A List of Advice from my Professors, and what all of it means:
This semester at GTL, I am taking four classes with three wonderful professors and two rockin’ TAs. At the beginning of class, usually somewhere between the professor’s introduction of him or herself and the reading of the syllabus, each of my professors have offered a bit of advice to traveling students. Here is a list of some of the sage wisdom of my professors, and how it might help us students balance the chaotic blend of study and travel.
1. It’s a study abroad program, not a travel abroad program.
I am pretty sure every single one of my professors and TA’s reminded us of this fact. Yes, we are here to travel and enjoy our stay, explore Europe and become global citizens. However, most of us chose this program because the engineering classes are comparable to the ones at Georgia Tech. That means that yep, you guessed it, they are going to be a lot of work. Probably more than we are imagining. In the wise words of Professor Patoor, my Deformable Bodies professor, “Leave a little time for studies too, eh!”
2. Planning trips takes time.
In addition to taking Georgia Tech caliber classes, finding our way around a brand new continent, completing our homework, eating and (hopefully) practicing good hygiene, GTL students must learn to become excellent logistics coordinators. Planning a week or so in advance, we have to find hostels or Airbnb’s, plan our train route, find time to see all of the tourist attractions everyone our group is interested in, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is no small feat. According to my wise differential equations professor, Dr. Li, it took past students up to 10 hours per week to adequately plan each weekend trip. Keep that in mind, folks!
3. Do your work in advance!
There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a weekend of travel due to unfinished homework. It is a good idea to plan ahead, and get as much work done as possible before the weekend rolls around and the delightful chaos of traveling ensues. Especially when homework is published to sites like Coursera, says my Circuits TA Brandon Carroll, it is a good idea to work ahead when you have more time, rather than procrastinating and having school cut into your travel time due to your lack of prep. Sorry procrastinators! Time to buckle down and get some work done.
4. Don’t let the checklist mentality get to you
A lot of students, myself included, seem to be stuck in a checklist mentality, meaning we have a long list of places we want to visit and will travel to every place just to say we have been there. My history professor, Dr. Stoneman, advises to pick a place, and really spend time there and get to know the culture and locale. This experience can be more valuable, because it’s much more immersive than the fly-by-tourism that we could thrust ourselves into. This is not to say don’t go to all of the places you want to. Just remember, it’s okay to slow down, or revisit your favorite place. You will come back! And remember, in the words of Dr. Stoneman, “Metz is in Europe too!”
GTL is such a wonderful program, because you can really tell that the staff cares about both your studies and your experiences. And as a brand-spanking-new, fully autonomous, pretty much kid, I must say that the syllabus week advice I received from my professors is very valuable to me and my fellow students.