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.