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Category: 2017-Spring (Page 5 of 6)

The Old World

Picture courtesy of Safari Wallpaper.

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

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

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

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

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

A Grappig Weekend

If I told High School Me that I got to drink coffee in the same room as about twelve cats, explore a 19th century Dutch pirate ship, and make tacos in a stranger’s house all in one day, High School Me would probably have thought that Present Day Me was a fictional character living in the wonderful fantasy land, Future-Magic-ville. Well, dear High School Me, I got to drink coffee in the same room as about twelve cats, explore a 19th century dutch pirate ship, and make tacos in a stranger’s house all in one day, ALL IN AMSTERDAM (which pretty much is, for me at least, Future-Magic-Ville)! This weekend was, to say the least, pretty great!

First of all, let me tell you a little about The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in specific. The city of Amsterdam (earlier known as Amstelledamme, named after the dam in the Amstel river by which the city was centered) was founded in the 13th century as a fishing village. Or did you know that the Dutch East India Company is actually called Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie in Dutch?

This brings me to another fun thing about the Netherlands: their language. Let me declare how deeply in love I am with the Dutch language. It is the perfect mix between English, German, and magic, and everyone looks so cool when they speak it! My favorite word so far, is “grappig,” which means “funny”, and it is, in fact, said in a very funny way. I learned this word at a small white marble table in the corner of a cat cafe, where I saw a lady keep pointing at the cats and saying, “Grappig! Grappige Kat!” One of my high school friends who I met up with that weekend actually is Dutch, so he was my translator the whole time, and he taught me a couple phrases in Dutch. However, the only thing I can remember now is how to say funny, which will not help me out, except maybe in a conversation about cats living in a coffee shop.

Now onto the cat cafe. Picture this: you’re enjoying a nice macchiato, an old friend sitting on either side of you, the room temperature is perfect – warm and cozy. You’re just about to have a third sip of your coffee when you notice a slight shift in your friend’s eyes. You look down to follow their gazes and there, right in front of you, is a fluffy, white cat, walking past your table. Your eyes follow him as he struts across the room, and you start noticing more things, more cats. About twelve. There are about twelve cats in the same space as you. This was definitely a high point in my life.

After brunch at the cat cafe, my friends and I went to the Maritime Museum, where we spent about 20% of our time learning semi-useful information, and the rest of time playing on the giant pirate ship that was docked in the back. Granted, it wasn’t actually a pirate ship, but it was still really cool getting to run around on it, pretending to be crewmen! We were able to lay in tiny boat hammocks and walk through a life-sized whale sculpture within the same hour. We were having a wonderful day so far. Once we hit the three hour mark at the museum, my friends and I decided to head back to our AirBnB to make dinner. On the way home, we stopped at a grocery store and got all of the necessities for making tacos, plus a box of chocolates for our hosts (Pro tip: when staying with a host family, leave them a nice box of chocolates and a sweet note. You can never go wrong with a nice box of chocolates and a sweet note).

The day was over, our bellies were full, our spirits were high, and we all slumbered off to prepare for the long day of traveling ahead. One of my friends, who flew in all the way from Oxford had to leave the house at six in the morning to catch his ten o’clock plane. Thankfully, my train didn’t leave until about one, so I could sleep in a bit and have a slow morning. My Dutch friend took me to the train station with me later that day and we had brunch at a small cafe across the platform. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and I hopped on the train for a seven to eight hour journey back to GTL.

Amsterdam was a beautiful city, and I am definitely going to visit it again. If you ever find yourself in the land of clogs and tulips, I highly recommend the cat cafe, Maritime museum, and checking out the local farmers markets. You can get a bit of culture, history, and cats in one day’s visit, and that, to me, seems like a pretty spectacular way to spend a weekend!

Before I leave you for the time being, here is your French Word of the Week!

Comment (adv.): how, what

Example in a Frenglish conversation:

Tim: “Hey Sam, comment in the world did you get that limited edition shirt?”

Sam: “Strange wording, but yes I can comment on my shirt. It has gray piping and a white base, and it actually used to belong to John Cena…”

In the Land of Salt

Salt, in my opinion, is one of Man’s greatest discoveries. Throughout Earth’s many, many years, people have figured out that excessive amounts of salt could preserve food, pinches of salt could enhance the flavor of your meal, and that one little grain could make a pesky slug shrivel up in fear and pain. When breathed in with humid air, salt can clear up your sinuses and leave you feeling rejuvenated (to an extent).

While I’m here at GTL, I plan on traveling every weekend – maybe every other weekend – to a new city. So far, I’ve only made it to Paris, but I spent this last weekend in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to – Salzburg, Austria. The name, Salzburg, quite literally translates to “Salt Castle,” so I felt almost right at home, with the city’s given name being a combination of two of my favorite things: salt and medieval things! Since the dark ages, Salzburg has definitely grown, both commercially and residentially, into a hotspot for tourism, which is what I assume to be a result of it both being the birthplace of Mozart, one of the history’s most well known and most talented classical composers, and it’s direct link to the Salzberg, which translates to “Salt Mountain”. Luckily, I had enough time in the nearly two days I was there to explore both of these sites and more, while having the best time ever!

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Part of the main square in Salzburg

After a nearly seven hour trip, I arrived at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof late on a Friday afternoon.  I was with two of my friends from GTL, and for fear of getting lost and spending too much money and time trying to figure out the bus system, we walked the two kilometers to our hostel (which normally would not be a problem, but there was about two feet of snow covering the sidewalks, and where there wasn’t snow, there was very, very slippery ice). Once at the hostel, the three of us checked in, got settled in our room, and recuperated for an hour or two before deciding on where to eat dinner. Landing on a local schnitzel hall, we made our way, following the lust of our rumbling stomachs, into a large, loud, smoke-filled old monastery that had been transformed into a place of drunk and merry Austrians. We went back to the hostel that night, our bellies filled, our spirits high, and prepared ourselves for the day ahead of us.

Early Saturday morning, another friend of ours made her way to the hostel to drop off her things and set off with us on another great adventure. We left at around nine or so and headed to the Hauptbahnhof to catch a bus to the very famous salt mines that lay about thirty minutes away, nestled deep in the Salt Mountains. Unfortunately, we got mixed up in the bus system, missed the original bus we should have taken, and ended up waiting another hour for the next one. We killed a bit of time walking around the small shopping mall right outside the station, and got some tea and coffee to keep us warm until our transportation arrived. Finally, after an hour of waiting in and out of the freezing Austrian weather, our bus came, and we were headed towards a day of salt and castles.

Once at the salt mines, we were instructed to put on these black, thick, canvas-like body suits over our clothes, and were given small audio translators for the tour. We all followed a group of people onto this roller coaster/train thing that drove us deep underground. At the end of the ride, we got off the train and walked over to a giant slide that was to take us even deeper into the mine. The whole lot of us was being led by a tour guide who taught us a lot of interesting things about the mine, including it’s history, the salt-extracting processes, and the importance of salt in the world, but more specifically, Salzburg.

During the tour, there was a boat ride, complete with really cool visuals and music accompaniment, over the beautiful Mirror Lake. The water was so reflective, that it looked transparent. It was definitely one of the cooler things nature has shown me. Learning about salt all along the way, we had one more slide to go down, an elevator to go up, and a short train ride to finish the tour. Afterwards, I found myself in the gift shop, buying a 60 cent box of salt, because I mean, that’s a 60 cent box of salt, why would you not buy it?

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The salt mine!

Later on that day, we spent about 2 hours touring the castle and Cathedral. The views from the upper courtyards were spectacular, and I felt like I was a great king looking over his great kingdom. Not really, but it was cool to pretend for a minute! My friends and I had nearly explored the whole place, when, alas, it was closing time. My biggest regret of the day was that we didn’t visit the castle earlier (but hey, I can always go back for Salzburg part two). After leaving the castle, we traveled back to the hostel to drop off souvenirs and get pro-tips on where to eat. An Australian who was in our room ended up going out with us, which was actually really cool because I had never met anyone and had a meal with them that same day!

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A wonderful view from the top of the castle

On Sunday morning, we checked out, headed to the Hauptbahnhof, and started our seven plus hour journey back to GTL. On the train ride back, I was reflecting over the weekend and talking with my friends about how much life has to offer us. Life is full of really cool experiences, and really cool people, and I feel that if you open your heart and mind just a little, you can take a glimpse at what this world has to offer you! This weekend forged some really interesting friendships, and it made my relationships with my friends from GTL even stronger. The whole point of this extremely long post is that Europe is amazing, and that people should travel young, especially alone or with a very small group of people, while their responsibilities aren’t too much. I feel like I have definitely matured and become more independent than I ever was before, and most of that is due to me jumping head first into an ocean of different cultures and languages. Life is good!

And without further adieu (get it?), I leave you with the French Word of The Week!

Jars (noun): gander, male goose

Example in a “Frenglish” conversation:

– Sarah: “Hey Sam, come look at this cool Jars! It has a really long wingspan!”

– Sam: “Glass bottles don’t have wingspans…”

Prague: From Defenestration and Communism to Capitalism and Tourism

Prague and its people have been through a lot throughout the ages. From the 30 Years’ War to World War I, then from Nazi occupation to Soviet occupation, the Czech people have seen it all.
Pulling up to Prague after 18 hours of train rides, sleeping in train stations, and avoiding the cold, the city seemed to glow with an aura of warmth. The city itself sports amazing architecture in basically every building, beautiful stone facades adorning the upper levels of convenience stores and the like. Despite the slight drizzle, our arrival felt like something out of a fairy tale.

Almost every corner of the old city looks like this, so historical and beautiful.

The fairy tale feeling continued the next day, after having some sorely needed shut-eye, as we ventured across the bridge to the castle. The streets were lined with cobblestones and winding between rows of low-lintelled shops and pubs. The castle grounds contained very interesting museums and sights, including the amazingly spired and flying-butressed St. Vitas cathedral. We walked along the Golden Way, which showed examples of what life was like for those who worked on the castle staff that weren’t members of the nobility such as seamstresses, or guards. Inside the castle however, we were able to see the high-ceiling rooms, as well as read up on the history of the place.

In the armory exhibit, we saw some cool combination axe-pistols used by noblemen.

One of my favorite parts of the castle was a small, unassuming room off the main throne room area. It was my favorite because it is home to one of the most famous defenestrations in history. (Defenestration is a word which means the act of throwing someone out a window.) In the castle there was to be a meeting between some important Catholic regents and some Protestant representatives. During the meeting, an agreement was not reached, and the regents promised that they would talk to their superiors to come to a solution. However, the Protestants, knowing that the Catholic leaders would not take kindly to their demands, decided to defenestrate Count Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice, and Count Vilem Slavata of Chlum, through a window with a 70 foot drop beneath it. Although they survived the fall, this incident is attributed to being a cause of the 30 Years’ War.

You can see the Prague castle right there in the distance.

 

In the old city, close to the famous astronomical clock, we stumbled across one of my favorite museums I have ever visited: the Communism Museum. The entrance way was adorned with posters of a cuddly teddy bear holding an AK-47 and the slogan “Dream, Reality, Nightmare.” During the post-WWI period, combined with the economic turmoil of the market crash and Great Depression, the Czech people voted their communist party into office. At the time it seemed like the only option. Soon every seat in the government was occupied by communist party members, and those opposed were falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit and were imprisoned. In WWII, the Czech region was taken over by Nazis, and later liberated by the Soviet Union. That’s when things started to get really bad for the Czech people.
The Soviet Union, in liberating the Czech republic, was able to gain much support for establishing Soviet communism in the region. They had a non-uniformed police that would make sure that no one spoke out against the party. People were not allowed to leave the country, and those who knew that people were defecting to other countries were imprisoned for not speaking out. Political enemies were tortured and burned alive, their ashes used to melt the ice on busy roads. The new communist system did not allow for imports and exports, and therefore basic essentials like food, soap and other goods were nearly impossible to find in stores. Media was controlled exclusively by the Soviets.

Here is the St. Vitas Cathedral.

It wasn’t until the late 60s, that groups of undergraduate students began to speak out against the party. Using techniques such as self-immolation, doing the work that strikers refused to do in Soviet-organized strikes, and having marches, they were able to spread their message of freedom. The government responded with violence, with secret police infiltrating and beating the protesters. It wasn’t until 1991 that they became truly free of communism and began their capitalist lifestyle.

The museum was cool because it showed a Prague citizen’s perspective on such violent events that were happening in his lifetime. Prague only became free six years before I was born. It was amazing to read about and honor the people that fought to make their own home country a better place for their children, and for tourists like me that can visit now but couldn’t thirty years ago.

Portes Ouvertes and French Education

Over the past weekend, our very own Georgia Tech Lorraine took part in a program for French high school students called “Portes Ouvertes,” or “Open Doors.” This involves French students being able to visit places of higher learning, including us, all over the city to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be a student at different universities and institutions. The event works like an open house where the students get to tour the facilities and hear presentations from college students and faculty on research, daily life, and other things pertaining to higher education and to the school in particular. This is a great opportunity for French students to preview universities, similar to how we do in the United States.

In my personal experience, as a high-schooler, I decided not to apply to any schools in my home state of Washington and, due in large part to that, I was not able to tour any of the colleges I wanted to attend. However, not everybody is as lucky as me to go in blind and love the school they chose. I believe that the more information students are given before they make such an important life choice, the better.

Something that amazes me about French students is their grasp of multiple languages. Almost every student can speak English quite well and most have some knowledge of a third language as well. This is due to the way language teaching works in the French school system. Through some research I found that French students choose their first language at age 11 from either English or German (with 90% choosing English). Then, two years later, students may select another language, this time with Spanish included. As a result of spending their years from age 11 to 18 learning two other languages, most French students are very linguistically skilled. Although English has become one of the biggest world languages today (behind only Chinese and Spanish), I wish our school system would stress learning a second (or third) language more, if only to improve cultural awareness among American students.

Another difference in the French school system comes with higher education. French universities tend to be quite small in comparison to those in the U.S., and most middle-sized French cities will have 2 to 3 universities – and even more specialized institutes. France also holds over 100 international universities, which is defined as a college where some or all studies are taught in a non-local language, which tends to be English most of the time. In fact, in Austria, I met a pair of American students who were studying at the American University in Paris, which is apparently an international university with campuses in multiple countries outside of the U.S.

And of course when it comes to tuition, French students also have it good. Public universities in France typically only charge from 150-700 euros a year, as higher education is state-funded. This allows French students to obtain a master’s degree for as little as €1000. Meanwhile, I’m here paying $30,000 a year tuition. Oh well, we can’t all be winners. I’m glad GTL is doing its part to help the local community and work to further public education.

Meet Romain: Grad Student and All-Around Chill Dude

After exchanging a few jokes about volunteering his friend for the interview in his place, Romain and I sat together at a table in the student commons of the GTL building. Romain Amuat is studying Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition to having a talent for making everyone he interacts with laugh, he is also incredibly driven and intelligent. His interview is as follows.

Why did you choose to go to GTL?
“I have always wanted to study in the U.S. Georgia Tech-Lorraine is the best university that I could attend out of the ones offered from my school. In the French system, many students choose the double diploma program, where you get a degree from both France and the United States. This can be very helpful when looking for jobs. With the program, I spend 6 months in Metz, here at GTL, then I spend 6 months in an internship for real experience, and then I spend 6 months in Atlanta, following my dream of studying in the United States.”

What can you tell me about your research?
“In this 6 months I am working on a project making a robot to automate the detection of failures in a material. The robot can detect problems and send the data back to the engineers, who can fix the problem faster. I also get to work with an American undergraduate student named Bharath, which is good to help me practice English.

What do you like to do outside of research?
“I love to play guitar. My favorite type of music to play is rock and alt-rock. My favorite band is the Rolling Stones. They are really fun to play as well. I also play rugby, which is like the French/European version of American football.

What advice would you give to American students studying in Metz?
Really look for those student discounts. No really, they are everywhere; they are at the cinema, they are at fast food restaurants. All you have to do is show your ID, and you can sometimes get more than 40% off the price of working people. It’s great to be a student. It almost makes me want to be a student forever. Also, it’s good to learn a little French. The French will love it if you try to speak in their language, even if it is wrong, and they will help you much better.

Tune in next week as Sam talks about Porte Ouverte, the awesome event happening this weekend for French high school students.

Salzburg: A History of Generally Salty People

Salzburg translates quite literally to Salt Mountain. Why is this beautiful alpine city where The Sound of Music takes place called salt mountain, you ask? Well, throughout history, the Salzburg area has been sustained through salt mining and trading. In 1517, exactly 500 years ago, some lucky miners found a salt deposit inside a mountain. Salt, a traditionally valuable and difficult substance to obtain, put the region on the map.
We started our trip to Salzburg with a traditional meal of wienerschnitzel and gulasch. Then it was early to bed to wake up for our bus to the Berchtesgaden salt mines. After missing our bus, one could say I was a bit…hem…salty…but we made it in time for our tour. The mine, 500 years old this year and still active today is located in a beautifully snowy area of the Austrian-German alps. At the beginning of the tour, we were all provided with some coveralls and an English audio guide for the area.

I’ve got salt, but I’m not salty!


We began by boarding a small train, where you straddled a bench and hold onto the person in front of you. We zoomed through about a mile of narrow tunnels so small that if you leaned even 6 inches to the side you would hit your head on the tunnel wall. Once in the main area of the mine, you slide down a 6 story wooden slide to reach the bottom area.
Over the course of the tour, we learned that salt is produced by drilling large cavities in the tunnel floors and filling them with water to leach the salt out of the surrounding rock. Then the sludgy brine is pumped to a facility about 100 km away to be super-heated and treated to produce to the pure, white table salt that we eat today. We have used this technique of drilling and flooding since the mine’s foundation in 1517 (although we have become considerably more efficient and high-tech since then).

Mid-slide into the depths of the mines, my companions and I are having a great time.


The town of Salzburg itself is perched between soaring mountains. The old city feels like it is one giant building full of a spaghetti-like mess of tunnels, alleys, and tiny-hole-in-the-wall bakeries and breweries. It seems to be purposely designed to confuse and hopelessly befuddle tourists. One of my favorite things to do in the city was travel up to the city fortress. In addition to amazing views of the city, the fortress contains a museum that details the entire military history of Austria, starting in Roman times, going all the way through World War II.

The view from the Fortress.


As a huge musical theater nerd and Julie Andrews fangirl, seeing the city’s Sound of Music images was awesome! The fountain, the Dom Cathedral, and the Abby made me sing “The Hills are Alive” at the top of my lungs pretty much constantly, much to the chagrin of my traveling companions.

This is the inside of the Dom Cathedral.


Even though it was freezing cold, the trip to Salzburg felt really culturally immersive. I would highly recommend it if you have been traveling to a lot of big cities and want to have a more colloquial experience. That’s all for this post. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and goodbye!

Meet Your RA: Sahithi

A third year, movie-watching, music-listening, Computer Engineering major. Just a few words to describe Sahithi Bonala, an RA here at GTL. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Bonala, and I started off our conversation with a couple basic umbrella questions about different aspects of her life. For Sahithi’s spring semester at GTL, she is taking ECE 3084, ECE 2036, ISYE 3770 (statistics), and COE 2001 (statics). She admitted that, as most undergraduate students, she isn’t quite sure what she wants to do after college. However, she does have a special interest in low level software, so she would “like to work in the realm of embedded systems, but that’s about it.” In her free time, Sahithi also likes to dance, and she has recently taken up journalism as a hobby. With that, I was on to getting to know a bit about a pretty awesome GTL RA!

When Sahithi was a sophomore, her parents didn’t want her living off campus, so she figured that the best alternative to living in an apartment with some of her friends was to become an RA. She said to me that being an RA has been a very rewarding experience, with strong friendships formed, and an uplifting community that she otherwise would not have known: “I’ve worked with freshman, transfer, and exchange students so far. Each community has something unique to offer and teach me new things.” As an RA at GTL, Sahithi is on duty twice a week, helping Karen Pierce with any tasks she may need help with. Most of the tasks she is asked to perform involve relaying information to residents, which, Sahithi says, is nice because it is not so demanding. I proceeded to ask her if there are any difficulties with her tasks as an RA here, to which she responded, “We try our best to be the best resource we can be to students here. Unfortunately, since we are new here just like everyone else, it’s hard to always have answers.”

More interested in her role when Ms. Pierce wasn’t around, I asked Sahithi if she had any trouble with the residents yet. Her response started with a particularly exciting story. “On my duty night a couple of days ago, a few residents came back to Lafayette around 3am. They started fighting over something outside the building and I could hear them from my room. So I got out of bed and told them to go to their rooms.” She admits that this incident was the most action and excitement she had seen so far as an RA, to which I assured her that since it’s only week three, there were sure to be much more thrilling situations, and wished her the best of luck! After that anecdote, she told me that for the most part, everyone in Lafayette had been very friendly, and that everyone seemed to respect others in the community. “People are also pretty social in this dorm, so doors are always open and there’s usually music playing in some of the hallways, which is really nice.”

Not wanting to focus only on Sahithi’s RA stories, I changed the subject to travel, and I asked her describe her trips so far. The first weekend she was here, she visited the Loire Valley in central and southern France, noting that “[it] was a pretty neat area, we visited around 4 to 5 castles. The prettiest was the one that inspired a fairy tale. It was beautiful, but we couldn’t actually go in because someone lives in the castle now and it’s only open to visitors during certain times of the year.” Her next weekend in France, she visited Paris, which she says was amazing and full of fun times. While in Paris, she was able to explore the Musée of Orsay, which was her favorite because it was built into an old train station. Aside from typical tourist activities, her and a friend hit up a lot of different restaurants and food stands, and had a blast going through all of Paris’s little shops and boutiques. She has never traveled on her own like this before, and she’s been loving every minute of it. Sahithi cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring!

Here’s a little story that Sahithi left the interview with, “Something interesting that happened is that my friend purchased a Louis Vuitton wallet while in Paris. A couple hours after she bought it, we went to Briore Dioche (a restaurant) to grab some dinner before catching our train back to Metz. We were sitting on the tables directly outside of the restaurant. We set our bags down next to us, on the side that was next to the wall. Someone sat at the table directly behind my friend and stole her newly purchased Louis Vuitton wallet. She realized it within less than five minutes. She told the Manager of the store and the security guard immediately. The manager was super helpful. He pulled up the security footage and showed us how the man had stolen her bag. He also had the security guard bring the local police to us. The police took the information and told us we should file a complaint at the police station because if we don’t then they can’t arrest the thieves. So we started heading to the station but ten minutes into the walk over the police called us to tell us they had caught the thieves. At the end of the day the thieves had been caught and and wallet was recovered as well.” Whew!

All throughout this crazy experience, anyone who was involved in getting to the bottom of the situation was extremely helpful and kind to Sahithi and her friend. She says that there are two morals to this story: You can never be too careful with your belongings (and if you think your stuff won’t be stolen in Paris, think again), and French people (and the police especially) are extremely kind and helpful, so if you’re ever in a questionable situation don’t be afraid to reach out to them as soon as possible!

Dorm Room Cooking Hacks

I live in Aloes, which is great in its proximity to Cora and GTL, as well as its reasonable price. The only drawback is the fact that you have to use the communal kitchens for cooking. They are often a bit too crowded, and let’s face it, I am a bit too lazy to carry all my pots, pans and cooking supplies down to the kitchen. So, as a resourceful young student, I have learned to make a few hot meals using a microwave, toaster oven, and tea kettle.
Ok, so Aloes rooms don’t come with toaster ovens and kettles, but you can buy both at Cora for under 30 euros. Definitely worth it!
Having a toaster oven effectively means that you have an oven. My favorite thing to make in my toaster oven is loaded potatoes. It’s quick, easy, and really good.
Loaded Potatoes
Ingredients:
  • New potatoes (that are small enough to cook in the toaster oven)
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese (I find that Cora’s 3 cheese blend is nice)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Canned corn
  • Chives
  • Optional: Add some crumbled up cold cuts! I had some leftover chicken that I sprinkled on top
Recipe
  1. Stab the potatoes with a fork and brush with olive oil
  2. Wrap in foil, and let bake in the toaster oven for 45 minutes, or until soft
  3. Take out the potatoes and cut a slit down the middle. Place cheese, tomato sauce, corn and meat inside.
  4. Put the loaded potatoes back in the toaster oven and bake for another 5 minutes
  5. Enjoy!


    Reheating one of my baked potatoes I made earlier this week.

Having a kettle is a great way to boil water without a pan and stove. I like to make hard boiled eggs, pasta and rice. If you are making pasta or rice, use a thermal bag (sold at Cora), to make sure that the pasta and rice on the heating element don’t burn up.

I drink tea every time I get back from school. I love my kettle. Her name is Roberta.

 
The other food that turns out really well in the toaster oven is quesadillas! Below is my favorite recipe, although you can make all kinds of variations of quesadillas.
Quesadillas
Ingredients:
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Mexican cheese blend
  • Onions
  • Green Peppers
  • Tomato
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Chorizo (pre cooked, sold at Cora)
  • Rice
Recipe
  1. Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice onions, green peppers, and the tomato.
  3. Place a tortilla out flat, and on half of it, put a layer of cheese, peppers, onions and tomato. Sprinkle chorizo inside.
  4. Fold tortilla in half and place it in the toaster oven for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  5. Enjoy with rice (as pictured below), cooked in a tea kettle!

For especially lazy days, Cora microwavable meals come in clutch.

 
Doesn’t that sound appetizing? I know right? My mouth is just watering writing this blog. Ok, ok, this recipe is absolutely mouth watering. I love popcorn, especially the caramel variety. It’s really impossible to find it in France though. This recipe is the perfect cure for homesickness.

Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup un-popped popcorn
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt + more for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

 

Recipe
  1. Pop ½ cup uncooked popcorn and place in a large brown paper bag (sold at Cora).
  2. To make the caramel, throw the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and kosher salt in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. After one minute, take it out and stir it and then microwave it again for 1 minute or until boiling. Be careful not to burn it!
  3. Add baking soda and vanilla to caramel and mix it up.
  4. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir it up in the brown bag.
  5. Roll down the top of the brown paper bag and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 1 minute. Remove from microwave, keeping the bag closed, and shake it vigorously. The microwave for another minute, and shake it up again.
  6. Pour some salt in the bag to taste and shake it up.
  7. Enjoy!

Paris: The City of Rivets

Ah, the city of love. It is a place chock-full of art, architecture, and history. I mean, if you tried to read the entire history of Paris, you would be reading a book and not this blog post. Instead, I will let you in on some eclectic historical trivia that I encountered on my way through the city.
Upon arrival in Paris, after checking into our cozy bed and breakfast, my companions and I metro-ed over to the Champs-Élysees, which is a beautiful street populated with high-end fashion stores, restaurants and car makers. It is also the street on which the Arc De Triomphe is located. It was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, then emperor of France. He wanted a monument to represent the glory of France’s grand army. The Arc has been very symbolic throughout France’s history. Every time Paris is taken over, either by the Germans such as in 1940, or taken back by the French, such as in 1945, victory marches are led beneath the Arc. This occurred in World War I as well. Standing beneath it was truly awe-inspiring.

The Arc de Triumph is the perfect monument to show military prowess.

 
Would any Paris post be complete without the Eiffel Tower? The tower was initially built for the World’s Fair in 1889. The main architects for the project, Maurice Koechlin and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, had previously worked on the Statue of

Pictured above: A small blonde blogger and about 2.5 million rivets

Liberty project together. It took 2.5 million rivets to hold the structure together. If you gave everyone in Atlanta 4 rivets, you still would not have enough rivets to build the Eiffel tower. The tower was meant to be temporary, and was scheduled to be torn down in 1909.  However, it was saved because officials argued that it could

be used as a telegraph tower. In World War I, it was instrumental in intercepting enemy communications.


 My favorite part of the trip was my visit to the Musee D’Orsay, home to the most impressive collection of impressionist art in the world. The museum contains paintings and sculptures all the way from the classical era to post-impressionism. Walking around the arrays of priceless paintings was simply amazing. My favorite area however, was the Hall of Impressionists. Containing famous Monet, Degas, Renoir and Pissarro paintings, this hall showed lots of

Here is my favorite Degas painting in the Musee D’Orsay.

priceless masterpieces. I especially love Degas because he usually paints and sculpts ballerinas as his subjects. As a ballet dancer, the way he captures the motion and fluidity of this style of dance really speaks to me.


Next, we visited the Notre Dame cathedral. This was an amazing experience for me. The cathedral began construction in the 1163, where local serfs and artists were employed to make the monument. It took 182 years to complete, and it is considered the epitome of French gothic architecture. It is also cited for being the first building to utilize flying buttresses in its design. Going inside and looking up into the vast space made me really emotional. All of the stones had been laid by hand, all of the sculptures carefully carved, every mosaic artfully decorated, by people whose memories would live on in the historic building. I, more than 500 years later, was seeing their work.

The most iconic example of Gothic Architecture.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was our meal at L’Encrier. The restaurant served classic French food in three courses, and my group was the only non-Parisian group inside. We couldn’t understand the menu (none of us spoke French well enough), so we each ordered something at random. I ordered a pork dish, which came with the best zucchini I have ever had in my life. Watching us try our best with the French, and listening in to our appreciative “mmmmms” the wait staff brought us an extra dessert and wished us well on our trip. It felt like a truly authentic Parisian experience, which juxtaposed well with our otherwise touristy trip. All in all, it was an enriching weekend.

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