Mastering Living Abroad: Meet Sarah Malak

Graduate student Sarah Malak is fully immersed in French culture at Georgia Tech-Lorraine while pursuing a dual-degree with French partner school ENSAM(Arts et Métiers Paris Tech).


Posted by Julie

Name: Sarah Malak

Major/Field of Study: Masters (soon to be PhD) in Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 3rd semester

Undergraduate Institution: The University of Akron

What do you want to do with this field? Become a professor.

Why did you choose GTL? It allowed me to attend my favorite university while staying in France.

What research are you pursuing? I am currently doing a project about composites; I will be starting a PhD soon, possibly studying shape memory alloys.

Favorite part of GTL: Having a taste of home here in France.

Best recommendation for other graduate students: Go abroad! Every person should have the experience of living in a country where they don’t speak a word of the language.

Dream destination: To live, the south of France; to visit, Angkor, Cambodia or Bali, Indonesia.

Interests/Hobbies: music (piano, balalaika, Irish fiddle, darbuka, and flute) and dance


Moving to France is apparently very, very difficult for non-European Union citizens, but that wasn’t going to stop Sarah Malak, a graduate student here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Technically, she’s working at an internship this semester, but she’s still nearby and on campus occasionally – and still living her dream.

Her dream was to not just visit, but live in France, and she stands by her choice, thus supporting her reason why graduate students should study abroad: it is invaluable experience to move to a place where you don’t know a single word, and you have to make that learning curve of learning the basics like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” All the simple things like buying groceries and ordering fast food become abnormally difficult, but the learning to adapt is the lesson, and one that will be cherished. For her, GTL was a prime choice, as you get a helping hand in coming to Europe with the basics like housing, but you’re “free to learn and grow on your own.”

In fact, she’s learned a lot: she moved here four years ago, and so between living in France and having a French-speaking husband, is basically fluent (you go girl!). Currently, she’s doing the internship segment of her dual-degree with Georgia Tech-Lorraine and ENSAM here in Metz, where she’s studying composites, but when she returns, she’ll finish her Master’s degree, then pursue a PhD studying shape memory alloys. France was a dream destination for Sarah – and still it remains, as she wants to settle in the south of France.

Outside of school, Sarah maintains her extraordinary lifestyle, as a dancer as well as a musician of multiple instruments, the long list including the piano, balalaika, Irish fiddle, darbuka, and flute. Maybe she lost her flute a while back, but some things you just don’t forget.