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Category: Why GTL? (Page 2 of 3)

One Month In

Posted by James

One month into our studies here at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and already life has changed. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about just this.

He said, “What do you miss most about home?” And for the longest time I couldn’t think of an answer. It took me two days to finally produce something tangible. The reason for such a time lapse is based on how I’ve approached this study abroad. As in earlier blog posts, the advice I’ve gathered from others or given myself has to do with being open minded. As Americans we tend to believe our way of doing this is better than other countries. Not the case, for many things.

For instance, today I went on a tour of our local superstore CORA. Harry has already written about its marvelous wonders. The importance of this tour was that it was given by our French professor. She explained to us the ins and outs of how local French people shop. As we were leaving one aisle she stated, “Real quick, I want to show you all the sweets before we end class for the day!” Instantly I was thinking of chocolate and ice cream, my common comfort foods, but she showed us “petit Suisse” or little Swiss, a dairy-based product that most French people eat with sugar. This is just one of the many things that is different between French and American culture. So one month in, I’ve been soaking it all in, thinking and observing all the minute differences: the fact that Europeans only seem to drive hatchbacks, that French people eat bread with every meal, the different attitudes people give you when you approach them in their native language, how Europeans do their shopping daily, and that soccer is ingrained in everyone on this continent, and more. The list goes on and on for differences in terms of culture and ways of living.

In terms of academia there is also a large difference between the teaching dynamic here at Georgia Tech Lorraine and of the teaching in Atlanta. In Atlanta, class sizes are usually much larger even for selective classes in selective majors. The maximum number of students living here at GTL this semester is slightly under 200. Due to the much smaller class sizes, classes seem to be more intimate. The professors will tell jokes to lighten the moods during difficult lectures. Professors also pay more attention to the individual then in Atlanta, and the class size allows for this to happen. I find myself having one on one conversations with my professors on an almost daily basis. Here, the emphasis is on learning the material. To quote my AE professor Dr. Zaid, “we want to make sure you understand the concepts first, the big ideas!”

In closing, some more advice. These last weeks have flown by, mainly because I was paying attention to them. If you open up to the differences and accept them you will see the joy it can cause. Everything is a new experience, which is very rare for anyone over 5 years old. Every day I wake up not knowing what part of my day will be filled with amazing adventure. However, I know it is bound to happen. This is the beauty of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a foreign environment.

 

Dreams Can Come True!

Posted by James

May 28th, 2011. The day of the famed Champions League Final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC. I remember talking to my friends at school, “Rooney is going to score 2 goals, Messi will get one back but it will be too late in the end. I got Manchester United (United) winning it all!”

“Really?” My friend Mark wasn’t convinced. He thought Barcelona (Barca) would prevail and sadly they did winning 3-1. Long before this UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) final I was a huge fan of Manchester United. It is often considered one of, if not the biggest clubs in the world. Many people who side with United are considered “band-wagon” fans, just picking the winning team for a change. Not me! I fell in love with United because of Wayne Rooney, the prolific goal scoring machine and arguably England’s best player for the last decade.

As a kid, we didn’t have access to the fancy “European” sports channels, so I grew familiar with his work by the likes of YouTube and other internet sources. I remember watching him play, always so intelligent, decisive, powerful: the complete Striker. Rooney was my idol, I would always try to emulate his playing style whenever I played soccer. His style was my ideal way of playing so naturally I gravitated to him. And that sad day in late May as I cheered for United’s equalizer and then cried as moments later as Messi and Barca stole the cup marked an important moment for me.

Following this day, the US began investing massive amounts of money into the English Premier League. So for the next 5.5 years I would began seeing more of my favorite team and favorite player. Waking up early mornings and annoying my parents as I cheered for goals year after year. Yet despite the increased coverage I always felt like something was missing. To cement yourself as a real United fan one must make the famed pilgrimage to Old Trafford -their mighty home stadium. So when I decided I would be studying abroad this semester, this was one of my first concerns and largest trip budgets.
And this last weekend, my dream of seeing the Red Devils live at home finally came true. As the week progressed I remember feeling more and more nervous that something might go wrong, I’d miss the bus, or plane, the tickets might not arrive, something felt off. And then it hit, it just felt too good to be true. Something I’ve dreamt of for years was finally coming true.

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A shot of the field of Old Trafford, “The Theatre of Dreams.”

Friday, September 9th
“Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, CHIRP, CHIRP!” My alarm sounds. I snooze knowing its 4 am. A couple minutes later I drag my corpse-like body out of my bed and begin getting ready. Today my dream is coming true!! Yet right now all I can think about is sleep. After only a few hours of sleep, I begrudgingly pack my bag and run through my checklist. As I come out of the bathroom I look at my watch. 5:10?? The bus! I grab my passport and tickets and burst out the door of Lafayette. As I board the 1st, then 2nd bus, then the train to Paris something begins to change in me. With each step of my journey completed the dream starts to become reality. Finally, I make it to the airport and walk on to my plane all smiles.

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Football fans entering the stadium under huge advertisements for the football players.

As I exit my cab and walk into the best hostel I’ve ever seen, I suddenly tense up: now the moment of truth. Did my tickets arrive? I walk up to the receptionist and begin checking-in. I “casually” mention that I bought tickets to the Manchester Derby and that they should have arrived. She notices my conflicting emotions of joy and anxiety. Finally she returns from the stockroom with an envelope in her hand, and my heart legitimately skips a beat. I began thanking her, probably too much, as I open up my package, once again all smiles.

Saturday, September 10th: The Manchester Derby
I wake casually around 10, shaking the night before. Late into the day, the true ability of football was witnessed as I became good “mates” with someone from my

James in front of “The United Trinity” statue in front of Old Trafford.

hostel. His name was Sam, and he had flown 31 hours all the way from Sydney, Australia for this game. We both grab some traditional English breakfast and start making our way down to the game. The first timers and foreigners become interspersed among the locals in the massive crowds as we approach the stadium. As we near, we hear the singing and chants of the local United fans, all “preparing” for the game.

As Sam and I round the corner we see it! Old Trafford, instantly we both become children jumping up and down and shoving each other with excitement. “Oh my god, will you look at this Sam!” My heart is racing, blood pumping we begin a fast sprint to the stadium. As we find our separate gates and wish each other a good match, time stops. I scan my ticket and walk through the gate.

The security guard says, “Welcome to Old Trafford, and thank you.” As I move through the gate I almost yell, “No THANK YOU SIR!” And what happens next no words can truly describe, seeing that stadium gradually fill with fans, then eventually the players can’t be put into words, certainly not by mine. And while we did not win the match, much like back in 2011, it was a life changing moment. I can still hear the iconic roar and chants of fans throughout the game. One moment that will always stay with is linked below, click to experience a little of the Red Devils at Old Trafford.

First Impressions

Posted by Harry

Left: Photo Courtesy of Patrick Morand; Right: Photo Courtesy of The Wine Guild of Charlottesville

I wish I had some wild story to tell about my journey to Metz and Georgia Tech Lorraine, but I don’t. Rather, I just took the shuttle (free!) that was provided by GTL from the Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport. Usually, I’m a person that sleeps on long bus rides like the 4-hour trip it takes between the two locations, but I didn’t. The reason why? I was blown away by the stunning views of the French countryside. It really was something else. Something about the hills that stretched on for miles (or kilometers, I should say) and the quaint little villages that we passed by just took my breath away. Even if the majority of the scenery was farmlands and fields, my eyes were locked outside nearly the entire time. The pictures you see above are some stock photos off of Google Images that I found, since the ones I took really don’t do it any justice.

Upon my arrival in the outskirts of Metz where GTL was, there was something specific that really stood out to me: the silence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like a ghost town-ish area we are in, but it was just very peaceful and it’s something I’ve really grown to enjoy. The walk from my dorm to school is no longer filled with the loud sounds of construction or the conversations of thousands of students, but just a relative quietness.

Even on my first day, the GTL experience has far exceeded my expectations.

Expect the Unexpected

Posted by Morgan

expect the

Before coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was fortunate enough to have traveled a lot. I traveled across the US; I traveled outside of the country; I traveled without my parents. In short, I wasn’t expecting that the GTL experience would be that hard, taxing, or new- just exciting. I was prepared. I was prepared for the travel, and my first year at Tech had prepared me for the classes. And yet somehow, after ten weeks in France, I am leaving with the realization that I wasn’t all that prepared. But that’s the thing about the GTL program. Nothing can really prepare you for the experiences, the experiences of unmatched fun, the experiences of studying till the wee hours of the night, the experiences of being so incredibly out of your comfort zone.

If only something had prepared me for my interesting adventure through Paris. My friend and I had reserved an apartment through airbnb, a familiar and trustworthy site, but I was excited that I had searched through all the places on my own and found the perfect place–no help–no guidance–just me. When we arrived at the airbnb, I was told the maid was going to bring me a key. I waited an hour until two men in a car pulled up and started speaking to me in French, and they wouldn’t leave (a sketchy situation to say the least). They kept pointing at their ignition key, but they did not look like the maid, Maimona, and they did not speak English, so I kept waiting. Next thing I know a half hour later the guys come back, hand me the key, and then walk off. It was the weirdest experience ever, and it left me wondering how safe this place really was. But my friend and I needed a place to sleep, so up the five flights of stairs we walked.

What met our eyes was one of the most charming apartments I had ever seen. It was stereotypical French, complete with a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. Even with all of the commotion, I had done it. I had prepared for something, and gotten it right, albeit with a lot of anxiety and worry. I was not prepared for this type of situation. I was not prepared for this “experience,” and I don’t know if anything could have prepared me. That’s the thing about GTL though; just when you think you’ve seen it all–the horrifying thermo tests, the spill of toxic liquids in chem lab, the 90 degree plus heat of Atlanta–Tech likes to show you that you haven’t!  

Fortunately for myself, the rigorous planning and ensuing worrying died down at the end of the trip. If one hasn’t noticed, I am not a go with the flow kind of person. I plan everything by the minute and then have two backup plans. By the time my last trip came around, Grindelwald, Switzerland, I couldn’t plan any longer. I was tired, so about all I did was look up some train times and book a hostel.

I remember getting ready to board the train, and Tim saying, “Morgan, one of these trains requires a reservation…”

What left my mouth next was the most un-Morgan-like statement ever heard, “We’ll figure it out Tim.”

And we did. We figured it out as we went, and I left Switzerland with the realization that it was one of the most fun, memorable experiences of GTL yet.

I have the GTL program to thank for these experiences. I was not being hand-held through my trips, or taking easy elective classes. I was essentially being pushed out on my own and given free reign. Of course, there were those times that I wished I had a schedule designed for me on what trains and planes to take or what museums and tourist attractions to see at a particular time instead of Google searching on my iphone at the last minute, but I don’t think I would change any of those experiences- after all they do make the best stories.

Undergraduate Research Student: Sarah Selim

Posted by Morgan

MK-Selim2Studying abroad is hard for engineering students: the classes, the rigor, the balance with travel. At times it may seem that a Georgia Tech engineering student will never gain that exciting abroad experience. This is not the case for Sarah Selim though. A rising 3rd year in mechanical engineering, she always knew she wanted the study abroad experience, but she also knew that she wanted the undergraduate research experience as well. Fortunately, she found the answer in GTL.

For myself, I did not even know that undergraduate research existed at GTL. I figured that my only option was to come to Metz, take a couple classes, and spend my weekends traveling. The same was true for Sarah. But Sarah knew that she wanted to find a work abroad program for the summer and that the paperwork hassles that come along with working abroad are not exactly appealing, so she did a little digging into the research opportunities at GTL. While Sarah was aware that the research opportunities at GTL are usually only available for graduate students, she had the drive to convince them otherwise.

At first, she wasn’t sure if any professor would let her come work at GTL, but after multiple emails to different professors and GTL administration, she finally found a professor that was eager and willing to let her participate in undergraduate research. What a typical tech student- ambitious and motivated!

While her weekends do not fall on the same days as most GTL students (she only gets two day weekends and one three day weekend a month), she finds solace in the type of work she gets to take part in each day. Her project involves robotics research called non-destructive testing which uses a robot that moves along metal surfaces to detect if the surfaces have any defects. Most of her day to day work consists of cad modeling for the project, and because she works with three other graduate students, she is able to get feedback when needed.

So far, Sarah is loving her undergraduate research experience. She has hands on work in her chosen field which provides her with great experience for future endeavors. Sarah also mentioned the balance she receives as a result of working at GTL. She is able to work inside of her comfort zone, being surrounded by Georgia Tech students and faculty, but still be pushed a bit outside of her comfort zone while working in a foreign country, France. After talking with Sarah, it’s safe to say that I am a little jealous. While I’m taking tests on the different forms of “to have” in French, she gets to play with robots all day in the lab.

You might be wondering what kind of travel experience one can get while working abroad. Does one even get to travel? While Sarah’s busy schedule is definitely difficult to coordinate with her friends who are taking classes, she still manages to take short weekend trips and make the most of her time.

Her favorite place so far was Barcelona, mostly due to the fact that Gaudi’s stunning MK-Selim1architecture fills the city. While I find Gaudi’s work to be overt and eccentric, Sarah loved his style; “he created floors that weren’t even flat and he just kind of went for it!”. I might not understand Gaudi, but I understand why Sarah loves him so much. He took risks, was ambitious, and broke the mold, just as Sarah took a chance in searching out her undergraduate research at GTL. Well, clearly it paid off – for both Gaudi and Sarah.

The Euro Cup Mania

Posted by Morgan

Note: this was written before the finals of the Euro Cup.

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Football, the people’s favorite sport– the sport that causes fans to rally together chanting sometimes obscene statements–the sport that convinces men and women to cover their faces in paint, their bodies in colorful sports clothing, and their hands in foam fingers–the sport that brings people together with little in common except for their love of football. I am not talking about American football though. I am talking about European football, about soccer, the world’s favorite sport.

In America, soccer is not the most popular sport. While we do have the best women’s national team in the world, our men’s team is seriously lacking in talent- at least in comparison to most European teams- and consumerist America simply prefers watching a sport where commercials play every 5 minutes instead of an intense atmosphere of nonstop 45 minute halves. As result, when tournaments such as the World Cup, the Euro Cup, or even the CONCACAF Cup air on TV, most of America just changes the channel. The same cannot be said for Europe.

GTL students were fortunate enough to experience this part of European culture this summer as this year was the Euro Cup, a popular soccer tournament that is held every 4 years and is being hosted in France this year. While back in America, citizens are eagerly anticipating the Olympics, Europeans couldn’t care less about the Olympics. Their eyes are all on soccer.

This past week was a monumental game for France; the semifinals against Germany which determined whether or not France would move on in pursuit of the coveted Euro Cup trophy. Like any soccer fan, I dragged my friends with me to downtown Metz to watch the game on television. They obliged and made the journey with me into town. Nothing prepared them for what they were about to witness though. The squares were piled with people, pushing their way through crowds to get the best view of the TVs which lined the streets outside of bars and cafes. People’s faces were painted with the French flag; children were dressed in crazy red wigs in support of France; and just about every man had one oversized beer in his hand. It was a crazy atmosphere.

The game itself was enjoyable. While my eyes were glued to the television at every point in time, I somehow managed to miss both French goals in those rare moments I would turn to speak to a friend. Of course, we all knew what had happened as the crowds went wild, screaming, jumping, pushing, singing.

I was somewhat disappointed during the game though. I guess I forgot to mention that I was rooting for the enemy–Germany. The fact that Schweinsteiger and Mueller, two fantastic German players, were not able to help score against the MK-EuroCup2French made me very annoyed. Not to mention that Germany had possession of the ball the majority of the game! I had to hide this annoyance as best as possible from the French though for fear of being attacked by some of those crazy fans.

The final result: France won. While I myself was upset with the outcome, the rest of the country was ecstatic. Metz went crazy. People started setting off fireworks, dancing in circles, singing songs, breathing fire, shaking police vehicles that lined the streets. It was quite the sight.

As one friend of mine put it, “This would never happen in America.”

And that’s the truth. Even when a particular team wins the Super Bowl, crowds do not rush the streets setting off fireworks or shaking police vehicles. People would be arrested. But in France, in Europe, they do. It is a national sport, a national emblem for a country, and we were able to experience this joyous moment with the French people. It’s an experience I will never forget. Sure traveling to Italy and England is awesome, but this was an unmatched experience — not related to a travel destination — that I will most likely not have again.

While the night was late and long, I was glad to be able to see such a sight. The next day of class might have been rough, but when I entered my Industrial Engineering class the following morning, I noticed the heavy eyes of my IE professor.

“So, what did you guys think of the game?,” asked my professor.

Well, clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought a little less sleep was worth it to see France win.

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.

One Room Schoolhouse

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

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

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

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

Train Strikes Can’t Bring Us Down

posted by Morgan

The 2016 summer semester for GTL students is quite different than most years. It is not because it is the 25th anniversary for Georgia Tech Lorraine, nor is it because the Euro Cup is being held in France. No. This year is different as a result of the record breaking rainfall in France and the almost daily train strikes.

As you can imagine, these two things are somewhat problematic for us students. Walking to class in the rain, while unenjoyable, is not the end of the world nor is having a train cancelled. Hey, it happens right? We all knew that getting stranded in a train station overnight with friends was a possibility when we signed up for the program (Believe it or not, we were explicitly told stories by former GTL students of these occurrences). I did not, however, expect for train problems to prevent me from leaving GTL. I can “deal” with being stuck in Paris or Rome for an extra day, but being stuck on campus for a weekend is not what I would call “appealing”. It appeared that a weekend at GTL might be the case for my friends last weekend. We had planned to go to Munich, but upon arrival at the Metz train station we quickly learned our train was cancelled.

So it was time for plan B! Off to Brussels we go! An hour later we were sitting on the floor of the Luxembourg train station with another disappointing look strewn across our faces. Our train to Brussels was canceled.

So now it was time for plan C! What was plan C? Well, we did not really have a plan C, so our plan C then became, “Ask the Woman at the Information Desk Where Four College Students Could Go For a Fun Weekend in Europe.” Cologne, a smaller city about 3 hours away in Germany, was the answer.

As we sat on the train with our eyes glued to our phones, we quickly learned that expensive shopping and few city sights was not exactly our idea of a fun 3 day weekend, so I looked at the train route and found a new destination: Koblenz. It was déjà vu moment. MK6-1-10 years earlierI had faintly remembered my experience there with my family when I was 8 years old. Something about beautiful rolling hills and a quaint town rang in my mind, and, seeing as we were all out of options, I figured we could just hop off the train at Koblenz and hope for the best!

And that’s exactly what we did. After an hour of wandering the streets and searching for the cheapest, last minute accommodations we could find, we finally found somewhere to sleep and it wasn’t even the train station. The next morning we were up and ready to go see what Koblenz had to offer; backpacking our way towards some fortress we went. Of course, we got lost on our way up the steep incline in the humid, slightly rainy weather, with our luggage weighing us down, but when we finally made it to the top, our eyes were met with the rolling hills I had remembered from my time in Koblenz almost ten years ago.

Quaint German houses lined the rolling hills, reminding us of the fairytales we read when we were children; picturesque vineyards wove their way up the sides of mountains, making us question how someone even managed to stand on something so steep; small boats sailed their way down the Rhine, inviting tourists to fill their cameras with photos. While the rain didn’t seem to leave us when we left for Germany, we were still met with these beautiful sights.

When we had finished touring the impressive fortress and observing the detailed architecture, we decided to make our way back down the incline, but this time we were going to find an easier, less physically exertive way. Using my rusty German to converse with a local, we found the cable car that made its way over the river and down the mountain. My high school German teacher would have been proud as I discussed directions, where we were from, and what we thought of Koblenz so far.

The rest of the day was spent wandering until we made our way towards the train station and headed to our next destination: Trier. According to a friend of

mine who was studying abroad in Germany, Trier was the place to

Quaint Trier

Quaint Trier

go if we wanted the traditional German experience. The oldest town in Germany, it is full of history: a cathedral, old town square, Basillica dating back to the 4th century, and the Roman baths. After hopping off the train and making our way to our last minute airbnb, we realized that Trier was the perfect place for us girls to spend a weekend. It was calm, traditional, quaint, and the most important part– it had delicious gelato.   

We still did not really have a plan at this point, but we just spent the rest of our weekend exploring. When we passed the palace and gardens, we took time for a photo op. When the rain began to pour, we found a local cafe that served Wiener-Schnitzel. When our feet began to drag, we found an international music festival to sit down and listen to.

The unexpected and unplanned weekend was a little anxiety-filled for me at first, but I could not think of a better memory to look back on. So I guess these train strikes are not as unfortunate as I thought. I was with three wonderful friends enjoying company and culture. We might not have made it to the castle of Neuschwanstein or the city of Munich, but I think our adventure in Koblenz and Trier made up for it. No train strikes could bring us down.

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