To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Campus Life (Page 2 of 9)

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!

From Procrastination to Proactivity: How I Ended up at a Handball Game

This past week, sitting in the student common area of the lounge, surfing the internet and procrastinating, I came across an advertisement for the handball world cup, which, don’t you know it, was going on in Metz. I shouted over to my friend if he wanted to go see the game, and in no time at all, I had impulse bought four tickets to the Spain-Angola game taking place later that night.
I have never played handball in my life. I didn’t know the rules, or even the object of the game, but I know that the sport is very popular in the European Union. After a quick Google search, I learned the basics: The object of the game is the throw the ball – surprisingly, about the size of your hand – into the opposing team’s net. You can take a maximum of three steps with the ball unless you dribble, and may only possess the ball for 3 seconds before throwing it.
That night, I set out on the Mettis bus to the stadium in downtown. After entering and finding our seats, the spectacle began. The game was fast-paced, high-scoring, and – best of all – exciting. Right in the first five minutes, Angola’s goalie (Ha! Try saying that 5 times fast), was injured and had to be replaced. About 15 minutes later, the replacement goalie had been given a red card, and the injured man was forced to return. Although he could barely walk, he still managed to block many shots by jumping in front of them.

Angola, sadly, lost terribly, scoring only 20 points to Spain’s impressive 42. Even though the game was definitely a total blow-out, it was still an amazingly immersive experience to be part of the crowd at such a traditional, celebrated European sporting event. This is what immersion is all about.

Changes (Not by David Bowie)

Anybody who attends our wonderful institute can attest to the various levels of insanity Tech is capable of driving its students to from time to time. I’m far from perfect, and after struggling much more greatly this past fall semester compared to my first year at Tech, I decided that I needed to change a few things. Psychologists have confirmed that switching locations, or making some other big change is the best time to attempt to change your daily habits related to work or hygiene or really anything. So, in order to fix some of the things I didn’t like about how I operate on a daily basis during the school year, I took advantage of this jarring move to Europe to change two simple habits that I hope will make a big difference.

1. Sleep Schedule

Photo couresty of GreenHead Alarm Clocks.

Although this doesn’t really. directly affect work habits, I think that this one is the most important of all of the changes I made. So far, I’ve stuck to the schedule of going to bed between 9:00-10:00 in order to wake up at 7:00 every morning. This is something I don’t think I’ve ever done in my life up until now, but let me tell you, getting 9+ hours of sleep on a weekday is absolutely game changing. I wake up much more refreshed, often before my alarm even goes off, and with plenty of time in the morning to make a real breakfast if I want to (sometimes cereal is just the way to go), take an un-rushed shower, and even spend some time reviewing the textbooks for class. (That last one is often dependent on how long that un-rushed shower ends up taking).

After such a relaxed morning, I find myself almost never feeling drowsy in class, which is a far cry from the freshman me who would nod off in Calculus II almost every time. This leads to better focus, better notes, and an overall better grasp on the concepts taught in my classes. I also get more time to do class work after I get home now that I don’t nap from 3-5 everyday! All in all, it’s worth sacrificing your weekday nightlife in order to get enough sleep to make it through the day. Besides, almost all of us travel 3 out 7 days of the week here at GTL, where we get plenty of time to pursue a social life.

2. Attending Every Class

At GTL, most classes require attendance, so this is a given for a lot of us students here. But typically in college many big lecture classes don’t keep track of who shows up, and some don’t even have things like quizzes to try and enforce attendance. For most of my college life so far, the temptation to be lazy and skip classes has been too great, especially when the professor is not exactly the best at teaching new material. However, I’ve decided to change that here, and the results, I believe, will show in both my academics and my psyche.

I’ve taken classes where, despite what the professor says during syllabus week, it is not really necessary to attend every lecture to succeed in the class. But I think that, as a student, there is more to it than that. When you attend all of your lectures for the week, you just feel good about yourself. I found it easy to slip into the mindset that going to class didn’t matter the more and more I failed to make it. It starts with just missing that one class that doesn’t take attendance and where “I learn better from the book anyway.” But I think all humans are a little OCD and there’s something about breaking your record of perfect attendance that just makes it easy to start missing your 8 AM when you wake up tired in the morning, or missing your 12:00 class because you haven’t eaten lunch yet. However, if you can manage to maintain the idea that you will attend every class and that it’s important, I mean, you’ll probably attend every class (kinda obvious I know). In my experience it’s been either zero or a lot, and this semester I’ve resolved to stick with zero.

If you’re a student reading this, I would welcome you to give these things a try, they’ve really helped me so far this semester. If you’re a parent, good luck making your college-age kids listen to you, even if you do like my advice.  If you’re a faculty member, I’m not sure how much you can get out of this (I hope you’re showing up every to class everyday) but either way thank you for reading, I’ll catch you next week.

A Looming Thr(eat)

C.R.O.U.S. Cafeteria (Photo courtesy of Crous Website, www.crous-lorraine.fr/restaurant/technopole.)

As many of you know already from my last anecdotal blog post, I, Sam Burke, know very little about the French language. This past week has been basically a sit-com called “Watch Sam Struggle Ordering Anything!” However, I am definitely getting the hang of certain phrases that have to do with ordering food. I recently learned the magic words “Je voudrais…” meaning, “Can/May I have…” Ever since then, I’ve gone full broken record, starting pretty much every single thing I say to the employees with that phrase. I’ve also been eating a lot of pig lately as the word for pork in French is the same as English but with a “c” instead of a “k.” On Thursday, when I finally got the courage and fake accent to go out for the first time and ask the cafeteria worker if I could, in fact, have the pork, it ended up not being pork at all, but rather beef. Still, they understood me, handed me a lump of beef, and for that, I am quite proud of myself. I wouldn’t say I am fluent, but I do feel confident enough to order pork that may or may not be pork!

 

Stir fry ingredients I prepared from my grocery store adventures.

It definitely seems like most of my interaction with the French language has been centered around food. I’m just a hungry American trying to climb over the – quite formidable – language barrier so I can get a bite to eat. I feel successful, yet highly incompetent when I go out shopping and say only three words to the cashier while checking out: “Bonjour,” “Carte” (a.k.a. credit card), and “Merci.” Oh well, I’m learning, and at least I got my food.

 

Despite how intimidating the French language can be, especially when the  group of people I go out with never seems to include any French speakers, I’ve found that there are always people there who are willing to try to help. For one, even those who don’t speak English will gesture and make hand motions to try and help you understand what they are trying to say. But also, a lot of French citizens speak quite good English, and many of these people are willing to meet you halfway (or 3/4 in my case) when they see you struggling with the language.

Just this last weekend, I was with my friend at the train station bus stop trying to figure out how to get home in a way that didn’t involve waiting for an hour for a bus to come. As we were talking and trying to make sense of the bus map, a middle-aged French gentleman must have overheard us and chimed in to our conversation, explaining (in perfect English) exactly what line we needed to take and where to get off. He even helped us identify the stop as it was approaching so we could signal the driver to stop. Little acts of kindness like that go a long way, and have definitely helped to shape my impression of France as an incredibly hospitable and gracious country, and inspire me to try to pay it forward, so to speak, and help any visitors to America I may encounter if the opportunity presents itself.

I now leave you with the ever-so-interesting segment, ‘French Word Of The Week’!

Habit (noun): clothing, outfit

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

Joel: “Hey, that’s a nice habit!”

Sam: *Dressed to the nines and biting his nails* “Is that supposed to be sarcastic?”

Note from the editor: The French don't pronounce the letter "H" as we do in English, so it will probably sound more like you coughed on the first letter, and they don't say the last letter generally, so it'd be pronounced more like - "abee."

 

Gardiens de la Paix – Meet the RAs: Victor

Name: Victor Menezes

Year: 2nd year (Undergraduate)

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hobbies: Tennis, weightlifting, skiing, and learning new languages

Victor grew up in a small town in rural Brazil, where he described his life as consisting of classes at his local school, tennis, weightlifting, and learning English. Despite, or perhaps because of, his small town roots, Victor had always dreamed of exploring the world outside of Brazil. After a teaching strike in his home country, Victor moved to Maine, where he attended boarding school for the remainder of his high school years. As a result of this immersion in American culture (and an acceptance letter from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta) Victor decided to pursue something he had previously never really considered: university in America.

Since then, he has further pursued his love of exploring the world, spending this past winter break traveling throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and now choosing to study abroad in France at Georgia Tech Lorraine, an opportunity that also allows for extensive travel throughout Europe.

From there, Victor and I spoke more about his job as an RA, and how he came to the decision to be one at GTL. After the considerable experience of actually holding the position of RA at his boarding high school, Victor was a natural choice among undergraduates to hold that position here. About being an RA in the past, and now for this semester, Victor said “[T]hat was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I love interacting with students and I truly believe that my previous experience will help me this semester. Feel free to contact me with any concerns about GTL and the dorms!”

I talked to Victor about some of the duties of an RA and how he would approach them, and he seems to be enthusiastically embracing his role as one of the moderators of dormitory life for the Aloes Residence. He made a comment on how excited he is to work with his peers and what his job expects of him, “All the residents seem to be responsible, considerate, and well-rounded, and I can’t wait to learn more about each of them. As RAs, we are the first line of contact for students; there is always an RA on duty and on-call during school days. We ensure that the dorms are safe and all residents are respecting one another.”

Victor tells me he is looking forward to an exciting, stimulating semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Outside of his RA duties, he is also taking 5 classes: Dynamics, Differential Equations, Deformable Bodies, Global Economics, and French 2001.

Along with Portuguese and English, Victor also happens to know a little French. He has found it very useful thus far and is excited to continue his study of the French language, as well as its culture with his second semester of college French. Victor also wanted to add, “I played handball in middle school and I am really excited for the Word Cup matches in Metz! Let me know if you’d like to join me!” I personally might have to take him up on that offer, it seems like a really cool opportunity. It was great getting to know a little more about Victor and about the role he plays in our system here at GTL.

If you want to learn more about some of the people who help to make everything function properly, look for Lina’s interview of one of our staff members next week!

Taking Advice from Professors

A List of Advice from my Professors, and what all of it means:
This semester at GTL, I am taking four classes with three wonderful professors and two rockin’ TAs. At the beginning of class, usually somewhere between the professor’s introduction of him or herself and the reading of the syllabus, each of my professors have offered a bit of advice to traveling students. Here is a list of some of the sage wisdom of my professors, and how it might help us students balance the chaotic blend of study and travel.
1. It’s a study abroad program, not a travel abroad program.
I am pretty sure every single one of my professors and TA’s reminded us of this fact. Yes, we are here to travel and enjoy our stay, explore Europe and become global citizens. However, most of us chose this program because the engineering classes are comparable to the ones at Georgia Tech. That means that yep, you guessed it, they are going to be a lot of work. Probably more than we are imagining. In the wise words of Professor Patoor, my Deformable Bodies professor, “Leave a little time for studies too, eh!”

 

Students get ready for class

2. Planning trips takes time.
In addition to taking Georgia Tech caliber classes, finding our way around a brand new continent, completing our homework, eating and (hopefully) practicing good hygiene, GTL students must learn to become excellent logistics coordinators. Planning a week or so in advance, we have to find hostels or Airbnb’s, plan our train route, find time to see all of the tourist attractions everyone our group is interested in, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is no small feat. According to my wise differential equations professor, Dr. Li, it took past students up to 10 hours per week to adequately plan each weekend trip. Keep that in mind, folks!
3. Do your work in advance!
There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a weekend of travel due to unfinished homework. It is a good idea to plan ahead, and get as much work done as possible before the weekend rolls around and the delightful chaos of traveling ensues. Especially when homework is published to sites like Coursera, says my Circuits TA Brandon Carroll, it is a good idea to work ahead when you have more time, rather than procrastinating and having school cut into your travel time due to your lack of prep. Sorry procrastinators! Time to buckle down and get some work done.

ECE 3710 TA Brandon Carroll poses in front of the circuit diagrams he has been teaching.

 
4. Don’t let the checklist mentality get to you
A lot of students, myself included, seem to be stuck in a checklist mentality, meaning we have a long list of places we want to visit and will travel to every place just to say we have been there. My history professor, Dr. Stoneman, advises to pick a place, and really spend time there and get to know the culture and locale. This experience can be more valuable, because it’s much more immersive than the fly-by-tourism that we could thrust ourselves into. This is not to say don’t go to all of the places you want to. Just remember, it’s okay to slow down, or revisit your favorite place. You will come back! And remember, in the words of Dr. Stoneman, “Metz is in Europe too!”

GTL is such a wonderful program, because you can really tell that the staff cares about both your studies and your experiences. And as a brand-spanking-new, fully autonomous, pretty much kid, I must say that the syllabus week advice I received from my professors is very valuable to me and my fellow students.

What Can I Say?

17 free weekends, 4 Planes, 40 trains, 17 Buses, 18 Metros/Trams, 2 Car rentals, 12 countries, and 6,450 miles. These are my statistics from this semester, the numbers I have racked up traveling across Europe. Yet, one run-on sentence can’t describe what this semester has been – not even close. An incredible gift! This is the best way I can think of summarizing this semester. Not everyone is given an opportunity like this in life. While many will just see this as studying in another country, this was much greater than that. By being based in the “Gateway to Europe,” each student that attended GTL was allowed to experience more than just the great country that is France. If we played our cards right, and many of us did, we could get a real glimpse of what the whole continent of Europe had to offer.
 
Early on, before I had even stepped foot on that first transatlantic plane back in August,  I had a mission to experience the most that I could in these short four and half months, and that’s something I proudly think I achieved. Many firsts were had on this adventure. Many great friends made along the way, the kind of friends you don’t just forget or lose touch with. Bonding over new drinks, shisha, football, international travel, both good and bad creates a much stronger friendship. Friendships much stronger than I could’ve asked for.
 
Starting with that first application I wrote, I expressed my ideas regarding photos; how the experiences and moments we share with our friends and loved ones are the greatest triumphs one can achieve during travel. It is these experiences that you will remember for years and years. The photo may trigger them, but it should never be the proof of where you went, the stories you tell may well be all the proof you need.
 
So, as the days counted down, the finals taken each day, a somber mood descended over our Metz family. We all felt the bittersweet moment approaching. Friday morning we would all be flying out, going home, and with a few exceptions, the semester would be over for all. Yet for me it was still grindin’ time, as I still had two finals left. So early Tuesday morning I stumbled into GTL half asleep. “Bonjour,” I said to the security guard, feeling a small ping in my chest as I did so, knowing it would be one of the last times.
 
The afternoon saw one of my longest finals, followed by my last game of ping pong against Giuseppe, I didn’t know it, but we wouldn’t play another that week. A late night saw an early morning, as Wednesday seemed a dreaded repeat of Tuesday. In the lounge by 7am, leaving only to take my final. But it was different; it was my last final. Statics, and all other classes were done, I was a free man.  Downtown we went that night, not to get drunk, or go crazy, but to just spend time with each other. Nothing would ever be like those moments again.
 
We may come back later, but not as students, not as fresh-faced youngsters with burning desires, but rather as old friends. So to ‘La Suite’ we went for some cards and great tea. The usual crew, who I am sad to say I feel I joined too late in the semester: Jahin, Yousef, Rafa, Alexander, and me. A few games of President and the laughs were evenly spread around. It’s something that thinking of now still leaves me feeling sad.
 
The next day would consist of much the same, interspersed with peoples’ bizarre cleaning patterns. As I traversed from room to room, the walls of Lafayette were lined with trash bags and luggage – yet another sign of ending semester. By nighttime, the mood began to change. In true celebratory fashion almost everyone agreed to pull all-nighters for early morning shuttles. From the cleanest rooms in Lafayette, we emerged and filled its halls with song and laughter for one last time.
 
Travel buddies stood side by side telling old stories to new listeners and vice-versa, making sure everyone was on the final page for GTL. As we gathered down in the Lafayette lobby to say our goodbyes to the 2am shuttle people, more than a few shed a tear. As bear hugs went around, I felt bittersweet again. “This feels like senior year of high school,” I said to Jahin and Sara. “It kinda does,” they said. As we waved goodbye to John, Austin, Rob, and more, it was official; the semester had ended.
 
In the end, these are just words, only those who were there with me can share those memories and experiences. What words must I use to convince you that this semester was a life changing experience, that I now look at life differently, and view everything else differently, what more can I say?  This is my story, and I hope you remember it, retell it, and one day add your own chapter!
 

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