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Category: Campus Life (Page 3 of 9)

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!
 

(Not Really) Free Mobile, But Still a Great Deal

All photos courtesy of Free Mobile.

As the semester draws to a close, I have to give my thanks out to Free Mobile. At first, I wasn’t planning on getting a SIM card. I had just spent the whole summer in Vietnam and I was totally okay without one. But after seeing the deal that Free Mobile was offering, I couldn’t resist.

For 19,99 euros/month + 10 euros (for the physical SIM card) you get:

It’s come in really clutch multiple times. For instance, you can call and send texts internationally for up to a total of 35 days, which is plenty for the semester. This includes the entire European Union (save for Switzerland) and also includes US landlines. It was very clutch when I had to call hostels telling them of late arrivals or contacting my US bank for information. A map of the coverage is here:

In addition, 50 GB of data is HUGE! It’s more than anyone ever needs, so I can use data whenever I wish. This is useful for looking up map information or places to eat/shop when traveling, and can be used as a hotspot for your computer should you decide to bring it on a trip AND when the Lafayette wifi is down.

I’ve found it to be very reliable in most countries I’ve traveled too, but it does tend to have less coverage in some spots. But for 20 euros a month, I’d definitely give it a go.

Note from the editor: It’s pretty easy to start – there’s a vending machine for SIM cards at their store downtown, but make sure you cancel Free Mobile BEFORE you leave! It is very tricky to handle otherwise. There are step-by-step instructions distributed for mail-in cancellation.

The BDE

If you haven’t heard about it already, Georgia Tech Lorraine has a Bureau Des Etudiants (BDE) which translates to “Board of Students”. This small group consists of students who plan out fun activities, food giveaways, and other events for the student population here. They are given a budget for funding and work closely with administration to ensure everything goes smoothly. If this sounds like something you’re interested in during your semester at GTL, definitely go for it! I know some of the board members and they sincerely enjoy what they’re doing.

Here are some of the events they planned/planning this semester:

Pizza Nights in the GTL commons
Game Night
Halloween Party
Karaoke
Breakfast the morning after the election
Indoor Skiing
Bowling and Laser Tag
Thanksgiving Potluck
Christmas Celebration

The Thanksgiving Potluck this past week was quite obviously loads of fun and food, as per the photos below!

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Thanks for an awesome semester thus far BDE! Can’t wait to see what you have planned to round out our time here!

Thanksgiving in France

As strange as the title reads it was true, we did have our own not so little, Thanksgiving in France yesterday. All week I had been thinking about what to write about. What would people reading this blog back in Atlanta want to hear about? What stories and events were happening this week that, once written about, could shape someone’s choice for attending GTL? I wracked my brain everyday trying to partake in meaningful things, and remember each moment, perhaps one fleeting one could represent a post, perhaps not.


In what now seems like a huge blur, I remember first seeing the huge feast before my eyes and being overcome with happiness. Walking in my eyes were instantly drawn to all the orange. The room had been stripped of its usually black chairs and tables and filled with wooden tables with bench seating like at a picnic. The tables were covered with bright orange tablecloths that really reminded you of home. Turning left I finally saw the bounty. It had been a long time since I had seen such “American” portions and boy, were they magnificent. Three or four tables had to be set up stretching the length of the entire room, just to hold all the food. And as the line, more of a mob in truth, formed by the table people kept coming, bringing more and more food.

Finally I got my chance: the line cleared, and I made my way to the table. As the line crawled forward, everyone was so excited, trying food from each plate. By the middle of the table the feast had turned into an ethnic party. People brought in their own versions of family recipes of thanksgiving classics – blackberry jam, roasted carrots, sausage stuffing, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes with skins, and more. The list went on and on. Much like the party that started once we sat down. As the benches began to sag as we ate our fills GTL’s mood felt festive. Halloween had passed us by and while some were festive and dressed up most didn’t partake, but this was different.

This really hit home when the slide show started. Around the time most of us began attacking the desserts, both French and American, the lights descended. This was our cue to turn and face the projector. As the slides showed the memories and locations it really hit me and most likely everyone else, just what this semester had been. Truly remarkable, a real gift! While each week we would stress about the ins and outs of school work, money, or other troubles we still made great memories. Each photo represented a thousand words, amazing stories of things no one here will ever forget. As the lights subsides for the second time we all rose in applause of not just Hannah for making the show, the hardworking chiefs who made this great meal, and not just Abbie and Jack for planning it, but to all who had witnessed and partook in this incredible semester.

Less Interesting Weekends, But Still Interesting People

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes you need to take a break.

Some of the Lafayette dorms.

At GTL it’s no different. As my funds began to dry up and each exam and quiz becomes more and more important, I have to start weighing things. The days of climbing mountains and visiting major cities are very sadly, coming to a close. Each time I choose to stay behind in Metz, my heart saddens, especially since I still have an active Eurail for another month. Yet, we’re here to learn, after all it is college.

So a “hard” weekend of studying commenced on Friday morning as I rolled out of bed. First came the procrastination, then Netflix and HBO, and finally I did what needed to be done. Reading up on my Thermodynamics and Fluids homework, I couldn’t help thinking of my friends: where had they gone this weekend? What awesome stories was I missing out on? And as the homework load kept piling up, these thoughts kept reoccurring. But, as previously mentioned, school is first.

It wasn’t all boring here at Lafayette though. I knew a few people who had decided to stay for the weekend as well. Luckily enough, they were some of my soccer buddies, so naturally we decided to play soccer. We scheduled everything and got the word out in case any other Lafayette stragglers wanted to play. But in the end it was just the three of us – Jack, Luke, and myself. We reached the fields around 6:50 pm. It was already pitch black outside; only the street lamps ensured we were on the right path to the stadium.

As Jack and I stretched out on the sidelines tying up our boots (cleats), Luke ran around the field with his usual crazed, endless energy. We only had one ball, and as we started passing around we felt at ease. Yet within a minute all that changed as almost instantly the field went black. We glanced up at the lights and noticed they had all gone out. I ran over to my bag, and as the smoke of my cold breath fogged my phone screen I saw that it was only 7:05. Why would the lights go out now? I asked myself.

“Awww man! What do we do now?” Luke asked. “You guys wanna play in the dark?” “Sure, were already here.” And so we did! At first we set up our phones for flashlights, pitching them against our bags and shoes creating a little channel of light. But if you ran more than 5 feet away, the “flashlights” lights turned into blinding and distracting rays of confusion.

So in the end, we just played in the darkness, no lights at all. Yeah, we missed the goal and each other half the time we shot or passed, but that was part of the fun. Just some friends playing pickup on a field in Metz. To tell you the truth, this has been a life changing semester. There have been so many things changing; where I live, cities I see, first time mountain climbing, first this or that. Yet, as the semester goes on I am constantly reminded of the first things I read about on the GTL website back in Atlanta – community! This word has been used many times in posts, my own included. It is true, living in Metz for a semester with only a 100 or so people creates a real community. New friendships are formed, not just between fellow Jackets, but relationships that span thousands of miles, knowing no borders. This is what Metz has given us above all.

Bon Appétit: GTL’s Dinner Exchange

What has become one of Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s signature events is its French family dinner. And it isn’t just the food that sets this apart, but the company! Sure, GTL students aren’t just eating another sandwich from local bakery Paul, but they’re also spending the evening in the homes of Metz residents who have opened their doors and set their tables for a fun, friendly evening of cultural learning.

The 6th edition of this exciting tradition was a raving success, with thanks to the Metz-Nancy Academy and all of their support. Because of the partnership of the state of Georgia with the Nancy-Metz Academy (Board of Education), the two groups have been working very closely on this project with GTL. (In fact, Atlanta has many close ties to France, with projects including GTL, the France-Atlanta conference, the Atlanta-Toulouse Sister Cities Project and Startup Exchange, Georgia Tech’s close relationship with many top-tier French universities and research groups, and more!) But due to all of the effort and care of so many people, local host families volunteered to take in a total of 33 GTL students for dinner in their house for the evening on Tuesday, November 8th.

As always, this venture was a great experience for all involved. GTL students has the opportunity to meet a French family and see how they are living while speaking a bit of French, and it is always a pleasure for host families to welcome a foreign student and to speak English for the evening.
It was a real opportunity to organize this event again this semester, and everyone enjoyed it. Don’t believe me? Read the testimonials (and see the smiles) below!


From GTL students:

Jessica and I really enjoyed it! We highly recommend.” – J. Peasant

“I had so much fun at the dinner! I loved talking and learning so much about the family’s culture and the food was amazing!! We were not able to communicate with the parents, but their daughter was really good at English so she translated for us. They were so friendly and welcoming. Thank you.” – D. Dawes

“It was a wonderful experience, and it was a great taste of local culture. It was interesting to be able to see in the inside of someone’s house, and to see the way they lived. At dinner, I had homemade pate because the family knew someone with a farm. After the main courses, I had four different types of cheeses, and they were all delicious. Although the food itself was a highlight, even better was being able to talk to the family themselves. I felt that they were really interested in our views (I went with a friend), and I learned a bit about the way they live their lives in Metz. I was very satisfied with the experience. At the end, instead of shaking my hand, they did the goodbye with kisses on the cheek which was very new to me. I woulddefinitely recommend this French dinner to anyone, and I would love to do it again.” – Mae (Duke undergraduate student)
“It was a fantastic evening. Thank you for letting me be part of it.” – Giuseppe (Masters student)


From host families:

“C’est avec grand plaisir que je vous transmets quelques photos de la soirée de mardi. Cet échange était très enrichissant, nous avons justement beaucoup échangé et la bonne humeur était au rendez-vous !
Daniel et Jeffrey étaient vraiment sympathiques, agréable et d’une grande courtoisie, le fait qu’ils viennent à deux c est plus facile. De plus, ils ont fait grand honneur à la cuisine française !
Nous réitérons cette expérience avec grand plaisir dès que l’occasion se présentera vous pourrez compter sur nous »

// “It is with great pleasure that I send you these phots of Tuesday evening. This exchange was very enriching, and we just talked about so much and the mood was great! Daniel and Jeffrey ere really nice, agreeable, and polite, and it was easier that they came together. Also, they have loved and experienced the French cuisine. Truly, this experience was a great pleasure, and you can count on us to participate in the future.” – Mme Brandenburger

 

« Nous avons passé une excellente soirée en la compagnie d’Hugh, c’est un garçon très charmant et très intéressant, et vous remercions de nous avoir permis de le rencontrer. »

// “We spent an excellent evening in the company of Hugh, who is a charming and very interesting young man, et thank you for arranging for us to meet him.” – Mme Duval

 

« Bravo pour votre initiative, nous avons passé un bon moment. »

// “Bravo for this initiative, because we had a great time.” – Mme Ruiz

 

« Excellente soirée avec Camille et Alexander. Vraiment sympathiques. Nous avons proposé de garder un lien pour réitérer. »

// “Wonderful evening with Camille and Alexander. Very nice. We exchanged information to keep in contact.” – Mme Royer

 

« Nous avons en effet passé une très bonne soiree; riche de partages. Remerciements »

// “We spent a very nice evening, rich with sharing. Thank you again.” – Mme Turck


Thank you again for all who were involved; your work and care means so much to these students and families and has greatly impacted their experiences here at GTL.

A Strong Sense of Community

In previous blogs, I mentioned a great sense of community encompassed here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine by our great Resident Advisers (RAs). Yesterday, on a good friend’s birthday I witnessed this community firsthand in our residents.

We soccer lovers go downtown to play soccer at a local field. Each Tuesday at 6pm you can find us talking to the locals, passing, running, kicking on this tiny little field. Yesterday was no exception, and as we finished up, we all decided we have to help Luke celebrate his birthday the right way.

We started the walk back and fell into great conversations with each other, covering really every topic conceivable. We started with sports, since we had just played some, then TV shows, movies, childhoods, dream jobs, on and on. As we neared the Lafayette dorm, it was time to shower and eat and celebrate with Luke. The scene was very odd; as I approached Luke’s room in the “D” wing of the complex, I said “hi,” left and right to all these close friends I’ve been getting to know over these months. As I opened his door, I saw a roomful of people. The “hello’s” began again, and we started celebrating.

As the night wore on and we fought about the correct ways to get downtown, the mood was completely different than what I was used to. Everyone here knew each other and liked each other. You can go anywhere anytime. However, here at GTL, each moment is unique. Everyone wakes up the next morning with a story, a great tale of the day’s escapades and glories. In my opinion the best part of these get-togethers of ours, is that you get to know other people, other ways of thinking. You really start to open up and experience new things. And you always have something to talk about, like places to visit next weekend, or for fall break.

Thinking back now, this in fact is not the first time I have experienced or witnessed this here at GTL. A few weeks ago we had a local game night in the GTL Lounge hosted by our student run BDE organization. We had the works, poker, board games, and more. Yet the night hinged on the famous ping pong tournament. Everyone was wondering if the great Ola would be beaten – could it be done? In fact it was done (not by me unfortunately). I lost to Ola 25-27, but by the end of the night, it wasn’t about that. People really bonded with each other through the ping pong, poker, whatever medium that was used to initiate socialization. Now, as I walk the halls of Lafayette and GTL it is quite clear these friends here will be some of the best I have, likewise for others.

This blog is more a thank you to our great RAs and faculty here who strive to make this study abroad experience different and unique. Initially I wasn’t sure how it could be done, but now I see, and sincerely thank you.

So Close

As the semester heats up and the money dries out, the recurrence of weekends in Metz increases. This weekend was no exception, and while everyone went to Barcelona I spent perhaps the best-weathered weekend in Metz chilling with my friends  planning fall break. Thursday night we headed downtown to grab more of the local food and see more of our host city for the semester.
Strolling these ancient cobblestone streets, I see the glistening sidewalks and stones darkened by the recent rains. Interestingly enough, France was not as cold as I expected. This far north and still no snow, and I am truly surprised. Back home in Detroit by Thanksgiving it’s snowing already, and you can bet its cold. After some small talk being made, we finally decide to eat at a place we’ve circled three times.

As we sit down and overlook our Italian choices each of us start talking about fall break and the future. Italy is the big buzz with the rest of our classmates. However, my friends and I seem to be the only ones thinking of going north. I guess we’ve accepted winter is here better than our colleagues. After quite an amazing lasagna we head back to ‘Republique’ the bus station and head home. A very calm weekend ensues. Hanging out with friends, homework, hours of FIFA, some pickup soccer, and more.
As Monday hits, and the local GTL lounge gradually fills, there is a noticeable difference in people. Everyone is abuzz, as the weekend seems to be rushing at us. Man United’s game vs. Liverpool interrupts my studying for statics and thermofluids. People flock to my room to watch the rather boring encounter of two great teams. To the soft lines of thermofluids notes I fall asleep that night. “twilililing twilililing…… twilililing.” The song I once loved rudely awakes my 6 hours of sleep. Bright and early I must rise, with more studying to do. “It’s just for today, come on man,” I tell myself. Eating a bowl of cereal I turn on my computer and wake myself up with the laughter of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. Finally conscious and able to comprehend, I begin the day’s work; statics, then thermo, and 20161019_165558back to statics. The day goes on. Before I know it, it’s test time, and off to GTL I rush, listening to my newly acquired French songs. “On va le faire, va le faire….”! Translating to ‘we will do it’ in English, a perfect motivator for the day ahead. After the first test it’s all a blur. Tuesday is gone in a flash. All that remains of the day is the evening. A night to remember. Our great leaders of BDE, Jack and Abbie organized an indoor skiing trip for us at super low cost. As people board the bus I can really feel the weekend now, less than 24 hours and fall break is on. Tearing through the hearts of European cities our GTL crew will go, leaving behind no regrets, no sights, no sounds, no experiences unturned.

Being a Resident at the Residence Lafayette (We’re Certainly Not in a Dorm Anymore)

Posted by Harry

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Welcome to Residence Lafayette, where the current members of the Fall 2016 Georgia Tech Lorraine all live. It’s definitely been a bit of an adjustment, and some of that has to do with the lifestyle change of living in our own little studio vs. the dorms we have back at GT/Duke/Vanderbilt. Here’s a quick rundown of the similarities and differences:

1) Obtaining and Eating Food

This is probably the biggest adjustment that most of had to make. In our studio rooms, we all get our own kitchens, stocked with supplies of the previous resident. It has a mini-fridge, two hot plates, microwave, and sink for all our cooking needs. There are some local places (Paul, CROUS, La Boite a Pizza) that one can get food at, but I’d say most of us have gotten into the habit and routine of cooking for ourselves with a few visits to CORA.

2) Sleeping

All the rooms here are singles, so hooray! No roommate! The lights go off when you want them to and you can now peacefully wake up at 10am for your 11am class instead of 7am because your roommate had an 8am. Or you’re the one with an 8am and you don’t have to feel guilty about waking up your roommate so early.

3) Going to the Bathroom / Showering

All the rooms also include their own bathroom and shower (fist pump). However, that does mean we have to keep the bathroom tidy ourselves. It’s not a bad trade off!

4) Neighbors

Some of the other residents in Lafayette are other students while some are not. It’s important to understand that they live there too so we must respect the quiet hours. To throw in a side note, they’re very friendly, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

5) Laundry + Sheets

Laundry is pretty much the same here, although the washing machines do have detergent built in so you do not need to bring any. The sheets here are cleaned by management (clutch!) and the exchange is every two weeks.

It’s definitely a bit of a change then what we’re used to, a little bit more independent I’d say. Either way, it’s a nice little change of pace from what we’re used to and another experience that makes this study abroad program unique.

A Chill Weekend in Metz

Posted by Harry

This past weekend, I didn’t travel at all. I guess some contributing factors were some of my friend’ s parents were in town so they were gone, but also the gloomy fact that I had 3 exams the following week. Here’s a breakdown of what happened:

Thursday, September 29th

Spent the afternoon volunteering at Fort Queuleu! It was nice to meet some locals and put in some work for a local historical landmark. The fort was used by Germans as a detention center for members of the French Resistance during World War II. We just cleaned up some of local overgrowth in the area. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, it’s available every Sunday at 9am and every Thursday at 2pm.

Harry and a friend volunteering at Metz’s Fort Queuleu.

Friday, September 30th

Made the most of the empty GTL building and pretty much studied all day. This day put the “study” in study abroad. Spent some of the night shopping at CORA and had the time to make myself a nice dinner, and then a movie night.

Saturday, October 1st

Whoa! It’s October! Where did all the time go? I went on a bike ride all around town, making whatever random turns and twists the road took me. Riding around, you could really see fall settling in. The leaves were beginning to turn colors and the air was turning a bit chilly. At night, I went to the FC Metz vs. AS Monaco soccer game. My first soccer game in Europe, and it was really enjoyable! The stands were packed…but not for long. FC Metz lost 7-0, welp…

Photo courtesy of ASM.com

Sunday 10/2

Another pretty relaxing day. Got some more studying and cooking done.

As we can all see, a weekend in Metz is much needed some time to catch up on sleep, work, or general relaxation purposes. It makes for a nice break between all the heavy travel weekends we’ve been doing.

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