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Category: 2016-Summer (Page 2 of 3)

Back to Paradise

Places to Relax Around Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Posted by Lindsay

The mixture of traveling every weekend, and studying all week can be tiring. But there are some awesome places around campus to relax and take a break.

The Student Lounge

The student lounge in the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building isn’t just for studying. The lounge has a ping pong table where students can play for free. There is also a small lending library where students can borrow books and just return them when they are done reading them. The lounge also has nice comfortable chairs which are great to read in, as I can attest. This is also where most of the BDE events, like game night and trivia, are held.

 

The Lake

LM-Relax1

Across the street from the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building there is a small lake with a track around it. There are several benches around the lake to sit and enjoy the scenery. There are also ducks that are found at the lake, as well as swans. It is always nice to sit in the sun and watch the ducks swim.

 

Paul’s

Paul’s is located in between the GTL building and the Lafayette dorms. They have indoor and outdoor seating where you can order a coffee and sweets and enjoy the weather. There aren’t many Starbucks located around GTL, so Paul’s is the next best thing, with the added benefits of freshly made sweets and bread.

 

The Dorms

If all else fails, the dorms offer a lounge where students can relax as well as study. It is also not unusual to walk down the hallways of the dorms and see all the doors open and students chatting in the hallway. This open and welcoming community of students is a great way to make new friends. There are also usually pickup games of soccer or Ultimate Frisbee happening around the dorms.

 

London Calling

Posted by Morgan

Oh how I’ve missed the English language. The language where I understand whether the sign says “train delayed” or “train departing.” The language where I understand whether the bottle of liquid says “makeup remover” or “rubbing alcohol.” The language where I understand whether the menu says “steak” or “beef brains.” As you can probably guess, after a month in France, I was missing the ease of communication I had with the people in the states, so when a three day weekend arrived my sorority big, Dana, and I decided to go to London!

Dana and I had decided on London at the last possible minute. She was suffering from the GTL plague and was not exactly up for planning a trip, and me, being my indecisive self, was spouting off about ten different destinations we could go to. Thank goodness she was a good friend and put up with me for this. I swear each day leading up to our three day weekend I had an entire new trip planned: Budapest, Lyon, Florence, Salzburg. But in the end, the 3 hour journey on the Chunnel, the train that goes from Paris to London under the English Channel, and the English language was what hooked us on our destination: London.

I love London. I have been there before and it just has this classiness and ease to it. Of course there are those people that think of the charming British accents or The Spice Girls when they think of England, but my mind always wanders to a charming tea, the elegant queen, or the beautiful architecture of Big Ben. It’s my kind of place.

Lucky for us, It just so happened that the weekend we were there was also the celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. I learned this from a friend of mine who was interning for a publishing company in London. I had told her of our plans to visit and she suggested meeting up for the Queen’s birthday parade.

We met at the Piccadilly Train station and then walked over towards the Waterloo steps to get a good spot to see the queen. We caught up on how our lives in college were going and how we were enjoying our summer of traveling. It was so fun to be with a friend from my home town, thousands of miles away!

Unfortunately, we waited for much longer than anticipated to see the queen; however, the long wait gave us time to people watch and talk to the people around us. Oddly enough, this was an enjoyable way to pass the time. We saw a man dancing around in a skirt that was far too short and protesting about the debate over Brexit. We heard a group of older women discussing what color they thought the queen would wear: lavender or lime green (this debacle made us chuckle to no end, and she ended up wearing lime green believe it or not). Then, to make our wait even more interesting, we met a woman next to us whose son went to Georgia Tech! We conversed over the Georgia Tech-Lorraine program and how her son was excited for his final year at Tech. What a small world.

We saw the queen!

We saw the queen!

When the queen finally came, the crowd went wild, waving their British flags in the air and shouting. For about two minutes, I was able to see the speck of lime green that was the queen. That was pretty much the extent of the parade, but it was still a fun experience and now I can say, “I’ve seen the queen. Have you?”

Afterwards, Dana and I ventured over towards Westminster Abbey. We took the time to be stereotypical tourists, snapping cheesy photos and jumping up and down. When we were done, the hunger pains started ringing and we began to look for lunch. Being a lover of soccer, I forced Dana to go to a traditional British pub with me so I could watch the Euro Cup. I loved this. As I ate my fish and chips, fixated on the tv, the men around me cheered on their team, cursing off when they thought a foul should have been called and yelling with excitement when a goal was scored. It was a cultural experience and clearly a highlight of my trip.

Just us being tourists.

Just us being tourists.

The rest of the day was spent exploring. This meant we got lost a lot, which is probably why our feet hurt so much by the end of the day. Even though we had a subway card, Siri told us we walked 12 miles that day. When the evening came, we decided we needed sleep after all that walking, so instead of seeing a bit of London at night we went back to our hotel and were in bed by 11pm. Such fun college students we are!

The next day involved much less walking- only five miles this time! We went to Camden Market and just walked around. It was an assortment of cool shops and artwork. Then there were the food stands that shoved their free samples in our face to try and get us to buy something which only filled me with overwhelming anxiety; however, the day was finished with a relaxing evening at the theater. According to our research, which consisted of Google, we learned that NYC and London had some of the best theater in the world, so we bought tickets to see the Lion King. I can confidently say that it was one of those instances where Google was right.

The Market.

The Market.

The show was amazing: the costumes, the music, the acting! Dana left with a feeling of contentment and I left with the tune of Hakuna Matata stuck in my head. It was a great way to finish our trip.

Sitting on the train on our way back to Metz, France, Dana, the person who doesn’t get excited by much, had a huge smile across her face. “I loved London,” she said. “I’m going to live there when I get older. Do you think they have jobs for chemical engineers there?”

Clearly London was a hit, and it made me happy that she loved the city just as much as I do. As we entered back into the Metz train station, the signs were now all in French, the restaurant menus, now all in French, the conversations around us, now all in French. It was time to go back to the confusing state of mental disarray, but at least we had a weekend in English. At least we had London.

 

 

 

 

 

Off the Beaten Track


This past weekend was the first four day weekend of the summer, and traveling to Barcelona, Spain was the plan. Barcelona was very busy this past weekend, and my friend, Izzi, and I couldn’t find a room in Barcelona for the first night. Instead we decided to take an additional train to Tarragona, which is about an hour train ride from Barcelona.

Tarragona is known for the Roman ruins of Tarraco that can be found there.

As Izzi and I walked to our hostel, we didn’t have high expectations for our day in Tarragona. It was a small town compared to Barcelona, and it was a holiday so most shops were closed.

The first thing that we wanted to do after traveling for 19 hours was head to the beach. After a quick 20 minute walk we reached the beach and we were in for a surprise. The beach wasn’t crowded at all, and it lacked shops, peddlers, and a lot of other tourists.

This was a completely different experience compared to the beaches that awaited us in Barcelona.

We sat out at the beach for a couple hours listening to the waves without interruptions.

While it was a holiday, there were still restaurants open for the evening. Izzi and I wandered down to the main square in the old town Tarragona and found it filled with people awaiting some form of entertainment. After waiting a couple of minutes we started to see people rising from the crowd while standing on others shoulders.

Come to find out these people were building a castell, or a human tower.

This tradition originated near Tarragona, though now it is a popular tradition practiced through Catalunya. These castellers build a human tower with no safety equipment aside from a helmet for the youngest castellers. The Castell is created on cobblestone in the main square and any mistakes can be fatal. The top of the tower is made by the youngest castellers, who are 6 years old.

This was such an unexpected delight to see this tradition. Afterward we sat in the square and had a dinner, which was delicious and also a great price!

We spent the rest of the evening walking around Tarragona and enjoying the sights that Tarragona had to offer.

The next day we were off to Barcelona. While Barcelona was a wonderful city full of tourists attractions, Tarragona was by far my favorite part of the weekend. The city was gorgeous, and the quiet calm was a nice reprieve from the constant buzz of typical tourist cities.

Traveling to Tarragona was delightful, and even though most people didn’t travel there, or won’t travel there, it provided not only a great experience and tourist sites, but it came without the tourist feel. Traveling off the beaten track can be fun and rewarding.

 

Lessons Learned

Posted by Morgan

Each week, after my travels have occurred and my adventures have been taken, I quickly post an instagram-worthy photo to my social media account, hoping to share with family and friends the amazing time I had in some new and beautiful country. Soon after, the likes on my photos increase and the list of comments become longer. It is clear that my friends, sitting at home or taking classes, are jealous, and why wouldn’t they be? I am spending my summer traveling around Europe! But the photos do not always capture those horrible times of stress that each student has faced or the exhaustion that each student endures. Just the other night for instance, as a group of GTL students and myself waited for the bus from the Metz train station back to our dorms, my friend got pickpocketed. Her phone was stolen, and she was left in a terrible state of confusion, anger, and disarray. I am sure the photos that she will soon post of her weekend in London will make her friends envious, but little do they know the dismal end to her trip.

Along the way, I’ve learned how to manage the stress of traveling and what precautions to take. It’s not always easy, but hopefully for those that study abroad later on, they can learn from my mistakes!

Paying for things: When traveling around with friends, you often end up paying for things of theirs and vice versa. Whether it is because a restaurant will not split a check or a friend is all out of cash, it inevitably happens. At first, I tried to log all of Venmothese occurrences on my phone, but it is an unorganized and hasty method. If you want to study abroad, you need to download venmo! It has made my life so much easier. Friends can easily pay each other back within a few minutes. All you need to do is convert from euros to dollars and connect a credit card or atm card to the app. This has helped me not forget who owes who and keep myself on track for my budget.

Travel with a backpack: Do not attempt to spend a weekend traveling by train, bus, or plane with a wheely suitcase or oversized duffle. It is simply too hard, and if you are running around trying to make a train, it becomes nearly impossible to manage the trip without your arms falling off. I learned this the hard way after my trip to Germany, hiking up a mountain with a duffle threatening to break off my arms. Ever since this trip, I have used a backpack, and let me tell you, it is a decision I have never second guessed.

portable charger[1]Bringing a portable charger: If you happen to have an overseas data plan or if you only ever take pictures with your phone, these things come in handy. You would be surprised how quickly my phone has died after using gps or looking up train times. A dead phone can cause a lot of commotion if you lost a travel buddy or even if you just don’t know how to get toyour next destination. Now, I can easily pack my handy dandy portable charger in my bag and I am good to go for the rest of the day! It takes up little room and makes sure that I am not left in any sticky situations.

Airbnb: I had never used airbnb before this trip. I was used to staying in hotels with my family when we traveled or in hostels while on my high school study abroad trip. Airbnb can be good or bad. It’s usually easy and you have the added MK-Lessons1convenience of having a place all to yourself, but you might be surprised at the hidden costs. Hostels usually have soap, towels, breakfast, and are centrally located, whereas with airbnb’s this is not always the case. Just this past weekend we stayed at a vineyard in Portugal, which, while amazing, cost an arm and a leg to taxi into town. Try and budget these additions into your trip when planning.

Eurail: The Eurail is what makes everyone’s life easier at GTL. It allows you to hop on and off trains throughout Europe without the purchase of a ticket or at least at a significantly reduced price. Of course, this handy dandy travel item comes at a cost: anywhere from 500 to 1200 euros, depending on how long you plan on traveling. Two weeks? Two months? Three months? I recommend purchasing the 17 days MK-lessons2within 2 months pass. While you are at GTL for longer than 2 months, most people end up flying somewhere. My one friend purchased a very expensive 3 month unlimited pass and is now left with little money to spend on flights. Try planning your trips before hand and then deciding on which pass to purchase!

Buy a lock for valuables: This comes in handy if you plan on staying at hostels. While hostels are safe, it is still always a good idea to take that extra precaution and lock up your things when you are sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. The hostel will usually provide you with a cubby to lock up your things, but if you want to save a few dollars instead of renting a lock, bring your own! When I stayed in a hostel, I accidentally left my wallet sitting out for a few hours. Thank goodness my roommates were kind and honest people, but I was definitely left in a state of panic when I arrived back and noticed I had left my valuables out in the open.
While these are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned to manage the stresses of traveling, I’ve also had to learn to expect the unexpected sometimes. Not everything goes perfectly when you are traveling. I assure you that every GTL student here has had some major fiasco occur, whether it was a medical problem, a stolen item, a missed train, anything! Our amazing photos don’t always capture these occurrences, and from the outside everything probably seems perfect. Meanwhile, we are dealing with problems like a stolen phone. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The stresses, the trials, the tribulations, have all been worth it, and I am sure each student at GTL would agree.

Le Déjeuner

posted by Morgan

Lunch, otherwise known as “le déjeuner,” is the most important meal of the day in France. Fortunately for us Georgia Tech students, most of whom can probably solve a triple integral with more ease than cooking some chicken, lunch is provided to us at the local cafeteria.

Please do not be alarmed by my use of the word “cafeteria.” It is not the horrifying place most of us remember from high school, where the pizza is equivalent to cardboard and the frozen peas are still frozen. In fact I have had a few friends that say it is as good as their mother’s cooking (I was blessed with an extraordinary cook for a mother so I can only go so far to say that it is “pretty good”).

During the first few weeks here, the process of actually obtaining the food was a little stressful. Yes, you stand in line and grab the food as you go down the aisle, but they have a very strict policy on how much of each item you can get. For example, you can get two items from the last section which has fruits, desserts, cheese, and yogurt but only one item from the first section, which consists of appetizers and salads. If you take more than the allotted amount you will have a French woman waving her finger disapprovingly at you and grumbling some unidentifiable words. But if you take less than the allotted amount, for instance you skip the chocolate mousse dessert, you will still get the same disapproving response. There is the added fact that they only allow you a maximum of two meager ketchup packets which, as an American, just seems unjustifiably tragic to me on those days they serve french fries. After about a month here though, I can confidently say that I have mastered the process of going through the lunch line. Now I just pass on through and then find a seat at a table with friends, enjoying that french bread we students so eagerly chow down on but then later regret eating.

The entrees are always tasty too. Each day is different. Sometimes it is hot dogs wrapped in bacon and cheese. Other days it is pasta with butter and tomato sauce. The most special day so far was when we had croissants that were filled with some type of magical goodness. In short, everyone’s lunch tray is covered with various foods. Overall, our cafeteria, Crous, is a nice place to eat lunch, catch up with friends, and enjoy a break from classes. It might not be the student center with Chick-fil-A or North Ave. with an ice-cream machine, but it we enjoy it all the same.

Taking Paris by Storm!

This semester has given me many opportunities, including traveling alone. The second weekend I took Paris by storm on my own!

There are quite a few benefits to traveling alone including just being able to see whichever attractions you want. The first thing that I wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower. On the way there my phone died, and I lost all my maps and navigation. I took this opportunity to wander around Paris making my way closer to the Eiffel Tower that I could see in the sky.

Using the Eiffel Tower to navigate

Using the Eiffel Tower to navigate

As I made my way to the Eiffel Tower I got to see different architecture around Paris, taste some delicious pastries, and got to see some street art as well.

 

 

 

 

Uncharted discoveries on the way to the Eiffel Tower

Finally Made it to the Eiffel Tower!

Finally Made it to the Eiffel Tower!

After finally making it to the Eiffel Tower, I sat in the park in front of it and just enjoyed my lunch and the perfect view. Another benefit of traveling alone was being able to do things on my own schedule. Just relaxing and taking my time with lunch was a blessing after walking all morning.

 

 

The next sight that I needed to see was the Louvre. After a quick metro ride I entered the Louvre and saw the quintessential inverted glass pyramid.

I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre

I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre

I spent hours wandering the halls of the Louvre walking from exhibit to exhibit. My favorite exhibit by far was the Ancient Egyptian exhibit. This was my first time seeing Ancient Egyptian stonework and ceramics. The craftsmanship that went into these pieces and the fact that they have lasted throughout the centuries stunned me.

Exhibits at the Louvre

This weekend I got the chance to travel on my own. I found out that I can make it around a foreign city alone if need be. It also gave me the opportunity to meet new people at my hostel. I quickly made new friends and we ended up spending the next day at the Musée d’Orsay together.

LM-Paris4

With new friends on the way to the Musée d’Orsay

 

The Best Study Spots at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Having just completed hell-week, the most tumultuous, tiring, tear jerking time next to finals week, I have discovered a few of the best places to study. Here they are!

Studying in the lounge

Studying in the lounge

The Student Lounge: The equivalent of the culc, if you are looking for a convenient place to casually work in between classes this is the place! While there is no starbucks or gorgeous views of Atlanta, there are some comfy couches and a coffee and vending machine. Plus, it is a great place to run into people and say hi!

 

The Lake: On those rare days that it is not raining, this is the most tranquil and beautiful place to study. The campanile pales in comparison. Take your notes with you and sit on a bench or lie under a tree! There is no better spot!

Studying by the lake

Studying by the lake

 

An Abandoned Class-Room: If you want some peace in quiet in a central location, this is the way to go. It’s kind of like the equivalent to our library or a study room. At the end of your day you can meet up with a classmate and go over work in a quiet and peaceful place. Since classes tend to die down around 5 pm you can usually find an empty classroom around then. No long distance walking to dorms is necessary!

 

Dorm room kitchen

Dorm room kitchen

The Kitchen: The kitchen has been my favorite place to work on CS hw. I can pull out my laptop and spend an hour or two with friends writing some code. We don’t have to worry about disrupting other people, and the best part, we can cook and eat dinner while we work! Multitasking is key if you want to be a true Tech student!

 

Your Dorm: This is the best place for people who like to work late into the night. The GTL building is not the culc, open 24 hours a day. Because most people at GTL have their own rooms, working in your dorm with your light on at 1 am is an viable option. While I don’t find it to be the most enjoyable atmosphere, it is the best place for me to knock out some work!

Dorm room

Dorm room

These are the places I study at most often! Believe me, you will study on this study abroad, so find the right place for you so that you make the most of this experience!

One Room Schoolhouse

When I started looking at colleges in high school, the one thing I knew that I wanted was a large school, a school so large that I could easily meet someone new every day of class. Georgia Tech proved to be a nice compromise to this desire with a student body of around 15,000. Having recently completed my freshman year at Georgia Tech I can honestly say that the classes, the people, even the professors in the large lecture halls were exactly what I wanted. Then came GTL, where the class sizes quickly drop from 250 to 20 students, the office hours are held by request instead of daily, and the TA’s are non-existent.

MK4_1

Walking into the GTL building, you realize the sheer meagerness in size. It is not the Clough Commons where your legs tire from walking in search of your classroom. The entire campus is made up of one building. There are only about 10 classrooms, each colored coded instead of listed by room number. Instead of huge projector screens that span across the walls, there is one small screen at the front of the room. Add the fact that there is only one outlet in every room instead of a personal outlet rooted into your desk and it makes me feel like I am in a one room schoolhouse.  I did not think I would particularly enjoy this small environment of learning, yet GTL classes have given me a positive, new perspective for my education.

MK4_2

There is a personal feel to it. For example, my computer science class has only about 20 students or so and one professor. The usual size for this class is closer to 150 students, but our small class size allows us to have a one-on-one relationship with the professor. The ability of our professor to ask us our opinions on tests and quizzes and then give feedback right away would have been impossible in Atlanta. Students can also ask in-depth questions, hold conversations such as “what works better, the enumerate function or a for loop?,” and can even take the time to learn more details about the professor on a personal level. I have learned, for instance, that Professor Simpkins is afraid of heights but used to be in the air force.

In short, my classes have a calmer more personal atmosphere, but I am still able to “enjoy” the rigors of sitting down and debugging some code with friends after class. With one building for a campus, we students get an idea of what a small college feel is like. While it might not be the hustle-bustle of Georgia Tech Atlanta, it is still a stimulating environment that we enjoying coming to, even if it is at 8:30 in the morning.

Where to Eat Near Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Unlike at the Georgia campus, dinner is not included in any of the meal plans for the GTL student. This means that every evening each GTL student needs to fend for themselves. No need to worry though as there are several options for dinner. There is the obvious option to cook dinner in the dorms, but for those times when you’re too busy to cook here are your options:

Paul

Image source: Paul.fr

Image source: Paul.fr

Paul is located about halfway between Lafayette and the GTL building. Paul has several options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Throughout the day they have fresh baked bread, pastries, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Each day they have a slightly different selection, making sure that you don’t get bored eating the same thing every day.

 

Crous

CROUS dining hall

CROUS dining hall

While dinner isn’t included in the meal plan, lunch at Crous is included. That being said for 3€ dinner at Crous can be purchased. Dinner at Crous typically includes a choice of two entrees, one seafood option and one non-seafood meat options. Some of the options included so far this semester were chicken fingers, ham and grilled cheese, pork and macaroni, among others. They have a variety of cold sides each night including oranges, apples, watermelon, a variety of cheeses, yogurt, and mousse. One or two hot sides are available each night as well such as scalloped potatoes, green beans, and pasta.

 

La Boite à Pizza

Image source: laboiteapizza.com

Image source: laboiteapizza.com

La Boite à Pizza is the local pizza place that is located next to Paul, and is within walking distance from GTL. Let me tell you La Boite à Pizza is not your typical pizza place. They have a selection of gourmet and traditional pizzas made with fresh ingredients. They even have deals every Monday and Thursday for any medium pizza for 6€50!

These are the options available within walking distance of GTL, but there are always the restaurants in Metz if you get tired of these.

 

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