Quick Tips for a Successful Start at Georgia Tech-Lorraine

Packing for a semester abroad can be mildly stressful and usually ends with several rounds of packing and unpacking to squeeze everything in (yet something important always goes forgotten). If only there was someone to give you tips on how to successfully pack for your semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine… luckily for you Kaitlyn is here! Read her packing tips and tricks for successfully packing for your semester abroad on her latest blog post!

Thursday, March 4, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

After being at GTL for about a month and a half and talking to others about their adjustment to life in France, I’ve compiled a list of things that are useful to bring with you to GTL, or anything that you might be better off leaving at home. 

Buy the three month Global Eurail pass.

Personally, I spent a lot of time deliberating over whether or not to drop a large sum of cash on the three month Eurail pass, but in the end I believe I went with the right decision. The flexibility that the pass gives you is invaluable; plans change and emergencies happen. Additionally, Metz is situated in a location that can be awkward for plane travel, as the nearest major airports are either in Paris or Luxembourg (which you probably will have to travel to by, you guessed it, train). This makes train travel usually the most convenient way to get around. Many students also recommend getting the mobile pass rather than the physical pass, as it can be easy to lose the paper copy.

Bring waterproof clothes and shoes!

Metz can be very rainy, especially in the winter. It’s worth it to invest in shoes that double as rain boots and casual wear (so you don’t take up too much space in your luggage for a single-purpose item).

Research your favorite items that are difficult to get in Europe.

This could be anything that is something you simply can’t live without. For example, one of my friends is a huge fan of peanut butter, which she later discovered is rather unpopular in Europe. This led to a trip to the Costco in Paris, the only place where we could find large quantities of quality peanut butter. If you’re particular about your stationery, it’s worthwhile to note that notebooks in France are completely different from American ones. Additionally, some spices that you might like to put on your cooking might be hard to find in Europe.

Bring decorations or things that remind you of home.

While it may seem like GTL students are never in their dorms and constantly on the go, we actually still stay in our rooms for a decent amount of time during the week, especially now due to the pandemic. Since the dorms are pretty much barren, it’s nice to have a little something to put up on your walls that make it feel a little cozier.

Try to bring a contactless credit card.

It seems like contactless credit cards are a lot more commonplace in Europe than in America, and some places even only take these types of cards (most notably, Lafayette laundry). 

Don’t bring bulky items that could easily be purchased at Cora or Auchan.

For example, don’t bother bringing hair products like shampoo and conditioner– these can all be bought very easily once you get to Metz. Along the same line, at the beginning of the semester you’ll have access to a donation pile of goods left by previous students, so save your shopping for larger items until after that.

Nice, Menton, and a Little Bit of Italy

Warm sunny skies and gorgeous seas are always nice… especially in Nice! Join Kaitlyn in her latest pun-filled blog as she details her adventures in Nice, Menton, and a little bit of Italy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

Sunshine, breathtaking views, and good company; this trifecta of variables led to what’s been my favorite weekend at Georgia Tech-Lorraine thus far. 

The perfect weekend began at 6AM, with me gingerly stepping around the apartment so as not to wake my friends. I was headed for the beach – which was a mere block from our Airbnb –  to catch the sunrise. An hour and a couple dozen photos later, I retraced my steps back to the apartment to join my friends on our adventure for the day. It was a beautiful day of nearly 70 degree weather and we were determined to take full advantage of it. 

After strolling along the beach where we admired the crystal clear water and had essentially, a mini photoshoot, we set our sights on something protruding out of the skyline of Nice: the ferris wheel. I don’t think I was fully prepared to be as blown away by the view as I was. After all, the ferris wheels I had been on previously only overlooked dirty fairground parking lots. At the very top, we were given a panoramic view of the brightly colored buildings below, the sparking blue water, and the imposing mountains in the distance.

We wandered through the streets of Nice, occasionally ducking into one of the plethora of small shops and bakeries. To my amusement, we were the only ones wearing short-sleeves. The locals must have thought we were nuts for treating 65 degree weather like summer, but, how else are we supposed to act when we’re coming from the much colder north of France? We made our way up to Castle Hill, a panoramic viewpoint that had me humming “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran on the way up. All we could do upon reaching the top was gawk at the views below. I couldn’t believe how aquamarine the water was!

We really do #LoveNice!

The next day, after a series of unfortunate events that involved missing a bus, a tram breaking down, and technical difficulties at the train station, we were on the way to Menton. Our moods were instantly lifted the moment we stepped off the train and saw orange trees. Curiosity got the best of us. We tore into the fruits and chomped down on the juicy slices. Personally, I thought they were delicious, as I love sour food, but my friends… not so much. Looking back, we realized that we had picked the most overripe ones possible!

One of the many street food vendors in Menton.

As we made our way to the main section of town, we could tell immediately that Menton was, simply put, a happy place. Music played from speakers lining the sidewalks, children gleefully rode by on scooters, and the smell of home-cooked food filled the air. I had a quick chat with a very kind employee at the Office du Tourisme, and she gave us suggestions to see the iconic view of the city from the water. When we got there, we were more than content to just sit on the rocks and soak in the vista. 

My postcard lining up perfectly with the skyline!
Bongiorno, Italy! Au revoir, France!

 At this point, I checked Google Maps just because I was curious to see our location. Imagine my surprise when I discovered we were a mere 25 minute walk from the Italian border! My friends decided that there was absolutely no way we were going to pass up the opportunity to say that we walked to Italy, so… to Italy we went. Upon reaching the border, we took pictures and selfies with the Italian flag. The customs officers seemed rather intimidating, so we didn’t get too close, but hey, we made it to another country! 

Nice-cream, get it?

Back in Menton, we treated ourselves to gelato (if we had been in Nice, we could have called it “[N]ice cream”) and leisurely strolled around the city.  I simply couldn’t get over how vibrant the alleyways looked when the sunlight hit the yellow and orange buildings. 

My friends and I agreed that we never imagined we’d love the French Riviera as much as we did. But we were more than pleasantly surprised with our experience. It really helped that most of the activities we did were outdoors and thus, unhindered by the pandemic. All in all, Nice truly lived up to its name. It was lively, colorful, and most of all, nice. You didn’t really expect me not to end this post without a Nice pun, did you?

 

Hiking, Colmar & Mulhouse

Last minute decisions are sometimes the best ones. Join Kaitlyn as she hikes around Metz, visits the fairytale city, Colmar, and takes a brief stop in Mulhouse!

Thursday, February 25, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

FRIDAY

Mont Saint Quentin Views

As an avid fan of hiking and the outdoors, I was looking for places to hike in and around Metz long before I arrived. This past weekend I finally had a chance to venture to the nearby natural wonders with some friends. Gone were the characteristic limestone buildings of downtown Metz and the hullabaloo of the city center; and even though we were still technically in Metz, it felt like we were much farther away.

I got a picture where it *almost* looks like I’m actually doing a pull-up

We peeled ourselves away from the narrow cobblestone streets and toward a dirt path that lead us into the hiking trail system of Mont Saint Quentin. The trails even took us along an exercise course, where we had fun trying to figure out how to use the miscellaneous gym equipment.

SATURDAY

The town of Colmar

I’ve come to realize that I’m a sucker for quite a few things and small, picturesque towns in Europe are quickly earning their place in that list – alongside other things close to my heart, like Krispy Kreme donuts. This past weekend I fell absolutely in love with the town of Colmar, France; a city, funnily enough, my group didn’t even originally plan to visit. A last minute decision led to us hopping off of our train a few stops early in Colmar on our way to our originally planned destination, the town of Mulhouse.

This turned out to be the best decision to make. We spent three hours walking around the “Little Venice” area of the town, appreciating the unique architecture and ducking in and out of open shops. Colmar is nicknamed as “a fairytale village”, and it is often said that it was the inspiration for the setting of The Beauty and The Beast. Walking through the streets certainly felt like I was traversing the pages of a storybook. 

Just your average brunch date in Colmar!

 

We passed by a cafe with the doors wide open. The scrumptious smell wafting through the air was the first thing to capture our attention, but the second was, upon closer inspection, we realized that the seats in the cafe were filled entirely by teddy bears. They ranged in size, color, and age. Seeing teddy bears propped up at the seats of the cafe as if they were on Valentine’s dates just further cemented the whimsical setting of Colmar, and was a bear-y good opportunity for some puns. 

The town of Mulhouse

Feeling content with the delightful scenes we had seen in Colmar, my friends and I returned to the train station to set off to our intended destination, Mulhouse. Mulhouse had a much more industrial vibe than the whimsical streets of Colmar. The main square of Mulhouse was as colorful and picturesque and the streets were teeming with fashionable shoppers walking in and out of the multitude of clothing stores. We did some window shopping until the clock struck 5:30PM, which was our cue to head to the train station to return home. On our ride back to Metz, I was surprised with a small treat: a view of the sun dipping below the mountains with hardly a cloud in sight.

Things to Do in Metz

Metz may be known for being in the heart of Europe, where it is easy to travel between many countries, but the city itself is a fantastic place to visit! Join Kaitlyn as she catalogues some suggestions of things to do in Metz while visiting Georgia Tech-Lorraine in her latest blog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

While at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, you’ll probably find yourself on one of the following extremes at some point in your semester: either fervently researching far-away places to get away to, or longing for a weekend where you don’t have to worry about traveling after a chaotic school week. This post is for the times when you feel like having a calm weekend, or just for when you find yourself with extra time on your hands. Below is a list of things to do and places to go, all in the amazing city Metz that I hope you enjoy!

Hiking Mont Saint Quentin

Views from Mont Saint Quentin

Any observer looking northwest from downtown Metz will see a mountain sticking out like a sore thumb among the flat plains that surround it. This is Mont Saint Quentin, and it has an abundance of trail networks all over it. To get there, my hiking buddies and I took the C15 bus to the Plappeville bus station, which drops you off 5 minutes from one of the entrances to the trail system. I recommend walking around the neighborhood a little before you begin your hike; the quaint streets and views of Metz below are worth seeing. The mountain itself has even better views of the city!

Strolling Around Downtown Metz

A view of the Moselle River

Even though I’ve been here just over a month, every time I head downtown I find myself pleasantly surprised by a new discovery. Metz is such a charming city and is rich with history that practically oozes from the architecture seen downtown.

View from the Rue des Murs

 

A great place to see an example of this is Avenue Foch, where you can walk through a park in the middle of the street, surrounded by buildings on either side. As I learned in my INTA class, the  the architecture on Avenue Foch is so drastically different from the rest of the city due to the area being constructed during the German annexation of the city. Another incredible view of the city can be obtained along Rue des Murs (which I also discovered through our INTA class – shoutout to Professor Serafin for writing the guided tour!). From the street, you’re able to gaze above the rooftops of Metz.

Plan d’eau and Other Parks

The plan d’eau

Metz has been praised as one of the greenest cities in France, and for good reason. There is an abundance of parks and green spaces located within Metz that are perfect for a stroll or a picnic. Some of these are the Plan D’eau (you can see the cathedral from here), the Esplanade and surrounding gardens, and the Parc de la Seille. Each of these offer a welcome escape from the busier aspects of the city.

Biking Metz

During the first week of classes, a local bike rental company visits GTL with a special discounted rate for students to rent their bikes for three months. I believe any students with even just a slight interest in this should take advantage of it, just because it’s so inexpensive and opens up possibilities for trips around Metz. A friend recently rode his bike to Pagny-sur-Moselle, where he was able to tour the town. He recounted how immersed he felt in the small village, as opposed to the more touristy cities he’s traveled to so far. He recommends checking out other small towns around Metz by bike to get a better feel for the French way of life.

Meet the Bureau des Étudiants!

The Bureau des Étudiants (BDE) is the student organization on Georgia Tech-Lorriane’s campus responsible for planning student socials! Meet a few members of this semester’s Bureau des Étudiants (BDE) as Kaitlyn reports on their hopes for the rest of the semester in her latest blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

This past week, students at GTL cast their vote for the Bureau des Étudiants, nicknamed the BDE. Despite certain restrictions we might be facing this semester, its officers are off to a great start on planning exciting activities for the students at GTL. Read on to see what three BDE officers have in mind for this semester!

Pranav Sreedhar (Treasurer)

PranavPranav is a first-year electrical engineering major originally from India, but currently living in Paris. As treasurer of the BDE, he plays a major role in allocating funds towards student events. 

 

 

What do you hope to accomplish in your position as treasurer?

With the budget in mind, I hope I can prioritize the events the majority of the student body wants. I hope to also create an efficient system of managing funds and keeping track of invoices. Hopefully, my fellow students feel comfortable coming up to me and sharing ideas on making this a semester to remember!

Any events you might want to make sure Bureau des Étudiants does?

Given the current pandemic, it has been hard for students to meet others, so as a BDE member I would like to organize events where people come together, enjoy and meet new people while keeping in mind the current regulations to keep everyone safe. The first of those events that we plan to organize is a ping pong tournament, and we really hope that people participate and use this opportunity to meet people. We hope to organize more events such as escape rooms and chocolate tasting as the situation improves!

Tell me a bit more about yourself!

I love to play sports, especially tennis and ping pong, so you’ll probably see me playing ping pong in the student lounge.  With the quarantine, I have been binge watching A LOT of shows. It’s hard to say what my all-time favorite show is but some that I really enjoyed were Better Call Saul, Friends, Jane the Virgin, and Attack on Titan. I love listening to music. You’ll probably see me vibing to some Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Juice WRLD, or The Kid Laroi, or relaxing to some classics or Bollywood. As an EE major you’d probably expect this, but I love working on robotics or coding in my free time too.  I also have a twin brother, Vignesh Sreedhar, who is also at Tech and a member of the BDE. I hope to get to know all of you and have a great semester despite the current pandemic!

Amanda Wang (Secretary)

Amanda is a second-year civil engineering major from Lilburn, GA. She is excited to fulfill her role as secretary for BDE by ensuring smooth communication between the board and the student body. 

 

What do you hope to accomplish in your position as secretary?

I want to make sure communication about events flows smoothly to keep students informed about any activities that we might plan. I’m also hoping to create meeting agendas that will keep the BDE organized. 

Any events you might want to make sure BDE does?

I think painting would be a fun activity for students to participate in. We are also currently planning on getting some food trucks to come to the GTL building, which I think would be a great way for us to learn more about French cuisine while getting to experience it first-hand. Other than that, I am looking forward to planning the ping-pong tournament. 

Vignesh Sreedhar (Sports Coordinator)

Vignesh is a first year majoring in computer science. Like his twin brother, Pranav, he’s originally from India but is living in Paris at the moment.

 

 

 

What do you hope to accomplish in your position as sports coordinator?

The BDE didn’t get to plan much in terms of sports last semester due to the lockdown about a month and a half after the start of the semester, but hopefully we can accomplish a lot more this semester. We have lots of options for any sports events, especially with the ping pong table in the student lounge, and all the lawn space we have. I’m hoping to get students excited for any events we host! 

Any events you might want to make sure BDE does?

As sports coordinator, I’m working on planning a ping pong tournament. We have some fun ideas for it, like doing a competition between the Lafayette and ALOES dorms. Some other ideas I have are ultimate frisbee, escape rooms, trivia nights, and treasure/scavenger hunts around Metz. We have a pretty good budget for these things so we have a lot of possibilities.

À Paris

Join Kaitlyn on her journey through Paris from panoramic views from Sacré-Cœur to cozy bookshops and of course, the Eiffel Tower. It wouldn’t be Paris without visiting the Eiffel tower, right? Read her tale as she describes her visits to both tourist destinations and some lesser-known spots in Paris in her latest blog!

Thursday, February 11, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

On Thursday, we arrived in Paris from Metz right before the 6:00 pm curfew so we only had time to grab some dinner before rushing to our Airbnb. One thing you should know about me is that I’m a huge Chipotle fan, so my excitement upon learning that there are multiple Chipotle locations in Paris, and that my travel companions and I are very like-minded when it comes to this restaurant chain was unparalleled. Some may judge us for not jumping at the opportunity to try French food in Paris, but to me, there are few things better in life than taking a bite out of a Chipotle chicken burrito. 

cut out photo in paris
Ah, a cutout photo, a CLASSIC.

On Friday we got up early to do a “speed-run” of Paris. It was a rare sunny day, so we had to take advantage of it by seeing all of the sights. We started off by taking the very steep climb up to the Sacré-Cœur where we took in the view of the basilica towering over the city. Of course, we took photos and selfies that included a lovely cut-out of me as a painting, and my friend as a painter that I just had to take a photo with. We continued to walk around the neighborhood of Montmatre, which is best known for once serving as the home of famed artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso. To top off exploring Monmartre, we stumbled upon an open crepe shop where mouth-watering scents permeated the air. I never would have thought that something as simple as lemon juice and a crepe could be so delicious, but I was proven wrong. We also visited “The Love Wall”, a mural where the words “I love you” are written in every language. 

The Love wall
The obligatory Paris Eiffel Tower picture
The obligatory Paris Eiffel Tower picture

Our speed run of Paris continued with taking the metro to the Arc de Triomphe, walking down the extremely “boujee” Champs Elysees, then, of course, the Eiffel Tower. While taking goofy photos at the Eiffel Tower, the classic shifted-perspective ones where you make it seem like you’re holding the tower, or leaning up against it, a man selling souvenirs came up to us. He saw us struggling and wanted to help us take some better photos. He had us line up and jump up at the same time, which he recorded in slow motion, and then screenshotted at the exact moment we were all in the air.  I was pretty impressed with his photography abilities, and grateful he offered to help us.  

an image of costco
Costco, an essential Paris bucket list item

We ended the day with the only thing in Paris that might be better than the Eiffel Tower — French Costco. It’s hard to explain how comforting it felt to walk in and feel completely at home with things like the layout of the store and the familiar smell of Costco muffins.  To quote my friend, “You know you’re a dedicated patron when you make the pilgrimage to French Costco”.

an image of the front door of the bookshop
The Abbey Bookshop, a famed english book shop in Paris

 

 

On Saturday, the weather wasn’t as cooperative as we would have liked, but we made the most of it by exploring the Latin Quarter. We checked out two famous English bookshops: the Abbey Bookshop and Shakespeare & Company.  Walking up to these bookshops, with their weather-beaten outdoor bookcases and faded signage felt like entering a different Paris – an older, quieter one. Inside Shakespeare & Co., I wandered to the second floor where I encountered a very disgruntled looking cat. I sat down next to it, and the next thing I knew, she had crawled into my lap. She gave off strong grumpy cat vibes but I loved her for it.

aggie the cat
Aggie the bookshop cat looking very annoyed by me and my camera

Paris surprised me, and I found myself charmed by the many places to visit a little off the beaten track. When I return, I’ll be sure to do some more exploring around lesser-known neighborhoods, and of course, I’ll make a visit to see my new feline friend.

Chamonix & Lyon

Join Kaitlyn as she slips and slides her way through the snow in the city of Chamonix, nestled in the French Alps. The second part of her weekend journey carries her from the snowy alps to the metropolitan Lyon to explore all the city has to offer. Read on about her adventures in this blog you won’t want to miss.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

DAY ONE

an image of the alps from a train
One view of many from one of the many trains we took

Despite the weather forecast telling us that there was a one-hundred percent chance of snow (in addition to the two feet currently on the ground) my friends and I took a chance and ventured to Chamonix, a small town in the French Alps. Chamonix might not be the most easily accessible place, but is definitely a beautiful one. We transferred trains eight times to get to our final destination; each train with views prettier than the next, with our final train feeling more like a ski lift than a train. We were rewarded for our train hopping with breathtaking panoramic views of ice capped peaks and dreamy small villages blanketed in several feet of snow.

a view at a a snowy village
A lovely view of the snowy village from our Airbnb

One we were off the train, we quickly learned why shoveling sidewalks is commonplace in the United States after it snows. The walkways were iced over and it was pretty impossible to avoid slipping. So, we slipped, skidded, slid – all of the verbs that begin with “s” – our way around the downtown area. We grabbed some groceries from the local supermarket (in particular, ingredients for pasta, the hungry college student’s best friend and one of my best dishes) and ordered some sugar and Nutella crêpes from a makeshift crêpe stand on the side of the road. With the crepes warming our hands, we headed to our home for the night.

DAY TWO

After eating an extremely hearty breakfast of leftover bread, we set off to go for a hike. I know you may be thinking,“Hiking… In winter? With three feet of snow on the ground?” Those thoughts were the very ones running through my head at the beginning of our very steep, uphill hike. We felt mildly insane, as the only sign that someone or something else had been on the trail recently were some tracks left by a deer. At first, we were worried about getting our feet wet, but we quickly realized with snow  up to our knees, our feet would inevitably be soaked through. By the end of the hike we had fully embraced the experience and just had fun plowing through the snow. The views were gorgeous, and we felt very fortunate that there was a break in the snowfall that let us see the mountains and take some photos.

an image of Kaitlyn in the Alps
I can now say that I’ve hiked the Alps!

 

DAY THREE

stairs in Lyon, France
Exploring Lyon, France

The second and final leg of our trip took us to the city of Lyon, France. We met up with a few other Georgia Tech-Lorraine students and spent the day exploring the city. Our first stop was at a park that had an outdoor zoo. It was quite jarring to be taking a walk in the park and then run into a zebra enclosure a second later, but after a bit of a laugh I found the experience quite enjoyable. The city of Lyon had lots of other things to offer, and we tried to take as much advantage of this as we could. We stopped at a delicious bakery where we ordered its famous meringue and at the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, which required a very steep climb up many staircases to reach. Even as I huffed and puffed when we reached the top of the stairs, I couldn’t help but gape at the panoramic view of Lyon and its iconic red rooftops.

a view of Lyon

What I’ve Made in Metz So Far: My Dishes Ranked

Join Kaitlyn as she ranks her culinary creations while living in Metz with her newfound cooking skills.

Thursday, February 4, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

As my family and friends know well, I am not the most… skilled at cooking. When I am feeling generous, I would rate my culinary skills as solid 4/10. Though this semester in Metz has taken some adjustment, a large part of that adjustment has not been living in a foreign country,  but rather learning to feed myself without the safety net of a meal plan or my mom’s cooking. So, I thought, in the spirit of my new found culinary skills, I would rank a select few of the dishes I’ve made in my dorm thus far, from worst to best.

The time I burned water. I never would have thought this was possible, but you learn something new every day, right? This shocking incident occurred when I heated up my empty frying pan and suddenly, smelled the unmistakable scent of something burning. Turns out, there was a little bit of soapy water leftover from when I had previously washed the pan and it burnt when it hit the hot stovetop.

A very crispy quesadilla. I was in the middle of video calling a friend back home while attempting to make a quesadilla, my fatal mistake.

very burnt quesadilla
I hope you like your quesadillas very, VERY, crispy.

Imagine my surprise when my very pale tortilla began to smoke. Confused, I flipped the seemingly underdone quesadilla over to discover a disconcertingly dark underside. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “that might be the cause of the billowing smoke.” I panicked for approximately four seconds, then realized I should probably do something to avoid setting off the smoke alarm. How mad would everyone be if the alarm went off and they had to trudge out of their rooms into the cold at 9PM? It could have been an opportunity to learn some new french curses, but I decided it would be best to just remedy the issue. I cracked my window open and held my pan outside to let the smoke blow into the night. Later, after recounting the night’s events to my friend across the hall from me, she only chuckled and said “Oh yeah, I keep smelling stuff burning from your room”.

A nice warm bowl of chili… or not. On one of the many cold, rainy days we have had in Metz, the idea to make a large, comforting pot of chili to warm myself up popped into my head. Naively, I thought to myself, “How hard could it be? I just need to throw a few things in a pot, right?” As I now know, there is much more involved in making chili than simply just throwing things in a pot.  Most of the recipes that I read online called either for using a slow cooker, which I unfortunately do not have, or for a few hours of cooking chili, which I also did not have. This was news to me, but apparently, throwing some canned tomato puree in a pot along with meat and vegetables isn’t quite enough to taste good. I was still determined to get my chili though, so the next time I went grocery shopping I settled for purchasing an already prepared can.

Pasta. Pasta, in any form is a truly classic meal. It is relatively difficult to mess up, but with my track record I am rating my rendition relatively high – both for not having burned it and for having completed it. The only thing I haven’t liked about my pasta dishes is the frozen meatballs I’ve gotten from Cora, finally something I can vindicate myself from blame for. Hopefully, a trip to an Ikea (maybe even the original Ikea in Sweden?) for some Swedish meatballs will be able to elevate my spaghetti and meatballs dish. For now, my specialty will remain pesto pasta.

Pretty successful pad thai! At last, a successful dinner.

an image of Kaitlyn's pad thai
Successful pad thai? I’ll let you be the judge of that… at the very least it looks delicious.

A friend and I pooled together the odds and ends from our fridges to make some pad thai. Thanks to the magic of pad thai sauce and some fancy garnishing with lemons, we were pleasantly surprised at our creation. In hindsight, maybe the key to making it taste good was covering the dish in sriracha, which, given my previous cooking experiences, seems highly likely.

Summits above Switzerland

Join Kaitlyn as she visits a place she’s dreamt of – Switzerland. Read her story– one filled with chocolate, chess, and snow capped mountains– in her latest blog post!

 

Thursday, January 28, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

From the Appalachians to the Sierra Nevadas, my favorite family trips growing up were always the ones we took to visit the great mountains of the United States. As I spent my time staring at and summiting peaks, I’ve always dreamt of being surrounded by the majesty of the alps. This weekend my travel companions and I journeyed to Luzern and Zurich, Switzerland to make what was once a distant dream, reality. 

Day 1

My group and I left Thursday morning to start our multi-train journey towards Luzern. Our travel went relatively smoothly… except for one of our transfers in Basel. We only had a few minutes to change trains and ended up sprinting to catch our next one before it departed. The nine of us running at full speed through a small train station must have been quite a sight to the other travelers.  While I was sprinting, I looked to my right to see a small Swiss boy take one glance at us, then start sprinting in the same direction. I was so focused on catching my train, I never glanced back to see if he realized there was no reason for him to run.

swan in a lake Once we caught our breath (safely on our train) we were able to fully take in the scenery as we rode closer to Luzern. In the span of just four hours, we had gone from viewing the lush green countryside of France to staring, awestruck, at the snow capped mountains of the Alps. We arrived in Luzern in the mid-afternoon, and had a few hours to kill before we could check into our Airbnb. So, we did as one would do upon arriving in a foreign city: we explored. It was a beautiful, partly sunny day (something that is hard to come by this time of year in Metz) and we took full advantage of it. We came across an urban park where two old men were playing giant chess. I’ve never played a game of chess, but I watched Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, so that must count for something right? Lack of chess knowledge notwithstanding, it was enjoyable to observe the men amicably argue back and forth in German. Our last activity for the day was hiking up to the top of a very tall hill. Standing on the top, I came to the conclusion Luzern has a sort of indescribable charm I could never aptly write about as I took in the view of the lights of the city.

Day 2

church in luzern Luzern still had plenty more to offer, so we spent our second day continuing to explore the city. A friend and I split off from our group and wandered around with no specific destination in mind. We walked into a stunning cathedral which reminded me more of a Disney princess’ castle than the typical gothic European cathedral. The ornate details of the architecture took my breath away upon our arrival. Instead of being made of stone and stained glass, it was covered in white and pink plaster and embellished with perfectly placed gold accents. chocolates, yum!After our time in the cathedral, we checked off a Swiss must-do: eating delicious Swiss chocolate. It might have been expensive, as everything in Switzerland is, but I can say with confidence that it was worth every Franc.

Day 3

zurich street photo Luzern treated us well, but we wanted to see more of what Switzerland has to offer, so we took a day trip to Zurich (only a 50 minute train ride from Luzern). One of our first stops was to grab lunch from a kebab restaurant. I have a feeling that this might be a recurring destination throughout my time traveling in Europe, as we also ate kebabs the previous day. It’s filling, delicious, and relatively cheap which is all a college student could ever ask for. After exploring the streets of the city, we hopped on a bus to Uetliberg, which is affectionately nicknamed the top of Zurich. To anyone who visits Zurich, I highly recommend you visit Uetliberg. We climbed the mountain to the summit, where we saw the entirety of Zurich below us, and the Alps above us in the distance. It was a fantastic way to end our last day in Switzerland and a truly breathtaking experience, mostly from the beautiful views, but partially from the steep uphill climb.top of zurich picture

Un Sac, S’il Vous Plaît & More First Moments in Metz

Join Kaitlyn as she details her first few days of living in Metz and the insights she’s gained from her new experiences.

Friday, January 22, 2020 | Written by Kaitlyn

Hello, all! As I sit at my desk in my dorm room, I believe I’m just starting to take in the fact that I’m in France, about as far away from home as I could be. Gone are the days of enjoying the comfort and security of home cooked meals and only ever leaving my house to walk my dog around the neighborhood (thanks, pandemic!). In their place are days full of adventurous attempts at cooking for myself and thrilling strolls around Metz and all it has to offer. It’s certainly a pretty intense shift from the past nine months of small-town America, but I know I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I feel so fortunate to be embarking on this journey. 

Flying into Paris with the moon overhead.

In the past ten days, I’ve learned so much about the French lifestyle, met so many incredible people, and seen so many beautiful sights, that it is all a bit overwhelming – but, I think that I can summarize my experience so far into a few key learning experiences and observations. Let’s jump right into it.

French customs agents? Anything but intimidating. When packing for this trip, one of the most important things we needed to bring was a plethora of documents. Documents showing proof of residence, negative COVID-19 test results, visas, insurance – you name it, we needed it. However, when we stumbled off the plane upon landing at Charles De Gaulle, and lined up to go through customs, we had a much easier process than expected. Maybe it’s because we are innocuous American college students? Either way, I was more than happy for the straightforward procedure.

Me, when I realized that I would actually need to speak French to get by while living in France.

Come physically and mentally prepared to Cora. After arriving at our dorms, a group of us decided to head to Cora, or as I choose to call it, French Super Walmart. When I and a couple others went to go check out, we realized that unlike most places in America, there were no grocery bags available; all the locals we saw around us had brought their own. Upon seeing this, I’ll admit I started to get a little nervous. How was I going to ask for a bag from the cashier? There wasn’t enough time to frantically Google “How to ask for a bag in French,” so I stuffed my newly purchased goods into my backpack (tragically crushing my chocolate croissants in the process), and resigned to hugging my bundle of paper towels against my chest on the walk back. My goal for my next trip to Cora will be to ask the cashier, “Je peux avoir un sac, s’il vous plaît?”

GTL couldn’t have been put in a better location. On Saturday we were given a tour of downtown Metz. I was instantly enchanted by the cobblestone streets lined with bakeries and shops, the cheerfully yellow buildings, and the general infectious liveliness of the city. We stopped at the most notable areas and buildings, then were left on our own to wander around. My group and I headed toward the Moselle river. We were greeted with a breathtaking view of Temple Neuf, lit up with its reflection shining in the water, and the cathedral glowing warmly in the distance.

Colors dancing on the walls of the cathedral.

The next day, we headed back downtown. It was a bit of a struggle catching a bus – we were about ten feet from making it to the bus stop when the bus we intended to hop onto blew right by us and the bus stop, not even slowing down for just a second. However, I am happy to report that we did eventually catch a bus and arrive downtown. We walked around the quiet streets (most places are closed on Sundays), taking in the sights with no specific direction in mind. A few of my favorite things I saw included: the Cathedral of Saint Stephen, where the sunlight shined vibrantly through the stained glass, a pair of ambitious swans looking for food along the river, and last but certainly not least, a delicious crepe that I consumed within seconds. 

Make the most of our time here. As a very wise person once said: “YOLO”. I like to think that this applies to studying abroad. Even just after a few days of living in a new country, I’ve had so much fun from figuring things out, experiencing French culture, and exploring Metz. Though it may be slightly more difficult to abide by this saying with certain restrictions in place such as a curfew, I like to think that there’s still so much at our fingertips while here in the heart of Europe. I’m very excited to see what’s coming up in these next four months, and I can’t wait to continue documenting it all here on the blog.