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Category: Pre-departure (Page 2 of 2)

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
    • 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, 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.


  • 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
    • 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?

Oh, the Places I’ll Go!
 Pre-departure Reflections.

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral - Vienna, Austria

One book that is very near and dear to me is Dr. Seuss’s ever-popular, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”. The story centers around an unnamed protagonist who is understandably cautious and uncertain about the journey in front of him. There are incredible messages and pieces of wisdom that I have carried with me since childhood and such advice is applicable to anyone about to undergo a major life transition. As I prepare to study abroad at Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz, France, I think back to Dr. Seuss’s words and am reminded to embrace change with open arms.

If someone told me six months ago that I’d soon be embarking on the trip of a lifetime, I would certainly express some disbelief. As much as I have wanted to travel abroad on my own, a small part of me did not believe it was a tangible reality in my near future. I must admit that it was a simple, yet moving message from a fortune cookie last semester that pushed me to follow through and make my dreams of travelling abroad come to fruition. I had just finished eating dinner at Panda Express — as was my bi-weekly ritual. That day, the fortune in my cookie read, “You will take a pleasant journey to a place far away.” For me, this message felt serendipitous and could not have arrived at a better time. I kept this fortune and it prompted me to reevaluate why I was not actively pursuing a study abroad experience while at Georgia Tech. The words were straightforward and the signs were all there — I needed to make the leap and pursue this study abroad opportunity wholeheartedly.

A few summers ago, I had the privilege of travelling to Nigeria with my family for a month-long vacation to visit friends and family we hadn’t seen in a long time. Although I was raised in a Nigerian household, it wasn’t until this trip that I was able to truly grasp and observe the cultural underpinnings of Nigerian society and traditions. Moreover, I visited major metropolitan cities including Lagos, Abuja, and Enugu as well as the ancestral villages of Nnewi and Awkuzu. My time in Nigeria certainly sparked a bit of wanderlust in me — I cannot wait to travel abroad again. As much as I am excited to go to France I, like the subject of “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”, I am also nervous for what is to come. In Nigeria, we stayed in the comfort of my grandparent’s home, surrounded by a familiar culture, food, and language. In France, I will be exploring uncharted waters.

I applied to Georgia Tech Lorraine because I knew that I wanted to grow both academically and personally. Going to France means transplanting myself to an unfamiliar part of the globe, but I am confident that taking this leap will ultimately bring self-growth. In removing myself from the comfort of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I am challenging myself to be more vulnerable and to view the world through a new lens. I expect that there will be inevitable social and cultural differences, but I plan to wield these differences to inspire a new frame of thinking about the world.

There is much to gain from this study abroad experience. I will learn how to be a global engineer, and most importantly a global citizen. The fact that GT Lorraine is an internationally renowned program was also a major draw for me. I want to soak up as much as possible while in Metz, France. I must confess that I am the stereotypical tourist who enjoys taking pictures and visiting historic landmarks. The Gothic Saint-Stephen Cathedral and the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains are definitely on my must-see list!

Two months from now, I will be moving to GT Lorraine’s campus. I am eager to explore the beautiful city of Metz, France and I cannot wait to venture to other cities in Europe as well. I look forward to making new friends and interacting with new people. While in France, I hope to gain a basic understanding of the French language and culture. I have already downloaded a French language app on my phone for early practice! I will surely miss my friends and family while I am away, but I am excited to build new bonds and sharing new memories. My full name, Ijeabalum, translates to “my life’s journey has been worthwhile”. My name is a powerful badge that reminds me to make the most of life’s journey and to strike the balance between remaining grounded while venturing out to try something new and different.

I’ll end my first post with my favorite lines from the book:

“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

Until next time!



Counting down to departure!

IMG950174[1]Why, fancy meeting you here! 

Welcome to the official blog of Georgia Tech-Lorraine. I’ll be your host for spring 2016, Julie, featuring the vibrant town of Metz, France. I am a concert enthusiast and architecture geek, currently studying Industrial Engineering as a proud Yellow Jacket. Using my insider perspective, it’s my hope to depict all different facets of living and traveling abroad with Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

Mere days after the big countdown celebrating the beginning of another calendar year, another countdown is about to climax, and this one commenced circa six months ago. I’m speaking of the countdown to Georgia Tech-Lorraine! Never have I ever been this excited to go back to school – and I am a self-professed nerd.

All the planning and organizing – applying for a passport, and then a visa, and all of the research and shopping and packing – has lead up to these moments. After all the queries fulfilled through random Google searches and all the travel blogs read, it’s time to step over the landing and start the adventure.

Bon voyage!

Posted by Julie

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