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Category: Campus Life (Page 2 of 10)

Vlog 5: Adventures Around Metz

Crêpe and Game Night!

My favorite night of the year happened last week: crêpe making night!! Okay, it isn’t my favorite night of the whole entire year, but I love crêpes, and I love making crêpes, so it’s always a great time. The Bureau des Etudiants pulled out all the stops with assorted jams, hella Nutella, and even a jar of that Biscoff cookie spread (the only thing we look forward to on Delta flights – you know I’m right). We got the crêpe hot plates heated up, Ratatouille on the big screen, and a plethora of various board games that are usually stowed away in the BDE closet.

Giant Jenga was a big hit: I’m not sure whether to blame the design-oriented part of us GT students, or the need for a small no-stakes gamble. Regardless, it’s simply fun to watch this massive tower crash down and make everyone in the GTL lounge jump every 20 minutes. I haven’t played small baby (now) Jenga in a long time, but I’m nearly positive you couldn’t do the craziness that I saw with big Jenga. Or maybe that’s just GT engineers blowing my mind with their planning and balancing skills. To be honest I’m a little shocked that no one happened to get hit by the avalanche.

The crêpes were a bit of a mess at first: getting an even consistency is difficult the first time, and then flipping it just becomes a jumbled debacle not dissimilar to scrambled eggs. Soon enough everyone got the hang of it, and people not in BDE came over and just made crêpes for others out of personal enjoyment.

All in all, it was a very successful night, in which people from all realms of GTL – some that I see every day, some I’d never met before – could come together for games and food.

(Thanks, BDE!)

Bowling and Go-Karts: Suppressed and Oft Forgotten Youthfulness

Breaking News: the BDE Reminds GTL Students of Their Suppressed and Oft Forgotten Youthfulness Through Bowling and Go-Karts.

With all the stress that Georgia Tech students endure on top of having to choose between studying and travel planning, it’s easy for students to believe they’re like a grumpy 45-year-old, seasoned in the work of studying and so unable to simply let loose and play. The BDE (or Bureau des Etudiants, the student board here) attempted to fight back and reclaim the childlike spirit we all have by taking everyone to Metz’s great bowling/laser tag/go-kart arena!

Bowling lanes were randomly assigned, so I got to meet people that I’ve somehow never even seen before. (Maybe we have totally opposite schedules?) There are a ton of graduate students at GTL this semester, so people I have never and will never have classes with all came out of the woodwork to have a good time together.

Close scores could be competitive, but for the most part everyone was just chatting and having a good time. Then without any sort of transition came the most intensely divisive activity you can possibly play: laser tag.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a caveman fending for your survival group in the wilderness, go play laser tag. All friendships are lost at the entrance and deliriously picked back up there afterwards. We formed teams and went into the dark, neon wasteland-themed maze that then became the land of no laws, and begun shooting each other mercilessly.

Yes, I’m being overly dramatic about this, but it really is intense! At the end of the game everyone came out of the two-story obstacle park sweating and nursing their wounds, stubbed toes and pride having the highest densities, and we all regrouped outside in the fresh air. The go-karting people were still zooming around the track, moving much faster than I’d expected. They also gave little medals at the end for the winners: unsurprisingly, the whole GTL gearhead community swept the trophies up with little trouble.

While they continued, the rest of us sat down to experience a truly French karaoke night. If you’re imagining grandiose Edith Piaf or French electro-pop, I’m afraid you’re as wrong as I was. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, sang either Celine Dion or belted a pretty sappy 80’s ballad, all speaking of lost love or something of that nature. Every single French man, woman, and child sang their absolute hearts out, totally sober on a Wednesday night. It was fascinating. And then of course some GTL boys got up, turned their hats around backwards and started with the Backstreet Boys.

I won’t say the French locals hated it – some were bopping along to the b-boy beats – but the sudden change of mood might’ve been too much for the taste of some. Nevertheless, it was a fine night and I’m glad I was there to experience it.

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.

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