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Category: Tips & Tricks (Page 3 of 4)

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.

Back to Paradise

Lessons Learned

Posted by Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Study Spots at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

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

Studying in the lounge

Studying in the lounge

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

 

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

Studying by the lake

Studying by the lake

 

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

 

Dorm room kitchen

Dorm room kitchen

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

 

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

Dorm room

Dorm room

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

Time Management

Posted by Morgan

“There are never enough hours in the day”

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL)

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL)

My mom always told me this as she attended my soccer games, cooked my sister and I dinner, spent the day coding at her job, attended my band concerts, picked me up from field hockey, sorted the junk mail, cleaned the house, and helped me with my homework. As a child, I did not understand this statement, but as a student at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I could not hear her any more clearly.

Packing your weekends with sightseeing, train rides, 12 mile walks through the city, and a few hours of sleep is tiring. When the school week finally returns and your back at GTL, you want nothing more than to collapse in your dorm room and sleep. But, being Tech students, we don’t really have that option. The classes are hard and while the professors are understanding, the pace is still fast. As a result, I have had to learn how to manage my time efficiently.

While this was a skill I learned my freshman year of college, the rules are different here at GTL. Instead of balancing school, social life and sleep, you must balance travel, social life, school and sleep. I’ve learned a little bit along the way though that I think has helped.

  • Study Groups: Even if you don’t know anyone in your class at GTL, the class sizes are small, so you have to just grab someone and ask them to study with you. It reduces the time you spend mulling over problems and actually helps you learn the concepts better.
  • Office Hours: Yes we have these in Atlanta too, but often times you can get more one on one time with your professor. You can ask them to explain a concept or work through a detailed problem with you. They are the equivalent of your TA now.
  • Studying on the Train: When I say “study on the train,” I do not mean bring your textbooks and laptop. You simply will not have the patience or time for that. Instead, pull out a few notes you think are necessary or important. Then try downloading power-point presentations onto your phone. It will save you space and time.
  • Sleeping on the train: Find sleep whenever you can. If you’re on a train, but wide awake and don’t want to study, close your eyes. Just do it. Even if you’re not tired now, you will be later and you will be thankful you took the time to rest on a train instead of sleeping through your travels.
  • Plan your week: Plan out your week ahead of time. If you have a test the following week but are taking a 20 hour train ride to Budapest the weekend before, you are not going to want to study that much the day you get back. Start early so that you are prepared.
  • Plan your travels: This makes life so much easier. Don’t wait until the last minute to book a train otherwise you will be standing in line forever and might not even get a ticket to your destination of choice. You should also try to book an airbnb or hostel about two weeks in advance. It greatly diminishes the time you spend searching for that perfect price. 
  • Cook with Friends: Feeding yourself in France takes a little more patience. You have to walk to the supermarket, carry all of your groceries back, and you don’t have the same resources you would back home.  Then you have to spend the time actually cooking your food. Cooking with friends though reduces the time and counts as part of your social life!

These tips and tricks have been vital to my survival here at GTL. I am still tired after a long weekend of travels, but these tips help me stay on top of my studies and still have the full GTL experience.

Making a Train Reservation in French

Traveling can be difficult, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language. Here are a few tips that should help you when you get to the train station.

LM3_1Before you go to the train station you should have a few things ironed out. You should have the trains that you want to make reservations for already, and a backup itinerary in case those trains are booked. That means that you should know the train ID number and the time that it is departing and from which station. It is also important to note that all trains don’t require a reservation, and if you have a Eurail pass you just need to get on the train.

After gathering this information it is time for you to head to the train station.

 

Introductory Formalities

<<Bonjour>> or <<Bonsoir>>: The attendants at the desk will greet you with one of these greetings typically. Bonjour is a greeting used before the evening where Bonsoir will be used later in the day. You should repeat the greeting back to them.

Requesting Your Reservation

<<Je voudrais réserver un billet de train . . .>>

This is the start of your statement saying the you would like to make a reservation for a train. After this you need to provide the information about your journey.

<< . . . Pour [Insert Departing Station] le [Insert Date – first the day, then the month] et arrivée de [Insert Arriving Station] sur le [Insert Date – first the day, then the month] s’il vous plaît>>

The only other thing that should be in French will be the dates and times of the trains. In French, they list the day first and then the month. Below is a table with the months and days in French.

January – Janvier

February – Février

March – Mars

April – Avril

May – Mai

June – Juin

July – Juillet

August – Août

September – Septembre

October – Octobre

November – Novembre

December – Décembre

0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf
20 vingt
21 vingt et un
22 vingt-deux
23 vingt-trois
24 vingt-quatre
25 vingt-cinq
26 vingt-six
27 vingt-sept
28 vingt-huit
29 vingt-neuf
30 trente
31 Trente et un

One last thing to note is that you should always check the times and dates on your reservation before you buy them, because depending on the situation they might not be exchangeable or refundable. Typically the attendant will show you your ticket before you purchase it, so make sure to check the dates, times, and stations.

 

The 7 Best Apps for GTL

Phones are handy doohickeys: they can do lots of things and make our lives loads easier. After studying what makes a good app in my mobile apps class this semester, I’ve realized just how integrated these devices can become in our lives. Now, at the end of the semester, I wanted to jot down quickly some of the applications for my phone that made my life a whole lot easier abroad, and especially when traveling.

railplanner

 

  •  RailPlanner
    • As with many at GTL, trains are the main source of
      transportation. Especially if you have a Eurail pass, this app is helpful: you can see what trains go where and when –
      and there’s even a handy little checkbox for “Non-reserve Only,” meaning with the Eurail pass you need no reservations and the travel is free. It’s the mobile version of raileurope.com, and it works offline!

couchsurfing hostelworld airbnb

  • AirBnB, HostelWorld, Couchsurfing
    • Depending on how you like to travel and who you’re traveling with, any of these apps may be helpful to you. They are all temporary housing accommodation services, and all are relatively cheap (or with Couchsurfing, free). AirBnB’s usually are in residential areas, as they are homes put up for borrowing, and if you split it with a friend or two, it’ can be just as affordable as a hostel from HostelWorld. Hostels are great for large groups, though.

google maps

  • Google Maps
    • Google Maps is a lifesaver – whether you have data or not. You can save maps offline, as well as certain locations. You won’t have play-by-play directions, but you can follow the road on the map to navigate to where you want to be. Plus, online, it’s all of the usefulness of Google, including nearby restaurants and reviews.

translate

  • Google Translate
    • Google Translate is notorious for its strange translations, but it’s gotten better recently because of its effort for fluent speakers to edit and append to translations. Now, you can download whole languages – so if you’re going to Prague, you can translate things into and from Czech offline.

convertpad

  •  ConvertPad
    • This is more just if you have space. I have always had trouble converting between the metric and standard systems, so this was helpful in terms of translating kilometers to miles. And it doesn’t have to be this specific app – just something similar.

Making More Than Just Train Connections

Posted by Julie

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

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

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

20160326_173035

AJ playing with the kids we met on the train.

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

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

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

20160326_180228

Some of the candy I received from the German family.

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

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

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

 

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