YOLO… Let’s Go Solo!

Written by Andre Grossberg

While GTE fosters amazing friendships and wonderful group trips, I’m writing this blog to you from the Vienna Airport, solo. I’m just back from a trip I planned the night before I left. This loosely put-together journey impacted me much more than I expected. So, let’s talk about solo travel for those thinking about hitting the road alone.

First off, solo travel wasn’t my original plan. My weekend plans got canceled due to poor weather, making the hiking trails dangerous. Not wanting to waste a weekend, I decided to seize the moment and travel to places I hadn’t planned before. Wednesday night, I pulled out my laptop and found an extremely cheap one-way flight back from Vienna. The new plan was to figure out how to get to Vienna and fly back Sunday night.

Now, having arrived at the airport, I’ve spent a night in Colmar, France, an afternoon in Zurich, Switzerland, and two days visiting Salzburg, Melk, and Vienna, Austria. I climbed a mountain, attended the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and listened to Mozart while overlooking his grave. While these experiences were incredible, what really struck me was how different it was to do it alone.

To be completely honest, there were many moments on this trip when I would have loved to have a companion or two. I even felt lonely at times. However, this solo journey allowed me to learn so much about myself. Without anyone to share meals with or discuss views or art, I experienced everything in silence. Solo travel reveals what YOU truly find amazing. You have the freedom to do anything you want, at any pace and time. I danced alone at a concert, sat alone at the top of Mount Untersberg, and wandered the streets of many cities solo. It gives you the chance to reflect on your enjoyments, dislikes, thoughts, and limits.

Andre chilling on Mount Untersberg, on the border between Germany and Austria

I’m not saying solo travel is a must. It’s important to exercise strong caution while abroad, and growing close to others through travel is one of the most valuable experiences you can have. However, if solo travel is something you’re considering, for whatever reason, it’s worth it. You can create lifelong memories and have wonderful experiences by yourself. Some even say it’s hard to go back to group travel after experiencing solo adventures!

To wrap things up I wanted to give some tips for the solo traveler! Hostels are amazing. Many nights were only $30, and making friends with your roommates is fun! Bring a lock. Most hostels have places where you can lock your things for the day so you don’t have to lug them around. Ask around. It’s okay to ask locals for help or for things to do, usually they are more than excited to share. Finally, plan… but no need to stay on schedule. This is your trip and you can do whatever you want so explore! 

Happy Travels,

Andre Grossberg

Andre looking confused at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna, Austria
Andre listening to classical music with Mozart, Beethoven, and Franz Schubert
Andre fighting the urge to jump in the river in Colmar, France

Travel Trips

Written by Andre Grossberg

While a lot has happened over the past month, this week I’d like to focus on the nitty-gritty of traveling in hopes of sharing a little more understanding of how to travel in Europe. 

For those who aren’t familiar, the program has recently added the Eurail Pass to the program expenses*. This pass allows you to travel on trains owned by Eurail that connect to 33 countries! It is an amazing resource, but there are a few things I’d like to touch on. We were provided with a second-class pass. You are also given the option to upgrade to first class for a fee. I am not too sure about the specifics, but definitely consider the option as in many cases it gives you priority for booking trains, Wi-Fi, and electrical outlets that may not be available in second class. With both options, many trains are free; however, please be warned that you still may have to pay and book in advance! For example, my friend and I are planning to go to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, but since so many people are going, most of the trains were booked! We now are going to fly through Barcelona, which adds some more difficulty to our travels. 

That brings me to my next tip: consider flying to places. There is a great airline called Ryanair, where you can get very cheap flights to many destinations. Actually, as I’m writing this blog, I’m in Edinburgh, which by plane was just 44 euros! Be careful to check in at least 2 hours before your flight to avoid incurring a hefty fee like I did. Flights are great because you can spend a lot more time wherever you are than traveling. Overnight trains aren’t very common in Europe, which means you will mostly have to travel during the day by train. That can be difficult to do when balancing classes. There are overnight buses, but those can be expensive and take a lot longer. So please always consider the option of flying; it might even save you money!! 

Finally, don’t be afraid to be spontaneous! I think one of the best memories I’ve had so far was when some other GTE students invited my friends and me to go cliff jumping while in Cinque Terre, Italy. Not being in the plans, we were not sure but decided to go for it anyway at a famous spot near the beach. Climbing up the steep rocks and cheering each other on to overcome our fear of heights was a nerve-wracking yet extremely rewarding experience. The locals were there to count down your jump while many spectators watched and even took videos of you! I don’t think my time there would have been the same if we hadn’t gotten out of our comfort zone and tried something new. So, if you see an opportunity, go for it! 

That’s all for me this week, and I look forward to talking with y’all soon! 

Happy Travels,  

Andre Grossberg 

*Subject to change by semester. Please check GTE website for most up to date information. 

Searching for Green in the City

Written by Cate McCoy

This past weekend in Amsterdam, my friend and I were sitting outside a restaurant in Vondelpark when we heard a strange birdcall. I quickly pulled out my phone and used an app to identify the bird—I was confused when a species of parakeet popped up. A quick Google search later and we discovered that the park is known for its wild parakeets! We scanned the sky and trees surrounding us, and sure enough, we spotted the bright green birds sitting on the branches, their colorful tail feathers fanned out behind them. We finished our food and began to walk around the park to see what else we could find. Within the span of fifteen minutes, we watched parakeets fly right over our heads, got within five feet of a gray heron standing by a pond, and saw a family of Egyptian geese. Experiencing so much diverse and uncommon wildlife right in the middle of the city was bizarre and incredible, making Vondelpark one of the most memorable parts of my time in Amsterdam.

I think the reason why my experience in the park was so special to me was that it reconnected me with nature. While plans for hiking in the Alps are in the works, I’ve yet to go on any big outdoor adventures since I’ve been in Europe. My weekend trips so far have been to big cities, like Paris and Amsterdam, where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the noise and busy lifestyle. I’ve found myself missing the peace I feel when I’m surrounded by the outdoors. Luckily, European cities tend to have lots of green space, and I’ve learned some tricks to find those little spots of nature amongst the concrete sidewalks and towering buildings.

While there are plenty of parks to choose from while you’re traveling in Europe (though I can’t guarantee they all have wild parakeets), most major cities also have botanical gardens. On our last day in Paris, my travel group decided to visit the Jardin des Plantes to kill some time before catching our train. We explored the main sights of the garden, walked under the dense canopy leading to a gazebo, admired the neat rows of flowers in the main gardens, and even saw some kangaroos in the zoo area. Afterwards, we sat in the shade and relaxed, exhausted from our busy weekend. The gardens were the perfect setting for me to find the peace I’d been needing.

If you find yourself in a city without major green spaces like parks and botanical gardens, you might have to look more closely to find bits of nature, but I promise it’s there. Go to a farmer’s market and you’ll find it in the fresh, locally grown produce and flowers. Have a picnic by the river and you’ll see it in the calm water. Visit the art museum and look at paintings of landscapes. Download identification apps and figure out what type of flower is growing out of that crack in the concrete. Watch the sunset. There are millions of ways to immerse yourself in nature, even if they seem small and insignificant—there’s something to be said for appreciating things that most of us might not even notice.

First Experiences and Impressions

Written by Andre Grossberg

When I arrived in Paris, one of my biggest concerns was the threat of pickpockets. I’d been warned to keep a close eye on my belongings, especially in crowded places. My adventure took me to Montmartre and the stunning Sacré-Cœur Cathedral. Unfortunately, I was on my own as my dear friend Kingston from Atlanta was recuperating from a night out at a Taylor Swift concert and refused to budge from bed.

A bit nervously, I went around the sights and gawked at all the beautiful scenery. This led me to a famous staircase where as I was walking down, I noticed a guy standing near the stairs. Attempting to be polite, I asked if he wanted to go first to which he replied “No. Please go, go down the stairs.” Thinking that was an odd response, I walked down slowly checking my back when a young woman approached me and began speaking in French. I quickly explained that I didn’t understand French, and she switched to English asking for directions to a place I didn’t know. I continued to get more worried that this situation was going to go wrong. 

Then all of a sudden… she began to sing in full opera to me. She was an incredible singer, and I was completely taken aback. Shortly after, a cello player came to join her, then a clarinet player. As I stood there looking like a complete doofus, a crowd began to draw as they watched these three musicians play for this strange American tourist. As they concluded their impromptu concert, they excitedly revealed that they were musicians who enjoyed playing for strangers. They even asked if they could feature me on their Instagram. We then chatted for a bit where I learned more about them and we went our separate ways. 

Andre with local musicians in Paris

While I could go on and on about tips for those considering GTE (for example, please go to the events where you can get items that past students have left – it can save so much money), I actually want to save that for later blogs and first start a talk about mindset. I still warn you to exercise caution as you travel abroad, but reflecting on my first two weeks, I have already been amazed by the friendliness and kindness you can experience meeting people you don’t know.

Inspired by my surprise concert, I decided that I would begin to get out of my comfort zone and make an effort to meet others. With this changed mindset, I was lucky to meet many wonderful people at GTE with just as interesting backgrounds and interests. This has led me to two weekends where I spent time in Metz, Brussels, and Luxembourg with people I did not know before I came here. I paddle-boated across rivers, experienced my first hostel, and even found a new gym partner who will finally make me do leg day.

Along with students in the program, I decided to try to meet people in each country we went to. On the bus ride to Brussels, there were some rowdy Spanish men on the bus with a bunch of Red Bull merch. I built up the courage to talk with them and it turned out to be the European surfing champion, a finance specialist living in Luxembourg, and an influencer from Spain who were all doing a Red Bull challenge to travel through Europe with no money. We chatted the whole ride there and now I am following their journey online. In Luxembourg, I saw a skatepark and because I used to skate I asked if I could join some local skaters during their session. It turned out one was a student originally from Ireland, and we got to share our love for skating with each other and experience people asking us to do kickflips (though they ask in French in Luxembourg). 

While these are all neat experiences, what I really wanted to say is that I think one of the coolest things about traveling to other places is the people. Everywhere you will find kind, interesting, and happy people who are a pleasure to meet. While you should no doubt explore Europe with and cherish your current friends, I would like to urge those reading to consider talking to that stranger stuck on a long train ride with you, that student who happens to have the same hobby that you do, or even that person sitting right next to you, struggling to complete the math problem that you are also stuck on in your classes at GTE. You never know… you might find yourself struggling to find waffles in Brussels with them and making an awesome friend.

Happy Travels,

Andre Grossberg

Andre with Guillermo Robelo, Professional Surfer, and Gonzalo Montoya,
Spanish Digital Creator, on a train to Brussels Belgium

A Season of Firsts

Written by Cate McCoy

First Days

Although I’m already halfway through my third week at GT-Europe, it feels like it was just yesterday that I landed in Frankfurt and boarded the shuttle to Metz. A lot has happened since then, like exploring Paris, trying escargot (and liking it), learning a lot of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, and falling severely behind on my travel journaling. But that’s all for another time; for now, I want to go back and reflect on my first few days at GTE, starting with my arrival in Metz!

Once I got off the shuttle and checked into my dorm, I lugged my suitcases up the two flights of stairs to my room. My living space is a studio-style dorm in Crous Technopole that includes a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette. All the necessities were provided, including bedding, kitchenware, and some travel-sized toiletries. The building is close to campus and located near the lake; although living in the downtown Metz area would be fun, I’ve been super grateful for my short walk/bike to class (especially since I tend to sleep late!).  

After unpacking, I met up with a friend and walked to Cora, the nearby grocery store. Our shopping experience was humbling, as we were unable to read any of the labels and had to depend on Google Translate—at least we were providing entertainment to the other shoppers! Finally, after at least an hour spent wandering around the store trying to find everything, we checked out and headed back to the lake near our dorms. We sat by the water and ate our newly purchased baguettes, along with some meat, cheese, and olives. The area by the lake is beautiful and full of wildflowers and birds; while sitting, we watched a swan land on the water and spotted a heron perched in a tree. It was the perfect end to my first night in France.

The next morning, I walked to orientation feeling jetlagged and nervous. I came into the program only knowing a few people, so I was anxious about the social aspects of the day. Luckily, most of my peers were feeling the exact same way, and these shared nerves allowed us to quickly connect. Orientation involved a campus tour, presentations in the auditorium, and lunch; afterwards, we were thrown right into classes. It was a long and draining day, but I was left with a good idea of how the semester would look, which relieved my nerves and gave me more confidence.

For the rest of the first week, I continued to settle in. Classes picked up quickly, but I’m lucky to have formed valuable friendships with several of my peers. We’ve quickly developed a daily routine together, which involves getting lunch at the cafeteria and doing schoolwork in the student lounge before class, while taking breaks to discuss travel plans and book train tickets for the weekends.

First Impressions

Now that I’m through the beginning stages of the semester, I’ve had enough time to recognize the notable challenges and successes that I experience during my day-to-day life at GTE.

A main challenge I’ve experienced so far involves food. The cafeteria, Crous Resto U’ Technopole, is open during the school week, but only for two hours during lunchtime. While that covers one meal of the day, we’re left to fend for ourselves for the other two. I’ve been cooking in my kitchenette, but it’s made difficult by the fact that I have one pot, one pan, and no microwave or oven. I’m hesitant to buy more kitchenware since I’m unable to bring it home with me at the end of the summer. Because of these limitations, I often find myself hungry during the school week, a challenge that my friends have also expressed facing. Luckily, there are plenty of solutions to the problem that I plan to implement, such as making a list of staple meals I can prepare in my kitchen and planning my meals for the week.

Regarding school, each class is just under two hours, and the curriculum is presented at an accelerated pace to fit it all into the term; it’s difficult to absorb that much information every day. Despite this, the workload is manageable, and I’ve found that this is largely due to the small class sizes of the program. My classes each have around 15-40 students, which allows me to have more personal relationships with my peers and professors, while also making it easier to ask questions mid-lecture. I believe that this has improved my understanding of the curriculum and is a huge benefit of the program.

Finally, and most exciting of all, travel has been a major aspect of my experience at GTE. I’ve made it to Paris, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg, and am looking forward to exploring Amsterdam this upcoming weekend. While travel can often present many challenges, my friends and I have been lucky to have smooth-sailing trips so far. I could have filled this entire post with travel stories, but I wanted to instead use it to share my honest first impressions of the GT-Europe program, along with my initial thoughts and experiences. Even with the occasional obstacle, these past three weeks have been incredible, and I’ve surprised myself with how confident and independent I feel despite being in an unfamiliar environment. Not only will I leave France with new memories, friends, and knowledge, but also with a newfound understanding of myself that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Thanks for tuning in. See you next week!

Meet Cate!

Hi, my name is Cate McCoy! I’m a second year student majoring in chemical engineering, with specific interest in the environmental applications of the field. I’m from Marietta, GA, and having lived in Georgia my whole life, I’ve become antsy to get to know a new place. This summer, I get to do just that, and I can’t wait to broaden my horizons past the Pencil Building and the Peach State.

A core piece of my identity is my love for the outdoors. I credit this to my dad, as I grew up with him taking my three older sisters and I on a wide variety of adventures, from hiking to zip-lining to kayaking. At GT, I’m involved in rock-climbing through Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech, so you’ll find me at the climbing gym during the week and at the crag on the weekends! My greatest outdoor adventure to date was this past summer in Vermont, where I camped for two months while working on a nature conservation crew. This summer, I’m looking forward to exploring the nature of Europe–some of the activities on my bucket list include hiking in Interlaken, visiting the Cliffs of Moher, and climbing in the Dolomites! 

While my love for the outdoors will likely lead me to the more remote locations of Europe, my other interests will provide me with plenty to do in the cities. As an avid reader and Goodreads user, I’m constantly looking for new books to read (even though I have at least 20 unread ones sitting on my shelf). While abroad, I look forward to visiting bookstores in the many cities I visit–a specific shop on my list is the famous Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Along with the bookstores, I’m excited to experience vintage markets, art museums, and concerts during my travels through Europe. 

Follow along for stories of my adventures abroad, whether it’s a day hike through the mountains of Switzerland or a shopping spree at a French street market!

Meet Andre!

Hello! My name is Andre Grossberg and I will be your Summer 2024 Georgia Tech (GT) Europe blogger! I am ecstatic about the opportunity to not only attend GTE, but also share my experiences with you all. Some particular things I am excited about are making friends with local students in foreign countries, getting closer to the tight-knit community GTE provides, learning about new cultures and practices, and of course… EATING LOTS OF FOOD.

Through the blog, I will be sharing everything I see and learn from my travels. From tips on how to travel cheaply, to wacky stories about what goes on in big cities in Europe, I hope to immerse the reader in what it is really like to be in European countries. I also hope to share any recommendations for others who are considering traveling or who are already in the area. Great food, nice places to stay, and breathtaking sights are a few things that come to mind. Travel is the teacher of the world so as I go to learn about people, cultures, and places through many adventures, I am excited to share all of it through this medium.

A little about me is that I am a first-year computer engineering student at GT and part of the First Year Leadership Organization Seek Discomfort. I play piano and the cello, and in my free time, I enjoy skateboarding and taking spontaneous trips to far away places. I hope that y’all are excited to come along with me for my upcoming trips and feel free to reach out to me at andre.gro@nullgatech.edu if you’d like to ask about anything you see on this page.

Happy travels!

Chasing the Northern Lights: Arctic Adventure at GTE

Written by and photos by Quin Kieu, GTE Fall 2022

GTE was my first time leaving the USA. My family does not go on vacation or travel due to financial reasons so leaving for France was a significant life event. To list off a few firsts, it was my first time getting on airplane, a train, solo traveling, and connecting with strangers. I have experienced many sights and met many great people on my travels. I want to tell you about one adventure.

During my spring break, my travel plans turned out to be completely opposite compared to my GTE peers. About half of the cohort flew to Italy and a quarter took a train to Spain. Upon applying to study abroad, I had already set my mind on traveling to the Arctic Circle and experiencing the Aurora Borealis. Originally a solo trip, I was glad that my new friend Jan, whom I met at GTE, decided to tag along and navigate the unbarred wilderness with me.

We set off in the early morning at 5 AM to catch a flight from Paris, France to Helsinki, Finland. A fourteen hour night train then took us deep into the northernmost region of Finland as we arrived in the small town of Kolari. During this train ride, I had a vivid dream where I saw the northern lights. I knew this was a good sign, but Jan was hesitant to get his hopes up. We were both aware that auroras do not always occur and that the vibrant light shows seen in pictures and videos are rare.

The first thing I noticed immediately upon stepping off the train was how the mucus in my nose instantly became frozen. The air temperature was a freezing -15°F during the daytime. At night, it dropped much lower and the biting wind would cut through my five pairs of pants. Being as I was born and raised in South Carolina, I had never experienced temperatures anywhere remotely close to this and was extremely out of my element. Despite these challenges, the country of Finland turned out to be extremely beautiful. The air was crisp and clean. It was extremely quiet and serene outside. The tap water was pure and tasted better than American bottled water. The sky and sunsets would be the most beautiful gradient of pastel baby blue and orange.

During my time there, the northern lights remained my top priority. With vigor, extraordinary amounts of optimism, and a belly full of reindeer meat – a Finnish staple – Jan and I managed to rent a charming Volvo station wagon and set off into the night. This far out into the wilderness, there was no Hertz or similar car rental company. Our workhorse was fortunately obtained when the hotelkeeper called up her friend on the phone and introduced us. An under the table deal of sorts, we were just happy to have a mode of transport. We then later discovered that the check engine light was on but had simply been covered over with tape. We gritted our teeth and prayed that our Volvo, nicknamed Freya after the Norse goddess, would lead us safely.

We ventured deep into the wilderness, away from civilization, and were graced with the auroras. I have never seen a more beautiful sight in my life. The dynamic display of nature and the serpentine folds glimmered for us to see. Words and pictures do not fully encompass or describe the experience. I gained a unique reverence for nature following this encounter.

The next morning, the hotelkeeper told us that we were incredibly lucky and should buy a lottery ticket – which I attempted to do but would not know how to redeem it if I did win. They told us of the many travelers who come back over a span of years and do not see any auroras, let alone the active and spirited ones that we experienced on our first night here.

After spending two nights in Kolari, Jan and I traveled to Rovaniemi, the official town of Santa Claus. Here, we made friends with a Finnish border guard in our hostel. He was incredibly humble and was once in the army. Having missed a bus to go husky sledding, he graciously drove us an hour and helped us out during our time in Finland.

My time in the Arctic Circle was only half of spring break but was already the best trip I have had in my life. Finland holds a special place in my heart – I plan on returning as my Finnish friend has invited me back for summer adventure.

A Final Reflection

Written by Serena Khan

As I sit down to write this final reflection for my blog, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and a bit of disbelief. Studying abroad through Georgia Tech-Europe has, without a doubt, been the best decision of my college career. This journey has most definitely been a deep dive into personal growth and cultural immersion. I can now leave knowing I have made lifelong friends whom I can truly call family.

**Academic and Personal Growth**

This semester abroad challenged me academically in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I took five courses, four of which, though not directly contributing to my major, enriched my knowledge profoundly. From learning how to document my travels in a Creative Writing class to understanding the fundamentals of building a startup in the Startup Lab, each class pushed the boundaries of my usual curriculum back home.

Among these, my favorite class was French 1001 with Professor Sonia Serafin. Professor Serafin is an eccentric and caring teacher who goes beyond the textbook to engage with her students. She strives to ensure that everyone not only learns French but also enjoys the learning process. Her class was instrumental in helping us master the basics needed for getting around in French-speaking regions, and she was always willing to help students achieve good grades, as long as they showed effort and care.

Despite these enriching experiences, one area I struggled with was time management. Balancing coursework, blog writing, and travel proved more challenging than expected. This struggle has taught me valuable lessons about prioritizing and managing my time—a skill I aim to hone as I move forward from this experience.

**Navigating Social Dynamics**

Traveling with peers from various backgrounds tested and strengthened my interpersonal skills, particularly patience. Learning to travel with people whom I might not always agree with taught me the importance of compromise and flexibility. These situations, where it was easy to become frustrated, instead taught me to remain optimistic and seek solutions collaboratively.

**Cultural and Social Insights**

Traveling without the security of my family taught me to be more vigilant and resourceful, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone on numerous occasions (like when I lost my phone in Munich…). The ability to navigate foreign cities, deal with unexpected situations, and communicate across language barriers has given me a new level of independence and confidence.

The people I met have turned into lifelong friends who now feel more like family. These relationships have been one of the most rewarding aspects of my study abroad experience. Whether sharing a meal, exploring a new city, or simply studying together, these moments of connection have made my study abroad journey that much more special.

Some of my favorite places from this semester were Amsterdam, Lisbon, Capri, Rome, and Madrid. Each place gave me unique experiences and beautiful scenery. One of my most cherished memories was a pasta-making class in Rome. This unforgettable four-hour session taught us how to craft pasta from scratch and prepare tiramisu. It brought me so much closer to my friends, and the joy and laughter we shared during this experience will stay with me forever. Another memorable moment occurred when I accompanied my friends to a local piercer in Rome. It was a day filled with excitement and a bit of nervous anticipation as one friend decided to get a nose piercing, and another opted for his ears to be pierced. Sharing in their experience and seeing their reactions was so exciting and also emblematic of the adventurous spirit that defined our time together abroad.

**Lisbon and Lifelong Friendships**

A pivotal moment in my journey was an early trip to Lisbon with two friends, who I now call my sisters <3. This trip was one of our first experiences just as a trio, and it cemented our bond together. From then on, we were nearly inseparable on every group trip, always the closest and gravitating towards each other. The laughs we shared and the memories we created in Lisbon and beyond are irreplaceable. I consider these friends family now, and I am eternally grateful for their presence in my life.

**Balancing Academics and Adventures**

Most of my coursework was completed during long train rides across Europe which is a demonstration of the unique challenges of balancing academics with exploration.

These moments, spent writing papers with scenic landscapes whisking by, were unexpectedly beautiful and vastly productive. They taught me that the beauty of study abroad lies in the integration of learning with living.

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer future students is to focus on time management. Even though I was fortunate to have less rigorous classes, I know that students in engineering or computer science face more challenging coursework. Using travel time, like long train rides, for studying or completing assignments was a tactic many of my friends employed successfully. Additionally, forming study groups helps hold each other accountable and allows for shared learning. Everyone wants to enjoy their travels without the heavy weight of schoolwork hanging over them, so staying on top of assignments is crucial.

Another valuable piece of advice is to remain flexible and adaptable. Things won’t always go as planned, whether in academics or travel, but keeping a positive outlook and going with the flow can turn potential disappointments into unexpected adventures.

**Overcoming Comparison**

An important lesson I learned was how comparison can steal joy. Not every trip or experience could be shared with everyone, and sometimes I had to make sacrifices due to family commitments or time-constraints. It was crucial to remember not to let these missed opportunities overshadow the wonderful experiences I did have. Gratitude was key in maintaining a positive outlook and fully appreciating my own unique journey, without comparing it to others’.

**Future Aspirations and Gratitude**

This isn’t the last time I’ll be abroad. The experiences here have ignited a passion for international travel and work that I’m eager to explore further. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity—every challenge, every new friend, every unexpected adventure has contributed to a semester of immense growth and gratitude.

**Conclusion**

Though I initially regretted that this semester would extend my college career, I no longer view it as a setback but as a unique opportunity that has broadened my perspectives and enhanced my academic journey. As I look ahead, I’m excited to continue my writing and apply the invaluable lessons I’ve learned.

To everyone who has followed this blog, thank you for sharing this journey with me. If anyone reading ever has any questions about study abroad or college in general, feel free to ask me at skhan408@nullgatech.edu!

Mamie M’a Dit to try French Food

Written by Serena

Mamie M’a Dit was nothing short of the true French dining experience. From the moment I stepped foot into this quaint restaurant in downtown Metz, I was consumed by the excitement of indulging in a feast of gastronomic authenticity.

The walls were painted red, adorned with black and white photos. The space was decorated with wooden furniture and illuminated with dimmed, soft lights, giving the restaurant a warm, comforting glow. As I sat down, a sense of sleepiness loomed over me due to the cozy ambiance, but that had to be ignored when I was handed the menu. First, I glossed over it, a bit overwhelmed that everything was in French (of course). I attempted to make out certain words that I recognized, like ‘escargot,’ ‘crème brûlée,’ and ‘poulet.’ Not many others stuck out to me unfortunately. The attempt ran short before I humbly requested the English version.

My knowledge of French dinner foods was limited, but I did know a staple of the cuisine was escargot so my decision for the entree was immediate. Given that this was a classy dinner with a 40-euro budget per person, my good friend and I decided to merge our funds. This strategy allowed us to share our two entrees and enjoy a single dessert together, optimizing our dining experience. For her entree, she chose the salmon tartare. As we waited for the server to take our orders, we pondered over what we wanted for our mains and dessert.

Almost everything on the menu looked delectable, but the two items that stuck out to me were the veal and duck breast with Mirabelle plums. Since we made the executive decision to combine funds, I ordered the veal while my friend asked for the duck, each of us agreeing to try each other’s meals so that we wouldn’t miss out. We finally placed our orders after what seemed like forever, our hunger escalating as the evening progressed. Good thing there was unlimited bread!

As the wait for our meals stretched longer, our hunger transformed from mere anticipation to a gnawing sensation. Finally, the entrees arrived and the warm aroma immediately flooded my nostrils. I was eager to devour the food swiftly, but I stopped myself, as I wanted to enjoy every bite and analyze the flavors of this delicacy I had been anticipating for so long. The dish looked elegant; the escargot was enrobed in a lush, white creamy sauce. The history of escargot is a fascinating journey. Initially, escargot was consumed by the lower classes and regarded as an easily accessible protein source. Over time, it transformed into a symbol of sophistication and wealth, especially in French cuisine, where its preparation and presentation became a true art form.

I picked up a spoonful, examining the looks of it before taking the first bite. The dish overall reminded me of clam chowder but without the oyster crackers. It offered a texture that was satisfyingly chewy and flavor rich of garlic, marrying the comforting, bountiful flavors of the sauce with the snail’s unique tenderness. My friend had previously tried escargot in Paris, and I asked her to compare her thoughts on the two. She deemed that her time trying it in Paris offered a more genuine experience because it was served in the actual shells instead of in a sauce. It was still delicious to her; however she appreciated the authenticity of extracting the meat herself, which made me envious of this phenomenon. After the first taste, I could not stop myself from scarfing the rest of the dish down.

Next, came the salmon tartare. It came accompanied by four pieces of bread, an element that enhanced the dish’s appeal with a crispy texture that contrasted with the softness of the salmon. The pairing of the bread and salmon evoked a sense of home and nostalgia; it echoed the popular combination of a bagel and salmon lox. Though it was a delightful reminder of my usual breakfast at home, it lacked the flavorful sensation that I initially anticipated. The freshness of the salmon was undeniably present yet demanded a zestful enhancement, perhaps a twinge of lemon juice, to elevate its mild, but agreeable taste.

The meal starters most definitely did not disappoint, leaving me satisfied but only for a fleeting moment. My stomach shortly beckoned for more food. After an almost fulfilling first course, each passing moment of waiting for the main dishes seemed to heighten our expectations further. The immense apprehension of the forthcoming meal was not just the usual wait for food that I am used to, but an awaited event that promised relief and satisfaction. The desire to feast intensified as the wait went on, and my hunger continued to deepen making my stomach growl ever more fiercely. As my friend and I shared our escalating hunger and the joyful bliss of tasting our dinners, we got lost in deep conversation in order to distract ourselves. Around us, the restaurant’s atmosphere gave us a cozy haven of friendly chatter and laughter amongst us and our fellow classmates. The soft lighting cast a warm glow over the tables, enriching the ambiance with a golden hue as the evening went on, transforming our dinner into an intimate experience.

Alas, the main courses made their way towards us, and we reveled in the excitement of finally indulging in the long-awaited cuisine. In my dish, the veal was submerged in a sauce of Muenster cheese that promised richness but delivered an aroma that unfortunately clashed with my expectations. The scent was aggressively pungent and evoked the unpleasant image of decay, specifically bringing to my mind the idea of rotting mushrooms. My friend was curious about my dish and tasted the veal. She found the smell less daunting than I did. Though she enjoyed it more than I did, she avoided ordering it for ethical purposes regarding the preparation of veal. Veal is often prepared from young calves not raised to maturity, resulting in tender meat. The controversy surrounding veal lies in the methods of rearing these calves, which many argue are restrictive and unethical. The discord between the veal’s savory taste and its off-putting smell created a sensory clash, making it ever so difficult to appreciate the dish to its fullest. The cheese’s potent fragrance lingered, overshadowing the veal’s innate qualities, and making each attempt to enjoy the meal a struggle against my senses.

In contrast, my friend’s duck was a symphony of delectable sensations. The meat was not just tender but juicy, each bite releasing flavors that carried the mouthwatering aroma of a well-crafted meal. This delightful scent and taste were entirely captivating and completely different from the almost offensive notes that blemished my dish. The duck was paired with the sweet tartness of Mirabelle plums, mainly cultivated in the Lorraine region of France, which offered a flavorful harmony that elevated the dish to a different level. The plums’ subtle acidity and natural sweetness intertwined with the duck’s richness enhanced its flavor, leaving me with a sense of envy. I wrestled with my veal as the duck stood as a taunting reminder of what could have been, a flavorful heaven, deepening my regret over my choice and my discomfort over the uneaten, wasted portion sitting in front of me.

It was time to close our course with one final touch: crème brûlée. As our crème brûlée was served, the anticipation for its classic sweetness was evident among my friend and me. The expectation of its timeless flavors is nuanced with its rich history. This traditional dessert originates back to 17th century France and is known for its strong custard base that contrasts with its caramelized sugar top. It has delighted the palates of many people over centuries, symbolizing culinary elegance. Its flavor has depth yet carries simplicity, and it is a dessert enjoyed by many across the world. After my battle with dinner, I needed the taste of something familiar yet delicious. However, the initial bite brought forth a surprising citrus note, different from its traditional flavor, that sparked a blend of both curiosity and disappointment in me. My friend, initially intrigued by the twist, ultimately shared my thoughts in feeling that the dessert strayed from its usual, appreciated simplicity. This unexpected flavor prompted a reflection that resulted in us leaning toward a preference for the iconic taste of crème brûlée we’ve come to love.

As the evening concluded, I reflected on my experience of the French essence. There was a high of beautiful, delectable flavors combined with a low of unexpected tastes and aromas. After my indulgence, I felt a mixture of satisfaction intertwined with curiosity.

This establishment is one that highlights the beauty and mastery of the renowned French chefs. Each dish tells a story from the pungent Muenster cheese that originates from the Alsace region of France to the rich history of escargot. To me, Mamie M’a dit is the epitome of French cuisine. To anyone who wants a sophisticated, elegant dining experience that immerses them into a whirlwind of fanciful, French flavors, Mamie M’a Dit is definitely the place.