To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Pre-departure (Page 1 of 2)

Vlog 1: Lubby Goes to Metz

The Beginning: Nostalgia & Dreaming

Have you ever had a move-in day like this? A move-in day where you’re completely wiped from traveling for what feels like days and you’re not sure which way is up? A move-in day where despite the weariness your stomach is a bundle of excitement from the culture shock you’ve been anticipating for months now as you walk through the CDG (Charles de Gaulle, Paris’s main airport) terminals and see an explosion of French writing and ads? This could describe many international student’s experiences simply coming to Tech, yes, but arriving at GTL means Europe is now your oyster: this is something totally unique, and I’m so excited for others to experience this incredible opportunity! 

Coming back for my second round of GTL, I’ll admit, I wasn’t as pumped as the first time. With just a summer of office work in between 8 months of adventure, this lifestyle is my norm now. I know it won’t be this way past 2017, and I will be filled with remorse to see this chapter of my life end. However, the idea that this way of living is sustainable is just a fancy lie I like to tell myself: it’s absolutely exhausting. 

Some of you will be totally fine and take the whole continent head on, without stopping for breaks. Some of you will need some weekends in Metz to ground yourself and catch up on sleep/work. There’s no right way to do it: you do what’s best for you. I will say that I tend on the side of “no ragretz,” (translation: “no regrets”) constantly trying to push and see and experience as much as possible, but when I found myself with a stable cold for 2 months and an overdue need of a long night’s sleep, I had to slow down. Walking 10+ miles a day under those conditions is ill-advised. 

On this note, I will give some sage words of advice. Going out and clubbing can be an incredible time (I love dancing and so do Europeans). HOWEVER, if you can’t function the next day, you’re just doing a massive disservice to yourself. How are you going to explore the Churchill War Rooms if all you want to do is sleep? Granted, people come to Europe with different agendas and desires. I’m not judging them if that’s what they’re here for. But for the (I think) majority of us that truly want to experience the culture and see that museum or church we’ve always

How can you hike up 8 miles to see the entirety of Interlaken if you’re too lethargic to move??

been interested in, all I’m saying is be wise with your time as we have so little of it. 

Okay, enough mom stuff. One thing I absolutely love about GTL is that it’s kind of like the fall of freshman year, round two. Everyone is completely open to meeting each other, there’s no boundaries among friend groups yet, and the amount of times I hear “yeah I’m down, what’s your name again?” just makes me smile. 

You won’t believe how close you’ll get to your travel partners. You’ll quickly find out who takes charge, planning and navigating with an itinerary, and who likes to wander and stumble upon things as they go. Over time you’ll learn your friends’ most fundamental personality characteristics and in a variety of ways: sometimes through shouting matches over when you get lost and someone didn’t want to ask for directions (there’s always a dad), or simply ordering a meal through charades. I’m currently seriously missing my old travel group, and while I’m jealous that they’re all together back at Tech, I know I made the right choice to come back to Europe, and I’ll find a new group of my own that will be just as tight. 

 

And so on that note, GO HAVE FUN!!! WOOOO YOU’RE IN EUROPE YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!!! WITHIN THE LAWS OF PHYSICS!! 

A “Metz-y” Start

Hi Everyone! It’s Sam again, this time writing to you from my cozy little dorm in Metz, France (which, as I learned in the very first orientation meeting, is actually pronounced “Mess,” hence the clever blog post title)! I flew into France on January eighth, and since then, have kind of figured out the bus system, learned how to say please, thank you, and various items of food in French, and I even went grocery shopping a couple of times! *Applause, applause*

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The shuttle! Note to self: next time you decide to ride in the back of a bus, take some motion sickness medication beforehand!

While I was waiting for the day to come when I would leave my comfortable, American dwelling, I got really nervous about the idea of living in a foreign country without a basic grip on the language or culture. Well, Christmas and New Year’s came and went, and it seemed like January eighth came rushing towards me at high speeds without so much as a warning. That day, I spent nine hours on a plane, four hours on a cramped shuttle, and I had the rest of the time to lie in my new bed and sleep off the jet lag. :’) I already knew two of the other GTL students, Adam and Lina, before this new adventure, and since our arrival, have become closer friends with them and some other students.

With that, here is a short recap of my first week living in France!

20170110_085959

A picture from the GTL orientation on Tuesday.

Monday was my first day of classes, and I was already looking forward to the courses I have this semester. I spent about half the day in classes, and the other half at home, unpacking and getting everything set up. The new student orientation for GTL was on Tuesday, and later that day some friends and I explored a little bit around campus. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at a huge grocery store that loosely resembled Walmart, which, if I’m being completely honest, made me feel a little more at home! Here’s a little pro tip for when you’re grocery shopping in France, or really anywhere: don’t buy a giant pack of steaks just because it is only five euros – THERE IS A REASON IT IS ONLY FIVE EUROS!

By Wednesday, I started to get the hang of things around campus. I had figured out where the cafeteria building is, and I didn’t get lost that day either! That day, my breakfast and dinner consisted of steak and mushrooms. So did Thursday, Friday, and Saturday’s meals.

Bed, sweet bed 🙂

On Thursday I became very aware of the fact  that I hadn’t actually ever taken a public transportation bus in my whole nineteen years of living. That, to say the least, was a bit of a nerve wracking realization, seeing as now I had to do everything for the first time in a language in which the only full sentence I had memorized was ‘the boys eat the apple’. Shout out to Duolingo for this incredibly useful information. I eventually got over my fear of buying the wrong bus pass and went over to the little ticket machine to find out that there is actually an English option! It was a blessing from God. Friday rolled around and I went to the store again to finally buy some spices so that I wasn’t just eating salted steak and mushrooms, but salted steak and mushrooms with garlic and onion and chili powder! I consider myself a seasoned chef these days.

Here’s the view from the door.

And finally, this weekend was spent catching up on sleep, finishing homework, and visiting an old high school friend who lives not too far away from campus. I went grocery shopping again, but this time, I bought reasonable amounts of food so that I wouldn’t be eating the same thing every day of the week. I also bought plenty of garbage bags and plastic wrap- two essential household items I highly recommend stocking up on!

 

And here’s a new segment I call ‘French Word Of The Week’ to leave you feeling a little smarter than you were five minutes ago:

Pain (noun): bread

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

Adam: “Hey, what did you have for breakfast this morning?”

Sam: “Pain.”
Until next time, have a wonderful week, and be sure to try some fresh ‘pain’ if ever you find yourself in Europe!

Planning With The Parents

Photo courtesy of Travel Trazee.

As a tangent to a blog post I had a couple weeks ago about doing fall break with my parents, I’ve decided to give an overview of coordination and planning to help assist those who might want to do trips with their parents while at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the future!

 

Pre-Departure

Well first off, you and your parents have to pick a time to do the trip. Popular choices are usually before the semester starts, fall break (since it’s a week long), and after the semester ends. Some parents decide to just drop by for a weekend, and that’s not usually too tough to plan since it’s a couple of days.

Next, is the “where” of the trip. I’d say this is pretty important since this is a picking a place that both you and your parents want to go and visit. It’s also very important because from here, train or flight schedules need to be made to match. I offered to buy tickets for my whole family but my parents opted to buy them online. We simply decided around a certain time to leave cities and I let my parents book first. After they got their tickets, I cross referenced them with my Eurail app and proceeded to buy the matching ones. It was quite interesting, as some of the trains they bought weren’t on Eurail plan (ex. Italo in Italy is not part of the Eurail network) so I had to improvise and buy train tickets that were close to the same arrival and departure times.

Once that was settled, we needed places to stay for the night. I let my parents take the reins on this one, as they booked hotels for all three of us.

 

Arrival

“All roads lead to Rome” – and that is where we decided to meet. I took my overnight train from Munich to Rome, and they took a shuttle from the airport. I arrived two hours earlier than they did so I did some exploring before meeting up with them. We decided that in case the train station Wi-Fi wasn’t working, there would still be a rendezvous place. Notably, this was going to be the McDonald’s in the Roma Termini station. Luckily the Wi-Fi did work, but we still met at the McDonald’s since it was convenient.

 

During the Trip

Plan out some things that you would want to see and see what your parents want to do as well! Things should run pretty smoothly from here, since we’re basically all pros at traveling at this point and can point our parents in the right direction. Gotta keep in mind that they aren’t college kids and won’t do the typical “college” things that we’ve come to expect when traveling.

 

After

I don’t think there’s anything left to do but to give them goodbye hugs and wishes until you see each other again! Or if you’re traveling with them back to the United States, enjoy the trip back to the homeland.

Dorm Essentials

Posted by Harry.

After spending about a week in the dorms, I’m lucky to have some extremely useful things laying around. HEADS UP: Some of the stuff I got was from the beginning of the semester “fire sale,” which was a giveaway of items that have been left by from previous semesters’ students to help us out. Other stuff I bought in the US and brought over.

A Universal Adaptor. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

1. Universal Converter/Adapter (Bought in US)

This little piece of hardware is the Swiss Army Knife of electrical converters. It has a voltage capacitance of 100V – 240V, converts any type of plug into any other type of plug, and has two USB ports on the side to boot to help charge those smaller devices you have.

2. Trash Can (Picked up at fire sale)

When I first arrived in my room, it did not come with a trash can. Luckily, picking this up allowed me to compact all my trash in one area with a fitted bag. Easy to clean and just really handy overall!

3. Laundry Basket (picked up from fire sale)

The laundry room is quite a walk from anywhere in the dorm, especially if you have some stairs to climb. Makes the trip much easier and helps contain the bad smell of dirty clothes. Many of these are available at the fire sale!

harry w2 p1 p3

4. Power Strip (picked up from fire sale)

There are a limited number of outlets in the room but this little guy transforms one outlet into five. Which, if you calculate it out, is 500% more than you originally had. Snag one from the fire sale as there are plenty of these to go around as well.

 

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

5. Traveling Backpack (Bought from US)

A must-have for weekend trips! It will store everything you need that weekend and some. For other purposes, it also serves as a great shopping bag for when you make those runs at Cora.

 

One Down, Sixteen To Go

Posted by James

It’s been quite an eventful first week here in Metz. Seven days and nights and I’ve already had a number of firsts. First time in Luxembourg, first European soccer game, first time using a train all by myself, first European festival, etc. However, before any of these could happen I had to travel over 4000 miles, board two planes, and go through two countries before even stepping foot in France.

Metz Cathedral

The centerpiece of Metz: its towering cathedral, nicknamed “The Lantern of God,” because it is the most luminous cathedral of France.

Saturday, August 20th

My alarm clock sounds: beep, beep, beep… As I look over to snooze, I read 6:00 A.M. and instantly jump out of bed both scared and excited. It hits me that today I’m going to France. All summer I’ve been bragging to my friends in Michigan about this, but at this moment it’s not pride I feel – it’s fear. I NEED TO PACK! This week I had to concentrate all my efforts on a physics final and wrapping up things at my internship. My plane leaves in 8 hours, and I have to take everything I need to live for four months to Europe. I feel my heart pounding, and I start sweating as I run downstairs and grab my suitcase. So begins the most frantic packing of my life. 3 hours later I sit down on my bed with a sigh, “I’m ready.” All I can recall about checking in and boarding the plane is a feeling of numbness. As I took off my shoes, and took out my computer for security I kept looking at my family, my mom and dad, and my brother, all just standing there smiling. As I collected my things and took one final look, time froze. I would not see them for over 4 months. I turned and slowly made my way to my gate.

Sunday, August 21st

As I stumble through Frankfurt International Airport and find my gate, the first onset of jetlag starts to set in. In a few hours I land in Luxembourg and await another GTL member’s flight. An hour later we are downtown in the middle of a summer festival. As we walk around and the sounds of French and German from outside conversations interrupt ours, I start to grasp the essence of GTL’s message. Immersion in a separate country does far more than allow you to experience culture. Five days later I finally understand!

Friday, August 26th

“Hey Clyde, what time are we going downtown?”

“The Last bus leaves at 9:40, I think?”

It’s been an odd first week filled with orientations and runs to CORA, the huge supermarket in Metz. A few friends and I are looking to blow off some steam, and experience some true French culture. As we’re waiting for the final bus, we receive a friendly surprise. A GTL grad student comes and sits down on the stop’s bench. Within minutes we’re deep in conversation as the bus arrives. His name is Peter, and he’s a nuclear engineer who has been living in Metz for the last 8 years. This is his last semester in France and he is heading downtown to meet some friends who also work at GTL.

We tag along and spend all evening with him. The night begins with the Mirabelle festival, an amazing display of local pride in Metz’s rare prune. A beautiful exhibit is held in the center of the city, next to the famous Metz Cathedral. A jazz band hovering above the ground provide the baseline to a group of acrobats and a singer who are tangling over the crowd by way of a crane.

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The amazing performance in downtown Metz!

Throughout the night we talked to Peter and his friends about many things. Peter was able to describe a lot of distinct differences between the French and outsiders, not just Americans. For instance, a local cultural conflict between French of North African descent not assimilating into French culture. However, the largest takeaway from the night was a truly unique experience. The next morning we all agreed that had we not met Peter, or his friends Jeremy and Jacques, we never would have done anything similar. We experienced local music, food, conversation, etc. All while learning more about Metz and France.

First Impressions

Posted by Harry

Left: Photo Courtesy of Patrick Morand; Right: Photo Courtesy of The Wine Guild of Charlottesville

I wish I had some wild story to tell about my journey to Metz and Georgia Tech Lorraine, but I don’t. Rather, I just took the shuttle (free!) that was provided by GTL from the Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport. Usually, I’m a person that sleeps on long bus rides like the 4-hour trip it takes between the two locations, but I didn’t. The reason why? I was blown away by the stunning views of the French countryside. It really was something else. Something about the hills that stretched on for miles (or kilometers, I should say) and the quaint little villages that we passed by just took my breath away. Even if the majority of the scenery was farmlands and fields, my eyes were locked outside nearly the entire time. The pictures you see above are some stock photos off of Google Images that I found, since the ones I took really don’t do it any justice.

Upon my arrival in the outskirts of Metz where GTL was, there was something specific that really stood out to me: the silence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like a ghost town-ish area we are in, but it was just very peaceful and it’s something I’ve really grown to enjoy. The walk from my dorm to school is no longer filled with the loud sounds of construction or the conversations of thousands of students, but just a relative quietness.

Even on my first day, the GTL experience has far exceeded my expectations.

France: Take Two

May 16th — My suitcase was packed, my fuzzy socks placed in an accessible part of my carry on, my ticket was printed and my passport was neatly stowed in my wallet. I was all set to fly out to France and spend the next three months studying abroad in Metz.

As a typical paranoid traveler, I arrived at the airport three hours early dressed in my over-sized Georgia Tech sweatshirt so that the other students on my flight would easily find me. I passed the time Googling what Metz, my new home, looked like until I met up with a few other students.

We conversed for a while, discussing our majors, MK3_1what classes we were going to take, where we wanted to travel, even the absurd amount of luggage we girls managed to pack. When they finally called our zone, we shot up from our seats and quickly rushed to the front of the line. As I handed them my passport and ticket, a smile shot across my face.

It was finally here. I was finally departing to France, about to embark on a…

“When are you leaving France miss?” the customs lady interrupted as her eyes scanned up and down my passport.

My smile suddenly dropped. “August 5th” I replied.

“Oh no. Please step aside ma’am,” she said.

And that’s where it began– the longest and most stressful 48 hours of my life. You see, where a typical expiration date signifies when your passport will become invalid, the same rule does not apply for France. My passport was set to expire in October of 2016 but French law requires that it must have an expiration date of at least 3 months after your return flight in order to enter the country. I was one month short.

As I was taken aside my smile turned to a horrified look of panic and the shaking began to set in. What was I going to do? How was I going to get to France? Where was I going to get a new passport? How was I going to tell my parents I missed one of the most important details when planning my trip.

Fortunately enough, the woman at the gate explained to me that I would still be able to fly out tomorrow night; I would just have to go the United States Customs House in Philadelphia to get a passport the next morning.

So 6am came and my mom and I were up, out of bed, on our way to Philadelphia, ready to be the first in line. The process, while stressful and filled with anxiety, was easier than expected. I was at the airport by 3pm and this time when I handed over my passport I was not met with a look of pity but a look of boredom as I was waved through to the plane.

I had made it onto the plane. Now I just had to make it to Metz. I would no longer be met by Georgia Tech students holding a sign saying “Shuttle B” or a huge hug of excitement from my friends on the bus. I was alone.

Fortunately, another student, Frank, had also missed his flight and was flying in around the same time as me. Together, we were able to navigate the French public transportation system.

It was a process though–a long and tiring process. We had to drag all of our luggage through the airport in order to make it to the train station, and finding where to buy the tickets was a struggle. When we finally purchased our tickets there was an evacuation of the area due to suspicious abandoned luggage. MK3_2Police, heavily armed security, and dogs entered the area. This was just what I needed to calm my nerves. Now I didn’t even know if we would make it on our train. How were we going to make it to Metz?

Thankfully, the threat was lifted and we were allowed to go back down to the train station about 20 minutes before our departure time. Then we had to find our train to Lorraine. Then we had to find our seat on the train (which believe it or not is harder than it looks when the tickets are all in French). Then we had to take a bus to Metz. Then we had to take a taxi to GTL. Finally we had made it. Somehow, we managed to do this all on a few hours of sleep and a few phrases of French. Thank goodness Frank was there with me to calm my nerves over being in a foreign country alone and commiserate over our unfortunate luck. Who knows where I’d be without him?

When I entered the GTL building, exhausted and hungry, I was met with laughs and hugs from a few friends. While they had all had a good night’s rest, filling breakfast, and an information session to describe what to expect at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I was tired, sore, in need of a shower, and just thankful to be in the correct country.

Later that night my friend Mirna and I began planning our trip to Prague. We were set to fly out in two days, and we had nothing planned except the flights.

“Ugh! How are we going to get to the airport?!” she asked.

“Don’t worry,” I muttered, “I’ve got that covered.”

The 7 Best Apps for GTL

Phones are handy doohickeys: they can do lots of things and make our lives loads easier. After studying what makes a good app in my mobile apps class this semester, I’ve realized just how integrated these devices can become in our lives. Now, at the end of the semester, I wanted to jot down quickly some of the applications for my phone that made my life a whole lot easier abroad, and especially when traveling.

railplanner

 

  •  RailPlanner
    • As with many at GTL, trains are the main source of
      transportation. Especially if you have a Eurail pass, this app is helpful: you can see what trains go where and when –
      and there’s even a handy little checkbox for “Non-reserve Only,” meaning with the Eurail pass you need no reservations and the travel is free. It’s the mobile version of raileurope.com, and it works offline!

couchsurfing hostelworld airbnb

  • AirBnB, HostelWorld, Couchsurfing
    • Depending on how you like to travel and who you’re traveling with, any of these apps may be helpful to you. They are all temporary housing accommodation services, and all are relatively cheap (or with Couchsurfing, free). AirBnB’s usually are in residential areas, as they are homes put up for borrowing, and if you split it with a friend or two, it’ can be just as affordable as a hostel from HostelWorld. Hostels are great for large groups, though.

google maps

  • Google Maps
    • Google Maps is a lifesaver – whether you have data or not. You can save maps offline, as well as certain locations. You won’t have play-by-play directions, but you can follow the road on the map to navigate to where you want to be. Plus, online, it’s all of the usefulness of Google, including nearby restaurants and reviews.

translate

  • Google Translate
    • Google Translate is notorious for its strange translations, but it’s gotten better recently because of its effort for fluent speakers to edit and append to translations. Now, you can download whole languages – so if you’re going to Prague, you can translate things into and from Czech offline.

convertpad

  •  ConvertPad
    • This is more just if you have space. I have always had trouble converting between the metric and standard systems, so this was helpful in terms of translating kilometers to miles. And it doesn’t have to be this specific app – just something similar.

Leaping Out of
 the Comfort Zone

My plane from the windows of Hartsfield-Jackson airport in July 2014.

Posted by Julie

Five hundred and forty-four days. That, my friends, is the equivalent of 11,712 hours, or 4.7 × 107 seconds. (A third of which I’ve probably spent sleeping, as painful as that thought is.) It is also the length of time since I last embarked on a journey that has left my stomach this tightly in knots. I can feel my chest tightening, where the stress epicenter builds just beneath my rib cage a few inches below by collarbone. My arms also somehow seems nonexistent, almost as if the nerves have quit sending their neuropathic messages to my brain – or my brain has stopped listening.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am lucky enough to be able to say that I have been abroad before; in fact, I was just settling into my designated seating area for the next nine hours of my flight into Charles de Gaulle, the international airport in Paris, France just 488 days ago. That happened to mark the start of my first international flight, let alone my first trip outside the United States ever, and I was taking that journey alone. Just for the record, I was definitely not scared out of my wits.

(Except I was.)

Before the parental hugs, removing my shoes for security, the terrific little rolls on the plane, and touching down in a city that was much colder than I ever imagined could be in the middle of July, I had never spent more than a week away from my family, and those weeks were always spent at camp, so the independence was still limited. I was a doe-eyed high school graduate who only knew she wanted to travel the world, and had managed to convince her parents of the benefits of this foreign exchange program. So, I had reasons to be terrified then, but I had to ponder a bit more as to why I’m terrified now.

I have always been a firm believer that sometimes being thrown in the deep end is the best option you’ve got. Life has a funny way of taking you places you never imagined, but that trip put me in a better place than I had been previously. Rewind to January 5th, 2014: my acceptance to the Georgia Institute of Technology arrived. Fast-forward a bit to late April the same year: my college plans were set in stone (or at least printed on the deposit receipt to Tech), and while I was happy that I even had the opportunity to go to college, I was worried about my happiness both on campus and beyond in my career. Was this really what I wanted to do with my life? I was so drenched with worry even a raincoat wouldn’t help, but as I was boarding that plane, steadily the experience took over until my brain was so lost in the present and so entirely detached from the worry that I was able to think clearly – logically even – about my future.

Now, after changing my major and other major life events, I have some more questions to ponder while I live in a foreign country 4,523 miles away from my home (in a place that doesn’t even use miles as a unit of measurement), so let’s just say I’m more stressed out than a cat on a surfboard in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane. But I’m all right with that. Everything is A-OK with me, because my toes are on the edge of the diving board, and I just might even discover something new during my swim.

Care to join me?

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