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Category: Campus Life (Page 1 of 10)

A Very French Lunch, Round II.

(Please read this title in a French accent for full comedic effect.)

The Very French Lunch was absolutely amazing. I am sure you guys can tell by now, I am a little bit of a snob about authentic cultural experiences: I am always looking to get in the daily life of people, I don’t enjoy sightseeing very much, and I love just walking around places. So, at first glance, I was not too excited about the French lunch. For me, it was just a bunch of GTL students eating a fancy lunch together. However, I was able to invite my mom, my best friend, and my best friend’s mom, so it seemed like a great opportunity.

Of course, I woke up late and SPRINTED over to GTL where I was just able to catch the group of students leaving. I found my mom and my best friend’s mom, Susan, in the back of the group talking to Dr. Birchfield, one of the coolest GT Faculty members that I have ever met. We had a great conversation on the walk over.

The event was hosted at a hospitality school, so it was an opportunity for French students to practice serving a fancy meal. The students were really cool and very proper, always serving from the left, the perfect tone when saying “Je vous en prie” (you’re welcome), and making the perfect level of eye-contact: not too much, but not too little.

Additionally, it was a free class on etiquette. I had a general understanding of etiquette rules, but Madame Serafin, one of the French professors at GTL, was there to guide us through each step. Madame Serafin is a super blunt, quick-witted, and dry person, all the while being incredibly warm and loving. She made jokes about American students not knowing the rules and explained each dish as it was served.

The food was so so so so so amazing. Oh my goodness. It was a full 5 course meal, which was a nice change of pace from the spaghetti and meat sauce that has become my go-to meal. The main course was chicken served with three sauces, and each of them was more delicious than the last. The entire meal was great.

As far as cultural differences between fancy dining in France and in the States, I am sad to report that I didn’t find any. That being said, I am a 20-year-old college student that doesn’t have the most experience with fancy dining, so I am not the best person to pick up on these differences. I will say, it was a more authentic cultural experience than I expected. (This is beside the point that not everything you do in a foreign country needs to be “an authentic cultural experiences.” In the end, I am here for 5 months and if everything I do is an authentic cultural experience, I would not be able to live my daily life.) However, I was able to interact with the servers and ask them about their program, had some delicious French food at a traditional French table setting, and had a wonderful espresso after the meal. (One difference is that French people call it expresso, with an x, which is a big pet-peeve of mine in the States.)

For the word of the week, I want to give you all a phrase that goes with the post and is probably not very well known. I am sure that you don’t know this, but before a meal, French people say, “Bon appetit.” Doesn’t that sound so weird and unfamiliar?

Hopefully that sarcasm was received via blog post. (Conveying sarcasm is hard via writing.) However, I would like to give you a phrase that is not so well-known, so this week’s actually phrase of the week is: “Je suis rassasié.” This is an extremely formal way to say that I am full or satisfied. Look up how it is pronounced in French, because for me it is one of those words that sounds exactly like what it means.

A Very French Lunch

“With each hand, make a circle with your index finger and thumb. Which one looks like a b? That’s your bread.” A bit of confused anatomical study proceeded, and a multi-minute debate over which plate was whose was put to rest. Those who drew first crumb had already descended into territorial skirmishes before order could be restored. As students at a top university, the small things are what defeat us, such as having warm, famously irresistible French bread placed unexpectedly on our left, as if they expected us right-handed majority to not continuously grab for a morsel.

Neither college students nor Americans are particularly hailed for their manners, but a bit of advice from those with some manners in their upbringing as well as the occasional tip by Madame Serafin allowed us to avoid complete social faux pas. This “Very French Lunch” arranged by her “On My Radar” program was another smashing hit, feeding the hungry population of college students with a perfectly prepared and authentic meal. Innovation often arises through combining two formerly unrelated concepts. In this case, the culinary college nearby had students who needed to be graded on their abilities, and GTL had students who wanted to skip class to be fed and waited on. This was the complete dining experience: fluffy French pastries, effortless serving, 3 courses, 3 different drinks, and of course, the endless supply of bread. Like most of these events, it was held conveniently on a weekday when everyone is around, and professors even adjusted their schedules so that students could attend. In France, food is given the respect it deserves.

Most of us had never eaten quite so elegant a meal before. Discussions rotated between “The crisis of the 10,000 forks,” “How much bread can a purse smuggle,” and “Is Nutella really a chocolate – but more to the point, can it also go in this purse” while feigning a level of class we clearly did not possess. Pretenses aside, the food was delicious, even if I didn’t fully understand what I was eating. To begin, a puff pastry so flaky I couldn’t contain it, a bright citrus drink, and sparkling water I actually enjoyed the taste of. I’ve been known to draw my fair share of disapproving European frowns as I order my water still in restaurants, but this one did not need to be turned away. The main course was an amalgamation of poultry that I couldn’t tell apart, but one bird seemed to be the result of taking butter and convincing it to come alive. It was honestly the best bird I’ve ever eaten. For dessert, a chocolate mousse and a classic macaron that was my first sampling not provided by the shelves of Auchan grocery. They’re much more pleasing fresh. Of course, the addicting espresso followed: a habit of mid-day caffeine that I can get used to.

The existence of this lunch itself isn’t necessarily anything extraordinary – GTL and BDE often provide an assortment of activities that we can participate in. It’s the details brought in by everyone who came together to participate that bring them to life. Madame Serafin’s bold personality, food covertly traded (despite all eating the same meal), and playful mocking are signature events.

Crêpes and Karaoke

Despite being the most popular study-abroad program for undergraduates from Tech’s Atlanta campus, GTL is also filled with international students. The booming graduate program draws in students from nearby French, German, Italian (and more!) universities – and some international undergraduates as well. This adds to the cultural immersion and legitimacy as a study abroad program, given that we are taught in English by Georgia Tech professors. The small population of students means ample mingling in after-school events such as the “Crêpes and Karaoke” night hosted by the Bureau des Etudiants (BDE).

The BDE is a student board that hosts a plethora of exciting events, but I can’t help but be thrilled at this new level of entertainment. Music, food, and alliteration? Sounds like the ideal evening. Apparently, also the perfect time to schedule an exam. While the only alternative was a Thursday evening when I had already planned to be in another country, it was a particular tragedy that my exam fell exactly during the allotted time span of an event involving crêpes. Fortunately, my procrastination and BDE’s initiative meant that the student chefs’ crêpe technique was already being perfected to the beat of some sick tunes while I was studying for my exam the hour before. Considering the size of my class, I was evidently not the only disgruntled and starving pupil, and a new policy was enacted allowing anyone who was going to be taking the exam to have a crêpe early. I believe this boost of morale augmented the exam average by at least 5 percent.

While perhaps unwise, my stomach advised that I devise a competition with myself to see how quickly I could finish the test in order to maximize crêpe-to-stomach flow rate as opposed to academic achievement. Luckily, student love for BDE events tends to cause them to run past their intended ending time, and I arrived with plenty of time to partake. While neither I nor my peers have perfected the crêpe technique exemplified by the French vendors, a healthy slathering of Nutella masks any inconsistency in texture and keeps flavor at a maximum. Unfortunately, it seems BDE needs to increase their dedicated Nutella budget, as I could eat two large containers myself.

Years of study under an orchestra conductor that did not understand that we were not in the chorus for a reason has allowed me to cultivate a relatively decent singing voice. It should never be heard solo, but is acceptable in the impromptu group numbers that musicals convinced young Aria were a fact of life. I never quite got up the guts to go up to perform in karaoke myself, but happily joined in when a favorite song of mine was being performed. The international American hold on music soon was overtaken by a French revival, leaving me with a new game of attempting to predict the melody and sing along regardless. I believe my attempt was admirable, but the main enjoyment was experiencing French songs other than those intended for children that my French teacher in high school favored.

In true GTL style, the night couldn’t be complete without a bit of ping pong. This time, a little less serious. I arrived in the middle of an interesting game involving about 10 people, that seemed to follow the general rules that players on opposing sides of the table would each hit the ball once before moving on to let the player behind them take the next one. This circular pattern followed, with each person dropping out of the game once they made a mistake, eventually resulting in a few players sprinting around the now much too large path in an attempt to make it to the other side in time. Creative, competitive, and a cultural mish-mash, the night epitomized GTL student camaraderie.

A Real Meal? With a Real French Family!

By now, I hope you all realize that I love French. The food, the language, the people – no matter what it is, I am sure to be a fan. So, I was thrilled to find out that GTL was going to offer a cultural exchange, where students taking a French class could be hosted by a French family for dinner.

Now, I have had my fair share of interactions as a house guest in France, so I prepped myself for the do’s and don’ts. Do: come with some sort of housewarming gift. I went to the bakery and picked up fancy croissants and some choco+Nutella filled beignets. Do: compliment everything. I brushed up on my positive adjectives expressions of gratitude. Don’t: refuse dishes if you can help it. I’m an extremely adventurous eater, so no worries on this one. Don’t: be worried. French people can seem really mean, especially on a societal level, but they’re actually very welcoming and inviting (especially on an individual level).

I got ready for the evening, making sure to even shower before going (I know, my parents raised a classy young man), and I headed over to GTL to meet my new family. While waiting to get introduced, I played some ping-pong and helped the other students brush up on their French expressions, and just got more and more excited. As with any event, plenty of people were running late or had to cancel last-minute, so my family got switched, and I ended up being matched with a junior in high school and her family. She and her dad were very nice, and we hit it off by making jokes about the fact that I did not look like a Reema, the girl they were originally matched with. Obviously, this was an opportunity for Rebecca, my host-sister, to practice her English, so I couldn’t speak only French, but I definitely used it a lot.

The family was amazing. Consisting of a dad who worked in banking in Luxembourg, a mom who is a high-school Spanish/Portuguese Teacher, and a daughter who is wicked smart and wants to do engineering after high-school. And how could I forget, two cats with personalities immediately evident and totally opposite. They also had a turtle and an axolotl super cool type of amphibian. Before the meal, they gave me a small tour of the house and we had endless conversations about politics, Pokemon Go, languages, engineering, basically everything.

Then, the best part of the evening started, THE FOOD. Like any French meal, we started out with some cheese that was so delicious. (I’m a little bit lactose-intolerant, but I tend to just ignore it while I am here because oh my goodness the cheese is so, so, so good.) Then, we had some homemade juice that was half apple juice, half Mirabelle juice – very regional and very delicious. Then for dinner, crepes with ham, cheese, cheese, cheese, and other delicious additions. Then for dessert, CRÊPES AGAIN!!!! It was amazing, and there wasn’t a moment without conversation.

At the end of the night, I realized that I totally forgot about the baked goods that I bought, and I must have left them at GTL, so I asked them to swing by the GTL building on the way home. Unfortunately, they weren’t there either, so I definitely owe them some baked goods.

I bet that you thought this was the end of the post—I did too, but then the next day, their family invited me out to lunch! They told me they were going to stop by the Open House at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and they would love to see me before. I was so excited, so we made the plans, and then I had the most French meal that I have ever eaten—an all you can eat Chinese buffet. (Okay, not the most authentic, but it was delicious, and I wasn’t complaining.) I got to meet Rebecca’s best friend, who was also incredibly smart and quick on her feet, and we had a wonderful meal together. Then, they all came by GTL and heard all about the opportunities that were offered and it was sweet. As of now, we are still in contact, and I think it has turned into a nice friendship! I am so lucky to have had this opportunity, and lucky that I got paired with a family as fun as Rebecca’s.

Valentine’s Day

On a personal note, by virtue of opinion and objective analysis, I am concretely opposed to the idea of Valentine’s Day. Capitalizing on romantic love, the inherent insinuation that romance needs to be a part of everyone’s life and the associated negative feelings that come to those who do not have this idealized love to celebrate on this day, and the general heteronormativity of the day are the reasons that I am opposed to Valentine’s Day. However, as a human, I am prone to irrationally contradict my beliefs, so I love Valentine’s Day. I always imagine these fantastical situations where I meet the man of my dreams and spend an unforgettable day with him – and am constantly disappointed when this is not the case.

This year for Valentine’s Day, I controlled myself. I said, “Self, you are not in a position to find love, and you should just live this day like any other.” So, I decided to treat myself and go see the new film Black Panther. (On a side-note, this film was absolutely amazing. I am not a fan of action movies nor superhero movies, but this film was so much better than I anticipated, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.)

I did some research and decided that on this Wednesday night I would go to Strasbourg, watch the movie and come home. Fast-forward two days where I meet not exactly the man of my dreams, but an interesting and fun guy. I decide to invite him to see the film with me and he accepts. I am, for the first time in my life, going to have a date on Valentine’s Day. Also, he is French, so this also provides an opportunity for me to practice my French and see what dating is like in France.

On Valentine’s Day, I wake up, go to class, rush home to primp, and then head to the train station. My unnamed companion said he would meet me at the train station after his dentist appointment. (I know! Just like in the movies.) So, I put on my best outfit head to the train station. Because I was ridiculously nervous, I got to the station an hour early—a full 2 hours after his dentist appointment. When I get there, I send him a message to let him now I am there and that I am excited. (At this point, I feel compelled to tell you that I am generally needy and stress out over radio silence. Friends, family, no matter who it is, I cannot stand being ignored.)  I sit in the Metz train station, pedaling the bike powered charger, trying to read, and anxiously checking my phone. 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes drag by without a response. I tell myself at the 37-minute mark I will follow-up, just to make sure that he has received the message. Of course, I cave and send a follow up message at the 28-minute mark. Time slowly passes without a response.

Now counting time from my message turns into counting time before the train leaves. At the 15-minute mark, I tell myself he is going to stand me up. At the 13-minute mark, I invent an elaborate plan on his part that includes showing up with flowers. At the 10-minute mark, I board the train. At the 5-minute mark, I send a last message asking if he is coming. As the train takes off, I realize that I finally had a Valentine’s Day straight out of the movies. However, instead of the romantic gesture and unforgettable evening I imagines, I realized I am in the middle of the romantic comedy, where the couple faces an obstacle that causes heartbreak. (Not really heartbreak, but it sounds better.)

I get to Strasbourg, eat a quick kebab (nothing has changed), go see the film, which, it bears repeating, was absolutely amazing, and head back to the train station. But, as if the evening could get worse, I realize I grossly miscalculated the time of the movie and the necessary time to return to the train station and I have missed the last train to Metz. I end up getting a room in a youth hostel, spend a quiet evening reading, and head back to Metz the next day.

This story, while it is fun to laugh at (no worries, I am able to laugh at it, so you can too), also opens the door for some more emotional or meaningful thoughts that I can share with you.

The first one I want to talk about is being gay in a foreign country. I am so fortunate to have an amazing support system and unending, unconditional (albeit suffocating) love from my family. But, that doesn’t mean that being gay is easy. I worry about being open with my sexuality in the States, despite this amazing support system, so traveling abroad can be especially daunting when it is coupled with being gay. (It shouldn’t be ignored that this abroad experience is still an incredibly privileged situation. I am a United States citizen, traveling with a university program, in countries where being gay is relatively well accepted.)

Being gay in France is definitely different than in the States. France legalized gay marriage in 2012 and French people are often known for their open and accepting attitude toward love. However, there are definitely other barriers in France. One of those is that French people guard their private life (la vie privée) sacredly. Whether it is religion or sexual orientation, French culture has a self-imposed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. There certainly are not student organizations that create spaces for gay students (or students of color, etc.). It’s not as harsh or strict as I have made it seem, but it is there nonetheless and incredibly difficult to explain or describe. Transitioning from my community in the States, where I am very open with my sexuality, to French circles makes me feel as though I am hiding a part of myself.

However, these are largely theoretical and internal barriers. The community of students at GTL are extremely accepting, and I have not run into a single problem! Also, all of my French friends that I have met are accepting and welcoming, although surprised by the casualness with which I reference my sexuality and how it influences my life.

All this to say: Valentine’s Day is a scam.

I know I usually don’t add a phrase of the week for the mid-week posts, but there is a phrase that goes so well with this post that I have to add it! Lucky you! “Ça ne tombera pas plus bas.” Literally meaning “it will not fall any lower,” is used to mean that the situation cannot get worse, you can only go up from here. This is what I said to myself as I got stood-up, only to find that “Ca tombera plus bas encore.” And I would miss the train home!

 

A Tale of Three Languages

France has a worldwide reputation for its refined culture, so I have adopted the posh pastime of attending the opera. With a love for orchestral music and theater, I was eager to spend the equivalent of an entire week’s worth of meals (so, 15 Euro – thank you Crous for the cheap meals) to buy tickets to all three operas offered by Madame Serafin’s “On My Radar” program.

Despite my excitement for my first dip into the more cultured side of Metz (the On My Radar program is providing numerous other opportunities later in the semester), a surprise phone interview the night of the opera kept me from leaving on time. As is necessary for any starving college student, the prospect of a job won out over anything else, but didn’t stop me from trying to catch what I could. Navigating to the opera alone and in the cold, Metz at night provided a gorgeous sight I had yet to experience before. Built in 1752, the opera house is the oldest still running in France, and one of the oldest in Europe. Consequently, my walk from the bus stop (where my bus ended before it was supposed to) led through a beautiful old section of Metz.

After finally reaching the opera almost an hour late, I was met with yet another gorgeous building, but with no clear entrance. I guess there’s no red carpet laid out for late comers. After testing some doors, finding them locked, and getting yelled at for trespassing when entering what is apparently an adjacent, but different building, I began to question whether French culture even allows anyone to come late. While I respect the integrity of the opera and the need for quiet during each act, entering during intermission didn’t seem unreasonable. Success did eventually come after following a man back through a door after his smoke break, getting yelled at by security, escorted to the ushers, and finally plopped into a seat in the back.

Once I could actually settle in for the show, I remembered that I had never actually attended an opera before. Singing words inherently makes them more difficult to understand, as is often an issue in musicals. However, operas tend to be sung in the original Italian, making the effort considerably greater. Luckily, subtitles were provided on a handy screen above the stage. In French. While I have taken a few years of French, I am not particularly fluent and have forgotten most of it in the years since my instruction.

One can argue that the point of the Opera is not so literal. “The magic of the stage expresses emotion without the need for words!” I could imagine my orchestra conductor saying. This didn’t prevent the plot from being entirely lost on me, however. Intermission brought an opportunity to catch up from the Wikipedia synopsis, which is something that should be done in advance when time allows. From then on, I acted as a sleuth, piecing together the tale of Eugene Onegin from visual depictions, the plot overview in English, my sparse French, and at times a bit of Italian that was loosely comprehensible. The story is an interesting one that left me without a satisfying ending. In essence, Onegin spurns the love of a girl, gets into a fatal duel with his best friend, and later realizes that he loves the girl after she is already married. She then rejects him, and the story ends. No happy ending, but no dramatic fall from glory. Simply a rejection. A reasonable result, actually. This, in combination with the brilliant Tchaikovsky score, made for a glorious night.

Journée Portes Ouvertes

The first weekend of February is an exciting time for the scientific high schoolers of Metz. It’s the opportunity for them to see all of the great engineering and technology schools that are present. Centrale Supélec, Arts et Métiers, and even Georgia Tech Lorraine all host their open houses over the course of the weekend. The students get to have tours of the campus, mingle with current students, and see all of the cool stuff going on in the laboratory.

For Georgia Tech Lorraine, it is an opportunity to share with the community exactly what GTL is. No, it is not a separate university from the one in Atlanta. Yes, graduates receive a degree from “the real Georgia Tech” in Atlanta. Yes, classes are taught in English. All of these questions may seem more obvious to us, but French people are extremely proud of their education system (rightfully so), so they are not familiar with other systems – much like we don’t know much about others ourselves.

As part of my French class, I was given the daunting task of explaining the American education system, with an emphasis on university, in under 15 minutes. Our class worked together, over the course of two weeks, to prepare a PowerPoint. We spent hours deciding whether to explain quality points on GPA’s, how to best explain the process of high-stakes testing, and how to give the cost of universities without completely scaring them away. (For a public university in Europe, the cost of attendance is usually between 250-500 euros per semester.) After the presentation was ready, I was volun-told to be at the open house to present it to visiting high-schoolers.

When Friday rolled around, I was definitely nervous. We crammed a TON of information into the presentation, and I was going to have to present it six times, to a total of 150-ish people. However, as soon as I got to the GTL building, I was eerily calm. The presentations went well, although we were running on a 7-minute delay, so I really had to hurry through all of the information. Nonetheless, I think I was able to give the students, at least an idea, of how education works in the states.

Saturday, there were no organized visits. People were able to come in at their own pace, ask questions, and look around. Most of the people that came were students interested in engineering, however, there were some people that came by just to see what was GTL.

Now that all of the logistics is explained, I can move on to what I learned and observed from this open house. Lesson 1: the world is so small. I met a student that did a year-long exchange in Roswell, 15 minutes away from where I grew up, and we even had mutual friends on Facebook. I also met a girl who does the exchange program with my high school, so she has a pen-pal that is a current high-school student at Campbell, and I have been to her school before. It is just a reminder that you never know who you know, and you never know who knows who you know, you know?

Lesson 2: French education is like a self-serve ice-cream machine with 4 flavors, and the American education system is a visit to Menchie’s. Every school in the US has their own spin on scheduling, grading, courses offered, etc. In France, you choose your path for the baccalauréat and the rest is pretty standard.

Lesson 3: The French master’s students that are doing dual degree through GTL are geniuses. In order to do GTL, most of them have to make it through an “Ecole Prepa” and place in the top 15% or so on the national exams, then make it through 2 years at a top engineering school in France, and then be selected by their school and pass admission criteria by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. These kids are so, so smart.

In the end, la journée portes ouvertes was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the French education system and promote Georgia Tech across the Atlantic!

 

An American Grad Student in Metz: Meet Taylor!

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Taylor Spuhler when she was on her way back from class one day. I had already met Taylor at the pizza party on the first night. Immediately, it was clear that she is very outgoing, passionate, and always had an inviting half-smile on her face. So, I decided that I wanted to learn more about her and why she chose to do her Master’s at Georgia Tech Lorraine.

As we were walking back to ALOES from the GTL building, it started to rain (really, more like something between rain and sleet—very unpleasant). I, being the award-winning journalist that I am, know that you have to start off every interview with a softball question. So, I asked her why she chose to do her Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at GTL instead of the Atlanta campus. She told me that it was her first time to ever leave the country. (What an amazing way to spend your first time outside of the states—living in another country for an entire year.) She also talked about how important it is to learn about things from as many perspectives as possible, and at the end of the day she still gets a degree from Georgia Tech, so her degree is still easily recognizable in the states.

Continuing with the softball questions, I asked her what her favorite thing so far was. She talked about the cheese, I mean duh, but the part of the answer that stuck out to me was how happy she was with the French students in the Master’s program: her entire face lit up when she started to talk about how easy it was for her to make friends, and how everyone was so nice and welcoming. She even went into how she was nervous at first because she felt like every time that French people didn’t understand or agree with the United States, it would affect how they viewed her personally. This is something I think about all the time when I travel, and time and time again it gets proven wrong. Fortunately, this was also the case in Taylor’s experience. However, this did open the door for me to ask her about some of the difficulties she had been having.

I eased into this by asking if she spoke any French. She said no, but obviously she has picked up on the very basics, “bonjour, merci, je ne parle pas français.” Then I asked her what her least favorite thing was so far. She looked up at the miserable weather and said she is not a fan of all the rain we had been having. (If you haven’t heard, France is experiencing some intense weather: there is heavy rain and flooding across the country.) Other than that, she didn’t focus too much on the negative.

With the personal questions exhausted, I moved into the “formal” part of the interview. I asked her about her classes, potential research, and the facilities. She’s not doing research because she is not doing a thesis. This was a personal choice, certainly not the lack of research options at GTL, as there are plenty of graduate students doing research at GTL. Then I asked her which class was the most exciting one for this semester. (Granted, it was only the second week of the semester, and during the first week we only had two days of class, so it was very early and most of the interesting work for the semester hadn’t started.) She said that she was really excited for wind engineering, and that she already had a report for that class due in 2 weeks. Graduate classes don’t waste any time in getting started!  By this time, we had made it back to the residence building, and neither of us particularly wanted to stand out in the rain any longer. So, I thanked her for her time, and we went our separate ways. I really liked the approach and format for this interview because it was in the middle of her day and very opportunistic. I feel like it gave me a snapshot of her daily life, and made her more comfortable and give more natural answers. In any case, it was a delight to get to meet a graduate student, see what they were working on for the semester and the opportunities beyond undergraduate studies – and pick their brain to understand their decision-making process for studying at GTL.

Losing is Not an Option

I once heard that Tech students “binge everything.” While people often bring a certain intensity to their main endeavors, I have never encountered a population with such competitive camaraderie in all areas, from optimizing their path to class to seeing how absurd a game of chess can get when you are allowed to add a new rule every turn. It comes as no surprise that the BDE’s first event of the semester – a game night – was a smashing success.

At least I can blame the bad pass on my teammates.

Given that I can only handle 3-dimensional mechanics when I’m in a dynamics classroom, as others flocked to the ping pong table, I stuck to the relatively less embarrassing realm of foosball. Still, I am quite terrible at all games, due to a lifetime of never winning against my brother (also a Tech student and ultra-competitive). I still managed a surprising number of points scored for the other team by my own goalie, but I chock that up to the frantic thrashing.

With my camera identifying me as a member of the media, I made a few connections with members of the BDE who wanted my photos, and got a bit of an inside look into future events. With the mix of personalities here at GTL, the board seems to be following a brilliantly varied trend, but I’ll let them reveal the coming surprises. For this event, free food, games, and danceable music formulated a lively atmosphere that continued on an hour past the intended end time of the event. In contrast, a presentation on four itineraries for visiting Berlin by a student who lives in the city, added an informative spin that led me to book an Airbnb promptly after.

The evening was given direction by a ping pong tournament building in the background. As the matches passed, it grew to become the center of attention for everyone, whether winner, loser, or unaffiliated. Not for the likes of I, who habitually misses while serving and once accidentally referred to the sport as “ping pong ball,” this event was the culmination of weeks of practice in the lounge and seemed, for some, to represent something greater. Going into the experience with
little knowledge of the sport, I thrived on the spirit of the crowd. The excitement was palpable. I found myself choosing favorites, and anticipating certain prodigious matches with the athletic contortions of the most dedicated.

It’s hard not to be hyped when competitors are lunging and projectiles are flying.

The energy was at times released unexpectedly, with a backwards spring leading to a somersaulting fall. Unfortunately, the most comfortable seats with the best view are situated immediately behind one of the players, but a series of skilled defenders prevented my face from joining the casualties. In perfect moments, the beats of the ball synced with the music in an ephemeral flow. Rampant heckling bolstered the hype, and calls of “You got it buddy! No matter what we say behind your back, we believe in you!” brought back an element of humor. Still in the early weeks of the program, competitors would learn a name then happily vow to demolish them.
It’s this kind of instant friendship that characterizes the spirit of GTL, showing on their faces as the intensity melted into a grin between points.

As the final match geared up, calls for a more appropriate atmosphere were met with the beats of “Eye of the Tiger” and “The Final Countdown” blasting out and instigating a bit of dancing as it’s hard not to be hyped when competitors are lunging and projectiles are flying. the competitors played. This extra-long match was hard fought for the title of “Supreme Leader” and a corresponding crown, but the crowd seemed eager to cheer for everyone involved.

Starvation Sunday

Written by Aria.

Alternative title: how I was 72% under my food budget the first week.

As Tech students, we all go a little overboard with quantification, but in terms of budgeting I find it helpful. In this case, it instigated genuine concern for my own well-being. Had I really been eating, or do the French stay so thin by inducing some hallucination of consuming endless bread? I had come to France with the anticipation of hemorrhaging money, and my savings were prepared for it. Instead, I seem to be doing better than in Atlanta.

The outdoor market in Metz, with some of the best food around. Unfortunately, only on Saturday mornings.

The secrets to my success are quite simple. Intuitive, really.

  • Skip meals because you woke up too late, forgot to include eating in your
    itinerary, and/or are too tired to grab bread. (Let’s be honest. This has nothing to do with being in Europe. This is college.)
  • While in French cities, have your entire food allotment consist of pastries picked up every few hours, each from a different bakery. Take them to go and keep touring.
  • Your sit-down meals are now a baguette with brie in the park.
  • When you can’t remember the last time you had anything that wasn’t a carb, go to Crous and spend 3.5 EUR for a meal with such novelties as fruit and meat. Don’t forget your side of bread and choose another carb to make up the bulk of your meal.
  • Plan to do your grocery shopping on Sunday. You will soon learn that most
    businesses are closed on Sundays, and that all you have in your fridge is ice and juice. Luckily, the corporate spirit of America keeps even French McDonald’s open. On the walk there, stop from exhaustion (who knows when you last consumed a calorie) and realize the Paul a block from your dorm is also open. Buy a baguette.

Fresson: the best cakes in all of France. Bring cash, because unless you are planning on buying too many cakes even by my standards, you won’t meet the credit card minimum.

College students have adapted to the harsh conditions of their environment. In this culture, they use every part of the baguette. The pointed end is dipped in olive oil for an appetizer as the meaty body simmers in the remaining oil. After Caprese sandwiches are consumed, the meal is finished off with Nutella spread on the fleshy innards. Despite their large size, baguettes are best consumed the day of their acquisition. Those less skilled in the art often partner up to complete the task, as it is frowned upon, albeit possible, to order only a half baguette.

The happiest moment in my life. Then I dropped the chocolate square on the ground.

To embrace the French culture, I highly recommend a diet consisting entirely of pastries. Your wallet and taste buds will drown out the complaints of your heart. While touring, we tended to rack up at least 10 miles a day. Instead of stopping for any significant meal, we simply located the best bakery nearby and shared a few pastries. Most places in France are cheaper if you take the food to go, so this leads to fighting off the pigeons as you eat your cake on the street corner like the desperate wretch you are. This is worth it for the ability to buy more cakes later. Nothing has topped Metz’s own Fresson, which was once voted as having the best cakes in all of France. Their raspberry tart may be the highlight of my time here so far. For a quality shop, their prices aren’t bad either.

The French cuisine lives up to its reputation, making my limited menu tolerable. This is no excuse to survive only on bread, however, so I now am striving to diversity my sampling outside the comfortable bounds of carbs. That flaky spiraled pastry, named “escargot” isn’t quite the same story as the original dish.

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