1. Run your clothes through the washing machine
  2. Do one cycle in one of the dryers
  3. Take out dress shirts/sweater or other things that you hang up
  4. (Key Step) Switch dryers and do another cycle
  5. Fold your now dry clothing

The first time I did laundry I think I must have done 3 cycles through the dryer with the same result of very damp clothing every time until I decided that the dryer was broken and switched to another one, resulting in them finally being dried. I later realized that that machine wasn’t broken, it just had so much water vapor inside from the clothes that it was like a steam room in there. Of course this only works if you basically have the laundry room to yourself, but switching your clothes over to another dryer that hasn’t been used in the last few hours will do the trick almost every time.

You know it’s been a slow week when you decide to write a blog including a step-by-step process for doing laundry, but it’s just the calm before the storm here, waiting for the next round of tests to ruin everyone’s life. In the meantime I hope everyone enjoys themselves, and I hope you enjoyed another of my strange little insights into the life of a GTL student.

Meet Your RA: Elaine

Elaine sat in her chair, blonde braid slung casually over one shoulder, working on some circuits homework when I approached her. Even though I had disturbed her studious work, she was very enthusiastic to talk to me. It was easy to tell right away that she would be an amazing RA; she was personable, welcoming and friendly. Elaine, a second year Materials Science Engineering (MSE) major, is a really very wonderful person. Here is her story.


Why did you come to GTL?
“I absolutely love travelling. In highschool, I lived in Germany for a year, and I really wanted to come back and have the opportunity to explore on my own. Plus, the in-state tuition is an awesome added bonus.”


Why did you become an RA?
“Being an RA is an awesome way to interact with people because they have to talk to you! But all joking aside, it is a really great way to meet people and establish a connection. I love talking to my residents because everyone is so friendly. I have definitely made a lot of new friends since coming here.”


What is your favorite memory of GTL so far?
“I absolutely loved Venice. What a cultural experience! We were there during Carnivale, and we bought the elaborate masks. There was a costume contest being held, and seeing all of the amazing Carnival costumes was a great experience. Buying a mask and really immersing myself in Venetian culture was truly amazing.”


How would you describe your personality?
“I am more of a free spirit than ‘Type A.’ I love talking to people and making connections, and I am an expert at going with the flow.”



At this point, Elaine had to rush off to an RA staff meeting. But it was really great to get to know her a little better.

Battle of the Dorms (feat. Lafayette)

When coming to GTL we were given a choice between 3 dormitories to live in: Aloes, Lafayette, and Crous (SPOILER ALERT: Lafayette is the best). All have their own merits, with reasons for and against choosing them. Back in Atlanta, I could not make up my mind whatsoever on which one to choose and ended up making my decision based on the fact that my friend had lived in Aloes last spring and had a bit of trouble with spider (and I’m deathly afraid of spiders). That combined with the fact that Crous wasn’t a thing when he had done GTL was just enough to tip me over the edge to choosing Lafayette.

I have pretty limited experience with the other dorms and maybe Lina can respond

My own mini kitchen (minus the dishes).

to this challenge at a later week and tell us all why Aloes is actually the best (doubt it), but I think that my home in Lafayette is far and away the greatest because of 2 words: “Individual. Stove-tops.” (That might actually be 3 words, does a hyphenated word count as one or two and is stove-top even supposed to be hyphenated?) I may never know, but what I do know is that being able to cook myself a steak dinner anytime I want from the comfort of my own room is one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. Of course, every great thing must have its drawbacks, and in Lafayette this comes in the form of unreliable wifi.

I say unreliable when describing the internet in Lafayette but, at least in my experience, it has actually been quite reliable; just reliably bad. Basically every 10-20 minutes the wifi will just completely shut off for one or 2 minutes. While it does work, it’s actually pretty decent quality. I’m able to stream HD video and uploads and downloads are quite fast. However, with this reliable failure every 15 minute or so, I am rarely able to make it through a TV show episode on Netflix or a Skype call with my relatives without total failure, sometimes even resulting in my computer crashing.

It’s definitely a downer, but the outages are typically pretty short so I can resume whatever I am doing after going to refill my water bottle or get a snack or something. Every now and then, the internet will work great for the entire day, which has seemed to happen more frequently recently (thank goodness), but also on rare occasion the time intervals will reverse: so every 10-20 minutes the internet will work for about one minute. All in all, it’s not the end of the world. Not very much of my schoolwork actively needs the internet and I can get by with the delays when I’m just using the computer for my own thing.

The Lafayette exterior.

I’ve definitely enjoyed living at Lafayette and having my own mini kitchen for the first time, but of course, in all seriousness, it doesn’t matter where you live while you’re at GTL. This semester is an amazing experience that is related much more to the incredible places you’ll go and people you’ll meet than where you happen to sleep on the weekdays.

Top 5 Things to Do for a GTL Student

Let’s face it. We all need a break sometimes. Between school, traveling, and the general panic of grades, a girl needs to unwind, relax, and take some me-time. I’ve talked to many students, and the following is a general consensus of the best non-school related things to do in the great city of Metz.



1. Take a walk around Lake Symphonie.
Georgia Tech Lorraine is situated on a beautiful man-made lake, with some awesome paths in the surrounding area. You can feed the ducks and swans that commune there, enjoy some beautiful fresh air, and take in the beautiful scenery. If school is getting you down, there is no better way to clear your head than fresh air and lush foliage.

2. Go to the Gym
When I get especially frustrated, it really helps me to work out all of my internal aggression at the gym. Just a short bus ride away is the gym l’Orange bleue, open from 9am-9pm. Upon arrival, everyone greets you with a warm “Salut!” and even though I speak basically no French, I felt very welcome and happy to work out there. In addition to lots of workout equipment, the gym also offers lots of classes included in the price. If you talk to Katia Ménard-Pons, you can get an initial free pass, and then for 90 euros you get three months of gym visits.

This is what a free gym pass looks like!


3. Visit Mam Resto

Do you eat halal meat and are tired of eating fish in restaurants? Do you want something delicious and filling? Are you a fan of Turkish food? Well Mam Resto is definitely the place to go. Located close to both Cora and Aloes, Mam Resto has the friendliest staff, who were willing to work with our minimal french, and they were very happy to make us our pizza kebab, which was like all of the ingredients of pizza, and halal meat, wrapped in a tortilla. It was honestly the best kebab food I have ever eaten. It is an amazing way to forget you woes, and lose yourself in the tasty flavors of a delicious kebab.


This is a Google StreetView of Mam Resto.

 

4. Walk around downtown
Taking a quick bus to downtown Metz is always great. You can see the beautiful cathedral, walk around the amazing shops, visit some nice cafes and look at all of the local architecture.  I love stopping at a street bakery, buying a pastry, and taking a walk through the busy streets.

What your Crous card will look like.

5. Go to Crous
I love food. And as a college student, telling me that I can have lots of food for a low price is like telling me that the test will have a 20 point curve. And for both lunch and dinner, for only 3.25 euros, you can get a full hot meal at the Crous cafeteria. With options for vegetarians, baguette, salad and a dessert included, you can’t go wrong with this amazing cafeteria. Had a rough class? Go on over to Crous and have a good sized meal. Just load money onto your card, and you are all ready to go!

Meet Your RA: Sahithi

A third year, movie-watching, music-listening, Computer Engineering major. Just a few words to describe Sahithi Bonala, an RA here at GTL. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Bonala, and I started off our conversation with a couple basic umbrella questions about different aspects of her life. For Sahithi’s spring semester at GTL, she is taking ECE 3084, ECE 2036, ISYE 3770 (statistics), and COE 2001 (statics). She admitted that, as most undergraduate students, she isn’t quite sure what she wants to do after college. However, she does have a special interest in low level software, so she would “like to work in the realm of embedded systems, but that’s about it.” In her free time, Sahithi also likes to dance, and she has recently taken up journalism as a hobby. With that, I was on to getting to know a bit about a pretty awesome GTL RA!

When Sahithi was a sophomore, her parents didn’t want her living off campus, so she figured that the best alternative to living in an apartment with some of her friends was to become an RA. She said to me that being an RA has been a very rewarding experience, with strong friendships formed, and an uplifting community that she otherwise would not have known: “I’ve worked with freshman, transfer, and exchange students so far. Each community has something unique to offer and teach me new things.” As an RA at GTL, Sahithi is on duty twice a week, helping Karen Pierce with any tasks she may need help with. Most of the tasks she is asked to perform involve relaying information to residents, which, Sahithi says, is nice because it is not so demanding. I proceeded to ask her if there are any difficulties with her tasks as an RA here, to which she responded, “We try our best to be the best resource we can be to students here. Unfortunately, since we are new here just like everyone else, it’s hard to always have answers.”

More interested in her role when Ms. Pierce wasn’t around, I asked Sahithi if she had any trouble with the residents yet. Her response started with a particularly exciting story. “On my duty night a couple of days ago, a few residents came back to Lafayette around 3am. They started fighting over something outside the building and I could hear them from my room. So I got out of bed and told them to go to their rooms.” She admits that this incident was the most action and excitement she had seen so far as an RA, to which I assured her that since it’s only week three, there were sure to be much more thrilling situations, and wished her the best of luck! After that anecdote, she told me that for the most part, everyone in Lafayette had been very friendly, and that everyone seemed to respect others in the community. “People are also pretty social in this dorm, so doors are always open and there’s usually music playing in some of the hallways, which is really nice.”

Not wanting to focus only on Sahithi’s RA stories, I changed the subject to travel, and I asked her describe her trips so far. The first weekend she was here, she visited the Loire Valley in central and southern France, noting that “[it] was a pretty neat area, we visited around 4 to 5 castles. The prettiest was the one that inspired a fairy tale. It was beautiful, but we couldn’t actually go in because someone lives in the castle now and it’s only open to visitors during certain times of the year.” Her next weekend in France, she visited Paris, which she says was amazing and full of fun times. While in Paris, she was able to explore the Musée of Orsay, which was her favorite because it was built into an old train station. Aside from typical tourist activities, her and a friend hit up a lot of different restaurants and food stands, and had a blast going through all of Paris’s little shops and boutiques. She has never traveled on her own like this before, and she’s been loving every minute of it. Sahithi cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring!

Here’s a little story that Sahithi left the interview with, “Something interesting that happened is that my friend purchased a Louis Vuitton wallet while in Paris. A couple hours after she bought it, we went to Briore Dioche (a restaurant) to grab some dinner before catching our train back to Metz. We were sitting on the tables directly outside of the restaurant. We set our bags down next to us, on the side that was next to the wall. Someone sat at the table directly behind my friend and stole her newly purchased Louis Vuitton wallet. She realized it within less than five minutes. She told the Manager of the store and the security guard immediately. The manager was super helpful. He pulled up the security footage and showed us how the man had stolen her bag. He also had the security guard bring the local police to us. The police took the information and told us we should file a complaint at the police station because if we don’t then they can’t arrest the thieves. So we started heading to the station but ten minutes into the walk over the police called us to tell us they had caught the thieves. At the end of the day the thieves had been caught and and wallet was recovered as well.” Whew!

All throughout this crazy experience, anyone who was involved in getting to the bottom of the situation was extremely helpful and kind to Sahithi and her friend. She says that there are two morals to this story: You can never be too careful with your belongings (and if you think your stuff won’t be stolen in Paris, think again), and French people (and the police especially) are extremely kind and helpful, so if you’re ever in a questionable situation don’t be afraid to reach out to them as soon as possible!

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