To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: 2016-Spring (Page 1 of 3)

On to the Next Adventure!

Time is a lot like looking at a map: the drive was hours long, but on the veined paper, all the ground you’ve covered amounts to a grand total of 3 inches. Looking back at this semester is a lot like a map of the world: I’ve been a few places, done a few things, but now I’m going back to Atlanta. Life will return to normal Georgia Tech days of searching for a seat in the CULC and waiting for the blue route.

But I don’t think I’ll be the same.

The best part of Georgia Tech-Lorraine is that it presents you with a very distinct choice: you can try something new or you can stay where you are. It’s a choice we get every day, but it’s presented with more boldness here: it’s in the sound of a train on the tracks and in the conversations with friends about weekend plans. Living abroad can change a lot of things; of course, the degree of that depends on how far you delve into the lives here. The best way to do it is thrust yourself headlong into the experience.

I’ve grown up a lot this semester – and maybe you’ve seen some of that in the blogs, I’m not sure. I’ve made friendships that I’ll cherish and memories that I can revisit in times of reflection, and I’ve learned things about myself (for example, I’m better at speaking in front of people than I ever thought I was – especially if I am passionate about the topic). A huge thank you to everyone who I’ve met along the way, and all those with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working.

This semester has been life-changing for me – on the same level of sliced bread, I’d say. In all the conversations I’ve had with friends and peers, that’s a common descriptor of our time here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine: life-changing. Sometimes it takes a change of frame to see the picture in a different way, and Georgia Tech-Lorraine is just the frame I needed.

Thanks for sticking with me through the semester. I wish you all the best!

Farewell, France!

This morning, I completed my last exam of this semester and it feels absolutely surreal. On my way back to La Fayette, a place I have called home for four months, I immediately begin reminiscing on the amazing experiences and memories I’ve made here. I also think back to my first blog post, and it is interesting to revisit my pre-trip expectations and anticipations. Returning to Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go”, I discover four lines that encapsulate my time abroad quite beautifully:

“You’ll be on your way up!

You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers

who soar to high heights.”

I’ve certainly seen great sights and flown high heights! More importantly, I can confidently declare that studying abroad has been a life-changing experience for me. Living in an unfamiliar environment challenged me to step outside my comfort zone, which fostered personal growth and a new level of maturity. Along the way, I managed to build new relationships and friendships that will extend far beyond this four month period. Travelling to different countries introduced to me to new customs and people from all walks of life. I sampled a myriad of cuisines, and less successfully, new languages. I lounged on a beach in Barcelona and travelled 2,000 ft up into the Swiss Alps. I visited 9 countries in total, and experienced parts of the world that have always been on my bucket list. Travel granted me access and insight into various cultures and gifted me with a stronger appreciation for the world’s diversity. I value diversity and the qualities that make us unique; that said, venturing to new cities also taught me that people are very much alike despite seemingly insurmountable cultural barriers.

I left the United states as a nervous yet eager, wide-eyed engineering student ready to explore new horizons. I leave France much in the same way, but now instilled with a new sense of confidence. I am returning home an experienced traveler and global citizen. I cannot believe how quickly four months passed. My time in Metz has exceeded all my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed writing for the GTL blog and am so grateful for the opportunity to share and keep track of my memories. I am glad that prospective GTL students can use my blog as a resource for advice and a glimpse of the excitement that waits.

While I am eager to return home to reunite with family and friends, there are a many parts of this experience I will miss. I will miss the spontaneity that comes with each weekend. I will miss the different foods I indulged in, from döner kebabs to French cheese and baguettes. I will not soon forget the pieces of history I learned about each country. I will miss my professors, some of which were the best I’ve had as an undergraduate student. I will miss the bond that 138 built in our short time here.

I look forward to finishing my remaining semesters at Georgia Tech on a strong and positive note. I cannot wait to see how the life lessons I’ve acquired while abroad will apply to life back home.

Au revoir France!

Ije

 

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.

Paintballs and Châteaux

Posted by Julie

The season of BDE events is upon us, and week after week there are events lined up. One of the largest events occurred just the other day north of Metz in Veckring.

Now, I’ve never played paintball. It’s never been on my radar – the balloon painting from that scene in The Princess Diaries is more my style. However, at the beginning of the semester we were given a list suggested events from previous BDE’s, and when we polled the student body, paintball was a very popular choice. After much debate and many more phone calls, we had organized what was quite possibly the BDE’s largest financial commitment of the semester. Students paid just 25€ for three hours of playing time on a field that was cooler than any of us had imagined.

Paintball Veckring is situated nearby Ouvrage Hackenberg and the Maginot Line up in the northeastern part of France, and its “map,” or playing field, consists of an assembly of an abandoned château and old military buildings. Yes, that means we were playing paintball in dilapidated buildings. And we were the only people there, as the event took place on a Friday, and most people still have school or work and such. You can imagine the intensity – it feels like you’re creeping around on a mission.

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The group assembled to discuss what style game we would play next in a room of a military building.

Adjusting to the unique map took some time, but everyone had a great time. We were slipping around in the mud from the previous day’s rainfall, climbing in windows, creeping through basements, and at the end of all of it, covered in splotches of paint. And there were so many paintballs that we had leftovers even after it was time to wrap up that people took turns shooting at randomly specified targets.

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One last picture with the dog in front parading his new water bottle around.

The cherry on top was the adorable, water bottle-chewing dog of an employee they had wandering on site, which wandered between our group as we removed our muddy shoes in preparation for the bus back to Metz.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Vicki Birchfield

Name: Dr. Vicki Birchfieldfd1d715c2a5b1582-8a5ff

Position: Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs; co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies; affiliated with the Jean Monnet
Centre of Excellence

Favorite color: hues of blue

Favorite food: French cuisine – especially “les fruits de mer,” a.k.a., seafood, and above all lobster

Interests/hobbies: Paris marathon in 2001, Chicago/Atlanta half – yoga, cooking, reading, theater/arts

Educational institutions:

Auburn University – Bachelors;

Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) – Diplôme d’études supérieur;

Auburn University – Master’s thesis on French women in electoral politics in political science;

University of Georgia – PhD in comparative political science in international relations

 

Throughout middle school the running joke was that teachers had a blow-up air mattress beneath their desks – and so basically did nothing outside of the classroom. Ha-ha, so funny! Except that’s never the case, and we knew it. Even in college, we don’t see half of what our professors are up to. All people are more interesting once you’ve taken time to get to know them: they have stories and perspectives different from anyone else. And now, let me assure all you middle schoolers: teachers are way cooler than you think.

Take Dr. Vicki Birchfield, for instance. She’s a co-teacher for the International Affairs class, and because the class is co-taught, we haven’t spent as much time in the classroom with her, but I got the chance to sit down and talk to her just a bit ago.

Our International Affairs class centers around the politics of the European Union in terms of Metz and the region of Lorraine. The inspiration of Professor Sonia Serafin, the other co-teacher of the class (and one of the French teachers here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine), brought this class to life, and Professor Birchfield helped to create a curriculum to fulfill the Global Perspectives requirement. The region of Lorraine has a rich history in terms of the European Union, and they know it. In fact, that’s what Professor Birchfield really wants GTL students to tap into: there is so much information and history at our fingertips.

Dr. Birchfield believes strongly in the value of a higher education – but also knows that there is a privilege to it, and coupled with it the “responsibility to be critical consumers of information and formulate one’s own view.” As this world become more and more saturated with information, it becomes harder to discern the factual, unbiased truth, but equipped with the tools of education, we can dig a little deeper for a better understanding.

That’s part of what she tries to bring to Georgia Tech-Lorraine with her class: the opportunity to bring the history of the European Project to life through site visits and class discussions. She creates this during her summer program in both Paris and Brussels, which takes 300 students to discover what Europe is – both culturally and politically. That’s also why she finds teaching one of the most rewarding part of her position in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs: opening their minds to the complexity in a career to essence of the life of the mind. She can bring her passion in her research into the classroom, and this coexistence between the spheres is beneficial, as it inspires a deeper conversation.

The mark of full professorship requires dedication in the three spheres of the position: education, research, and service. Dr. Birchfield has worked since 2000 at the Sam Nunn School an instructor, making waves along the way. Today, she runs a summer study abroad program, is affiliated with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, and has multiple publications. With all of the dedication she’s brought to her career and to Georgia Tech, Dr. Birchfield has been awarded full professorship, and it’s understandable that achievement represents one of her most cherished professional achievements.

However, when I asked the question “What is your biggest accomplishment?” that wasn’t her first response. In fact, she believes her greatest success lies in “the deep joy and fulfillment in relationships,” especially with her family. She’s accomplished quite a bit, but her husband and daughter bring her much happiness.

Another great source of pride is the being inducted as a Chevalier into l’Ordre Nationale du Mérite of France in 2012. Dr. Birchfield studied French extensively, even attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland for her Diplôme d’études supérieur. As a bit of a Francophone myself, this would be a wonderful dream come true: to be recognized by a country and culture that you’ve studied, lived in, and loved. For all the work she has done to promote understanding and the studies of France and Europe, she has been knighted by the country of France in a National Order of Merit created by Charles de Gaulle himself. If that’s not an indicator that you’re making an impact, I don’t know what is.

Her work is reflected across the Georgia Tech-Atlanta campus. She works closely with the French Consulate and, on top of her work with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, she organizes speakers – from diplomats to a panel of speakers on “Brexit” (the impending vote of the British people on their future in the EU) to a Danish filmmaker who created a documentary on the Denmark refugee dilemma.

So, yes, Dr. Birchfield has accomplished so much, but she has a life outside of work, too. Currently, she loves a good yoga session, and in years past, she’s run quite a bit, participating in the Chicago Half and the Paris Marathon. She really enjoys cooking, as well as reading and the arts – especially theatre! (The Atlanta theater scene is vibrant, and I love volunteering at a theater near Georgia Tech, so I was elated to hear this.) She’ll be spending some time here in France, though, so that will have to be explored when she returns to Georgia Tech-Atlanta. She loves travel just as much as the rest of us at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, too: her favorite places? Definitely in France: the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the Emerald Coast of Brittany, and Belle-Île, a small island off of the coast of Brittany.

A Spring Potluck to Remember

Posted by Julie

Springtime is something to celebrate here in Metz. The clouds have retreated for a bit and the sight of the sun warms our hearts. With all of the rain, every snapshot of Metz overflows with a lively green, and these gargantuan dandelions have sprung up by every sidewalk.

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Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the springtime!

While all of the outdoors celebrates warmer temperatures, we are celebrating, too. This semester has been pretty amazing: Georgia Tech-Lorraine has brought us so many opportunities – from traveling on the weekends to meeting new people in a social environment unlike any other I’ve seen – and we all see that.

At the Spring Potluck, we gathered to commemorate all the great things that have happened at Georgia Tech-Lorraine over the past months. It was easy to see how far we’ve come: from awkwardly introducing ourselves to the other people sporting Georgia Tech gear to laughing and joking over a plate of turkey and an assembly of our friends’ dishes.

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The potluck was brimming and delicious.

The picture of amity, the Georgia Tech-Lorraine lounge was transformed into a banquet hall with colorful tables and decorations, and a long, beautiful assembly of food. The BDE provided raffle prizes featuring jerseys, mini speakers, and Kinder Bueno – a favorite snack of GTL students. The president revealed the winner of the March Madness bracket competition, as well as the winners in each of the five categories of the photo contest: best food picture, best group picture, best landscape or architecture picture, best cultural picture, and – because we’re millennials – best selfie. There were so many amazing entries; students really have an eye for beauty. Who says engineers aren’t creative!? (The winners can be seen here.)

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Maybe the preparation for this event was intense, but the results were pleasing. It was great to be a part of bringing together the students for some friendship and bonding. And food – don’t forget the food. We’re college students, after all.

Thank you to all of the volunteers that helped set up, and to all of those who helped clean up after. You are appreciated!

Making More Than Just Train Connections

Posted by Julie

Studies have classified three ways of learning: auditory, visual, and hands-on, which are generally reflected in how we experience anything. There are a great many ways experience travel, and really no bad way; you can learn a lot no matter how you experience a locale. As far as I’ve seen, though, traveling can also be divided into common experiential thought processes: shopping, eating, historical sites, museums, art, and activities. Of course, there are some other outlying processes, and most people pursue a mix of the thought processes.

However, there is another way to learn about a city and its culture that I’ve seen as increasingly beneficial: personal connections. This is on the rise, with the increasing popularity of shared economy companies such as AirBnB and Couchsurfing; the latter especially encourages interacting with hosts and experiencing a city with them. This personal touch from someone in the area leads to memories that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, as it adds more knowledge than one could gleam out of all of the blog posts about a space.

Not only do you get recommendations on all of the experiential thought processes and the related points of interests of each, your new friend can impart knowledge or even funny stories, and the personal connection can be invaluable. Most people I know have met fascinating people along the way, whether via rooming or just wandering the city, and are still connected with them through Facebook, or even actively talking to them!

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AJ playing with the kids we met on the train.

Why I do I bring this semi-obvious point up? Well, it’s story time. Quite possibly my favorite part of  Easter weekend was our short train ride between Prague and Berlin, and no, not because we finally sat in a car similar to those of the Hogwarts Express. (EEP.) We did sit in a similar carriage, but the important details were our neighbors: two German sisters, each with their respective kid. After settling in, my friend pulled out a deck of cards, and AJ has a really great fancy-shuffle he can do. (That’s a technical term.)

The kids were immediately spellbound by his magical card manipulation, and from there he taught them how to do his bridge shuffle, played Uno, and learned the word for “red” in German. The family spoke little English, and AJ and I spoke close to no German, so communication was limited, but I had a conversation with the adults. We stumbled through broken English about life in Germany and their policies. It was interesting to see a different normal and to learn about their experiences more than anything. Though a difficult conversation, it was certainly the most rewarding during my trip.

The value doesn’t always rest in conversation, though. The personal connection can be just as powerful. AJ hung with the kids, who knew some English from their studies, but they were more interested in the cards than politics. Ask him (like I did), and he would say it was the best part of the trip too. (“Most definitely the best.”) From what I saw, our car was the most fun, as there was a kid watching the

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Some of the candy I received from the German family.

action from the corridor window. We both knew as the events were unraveling that this would be one of those moments that we would never forget.

So, what is my recommendation in life and in travel? Talk to and interact with people. Perspective is a powerful tool to understanding more of the world, and every other person has it. And often, it leads to places you never imagine.

Bonus: your new friends might graciously donate the rest of their candy to you, too.

 

GTL Athletics: Soccer

With nonstop travel on weekends and back to back classes/homework assignments during the week, it may seem almost impossible to find time for fitness. But students like Rene Kenmoe are helping to make the search a lot easier. Rene serves as the Sports Coordinator for the GTL BDE. Throughout the semester, he has organized a handful of soccer games on the fields outside of the Aloes dorm. And the turnouts are always fantastic. GTL students use these evening games as a means to let loose after class and release some competitive energy. “Playing soccer was a great release for me. It was nice to be outside in cool weather and fresh air. And getting a workout in is always a plus!” says Junior Christana Fagbile.

IMG_4222                   IMG_4223

Oftentimes, other university students will be out on the field, and end up playing a game or two with GTL students. In fact, one of Rene’s goals as the Sports Coordinator has been to connect GTL and the surrounding French schools through sports. While these matches are typically fun and light-hearted, they do still have their fair share of athletic “pros”/competitors. But not to worry! Even if you’re not the most skilled in the sport (cough, cough, me.), you are still very welcome! Out on the field, it is more about having fun and unwinding while learning the tenets of the game. The matches are not about who scores the most goals, but focus rather on creating a team-like bond with fellow classmates. Surely, in a semester filled with academics and travel, soccer is and will always be a great addition to the mix.

 

 

Medecin(e)s Without Borders

Photo courtesy of music.msu.edu

In all of the preparation we did for studying abroad in France, one of the (huge) tiny details was insurance. Really, it was pretty simple; fill out a form and make a fixed payment. I didn’t really give much thought to insurance at all, except extending it. Why we needed international insurance, I didn’t know, but I am here to reaffirm the statement that the lovely people in the Georgia Tech-Lorraine office in Atlanta know what they’re doing.

Health insurance is important. Yeah, we drag our feet about it, but it’s for the moments we don’t see coming – those images that whiz by and you have that sudden dread as you see it hurtling toward you.

(For me, the “it” was the ground.)

Metz had just recently opened up into gorgeous blue skies and nearly warm weather – but with all the running we were doing playing soccer, I was still in a t-shirt. We had made friends with students from Supelec and started a great game of football, and everything was going great. Then I collided with a couple friends, and soon after the ground.

Without all the details, it boils down to this: initially, things were a little confusing. My head hurt a lot, but I wasn’t too worried. But there were people who were concerned: Ed, my friend and an RA walked me back to GTL, and he told Karen (the awesome person I wrote about before). Concussions are serious. I got a follow-up call at 1am that morning, and the next day.

I didn’t have all the symptoms, but we decided it was necessary to go to the doctor – just to be safe. And besides, more terror had struck. Turns out I’m allergic to whatever brand of mosquitoes they have here, and my eyelids were pink and swollen.

(You see? The foreshadowing came true. Everything hit me at once.)

Well, we went to the doctor. Yes, we had to wait a couple hours without an appointment, but I got a prescription, and an official diagnosis. (No concussion!)

And it’s not just me who has been sick; many people have come down with something. There’s a lot to do around here, and between school and traveling like it’s a second job, it’s pretty easy to get worn down, but the Georgia Tech-Lorraine staff have done this before. They have the English-speaking contacts and connections to get us to the right places at the right time. And I can file with the insurance to get my money back. (Bonus round!)

Spring 2016 Photo Contest Winners!

Check out some of  amazing photo submissions from this semester’s GTL Photo Contest!

Category: Best Selfie (photo taken of oneself)

Honorable Mention: Yoona Lee (Clare County, Ireland)

Ireland_ClareCountyMoherCliff_Lee

Runner-Up: Sid Gore (Interlaken)

Austria_Interlaken_Gore

WINNER: Tom Agger (Innsbruck, Austria)

Austria_Innsbruck_Agger (2)

Category: Best Group Shot (photo must consist of 3 or more GTL students)

Honorable Mention: Sid Gore (Axamer, Austria)

Austria_Axamer Lizum_Gore

Runner-Up: Alyssa Griffin (Paris, France)

France_Paris_Griffin

WINNER: Emily Cowart (Athens, Greece)
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Category: Best Food Shot (photos of local food in markets, being prepared, on the table, etc.)

Honorable Mention: Esther Shin (Florence, Italy)Italy_Florence_Shin (1)

Runner-Up: Can Kanbalou (Paris, France)

France_Paris_Kabuloglu (1)

WINNER: Elizabeth Jang (Prague, Czech Republic)
CzechRepublic_Prague_Jang

Category: Best Cultural Snapshot (photos that provide a sense of the local culture, people, customs, and traditions)

Honorable Mention: Emily Cowart (Athens, Greece)

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Runner-Up: Yoona Lee  (Barcelona, Spain)

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WINNER: Julie McCallum (Venice, Italy)Italy_Venice_McCallum (1)

Category: Best Landscape (photos of architecture, scenery, landmarks, etc.)

Honorable Mention: Chris Petrus (Venus, Italy)

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Runner-Up: Tom Agger (Innsbruck, Austria)

Austria_Innsbruck_agger (1) (1)

WINNER: Kendall Peree (Merzouga, Morocco)

MOR

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