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Category: Metz (Page 1 of 3)

La Coupe de Cheveux

For the last month or so I have been plagued with an affliction affecting both appearance and convenience. Something I normally kept under control was turning into a real disaster; I mean my hair, of course. I try to keep a nice, neat trim so that, for one, I don’t look like more of a homeless person than I already do on account of my beard, and for two, because my hair is a disaster to take care of when it exceeds more than 2 inches. Now you might be saying, “Sam, you realize that there is an entire industry dedicated to the maintaining and styling of the hair?” Well the sad truth is, that being the scared anti-social person that I am who speaks little to no French, I have been too scared of the awkwardness to try and go to a hair salon. I’ve been picturing the hairdressers just rattling off rapid-fire French and looking at me like an idiot when I have no idea what to do, and that scary mental picture has kept me away for some time. But eventually, enough was enough, and I decided I couldn’t wait another month to  get my hair cut at home.

To prepare for this daring feat, I put myself through a boot camp of hair-related French vocabulary until I felt somewhere short of confident that I could probably get the majority of my point across about what I wanted. I’d heard from other people that there was a place in CORA, the local superstore, where I could get my hair cut, so off I went. When I got there, I found that there is not one, but two hair salons, next door to each other, inside this store. I hope this gives you an idea about how massive this place is. Consulting Facebook, people said that St. James was the better of the two salons, but upon inspection, the alternative seemed much more inviting, and more along the lines of a Great Clips or something like that. Not being particularly picky about my hair, and the fact that it was cheaper didn’t hurt, I stepped into Diagonal Coiffure.

I started off strong by telling the gentleman at the counter that I need a haircut in what I can only assume was atrocious French. However he seemed to understand, because for guys, haircuts were about all they did. I encountered a bit of a snag afterward when I walked back to the chairs and awkwardly stood there for a few seconds. One of the ladies said something to me in French, and I think I kind of just stared at her, probably drooling, until, through the magic of charades, she gestured for me to sit in one of the chairs. After that my boot camp training kicked in, and I feel like I was able to pretty accurately say, in French, what I wanted for my haircut. This lady seemed to be able to speak some English, but being stubborn and wanting to use the language of the country I’m residing in, I proudly didn’t speak a single word of English the entire time, even managing to tell her that I was an international student studying at GTL in Technopole. After no time at all, I was done and finally sporting a cleaner look.

Although there were definitely some moments of awkwardness, the process was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined, and I even had some fun speaking a foreign language, although some gesturing was necessary due to terrible pronunciation. I feel like I learned a few lessons from this experience. First of all, don’t overthink things. They are rarely as terrible as what you can conjure of in your mind. Second, most people are actually nice and accommodating and will try to meet you halfway if they can see that you are trying. And last of all, a few minutes of being uncomfortable is better that a long period of inconvenience. If you just decide to go for it, whatever “it” is will almost always work out in the end, even if there are sometimes a few snags along the way.

The Old World

Picture courtesy of Safari Wallpaper.

Having never traveled to Europe in my short life, my view of this continent has been purely framed through the looking glass of media and pop culture. In fact, everything outside of the United States has seemed like almost an abstract, foreign concept. I feel as if a lot of people, myself included, who have had few experiences outside of their own bubble are subconsciously fixated on the idea that people in other places are somehow different. But, after moving to Europe for the semester, I’ve realized that despite being thousands of miles away and on another continent, this is still planet Earth inhabited by human beings. This may sound obvious to you, and of course it should be; this thought process isn’t taking place on a conscious level, but a subconscious one.

Of course there are also a lot of little interesting differences I’ve noticed too, and just for fun I thought I’d share a few of my observations.

  • Unrefrigerated Milk: Apparently in France, and most of Europe, the majority of milk is sterilized by method of heating to an extremely high temperature for a short time. This kills all the bacteria in the milk giving it a shelf life of multiple months. The milk I’ve gotten like this weirded me out and I thought it had a bad aftertaste. Maybe that’s all in my head though.
  • Crazy Drivers: Everybody says city drivers are crazy, but I live in Atlanta, and those drivers are nothing compared to the people of Metz. I’ve noticed that drivers here are way more reluctant to stop for pedestrians trying to cross the street and also will zoom past you as soon as you’re not in the way on a crosswalk (compared to America where it is polite to wait until the pedestrian has crossed all the way). This makes walking to school every day a little more “interesting” than usual.
  • European Outlets: I don’t know if it’s just me but I think that these things are terrible. Every outlet in my room causes whatever is plugged in to be extremely loose and fall out with the slightest bump. I’m not sure why the world can’t just have universal outlets, but if anybody changes, it should be Europe.

These were just a few of the things that stuck out to me since coming here, but are more simple quirks than real differences.

Going back to my main point, it’s easy for me to forget that I’m actually living in an entirely foreign country a lot of the time. I don’t know why, but when I’m walking back from a day of classes, there’s this one spot along my walk where I always just have a little mini realization: “Holy cow, I’m in Europe!” Nothing really looks or feels different in Europe, and it’s an amazing little epiphany that my subconscious has had in realizing we are in fact all living together on one planet that, whether we like it or not, we all must share.

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.

First Impressions & New Lessons

Welcome to Metz! Beginning with a whirlwind of orientations, jetlag, a nasty case of food poisoning, and a few emergency trips to the colossus of a grocery store known a Cora, getting settled in Metz has been difficult to say the least. However, we simply cannot let sleep deprivation or projectile vomiting get in the way of finding our place in this beautiful city. We start in the Metz-Technopole area where we go to school, eat, sleep, and shop for groceries. Then, we venture downtown to visit the shops and restaurants and experience the local atmosphere.
In addition to its appealing centralized location, situated perfectly for easy travel to many destinations, Metz can also boast a rich 3000 year old history. That’s right! You heard me. 3000 years. 3000. Years. According to the official Metz tourism website, it all started in the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. Celts settled the region and named it Divodurum. Then, in 451, Attila the Hun burned it to the ground. Cool, right? (Or hot, I suppose.)
In the fourth century, the region was renamed Mettis. Sound familiar? In the 6th century, it became the capital of Austria and was renamed Metz: the name we all know and love today. Then, like pretty much the rest of Europe, it came under Roman occupation in the 10th century. Next came the crazy German-French turf war that the Lorraine region was subjected to until after World War II. France begins with Metz in 1552, but oh no, what’s this, Germany takes it over in 1871, but France – never to be outdone – takes it back in 1918. Germany, angrily and with

Bus map of Metz.

Nazis, takes it back for the brief period of 1940 to 1944, whereupon the Treaty of Versaille is written and everyone has decided that yep, Metz is French.

I had been itching to visit the main city of Metz since my arrival here. On a cold and cloudy Wednesday, an icy drizzle trickling down from the sky, I decided it was high time I acquired a cell phone plan that wouldn’t require me to sell my left arm to pay for the roaming charges. After weighing many options, I decided that Free Mobile was the right plan for me. After asking Elise (my wonderful French roommate) how to use the bus system I set out armed with my coat, hat, scarf and gloves to find the free mobile kiosk in the Metz city center. Asking my similarly food-poisoned friend to accompany me, we walked to the bus stop, bought our tickets and made our way into the city.

This is what the view from my dorm looked like the first night of staying at the Aloes dormitory. Pretty, right?

 

Here is a picture of me holding my handwritten directions in front of the Metz train station. Totally looks like a cathedral, right?

My confused, telephone-less, non French-speaking self accidentally exited the bus at a stop near the train station. Walking up to it, I thought it was a cathedral, with its soaring towers, tall arched windows and seemingly endless length. Despite the freezing rain, I simply had to get a picture.

On a sheet of paper, I had written down directions on how to get to the Free Mobile store from the station. What my internet search had neglected to tell me, however, was that the street signs are placed near the second story of the buildings. After a few minutes of cold and aimless wandering, I discovered this fact and began a victory dance that drew some strange glances. Nevertheless, I made my way, sans Google Maps, to the store.  

Here is what the main shopping street of Metz looks like. I love the classic architecture of the second story and up of the buildings juxtaposed with the modern storefronts.

After purchasing my SIM card, I wandered over to a nearby cafe to get some lunch. After clumsily ordering in broken French, (I said “Je voudrais le poulet,” which I think means I would like the chicken, and then I subsequently forgot that the word for sandwich is just…sandwich…) I had purchased a beautiful victory sandwich to enjoy before the cold journey home. Long story short, non-french speaking people, if you want to eat food other than chicken or sandwiches, it is a good idea to come prepared with the Google Translate app, at the very least.

Note from the editor: With Google Translate, and with other apps as well, you can download an entire language offline!

That Time of Year

As December moves along everything seems to change. The weather, people, scenery, atmosphere, music… Each new day of December things move more towards winter. Christmas is coming, that magical time of year we all know so well. Yet, academically it’s also that time of year – finals! Both the halls of the library and snow on the ground thicken marking a very confused time in a college student’s life.

Photo courtesy of Europe Video Productions.

Walking through Metz the change was evident the first day of December (première jour de Decembre). The once open spaces usually filled with leaf-stripped trees or large squares now house hundreds of holiday items. Near “Republique,” the farthest stop downtown, is a massive ice skating rink surround by a Christmas tree market and dozens of shops. As you make your way down to the river and pass shops, illuminated signs in the shapes of ornaments and various holiday cheers line the streets. Near the Cathedral is a large Santa happily waving back at you.

It took me a while to see the changes myself. I had heard stories from the locals for weeks, Madame Serafin especially. Every French class she would ask us if we had seen the markets yet and what our impressions were. My first time downtown in quiet some time was for the soccer tournament a few weeks ago. As we rode the “Mettis” past the Gare (train station), I was shocked. The once open space was now filled to the brim, with lights, trees shops, the works. Every single thing was decorated with something, even the slightest bit of holiday cheer was taken into account. The details were impeccable.
The timing however, is quite unfortunate.

Arguably the best time of the year to be outside and interact with people will see the majority of “GTL’ers”

Photo courtesy of WordPress blog “Miss Francey Pants.”

doing no such thing. Tuesday marked the last day of classes, Wednesday the first reading period and Thursday the first day of finals. For the next few days all of us will be inside GTL or the dorms studying like no tomorrow. The study sessions are none like I’ve ever seen before. After a whole semester of traveling, there is some inevitable catch up to be had. As Cannon, Keegan, and I argue over correct answers to our thermofluids homework the frustration builds, but a few games of ping pong, and we are back at it. A tough week lies ahead of us, late nights, and early mornings.

But as I put my head down and grind for finals I can do so knowing and seeing that the holiday cheer has arrived well in Metz.

(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.

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.

GTL Represent!

Posted by Harry

Recently, the Jeux de Metz Technopôle (Metz Technopôle Games) happened. With over 150 participants from local high schools, colleges, and companies, you can say it was pretty hopping. Among all the competition, 4 GTL students emerged victorious and claimed the overall first prize. Congrats to Team Petit Fromage (a.k.a. Little Cheese): Jordan Peasant, Chris Molthrop, Jon Gillespie, and Edwin Bodge!

For the competition, it included of multiple volleyball matches, a rowing machine race, and jump rope. The theme was glow in the dark, and all competitors were given a white T-shirt and got splattered with glow-in-the-dark paint.

Jonathon stated this: “We all enjoyed the games very much. It will be one of my best memories for the year. ”

Congrats again guys!

Getting a Haircut in France: A Guide

Recently, I got my first haircut here. It was a good experience. I’d just like to share it and some helpful information too.

Where:

harry-w8-p1-p1 harry-w8-p1p-2

Luckily for us, there’s two places conveniently located in CORA (another reason why CORA is probably my favorite place in Metz) so you can knock out two birds with one stone. There’s Saint James, which I went to on GTL Deputy Dean of Students Karen Pierce’s recommendation; and Diagonal, which is like a Great Clips, also according to Karen. Haircut places are called “coiffeurs.”

What To Do:

So I walked in, and the nice ladies in the front directed me to this comfortable seat as I waited my turn. By the way, they don’t speak English at Saint James (or Diagonal) so I was pretty much winging it all on basic French and non-verbal communication. When my turn came up, they shampooed it before-hand. After reading up on it, I think it’s a necessary thing in France to do because of hygienic reasons. Following the shampoo, I got into the barber’s seat and I told the barber two things: 1) “dégradé” (fade) and pointed to the sides and back of my head and 2) “mi-longs” (medium) and pointed to the top of my head. She looked a little confused. Luckily, she pulled out a book with a bunch of different hairstyles and I was able to point out a fade on one the pictures and we were good to go from there. My hair up top got cut a little shorter than I wanted it to, but it’ll grow back. It was a solid, refreshing haircut which was much needed at the top. I said my “Merci beaucoup” after leaving, didn’t get an after shampoo and just biked back to the dorm and shampooed there.

My hair isn’t too hard to do so I only had two requests but if you’re looking for something fancy, you can always show a picture or here’s a list of basic French haircut vocab if you need it! (from expatica.com)

Basic hairdressing services in French: Prestations de base proposees
Haircut: une coupe de cheveux
Shampoo: le shampooing
Colouring and highlights: les couleurs et mèches
Set or styling: la mise en pli
Perm: la permanente
Haircare and treatments: les soins et traitements
A blow-dry or straightening: le brushing
Top salon: un coiffeur haut de gamme
Local salon: coiffeur de quartier
Basic French hair terms
Your hair: vos cheveux (always masculine, plural)
Fine: fins
Thick: épais
Oily: gras
Dry: secs
Mixed: mixtes
Normal: normaux
Curly: bouclés
Frizzy: frisés
Smooth: lisses
Damaged: abîmés
Dyed: colorés
Permed: permanentés
Dandruff: pellicules
Cowlick: un épi
A lock of hair: une mèche
French terms for getting a haircut
Short or long: la coupe courte ou longue
Layered: en dégradé
Blunt cut: au carré
Clean cut/well-defined: bien dégagée
Asymmetrical: asymétrique
Square tapered: style carré effilé
Layered on top: dégradé sur le dessus
Short, layered look: une coupe courte tout en dégradé
Short ‘windblown’ layered look: dégradé déstructuré
‘Just out of bed’ look: indiscipliné
Highlights or streaks: les mèches
Hair weaving or foiling: balayage
Bangs: une frange
Hair part: une raie
Hair ends: les pointes

If you want to see more haircut vocab, check out Expatica.com (where the above is from) and FrenchLearner.com.

One Month In

Posted by James

One month into our studies here at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and already life has changed. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about just this.

He said, “What do you miss most about home?” And for the longest time I couldn’t think of an answer. It took me two days to finally produce something tangible. The reason for such a time lapse is based on how I’ve approached this study abroad. As in earlier blog posts, the advice I’ve gathered from others or given myself has to do with being open minded. As Americans we tend to believe our way of doing this is better than other countries. Not the case, for many things.

For instance, today I went on a tour of our local superstore CORA. Harry has already written about its marvelous wonders. The importance of this tour was that it was given by our French professor. She explained to us the ins and outs of how local French people shop. As we were leaving one aisle she stated, “Real quick, I want to show you all the sweets before we end class for the day!” Instantly I was thinking of chocolate and ice cream, my common comfort foods, but she showed us “petit Suisse” or little Swiss, a dairy-based product that most French people eat with sugar. This is just one of the many things that is different between French and American culture. So one month in, I’ve been soaking it all in, thinking and observing all the minute differences: the fact that Europeans only seem to drive hatchbacks, that French people eat bread with every meal, the different attitudes people give you when you approach them in their native language, how Europeans do their shopping daily, and that soccer is ingrained in everyone on this continent, and more. The list goes on and on for differences in terms of culture and ways of living.

In terms of academia there is also a large difference between the teaching dynamic here at Georgia Tech Lorraine and of the teaching in Atlanta. In Atlanta, class sizes are usually much larger even for selective classes in selective majors. The maximum number of students living here at GTL this semester is slightly under 200. Due to the much smaller class sizes, classes seem to be more intimate. The professors will tell jokes to lighten the moods during difficult lectures. Professors also pay more attention to the individual then in Atlanta, and the class size allows for this to happen. I find myself having one on one conversations with my professors on an almost daily basis. Here, the emphasis is on learning the material. To quote my AE professor Dr. Zaid, “we want to make sure you understand the concepts first, the big ideas!”

In closing, some more advice. These last weeks have flown by, mainly because I was paying attention to them. If you open up to the differences and accept them you will see the joy it can cause. Everything is a new experience, which is very rare for anyone over 5 years old. Every day I wake up not knowing what part of my day will be filled with amazing adventure. However, I know it is bound to happen. This is the beauty of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a foreign environment.

 

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