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Category: Tips & Tricks (Page 2 of 3)

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.

Planning With The Parents

Photo courtesy of Travel Trazee.

As a tangent to a blog post I had a couple weeks ago about doing fall break with my parents, I’ve decided to give an overview of coordination and planning to help assist those who might want to do trips with their parents while at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the future!

 

Pre-Departure

Well first off, you and your parents have to pick a time to do the trip. Popular choices are usually before the semester starts, fall break (since it’s a week long), and after the semester ends. Some parents decide to just drop by for a weekend, and that’s not usually too tough to plan since it’s a couple of days.

Next, is the “where” of the trip. I’d say this is pretty important since this is a picking a place that both you and your parents want to go and visit. It’s also very important because from here, train or flight schedules need to be made to match. I offered to buy tickets for my whole family but my parents opted to buy them online. We simply decided around a certain time to leave cities and I let my parents book first. After they got their tickets, I cross referenced them with my Eurail app and proceeded to buy the matching ones. It was quite interesting, as some of the trains they bought weren’t on Eurail plan (ex. Italo in Italy is not part of the Eurail network) so I had to improvise and buy train tickets that were close to the same arrival and departure times.

Once that was settled, we needed places to stay for the night. I let my parents take the reins on this one, as they booked hotels for all three of us.

 

Arrival

“All roads lead to Rome” – and that is where we decided to meet. I took my overnight train from Munich to Rome, and they took a shuttle from the airport. I arrived two hours earlier than they did so I did some exploring before meeting up with them. We decided that in case the train station Wi-Fi wasn’t working, there would still be a rendezvous place. Notably, this was going to be the McDonald’s in the Roma Termini station. Luckily the Wi-Fi did work, but we still met at the McDonald’s since it was convenient.

 

During the Trip

Plan out some things that you would want to see and see what your parents want to do as well! Things should run pretty smoothly from here, since we’re basically all pros at traveling at this point and can point our parents in the right direction. Gotta keep in mind that they aren’t college kids and won’t do the typical “college” things that we’ve come to expect when traveling.

 

After

I don’t think there’s anything left to do but to give them goodbye hugs and wishes until you see each other again! Or if you’re traveling with them back to the United States, enjoy the trip back to the homeland.

Tips for Traveling Europe

Posted by James

For the last month I’ve been traveling all over Europe, as evidenced by my many blog posts on soccer games. As each week has progressed I’ve learned more skills when it comes to planning the perfect weekend. The public transportation systems here are amazing and something that should be taken full advantage of if you wish to lessen your burdens when traveling. For any future travelers I recommend two great apps, Transit and DB Bahn.

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Photo Courtesy of Netted.net.

Transit, pictured above, is for local transportation. This app uses GPS to find all buses, trams, subways, ubers, etc., that run near you. It works offline only using Wi-Fi to update the already consistent time schedules. I’ve used this many times when dropping into a new country for a few days. It’s great to locate the local shuttle or train to get you to downtown.

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Photo courtesy of itunes.apple.com.

The second app, pictured to the left, DB-Bahn is for your international travel. If buying a Eurail pass, this makes going from one country as easy as walking into a train station and sitting on the correct train. The app is a database of all the timetables for every train in Europe. So when you enter your departure and arrival locations it does some magic and finds you the perfect path. The app can also work offline if you save the trip in your favorites. It gives you real-time scheduling updates as you reach stations along your main path. Other apps such as the Eurail planner simply can’t compare. I began with Eurail planner early in the semester and quickly switched to this magnificently German-engineered marvel. So take my advice and you’ll be breezing across Europe in no time.
Apart from using these great travel apps, another piece of advice I would offer is the Eurail pass. My advice may seem biased considering the circumstances for my own Eurail Pass; writing this and other blogs is in fact got me my Eurail Pass. However, prior to winning the GTL Eurail blog contest, I was planning to buy the pass on my own. Having this pass is, in short, amazing. Anytime you wish to travel, you merely need to find a train station. It’s that simple.

There are usually no reservations or tickets needed to be purchased. While special, more crowded trains may require them, the process of obtaining the reservation is very simple. A quick trip downtown to the Metz-Ville Gare (train station) and talking to a few people is all it takes. Using both the DB Bahn app and the Eurail Pass is an unstoppable combination.

The beauty of the DB app guarantees an accurate route and reliable route. Pairing this with a travel ticket (Eurail!) that is  accepted almost everywhere in Europe, allows you to breeze your way from point A to B. In my personal opinion, it is more convenient than flying. No boarding passes or special security is required. Changing plans can also cause problems for a tightly packed weekend schedule, but not with the Eurail or DB app. Just a month and some into the semester and I’ve already used the DB app to plan a different return trip the day of! In short, if you have either of these travel apps or a Eurail you will be ready to plan your heart away, especially with all three!

 

Getting a Haircut in France: A Guide

Recently, I got my first haircut here. It was a good experience. I’d just like to share it and some helpful information too.

Where:

harry-w8-p1-p1 harry-w8-p1p-2

Luckily for us, there’s two places conveniently located in CORA (another reason why CORA is probably my favorite place in Metz) so you can knock out two birds with one stone. There’s Saint James, which I went to on GTL Deputy Dean of Students Karen Pierce’s recommendation; and Diagonal, which is like a Great Clips, also according to Karen. Haircut places are called “coiffeurs.”

What To Do:

So I walked in, and the nice ladies in the front directed me to this comfortable seat as I waited my turn. By the way, they don’t speak English at Saint James (or Diagonal) so I was pretty much winging it all on basic French and non-verbal communication. When my turn came up, they shampooed it before-hand. After reading up on it, I think it’s a necessary thing in France to do because of hygienic reasons. Following the shampoo, I got into the barber’s seat and I told the barber two things: 1) “dégradé” (fade) and pointed to the sides and back of my head and 2) “mi-longs” (medium) and pointed to the top of my head. She looked a little confused. Luckily, she pulled out a book with a bunch of different hairstyles and I was able to point out a fade on one the pictures and we were good to go from there. My hair up top got cut a little shorter than I wanted it to, but it’ll grow back. It was a solid, refreshing haircut which was much needed at the top. I said my “Merci beaucoup” after leaving, didn’t get an after shampoo and just biked back to the dorm and shampooed there.

My hair isn’t too hard to do so I only had two requests but if you’re looking for something fancy, you can always show a picture or here’s a list of basic French haircut vocab if you need it! (from expatica.com)

Basic hairdressing services in French: Prestations de base proposees
Haircut: une coupe de cheveux
Shampoo: le shampooing
Colouring and highlights: les couleurs et mèches
Set or styling: la mise en pli
Perm: la permanente
Haircare and treatments: les soins et traitements
A blow-dry or straightening: le brushing
Top salon: un coiffeur haut de gamme
Local salon: coiffeur de quartier
Basic French hair terms
Your hair: vos cheveux (always masculine, plural)
Fine: fins
Thick: épais
Oily: gras
Dry: secs
Mixed: mixtes
Normal: normaux
Curly: bouclés
Frizzy: frisés
Smooth: lisses
Damaged: abîmés
Dyed: colorés
Permed: permanentés
Dandruff: pellicules
Cowlick: un épi
A lock of hair: une mèche
French terms for getting a haircut
Short or long: la coupe courte ou longue
Layered: en dégradé
Blunt cut: au carré
Clean cut/well-defined: bien dégagée
Asymmetrical: asymétrique
Square tapered: style carré effilé
Layered on top: dégradé sur le dessus
Short, layered look: une coupe courte tout en dégradé
Short ‘windblown’ layered look: dégradé déstructuré
‘Just out of bed’ look: indiscipliné
Highlights or streaks: les mèches
Hair weaving or foiling: balayage
Bangs: une frange
Hair part: une raie
Hair ends: les pointes

If you want to see more haircut vocab, check out Expatica.com (where the above is from) and FrenchLearner.com.

Sometimes You Plan

Posted by James

In a 4 month study abroad program, there are bound to be some instances of trouble and failed plans. And this weekend bore witness to the first of mine.
4:50 am Saturday, September 17th
Knock, knock….knock, knock……KNOCK!
I roll out of bed and go to the door. My friend Cannon is there backpack on, fully dressed, ready to go.

“Did I wake you?”

“No, I woke up an hour ago. I’ve just been trying to get some sleep.”

I start getting dressed and collecting my vital items: Eurail pass, passport, and Borussia Dortmund tickets. By 5:30am the two of us are in downtown Metz, at the Metz-Ville Gare (train station) waiting for our first of three trains for the day. The plan for this weekend was as follows: Borussia Dortmund Soccer game followed by Oktoberfest in Munich. We were looking forward to being in Munich for the start of the festival and to experience some truly unique European culture. Alas, things didn’t go our way.
12:30 pm Saturday, September 17th
The first sign of things taking a toll for the worse came when we entered Dortmund. Cannon had booked our hostel just days before. Originally we were planning to spend Saturday evening in Munich and sleep there. However, all hostels and hotels were booked across the board for the festival. Yet once in the train station we looked up where our hostel was in Dortmund. It was far outside the city center and quick a trek to get there. One tram and a 2 kilometer hike later, we found our quaint Airbnb on a German hillside. Our host, Thomas was very polite; however it was he who opened our eyes to the failed planning.

As we were telling him our plans, he asked “When are you going to Munich tomorrow?”

“Our train leaves at 4am” I answered.

“Oh no, you’re not going to make that, you have to get to the city from here and the earliest train is 8am!” My eyes met Cannon’s, and we both had a moment of silence. Still, we couldn’t think about that now, we had a game to get to.

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15:30pm Saturday, September 17th at Signal Iduna Park (Dortmund)
As the teams kicked off a local match, the famed “best soccer atmosphere in Europe” was not disappointing. We were lucky enough to get tickets in the infamous “Yellow Wall,” the Dortmund Home fans section. And as thousands of supporters piled in screaming, chanting, waving flags, and stumbling off beers the atmosphere was truly remarkable. We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal: 7 minutes in and Dortmund took the lead. While that may have been the only goal for that half, Dortmund came out strong in the second and scored 5 more! Cannon and I each caught a goal on camera. Enjoy below:


And now, as I sit on the train ride back from Dortmund I find myself in a position to give advice. While the GTL schedule may seem easier GT-Atlanta’s, the contrary may be true. Strapped with AE homework, Cannon and I planned late and consequently missed out on one of the best festivals in Europe. The 3-day weekends can be both a blessing and a curse. For current and future GTL students, maintain a steady consistent work week and always plan well in advance.

Shopping at CORA

I’d like to compare the CORA sign to Eyes of T.J. Eckleburg in “The Great Gatsby,” because CORA is always watching.

I’d like to introduce you to CORA. A nickname I call CORA is “The Provider”, since it contains everything you could possibly need to survive a semester (and more!) at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Its American twin would be Super Wal-Mart.

Upon my first visit to CORA, I was a little lost. I had to get my backpack plastic wrapped by security, the signs were all in French, and I had no idea what I needed to get for my dorm room. So I did the only logical thing: walk up and down CORA’s (estimated) 50 aisles to see what I needed. I spent much more time than I should have, but through this process I got everything I needed in the moment, saw things I would need in the future, and made a mental map of this grocery labyrinth.

Some general tips and tricks I have:

1) Bring your own shopping bags and backpacks. No bags are provided so one must carry it all the way back with their own bags. As I mentioned from an earlier blog, travel backpacks are excellent for this.
2) Bring a 1€ coin. This is the deposit needed to get a shopping cart, much like Aldi’s in America. There are these blue rolling shopping baskets, but the cart comes in clutch for both keeping your backpacks and bags in and also for the large amount of groceries one trip has.
3) Eggs and milk are stored refrigerated…so wander about aimlessly in the refrigerated aisle for 10 minutes as someone did…
4) Be open to trying new foods! We’re in France, so there are many things that don’t normally get eaten in the US that are wonderful.

And lastly, be good to CORA, and CORA will be good to you. 🙂

Dorm Essentials

Posted by Harry.

After spending about a week in the dorms, I’m lucky to have some extremely useful things laying around. HEADS UP: Some of the stuff I got was from the beginning of the semester “fire sale,” which was a giveaway of items that have been left by from previous semesters’ students to help us out. Other stuff I bought in the US and brought over.

A Universal Adaptor. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

1. Universal Converter/Adapter (Bought in US)

This little piece of hardware is the Swiss Army Knife of electrical converters. It has a voltage capacitance of 100V – 240V, converts any type of plug into any other type of plug, and has two USB ports on the side to boot to help charge those smaller devices you have.

2. Trash Can (Picked up at fire sale)

When I first arrived in my room, it did not come with a trash can. Luckily, picking this up allowed me to compact all my trash in one area with a fitted bag. Easy to clean and just really handy overall!

3. Laundry Basket (picked up from fire sale)

The laundry room is quite a walk from anywhere in the dorm, especially if you have some stairs to climb. Makes the trip much easier and helps contain the bad smell of dirty clothes. Many of these are available at the fire sale!

harry w2 p1 p3

4. Power Strip (picked up from fire sale)

There are a limited number of outlets in the room but this little guy transforms one outlet into five. Which, if you calculate it out, is 500% more than you originally had. Snag one from the fire sale as there are plenty of these to go around as well.

 

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

5. Traveling Backpack (Bought from US)

A must-have for weekend trips! It will store everything you need that weekend and some. For other purposes, it also serves as a great shopping bag for when you make those runs at Cora.

 

My Pet Velociraptor

Posted by Harry

My new “pet!”

On my second day at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I adopted a pet velociraptor. As you can judge by the picture, it’s not really a velociraptor. Rather, it’s a play on words with the French word for bicycle “vélo.” When people back home ask me how I get around Metz and campus I just reply: “I just hop on my velociraptor and it takes me around.”

To be honest, I highly recommend getting yourself one of these (as both advice for current GTL students and future GTL students!). There are so many perks, including:

1) It makes getting from place to place much faster. A long, long time ago, humankind made simple machines to make life easier. The wheel is one of them.
2) Although somewhat aesthetically unpleasing, the basket is definitely very practical. It can hold your backpack, groceries from Cora, or a couple of baguettes from Paul.
3) Seven, that’s right, SEVEN gears to make the hills of France much easier to conquer.
4) Probably the most important, but you don’t have to do leg day if you’re biking because this way, every day is leg day. (I told all my friends here to get bikes because we all know that friends don’t let friends skip leg day).

On a more serious note, there is quite a hefty deposit to rent one of these but the monthly fee is extremely cheap. If you can cover the deposit, it will definitely pay it’s dividends.

Hope to catch you around on your pet “vélo-ciraptor”!

The Studying in Study Abroad

With all of this traveling, it is easy to forget the reason why we are in France sometimes: to further our education. Rather, we forget the labors of studying and replace that spot in our mind with our dream travel destinations: Zurich, Berlin, Naples, Budapest, London. But then test week comes around, and we are quickly slapped back into reality.

This upcoming week is test week for most students at GTL, and I can say with absolute clarity that I am feeling that sharp sting of reality. Of course, I have stayed focused in my classes; I will even go so far to say that I thoroughly enjoy my classes, but that does not mean I have spent my weekends preparing myself for the Georgia Tech-level tests that are impending. So while I wanted to spend this two-day weekend in Bruges, Belgium, friends and I decided it might be better to stay in Metz for the weekend to prepare for the upcoming hell-week, and boy am I glad that I did.

I spent Friday catching up on sleep. Like most of my GTL experience so far, I did not plan this. I planned to study vigorously, but with traveling every weekend I was exhausted. My meager attempts at studying became simply futile because I was so run down. I needed a break.

After a nap, some of us went to CORA, the Walmart of France, to pick up some food for a family dinner. We cooked some hamburgers in the kitchen together and had a fresh fruit salad! It was easy and delicious. Finally, we finished the night off with a freshly baked strawberry tarte and then we hit the hay!

Thankfully, I was feeling refreshed Saturday morning after a very, very, very, long, deep sleep and was able to get some studying in. I worked with my friend Mirna in preparing for our Industrial Engineering test, but of course we had to have a little bit of fun, especially seeing MK-StudyLux1as it was Tim’s birthday! Next thing you know, a group of us pulled out Eurail train passes, hopped on the train to Luxembourg, and prepared to divulge into some delicious Mexican food at a popular restaurant. It was a perfect way to celebrate Tim’s birthday and take a break from studying (even though Briana brought her notes with her on the train). The meal was delicious. While we all love the fresh baguettes and artisan cheeses here in Metz, we have missed the amazing Mexican food that we are spoiled with in Atlanta.

That is the wonderful thing about Luxembourg. It’s not the most interesting place to travel to-at least in my opinion-but there is an aura of comfort and familiarity. You can hop on a train and in 45 minutes you are watching Finding Dory in English, doing a little shopping at American stores, or like us, devouring tasty Mexican food.

This weekend, while anti-climactic, was a much needed, relaxing time. Taking that breath, that break from adventure, made me realize that you can’t do it all! Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize why you are at GTL in the first place: to study. If there is any advice can give to future GTL students, it is to plan breaks every now and then! I have already started seeing students start dropping like flies from their run down immune systems, and let me tell you, the last thing you want is to be underprepared, sick, and asleep during a Thermo Exam.

Making Your Way to the Airport

As the semester begins to wrap up it is now the time to figure out how to make it to the airport to return home. Georgia Tech-Lorraine provides shuttles from our campus to the airport if there are enough students going to a particular airport, but this isn’t guaranteed. The Brussels airport and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris typically have shuttle service provided.

What is one to do if there isn’t shuttle service provided? Well the first thing that you need to worry about is getting to the city where your flight leaves from. So if you are leaving out of Luxembourg Airport at 8 am, you should try to get to the city a couple  of hours before your flight, allowing an hour to get from the city-proper to the airport.

One way to get to the airport is to take a train. We have been taking trains all summer so this should feel like an old hat at this point. After you are in the destination city, give yourself an hour or so to get from the train station to the airport. You can take a bus or a metro is one is available. In Paris I find that the metro is the fastest option, but in Luxembourg you will have to take a bus.

But what if you cannot get the train reservation you want or there aren’t any trains that get you there early enough? You have the option to get to the city a day early and stay at a hostel until the next day, but that isn’t always ideal.

Another method is to take a shuttle from Metz to the airport directly. Flibco is a shuttle service that will pick you up near the train station and drive you to many predetermined airports. I personally have taken Flibco from Metz to Luxembourg airport, and when you buy your tickets early enough it is really cheap — my ticket was only 5€. The only issue with this is that the shuttles can run at odd hours. For instance, my shuttle left Metz at 2 am on a Sunday, and the buses don’t run that late, so I just took a taxi.

This information is helpful for most people for the return trip home, but it also applies for any planes that you are trying to catch during the summer.

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