To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: 2017-Spring (Page 6 of 6)

Tourist-ing

Notre Dame

Although we often stick out worse than a Shetland pony in the Kentucky Derby, sometimes just being an unabashed tourist is worth it. This last weekend, I went to Paris, one of the top 3 tourist destinations in the world and we decided to just bite the bullet and go full out Hawaiian t-shirt, selfie stick, souvenir-buying mode. We saw everything from Notre Dame and the Louvre, to the Red Light District and the Arc de Triomphe, to of course, the most iconic landmark in the world, McDonald’s. I do admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable when I feel like we’re broadcasting to the world: “Stupid Americans, right here!” but these landmarks are actually worth seeing. It’s mind boggling the amount of history behind this city and France itself. I’m currently living in a continent with recorded history dating back hundreds of years before anything was really written down in the Americas. The Notre Dame cathedral in particular literally stunned me into silence. It was a profound experience being able to view this testament to sheer human willpower and ingenuity.

However, there is another side to traveling. These famous buildings and pieces of art that Paris is known for are truly awe-inspiring. However, these things only make up the superficial layer of what the city really is. With only 2.5 days I can’t say that we really got to know Paris, but did try to get a feel for what the city really was while we were there.

Me being dumb in front of the tower.

While the daylight hours were taken up with trying to see every last famous piece of history in Paris, in the evenings we tried to relax a little more and explore the less touristy side of things. Despite how great the sightseeing was, I can say with certainty that my favorite part of our visit was Saturday night when we found a tiny little French cafe to eat dinner in. You know you’ve found something a little more real when you feel very out of place. We were most certainly the only non-locals there, and I could tell the staff was not used to serving people whose French closely resembled that of a 4 year-old ostrich. However, despite all that, they treated us extremely well and were the best hosts we could have asked for. We stayed at the restaurant for the better part of three hours, just enjoying our food and relaxing after 9 hours of walking (rest in peace, feet). Having conversations in broken Franglish with the locals while eating amazing French food was a truly great experience.

Musée D’Orsay

My first time traveling for the semester was exciting, humbling, exhausting, and incredibly rewarding. After so many hours walking in the bitter French cold, anything above zero degrees Celsius feels balmy and I’m fairly certain my feet no longer work, but I wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world. I can’t wait for a whole semester filled with traveling to interesting and historic places, and how much I will grow as a global citizen through it. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me,  and I’ll see you next time!

From Procrastination to Proactivity: How I Ended up at a Handball Game

This past week, sitting in the student common area of the lounge, surfing the internet and procrastinating, I came across an advertisement for the handball world cup, which, don’t you know it, was going on in Metz. I shouted over to my friend if he wanted to go see the game, and in no time at all, I had impulse bought four tickets to the Spain-Angola game taking place later that night.
I have never played handball in my life. I didn’t know the rules, or even the object of the game, but I know that the sport is very popular in the European Union. After a quick Google search, I learned the basics: The object of the game is the throw the ball – surprisingly, about the size of your hand – into the opposing team’s net. You can take a maximum of three steps with the ball unless you dribble, and may only possess the ball for 3 seconds before throwing it.
That night, I set out on the Mettis bus to the stadium in downtown. After entering and finding our seats, the spectacle began. The game was fast-paced, high-scoring, and – best of all – exciting. Right in the first five minutes, Angola’s goalie (Ha! Try saying that 5 times fast), was injured and had to be replaced. About 15 minutes later, the replacement goalie had been given a red card, and the injured man was forced to return. Although he could barely walk, he still managed to block many shots by jumping in front of them.

Angola, sadly, lost terribly, scoring only 20 points to Spain’s impressive 42. Even though the game was definitely a total blow-out, it was still an amazingly immersive experience to be part of the crowd at such a traditional, celebrated European sporting event. This is what immersion is all about.

Changes (Not by David Bowie)

Anybody who attends our wonderful institute can attest to the various levels of insanity Tech is capable of driving its students to from time to time. I’m far from perfect, and after struggling much more greatly this past fall semester compared to my first year at Tech, I decided that I needed to change a few things. Psychologists have confirmed that switching locations, or making some other big change is the best time to attempt to change your daily habits related to work or hygiene or really anything. So, in order to fix some of the things I didn’t like about how I operate on a daily basis during the school year, I took advantage of this jarring move to Europe to change two simple habits that I hope will make a big difference.

1. Sleep Schedule

Photo couresty of GreenHead Alarm Clocks.

Although this doesn’t really. directly affect work habits, I think that this one is the most important of all of the changes I made. So far, I’ve stuck to the schedule of going to bed between 9:00-10:00 in order to wake up at 7:00 every morning. This is something I don’t think I’ve ever done in my life up until now, but let me tell you, getting 9+ hours of sleep on a weekday is absolutely game changing. I wake up much more refreshed, often before my alarm even goes off, and with plenty of time in the morning to make a real breakfast if I want to (sometimes cereal is just the way to go), take an un-rushed shower, and even spend some time reviewing the textbooks for class. (That last one is often dependent on how long that un-rushed shower ends up taking).

After such a relaxed morning, I find myself almost never feeling drowsy in class, which is a far cry from the freshman me who would nod off in Calculus II almost every time. This leads to better focus, better notes, and an overall better grasp on the concepts taught in my classes. I also get more time to do class work after I get home now that I don’t nap from 3-5 everyday! All in all, it’s worth sacrificing your weekday nightlife in order to get enough sleep to make it through the day. Besides, almost all of us travel 3 out 7 days of the week here at GTL, where we get plenty of time to pursue a social life.

2. Attending Every Class

At GTL, most classes require attendance, so this is a given for a lot of us students here. But typically in college many big lecture classes don’t keep track of who shows up, and some don’t even have things like quizzes to try and enforce attendance. For most of my college life so far, the temptation to be lazy and skip classes has been too great, especially when the professor is not exactly the best at teaching new material. However, I’ve decided to change that here, and the results, I believe, will show in both my academics and my psyche.

I’ve taken classes where, despite what the professor says during syllabus week, it is not really necessary to attend every lecture to succeed in the class. But I think that, as a student, there is more to it than that. When you attend all of your lectures for the week, you just feel good about yourself. I found it easy to slip into the mindset that going to class didn’t matter the more and more I failed to make it. It starts with just missing that one class that doesn’t take attendance and where “I learn better from the book anyway.” But I think all humans are a little OCD and there’s something about breaking your record of perfect attendance that just makes it easy to start missing your 8 AM when you wake up tired in the morning, or missing your 12:00 class because you haven’t eaten lunch yet. However, if you can manage to maintain the idea that you will attend every class and that it’s important, I mean, you’ll probably attend every class (kinda obvious I know). In my experience it’s been either zero or a lot, and this semester I’ve resolved to stick with zero.

If you’re a student reading this, I would welcome you to give these things a try, they’ve really helped me so far this semester. If you’re a parent, good luck making your college-age kids listen to you, even if you do like my advice.  If you’re a faculty member, I’m not sure how much you can get out of this (I hope you’re showing up every to class everyday) but either way thank you for reading, I’ll catch you next week.

First Impressions & New Lessons

Welcome to Metz! Beginning with a whirlwind of orientations, jetlag, a nasty case of food poisoning, and a few emergency trips to the colossus of a grocery store known a Cora, getting settled in Metz has been difficult to say the least. However, we simply cannot let sleep deprivation or projectile vomiting get in the way of finding our place in this beautiful city. We start in the Metz-Technopole area where we go to school, eat, sleep, and shop for groceries. Then, we venture downtown to visit the shops and restaurants and experience the local atmosphere.
In addition to its appealing centralized location, situated perfectly for easy travel to many destinations, Metz can also boast a rich 3000 year old history. That’s right! You heard me. 3000 years. 3000. Years. According to the official Metz tourism website, it all started in the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. Celts settled the region and named it Divodurum. Then, in 451, Attila the Hun burned it to the ground. Cool, right? (Or hot, I suppose.)
In the fourth century, the region was renamed Mettis. Sound familiar? In the 6th century, it became the capital of Austria and was renamed Metz: the name we all know and love today. Then, like pretty much the rest of Europe, it came under Roman occupation in the 10th century. Next came the crazy German-French turf war that the Lorraine region was subjected to until after World War II. France begins with Metz in 1552, but oh no, what’s this, Germany takes it over in 1871, but France – never to be outdone – takes it back in 1918. Germany, angrily and with

Bus map of Metz.

Nazis, takes it back for the brief period of 1940 to 1944, whereupon the Treaty of Versaille is written and everyone has decided that yep, Metz is French.

I had been itching to visit the main city of Metz since my arrival here. On a cold and cloudy Wednesday, an icy drizzle trickling down from the sky, I decided it was high time I acquired a cell phone plan that wouldn’t require me to sell my left arm to pay for the roaming charges. After weighing many options, I decided that Free Mobile was the right plan for me. After asking Elise (my wonderful French roommate) how to use the bus system I set out armed with my coat, hat, scarf and gloves to find the free mobile kiosk in the Metz city center. Asking my similarly food-poisoned friend to accompany me, we walked to the bus stop, bought our tickets and made our way into the city.

This is what the view from my dorm looked like the first night of staying at the Aloes dormitory. Pretty, right?

 

Here is a picture of me holding my handwritten directions in front of the Metz train station. Totally looks like a cathedral, right?

My confused, telephone-less, non French-speaking self accidentally exited the bus at a stop near the train station. Walking up to it, I thought it was a cathedral, with its soaring towers, tall arched windows and seemingly endless length. Despite the freezing rain, I simply had to get a picture.

On a sheet of paper, I had written down directions on how to get to the Free Mobile store from the station. What my internet search had neglected to tell me, however, was that the street signs are placed near the second story of the buildings. After a few minutes of cold and aimless wandering, I discovered this fact and began a victory dance that drew some strange glances. Nevertheless, I made my way, sans Google Maps, to the store.  

Here is what the main shopping street of Metz looks like. I love the classic architecture of the second story and up of the buildings juxtaposed with the modern storefronts.

After purchasing my SIM card, I wandered over to a nearby cafe to get some lunch. After clumsily ordering in broken French, (I said “Je voudrais le poulet,” which I think means I would like the chicken, and then I subsequently forgot that the word for sandwich is just…sandwich…) I had purchased a beautiful victory sandwich to enjoy before the cold journey home. Long story short, non-french speaking people, if you want to eat food other than chicken or sandwiches, it is a good idea to come prepared with the Google Translate app, at the very least.

Note from the editor: With Google Translate, and with other apps as well, you can download an entire language offline!

A Looming Thr(eat)

C.R.O.U.S. Cafeteria (Photo courtesy of Crous Website, www.crous-lorraine.fr/restaurant/technopole.)

As many of you know already from my last anecdotal blog post, I, Sam Burke, know very little about the French language. This past week has been basically a sit-com called “Watch Sam Struggle Ordering Anything!” However, I am definitely getting the hang of certain phrases that have to do with ordering food. I recently learned the magic words “Je voudrais…” meaning, “Can/May I have…” Ever since then, I’ve gone full broken record, starting pretty much every single thing I say to the employees with that phrase. I’ve also been eating a lot of pig lately as the word for pork in French is the same as English but with a “c” instead of a “k.” On Thursday, when I finally got the courage and fake accent to go out for the first time and ask the cafeteria worker if I could, in fact, have the pork, it ended up not being pork at all, but rather beef. Still, they understood me, handed me a lump of beef, and for that, I am quite proud of myself. I wouldn’t say I am fluent, but I do feel confident enough to order pork that may or may not be pork!

 

Stir fry ingredients I prepared from my grocery store adventures.

It definitely seems like most of my interaction with the French language has been centered around food. I’m just a hungry American trying to climb over the – quite formidable – language barrier so I can get a bite to eat. I feel successful, yet highly incompetent when I go out shopping and say only three words to the cashier while checking out: “Bonjour,” “Carte” (a.k.a. credit card), and “Merci.” Oh well, I’m learning, and at least I got my food.

 

Despite how intimidating the French language can be, especially when the  group of people I go out with never seems to include any French speakers, I’ve found that there are always people there who are willing to try to help. For one, even those who don’t speak English will gesture and make hand motions to try and help you understand what they are trying to say. But also, a lot of French citizens speak quite good English, and many of these people are willing to meet you halfway (or 3/4 in my case) when they see you struggling with the language.

Just this last weekend, I was with my friend at the train station bus stop trying to figure out how to get home in a way that didn’t involve waiting for an hour for a bus to come. As we were talking and trying to make sense of the bus map, a middle-aged French gentleman must have overheard us and chimed in to our conversation, explaining (in perfect English) exactly what line we needed to take and where to get off. He even helped us identify the stop as it was approaching so we could signal the driver to stop. Little acts of kindness like that go a long way, and have definitely helped to shape my impression of France as an incredibly hospitable and gracious country, and inspire me to try to pay it forward, so to speak, and help any visitors to America I may encounter if the opportunity presents itself.

I now leave you with the ever-so-interesting segment, ‘French Word Of The Week’!

Habit (noun): clothing, outfit

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

Joel: “Hey, that’s a nice habit!”

Sam: *Dressed to the nines and biting his nails* “Is that supposed to be sarcastic?”

Note from the editor: The French don't pronounce the letter "H" as we do in English, so it will probably sound more like you coughed on the first letter, and they don't say the last letter generally, so it'd be pronounced more like - "abee."

 

GTL Staff Spotlight: Mme. Leslie

Sometimes you encounter a person that radiates the most pleasant of auras. Leaving her office after this interview, I simply couldn’t stop smiling to myself.
Leslie Lourador, HR coordinator and Executive Assistant to the Director at GT Lorraine, is an integral part of the GTL staff. For the past two years, she has acted as an assistant to the director of the whole school, as well as managing the contracts, holidays, payroll, and concerns of all of the faculty and staff of this institution, in addition to requesting financial aid from the regional office to hire PhD and postdoctoral students and to finance research projects. She was born in Metz, and has lived in the region for most of her life, and she went to university at Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the international environment. The environment is very dynamic with all the young people running around; every day is different. I also enjoy the small staff. We definitely are close because we have a human-sized team. Oh, and I love my view. From my window I can see the lake, and the Technopole. It is very beautiful.
Do you have any advice for students?
Travel as much as you can before you enter the professional world. That’s what I would do if I were your age. Also, don’t be afraid of change and making bold decisions. If in a few years you decide you want to do something else, don’t be afraid to give it a try. It’s not the end of the world.
What are your hobbies and interests?

I started yoga six months ago. This is really good because it helps with stress and tension. I also love to travel. Recently I have been to LA, and New York, which I enjoyed very much. I also love reading contemporary fiction in French and English.

GTL is lucky to have such a wonderful woman working so hard on its staff! Thank you, Leslie!

Gardiens de la Paix – Meet the RAs: Victor

Name: Victor Menezes

Year: 2nd year (Undergraduate)

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hobbies: Tennis, weightlifting, skiing, and learning new languages

Victor grew up in a small town in rural Brazil, where he described his life as consisting of classes at his local school, tennis, weightlifting, and learning English. Despite, or perhaps because of, his small town roots, Victor had always dreamed of exploring the world outside of Brazil. After a teaching strike in his home country, Victor moved to Maine, where he attended boarding school for the remainder of his high school years. As a result of this immersion in American culture (and an acceptance letter from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta) Victor decided to pursue something he had previously never really considered: university in America.

Since then, he has further pursued his love of exploring the world, spending this past winter break traveling throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and now choosing to study abroad in France at Georgia Tech Lorraine, an opportunity that also allows for extensive travel throughout Europe.

From there, Victor and I spoke more about his job as an RA, and how he came to the decision to be one at GTL. After the considerable experience of actually holding the position of RA at his boarding high school, Victor was a natural choice among undergraduates to hold that position here. About being an RA in the past, and now for this semester, Victor said “[T]hat was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I love interacting with students and I truly believe that my previous experience will help me this semester. Feel free to contact me with any concerns about GTL and the dorms!”

I talked to Victor about some of the duties of an RA and how he would approach them, and he seems to be enthusiastically embracing his role as one of the moderators of dormitory life for the Aloes Residence. He made a comment on how excited he is to work with his peers and what his job expects of him, “All the residents seem to be responsible, considerate, and well-rounded, and I can’t wait to learn more about each of them. As RAs, we are the first line of contact for students; there is always an RA on duty and on-call during school days. We ensure that the dorms are safe and all residents are respecting one another.”

Victor tells me he is looking forward to an exciting, stimulating semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Outside of his RA duties, he is also taking 5 classes: Dynamics, Differential Equations, Deformable Bodies, Global Economics, and French 2001.

Along with Portuguese and English, Victor also happens to know a little French. He has found it very useful thus far and is excited to continue his study of the French language, as well as its culture with his second semester of college French. Victor also wanted to add, “I played handball in middle school and I am really excited for the Word Cup matches in Metz! Let me know if you’d like to join me!” I personally might have to take him up on that offer, it seems like a really cool opportunity. It was great getting to know a little more about Victor and about the role he plays in our system here at GTL.

If you want to learn more about some of the people who help to make everything function properly, look for Lina’s interview of one of our staff members next week!

Taking Advice from Professors

A List of Advice from my Professors, and what all of it means:
This semester at GTL, I am taking four classes with three wonderful professors and two rockin’ TAs. At the beginning of class, usually somewhere between the professor’s introduction of him or herself and the reading of the syllabus, each of my professors have offered a bit of advice to traveling students. Here is a list of some of the sage wisdom of my professors, and how it might help us students balance the chaotic blend of study and travel.
1. It’s a study abroad program, not a travel abroad program.
I am pretty sure every single one of my professors and TA’s reminded us of this fact. Yes, we are here to travel and enjoy our stay, explore Europe and become global citizens. However, most of us chose this program because the engineering classes are comparable to the ones at Georgia Tech. That means that yep, you guessed it, they are going to be a lot of work. Probably more than we are imagining. In the wise words of Professor Patoor, my Deformable Bodies professor, “Leave a little time for studies too, eh!”

 

Students get ready for class

2. Planning trips takes time.
In addition to taking Georgia Tech caliber classes, finding our way around a brand new continent, completing our homework, eating and (hopefully) practicing good hygiene, GTL students must learn to become excellent logistics coordinators. Planning a week or so in advance, we have to find hostels or Airbnb’s, plan our train route, find time to see all of the tourist attractions everyone our group is interested in, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is no small feat. According to my wise differential equations professor, Dr. Li, it took past students up to 10 hours per week to adequately plan each weekend trip. Keep that in mind, folks!
3. Do your work in advance!
There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a weekend of travel due to unfinished homework. It is a good idea to plan ahead, and get as much work done as possible before the weekend rolls around and the delightful chaos of traveling ensues. Especially when homework is published to sites like Coursera, says my Circuits TA Brandon Carroll, it is a good idea to work ahead when you have more time, rather than procrastinating and having school cut into your travel time due to your lack of prep. Sorry procrastinators! Time to buckle down and get some work done.

ECE 3710 TA Brandon Carroll poses in front of the circuit diagrams he has been teaching.

 
4. Don’t let the checklist mentality get to you
A lot of students, myself included, seem to be stuck in a checklist mentality, meaning we have a long list of places we want to visit and will travel to every place just to say we have been there. My history professor, Dr. Stoneman, advises to pick a place, and really spend time there and get to know the culture and locale. This experience can be more valuable, because it’s much more immersive than the fly-by-tourism that we could thrust ourselves into. This is not to say don’t go to all of the places you want to. Just remember, it’s okay to slow down, or revisit your favorite place. You will come back! And remember, in the words of Dr. Stoneman, “Metz is in Europe too!”

GTL is such a wonderful program, because you can really tell that the staff cares about both your studies and your experiences. And as a brand-spanking-new, fully autonomous, pretty much kid, I must say that the syllabus week advice I received from my professors is very valuable to me and my fellow students.

A “Metz-y” Start

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

20170109_095945

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

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

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

20170110_085959

A picture from the GTL orientation on Tuesday.

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

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

Bed, sweet bed 🙂

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

Here’s the view from the door.

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

 

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

Pain (noun): bread

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

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

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

Page 6 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén