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Category: Field Trips (Page 1 of 2)

GTL Visit to the Orchestra Rehearsal

On a Wednesday afternoon, a group of GTL students and myself walked over to the Orchestre National de Lorraine to watch the orchestra rehearse for an upcoming performance they would have the following weekend. Before entering the orchestra, one of the organizers of our visit discussed with us what we would be listening to, what to expect, and the rules of listening in on the orchestra. Walking into the building, we were greeted with curious looks and warm smiles, as a group of about thirty twenty-something year old students walked into the rehearsal room.

Orchestre Nationale de Lorraine

As the we sat in the rehearsal room waiting for it to start, I observed the musicians warming up and tuning their instruments, the choir streaming into the rehearsal room and practicing their vocals, but I was suddenly shocked with what I saw next. Before the orchestra began rehearsing their pieces, in walked a little boy who looked about ten years old with his mother. You may think that this is not shocking at all as you would likely assume that the child would be waiting on his mother to finish rehearsal. Well, you would be slightly mistaken because as the organist began to play, this child began to sing! Yes, he sung one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard a child sing. It was truly beautiful to see such a young person with so much talent, dedication, potential, poise – not to mention the respect from the older musicians and singers as they admired him doing his solo.

Once the boy finished his solo, the true beautiful chaos started. As rehearsal began, the conductor lifted his hands with his baton, and the musicians abruptly sat upright in their chairs with their instruments waiting to be played. Beginning his conducting, the conductor cued for the small, delicate hum of sounds from the flute as the musician began her flute solo of the first piece the orchestra was playing. Throughout the performance the music escalated in intensity and backed off delicately. As I sat on the bench listening in, I closed my eyes and tried to picture what I would see based on the sounds I was hearing. I could see nature, a town, peace and happiness, and then a final rush of excitement. During rehearsal, the orchestra played Requiem by Fauré and Prelude by Debussy. The rehearsal came to a close with the choir rehearsing with the orchestra one of the songs for the performance. Their range of vocals reverberated through the room, smoothly going along with the music the orchestra was playing. While I was never really into classical music or played an instrument before, it was really nice to experience a professional orchestra rehearsal and see the musicians living their passion.

Orchestra rehearsal

After the orchestra rehearsal, I asked another GTL student what she thought of the rehearsal performance. She said, “Playing classical music for so long, it was a really great and unique experience to see professionals rehearse. I especially enjoyed Wednesday’s rehearsal because one of the pieces they were practicing was Requiem by Fauré who is my favorite composer.” For the GTL students who are very interested in classical music and play instruments, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience as it was a behind the scenes look to something they are passionate about. Overall, it was really nice to see GTL students’ faces light up as the orchestra played, some even following along with sheet music on their phones, and the orchestra to see students interested in their profession.

Johnny Appleseed Came to Visit!

Once 5:30 PM hit, we were all rushing out of the GTL building doors to make it on the bus in time. Cramming into the bus, many of the GTL students and myself were ready to go vegetable and fruit picking for the first time. With the city bus rolling down the street along the dirt roads to the fields, we pulled up to this small building, grabbed our baskets, and started picking the fruits and vegetables of our choice.

We walked out to the fields, and were instantly surrounded with the smell of nature and flowers. It was really cool to see the beauty of nature, and to see the produce in grocery stores actually growing out of the ground. The first stop many of us made and one of my favorites was going to the strawberry fields! Strawberries were nestled in the green leaves decorated by the small white flowers; this made the strawberry bushes seem even more beautiful. I really enjoyed picking the strawberries and raspberries because those are some of my favorite fruits, but it was also interesting to see how tall and wide the plants actually grow to produce such small fruit. For example, the raspberry trees were taller than me with only a couple handfuls of fruit on their branches.

The next stop in the fields were the apple trees! Did someone call Johnny Appleseed to come visit? Rows and rows of apple trees lined about one fifth of the fields. There were a variety of apples that could be picked from the trees: green, red, pink lady, Gala apples, and even more. Walking through the apple trees, I could truly appreciate the amount of work that goes into picking produce. It was even more satisfying to pick produce that was not genetically engineered in the process of their growth. Pear trees also filled the fields right next to the apple trees, standing just as tall and green.

Picking fruits and vegetables reminded me of home, and the peaceful silence of being in a rural area. Many of the GTL students enjoyed this afternoon activity as well because most of us have never been picking before – and it provided us with a much-needed break from classwork and studying too. It was nice that the Georgia Tech Leonardo Program (the new name for Madame Serafin’s cultural program featured before!) organized the entire event and that transportation was provided to and from campus. Students were able to bond more as a GTL class from this experience. While picking fruits and vegetables, I was also able to meet more students that I would see around, but had never met before.

As we left the fields to buy our items that we picked, we exited with a friendly greeting from the facility’s geese, goats, and chickens. That afternoon consisted of good laughs, smiles, small screams from seeing a bug on a leaf, and interesting conversations. This was an experience that I never would have decided to do on my own, however, this was something I will definitely remember from my time at my GTL study program.

Moselle Sans Limite

At the gardens they have the new logo of Moselle in the grass! (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bland)

Last week, all of us at GTL went on a field trip to the headquarters of the Department of Moselle in Metz. For other Americans such as myself who aren’t familiar with the term, a department is essentially a political/geographical unit in France that is higher up than a county but smaller than a state. Moselle is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. We were greeted with a lovely welcome from the department, with speeches from the Vice President and the President of the department to us, and also from the president of Georgia Tech Lorraine to the department officials about the great things going on at GTL! The President of Moselle didn’t speak English and had a translator relay his speech to us. It was easy to tell, even in a different language, that he was an excellent public speaker—even without understanding, I was engaged! It was interesting to listen for familiar words in French, and to try to guess which French words corresponded with the English words of the translator.

Some of the main points that I took from the departmental speeches were their words about the many wonderful aspects of Moselle, such as the culture, the food, the business, the history, and much more. They encouraged us to travel around the region and take advantage of these things during our semester in this region of France—a sentiment which, after my fantastic weekend in Metz, I wholeheartedly agreed with!

After the speeches, we moved to the eagerly anticipated and delicious lunch, which consisted of charcuterie plates covered in various meats and cheeses, breads, grapes that looked too perfect to be real (but they were!), and the regional plums, mirabelles.

After lunch, the students split into four groups to visit different sites in Moselle: Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy (Fruit Gardens), Chateau Malbrouck (Malbrouck Castle), the Maison Robert Schuman (House of Robert Schuman), and the Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation (Museum of the War of 1870 and the Annexation). Unfortunately, being in four places at once is not one of my talents, so for some of the locations I didn’t visit, I’ll relay what I’ve heard from other GTL students about their experiences.

The house of Robert Schuman, and the attached museum about his life and role in the formation of the EU.

I visited the Maison Robert Schuman, which is both the house of the French statesman Robert Schuman (not the German piano composer—his name has two n’s) and a museum about his life. He is regarded as the father of the Europe, instrumental to the formation of the European Union after World War II. We toured through his former home and watched a video about his life. When he lived there, he had owned over 8000 books! This seemed to be his only excess, for he chose to live quite simply. At the sight of a piano in his office, I wondered to myself: did Robert Schuman ever play Robert Schumann?

Musée de la Guerre de 1870 et de l’Annexation. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

Those who went to the war museum saw relics from the Franco-Prussian war, including uniforms and cannons. They also visited a grave where many soldiers from the war were buried, surrounded by plaques describing the losses in each battalion. The museum also holds pieces of a large panoramic painting from the war, meant to surround a room and make the viewer feel present in the scene.

Part of the panoramic painting in the Musée de la Guerre. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tighe)

The students who visited the gardens learned about many different kinds of plants and were given 3 minutes to pick as many mirabelles as they possibly could. My friend observed that if they had had as much time as they wanted to pick the fruits, she probably would have grabbed a more reasonable amount and then stopped; but the pressure of the time limit led them to frantically pick an absurd number of mirabelles! (This in turn led to us holding the Mirabelle Olympics back at Lafayette that evening, where the events included catching mirabelles in our mouths, a mirabelle beauty contest, and other equally prestigious activities.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone about the Chateau Malbrouck, but I heard that both the castle itself and the view from the walls is wonderful!

In all, our field trip through Moselle was filled with times both fun and educational, and if you’re looking for a beautiful area of France to explore that’s packed with experiences for everyone, look no further! They also have a very cool website where you can learn more, at www.mosl.fr.

Breaking the Rules: Studying Video Games in Metz

 

Written by guest blogger Kevin Chen

I studied video games in Metz… wait a second. Since when did the words “study” and “video games” ever go together? Something sounds wrong. But here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was able to break this rule.

As part of HTS 2100, I studied the growth of eSports, the competitive aspect of the video game industry. On March 23, I got the dream opportunity of meeting one of the eSports leaders in Europe, Thomas Willaume. Willaume is the founder and CEO of Helios Gaming, the largest video game tournament ladder in the Grand Est, or “Great East,” region of France. Willaume describes Helios Gaming as a “video game ecosystem,” in which all types of players and teams gather to share their love of video games.

Our meeting with Willaume occurred at a startup incubator named TCRM-Blida in Metz. During our meeting, I was able to sneak in a stellar photo of me, one of my classmates Akib bin Nizam, and of course, the tall and handsome Thomas Willaume.

After the meeting, our hosts at TCRM-Blida invited the class to an Indie Game festival that evening. I was hesitant to accept this invitation. I did not know what to expect – I have never attended any video game event. Despite my uncertainty, I decided to give it a shot. I promised myself I wouldn’t stay long…an hour at most.

That evening, I was amazed by how energetic the event was. It felt like a disco, with dark yet colorful lights. A crowd of roughly 400 people gathered, eagerly sharing their affinity for video games.

My Georgia Tech friends and I played nearly every video game that was offered. The video game that stuck with me the most was a fast-paced time management game, somewhat similar to Overcooked.

The one hour that I promised to spend slowly became 2, then 2.5, and then 3 before my friends and I finally left.

When people say that studying abroad is a new experience, they cannot be more correct. For me, this came in the form of a new video game experience! Never before have I experienced playing video games outside of a home environment on this scale. Maybe one day I’ll be a professional video game player, battling dragons and opponents to take down the enemy nexus while a lively crowd cheers behind me.

Taking Off in the Pink City with HTS 2100

Featuring guest bloggers Soon Keat Ong, Jenna Lecates, Kaleb Senator, and Yang Chen.

No Yellow Jacket’s journey through France is complete without a visit to Toulouse. Home to Airbus and a museum that houses two Concordes, it is an aerospace  engineer’s playground. As part of Professor Tim Stoneman’s HTS 2100 class at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, we had the opportunity to visit this amazing place with Dr. Stoneman and Professor Turab Zaidi. It was enlightening to learn about the history and stories behind the aircraft on display in the Aeroscopia Museum, and the experience of being inside the Concorde was extraordinary. The highlight of the trip was definitely the visit to Airbus, where we got to see aircraft at various stages of completion on the final assembly line. Of particular significance was the A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft — it is impossible to get a sense of scale until you realize that you can stand inside the base of the wing! Later in the afternoon, the good folks at Airbus gave us the chance to try out their state-of-the-art VR and 3D scanning equipment. Airbus researchers use these tools to create and test virtual models of their aircraft, and we learned a great deal exploring virtual models of airplanes and taking 3D images of ourselves.

 

To the Mediterranean!

The second part of our field trip was a visit to the Canal du Midi that connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea. It was humbling to see the result of the ingenuity and hard work of the men and women who built the canal, all of which was dug by hand more than 300 years ago. We also stumbled across a bridge dedicated to Thomas Jefferson! He had journeyed through the canal from Sète on the Mediterranean coast to Toulouse, and our visit retraced a portion of the route he took over 200 years ago. Lunch was devoured at a tasteful restaurant right next to the 9 staircase locks of Fonserannes, near Béziers, accompanied by a nice view of the city’s cathedral. We also got the chance to see some boats passing through the locks, just as they have done for over three centuries.

Overall, this field trip was an incredible experience. Special thanks to Professor Danielle Andreu, head of partner school ENSEEIHT’s International Office, and the students of ENSEEIHT, recently renamed the Toulouse School of Engineering, who graciously provided us food, transportation, and camaraderie.

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.

BMW: Driving the Future

Written by guest bloggers Alex Rahban & Nicolette Slusser.
 

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“The Ultimate Driving Machine.” A motto held by one of the most well-known auto-manufacturers of the world, BMW – a company forged from aircraft engines and redefined through luxury automobiles. BMW’s history is filled with a rich racing past. Enthusiasts remain true to the brand for its buttery smooth inline 6’s and long throw manual transmissions, but today, the students of Georgia Tech Lorraine experienced a different side of BMW.

Far from the well-known four-cylinder building, we were given private access to BMW’s autonomous vehicle development location. Beyond the unpaved walkways, wet concrete, and yellow caution tape lay the secrets to BMW’s future in mastering level 4 autonomous driving.

Although BMW had previously trod lightly on the topic of self-driving cars, commenting that they wanted to be certain not to dilute their renowned automotive brand, they shared the structure behind how such a system would work. Students were made aware of the difficulties of developing the technology to make self-driving vehicles fully functional on the road. They require advanced software that must be able to process the frames of an image, classify the different objects in the Image, and determine how to interact with them safely. Just one hour of driving produced several terabytes of data which the vehicle had to process in order to function properly. The test vehicles at BMW required a full trunk of hardware to perform this task (weighing in at over 500lbs); however, they indicated when released, the hardware for their vehicles would only require as much space as a shoe box.

From the visit, it is clear that BMW is making a full effort to produce this technology, yet at this moment, they are several years from completion. We had the privilege of being the first group to ever tour the facility; unfortunately though, photographs were not permitted. Although BMW has chosen to be quite secretive with the public about their participation in autonomous vehicles, we can expect BMW to produce truly revolutionary vehicles exceeding both the highest automotive and technological standards.

 
 

For the Love of Chocolate

Written by guest bloggers Amira Abadir and Tiffany Chu.

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Metz in a small residential area: a brown, modern storefront stands with the smell of chocolate wafting through the street. Early one Friday morning, a van of unassuming Georgia Tech students arrived there at Fabrice Dumay Maître Chocolatier.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Dumay social media.

As our group entered, we were first shown the main storefront, which housed a counter with dozens of flavors of bonbons, or candies, along with shelves lined with varying displays of chocolate bars and gift packages. Towards the back of the store was a large window that peeked into a large, gleaming white kitchen. The window, as we were later told by Mr. Dumay, is there so that his customers can be certain that his candies are produced in-house.

After piling into the kitchen, Mr. Dumay told us a bit about himself. He spent 7 years as a chocolate patissier in the Vosges mountains, then 12 years as a chocolatier before opening his own store. He considers himself to be the only “master chocolatier” in Metz making artisanal chocolates.

Mr. Dumay explained to us the process of chocolate making from cacao seeds into cocoa beans, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter, with the aid of samples. We sampled the three traditional types of chocolate in his shop – dark, milk, and white – each 

with varying combinations of sugar, vanilla, and milk. The last bar chocolate we sampled was new: blonde chocolate. Blonde chocolate emerged just 2-3 years ago and is rare to find in stores. It is a special white chocolate that took 7 years to develop has been “smoked” or cooked until the sugar has caramelized with an even, smooth texture.

We next moved on to other chocolates such as the pralines and ganaches, beautifully crafted with perfectly creamy and crisp texture.

Finally, we witnessed M. Dumay’s legendary house specialties – liqueur filled chocolates, chardons, that come in spiky colorful balls of every color. We tried the raspberry and mirabelle liqueur chardons and were blown away by the strength, flavor, and freshness of the artisanally produced chocolates – quite different from industrially produced chardons. M. Dumay sells approximately 3 tons of these high-quality chardons every year!

Throughout the trip, Mr. Dumay’s passion for chocolate was evident. Before visiting his shop, we wondered: what makes chocolate artisanal? Modern processed chocolate – the candy bars we buy at the grocery store – is a product of the Industrial Revolution. By contrast, artisanal chocolate is an intense labor of love. While many corporate candymakers have found ways to automate the chocolate-making process, people like Mr. Dumay make as much of their product by hand as possible. Dedicating their lives to the art of chocolate making, the master chocolatier’s artisanal chocolate is an entry point for people of all cultures to share and enjoy the heart of chocolate, made with love.

This was a field trip of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine class HTS 2100, “Science and Technology in the Modern World: Regions of Europe.” For more information, see Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s website, www.lorraine.gatech.edu.

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.

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