Meet Romain: Grad Student and All-Around Chill Dude

Meet one of GTL’s graduate students: this time, Romain, who is researching in GTL’s robotics lab – and knows just what college students want. (Student discounts.)

After exchanging a few jokes about volunteering his friend for the interview in his place, Romain and I sat together at a table in the student commons of the GTL building. Romain Amuat is studying Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition to having a talent for making everyone he interacts with laugh, he is also incredibly driven and intelligent. His interview is as follows.

Why did you choose to go to GTL?
“I have always wanted to study in the U.S. Georgia Tech-Lorraine is the best university that I could attend out of the ones offered from my school. In the French system, many students choose the double diploma program, where you get a degree from both France and the United States. This can be very helpful when looking for jobs. With the program, I spend 6 months in Metz, here at GTL, then I spend 6 months in an internship for real experience, and then I spend 6 months in Atlanta, following my dream of studying in the United States.”

What can you tell me about your research?
“In this 6 months I am working on a project making a robot to automate the detection of failures in a material. The robot can detect problems and send the data back to the engineers, who can fix the problem faster. I also get to work with an American undergraduate student named Bharath, which is good to help me practice English.

What do you like to do outside of research?
“I love to play guitar. My favorite type of music to play is rock and alt-rock. My favorite band is the Rolling Stones. They are really fun to play as well. I also play rugby, which is like the French/European version of American football.

What advice would you give to American students studying in Metz?
Really look for those student discounts. No really, they are everywhere; they are at the cinema, they are at fast food restaurants. All you have to do is show your ID, and you can sometimes get more than 40% off the price of working people. It’s great to be a student. It almost makes me want to be a student forever. Also, it’s good to learn a little French. The French will love it if you try to speak in their language, even if it is wrong, and they will help you much better.

Tune in next week as Sam talks about Porte Ouverte, the awesome event happening this weekend for French high school students.

Salzburg: A History of Generally Salty People

Where in the world was “The Sound of Music” filmed? That’s where Lina went this weekend – check out why its people are known for their salt.

Salzburg translates quite literally to Salt Mountain. Why is this beautiful alpine city where The Sound of Music takes place called salt mountain, you ask? Well, throughout history, the Salzburg area has been sustained through salt mining and trading. In 1517, exactly 500 years ago, some lucky miners found a salt deposit inside a mountain. Salt, a traditionally valuable and difficult substance to obtain, put the region on the map.
We started our trip to Salzburg with a traditional meal of wienerschnitzel and gulasch. Then it was early to bed to wake up for our bus to the Berchtesgaden salt mines. After missing our bus, one could say I was a bit…hem…salty…but we made it in time for our tour. The mine, 500 years old this year and still active today is located in a beautifully snowy area of the Austrian-German alps. At the beginning of the tour, we were all provided with some coveralls and an English audio guide for the area.

I’ve got salt, but I’m not salty!

We began by boarding a small train, where you straddled a bench and hold onto the person in front of you. We zoomed through about a mile of narrow tunnels so small that if you leaned even 6 inches to the side you would hit your head on the tunnel wall. Once in the main area of the mine, you slide down a 6 story wooden slide to reach the bottom area.
Over the course of the tour, we learned that salt is produced by drilling large cavities in the tunnel floors and filling them with water to leach the salt out of the surrounding rock. Then the sludgy brine is pumped to a facility about 100 km away to be super-heated and treated to produce to the pure, white table salt that we eat today. We have used this technique of drilling and flooding since the mine’s foundation in 1517 (although we have become considerably more efficient and high-tech since then).

Mid-slide into the depths of the mines, my companions and I are having a great time.

The town of Salzburg itself is perched between soaring mountains. The old city feels like it is one giant building full of a spaghetti-like mess of tunnels, alleys, and tiny-hole-in-the-wall bakeries and breweries. It seems to be purposely designed to confuse and hopelessly befuddle tourists. One of my favorite things to do in the city was travel up to the city fortress. In addition to amazing views of the city, the fortress contains a museum that details the entire military history of Austria, starting in Roman times, going all the way through World War II.

The view from the Fortress.

As a huge musical theater nerd and Julie Andrews fangirl, seeing the city’s Sound of Music images was awesome! The fountain, the Dom Cathedral, and the Abby made me sing “The Hills are Alive” at the top of my lungs pretty much constantly, much to the chagrin of my traveling companions.

This is the inside of the Dom Cathedral.

Even though it was freezing cold, the trip to Salzburg felt really culturally immersive. I would highly recommend it if you have been traveling to a lot of big cities and want to have a more colloquial experience. That’s all for this post. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and goodbye!

Meet Your RA: Sahithi

Meet Sahithi, one of Lafayette’s awesome RA’s! She’s got loads of experience – and already some stories to tell!

A third year, movie-watching, music-listening, Computer Engineering major. Just a few words to describe Sahithi Bonala, an RA here at GTL. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Bonala, and I started off our conversation with a couple basic umbrella questions about different aspects of her life. For Sahithi’s spring semester at GTL, she is taking ECE 3084, ECE 2036, ISYE 3770 (statistics), and COE 2001 (statics). She admitted that, as most undergraduate students, she isn’t quite sure what she wants to do after college. However, she does have a special interest in low level software, so she would “like to work in the realm of embedded systems, but that’s about it.” In her free time, Sahithi also likes to dance, and she has recently taken up journalism as a hobby. With that, I was on to getting to know a bit about a pretty awesome GTL RA!

When Sahithi was a sophomore, her parents didn’t want her living off campus, so she figured that the best alternative to living in an apartment with some of her friends was to become an RA. She said to me that being an RA has been a very rewarding experience, with strong friendships formed, and an uplifting community that she otherwise would not have known: “I’ve worked with freshman, transfer, and exchange students so far. Each community has something unique to offer and teach me new things.” As an RA at GTL, Sahithi is on duty twice a week, helping Karen Pierce with any tasks she may need help with. Most of the tasks she is asked to perform involve relaying information to residents, which, Sahithi says, is nice because it is not so demanding. I proceeded to ask her if there are any difficulties with her tasks as an RA here, to which she responded, “We try our best to be the best resource we can be to students here. Unfortunately, since we are new here just like everyone else, it’s hard to always have answers.”

More interested in her role when Ms. Pierce wasn’t around, I asked Sahithi if she had any trouble with the residents yet. Her response started with a particularly exciting story. “On my duty night a couple of days ago, a few residents came back to Lafayette around 3am. They started fighting over something outside the building and I could hear them from my room. So I got out of bed and told them to go to their rooms.” She admits that this incident was the most action and excitement she had seen so far as an RA, to which I assured her that since it’s only week three, there were sure to be much more thrilling situations, and wished her the best of luck! After that anecdote, she told me that for the most part, everyone in Lafayette had been very friendly, and that everyone seemed to respect others in the community. “People are also pretty social in this dorm, so doors are always open and there’s usually music playing in some of the hallways, which is really nice.”

Not wanting to focus only on Sahithi’s RA stories, I changed the subject to travel, and I asked her describe her trips so far. The first weekend she was here, she visited the Loire Valley in central and southern France, noting that “[it] was a pretty neat area, we visited around 4 to 5 castles. The prettiest was the one that inspired a fairy tale. It was beautiful, but we couldn’t actually go in because someone lives in the castle now and it’s only open to visitors during certain times of the year.” Her next weekend in France, she visited Paris, which she says was amazing and full of fun times. While in Paris, she was able to explore the Musée of Orsay, which was her favorite because it was built into an old train station. Aside from typical tourist activities, her and a friend hit up a lot of different restaurants and food stands, and had a blast going through all of Paris’s little shops and boutiques. She has never traveled on her own like this before, and she’s been loving every minute of it. Sahithi cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring!

Here’s a little story that Sahithi left the interview with, “Something interesting that happened is that my friend purchased a Louis Vuitton wallet while in Paris. A couple hours after she bought it, we went to Briore Dioche (a restaurant) to grab some dinner before catching our train back to Metz. We were sitting on the tables directly outside of the restaurant. We set our bags down next to us, on the side that was next to the wall. Someone sat at the table directly behind my friend and stole her newly purchased Louis Vuitton wallet. She realized it within less than five minutes. She told the Manager of the store and the security guard immediately. The manager was super helpful. He pulled up the security footage and showed us how the man had stolen her bag. He also had the security guard bring the local police to us. The police took the information and told us we should file a complaint at the police station because if we don’t then they can’t arrest the thieves. So we started heading to the station but ten minutes into the walk over the police called us to tell us they had caught the thieves. At the end of the day the thieves had been caught and and wallet was recovered as well.” Whew!

All throughout this crazy experience, anyone who was involved in getting to the bottom of the situation was extremely helpful and kind to Sahithi and her friend. She says that there are two morals to this story: You can never be too careful with your belongings (and if you think your stuff won’t be stolen in Paris, think again), and French people (and the police especially) are extremely kind and helpful, so if you’re ever in a questionable situation don’t be afraid to reach out to them as soon as possible!

Dorm Room Cooking Hacks

It seems food is on the brain. Lina has some suggestions on how to make easy AND delicious meals – no matter what your dorm style.

I live in Aloes, which is great in its proximity to Cora and GTL, as well as its reasonable price. The only drawback is the fact that you have to use the communal kitchens for cooking. They are often a bit too crowded, and let’s face it, I am a bit too lazy to carry all my pots, pans and cooking supplies down to the kitchen. So, as a resourceful young student, I have learned to make a few hot meals using a microwave, toaster oven, and tea kettle.
Ok, so Aloes rooms don’t come with toaster ovens and kettles, but you can buy both at Cora for under 30 euros. Definitely worth it!
Having a toaster oven effectively means that you have an oven. My favorite thing to make in my toaster oven is loaded potatoes. It’s quick, easy, and really good.
Loaded Potatoes
  • New potatoes (that are small enough to cook in the toaster oven)
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese (I find that Cora’s 3 cheese blend is nice)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Canned corn
  • Chives
  • Optional: Add some crumbled up cold cuts! I had some leftover chicken that I sprinkled on top
  1. Stab the potatoes with a fork and brush with olive oil
  2. Wrap in foil, and let bake in the toaster oven for 45 minutes, or until soft
  3. Take out the potatoes and cut a slit down the middle. Place cheese, tomato sauce, corn and meat inside.
  4. Put the loaded potatoes back in the toaster oven and bake for another 5 minutes
  5. Enjoy!

    Reheating one of my baked potatoes I made earlier this week.

Having a kettle is a great way to boil water without a pan and stove. I like to make hard boiled eggs, pasta and rice. If you are making pasta or rice, use a thermal bag (sold at Cora), to make sure that the pasta and rice on the heating element don’t burn up.

I drink tea every time I get back from school. I love my kettle. Her name is Roberta.
The other food that turns out really well in the toaster oven is quesadillas! Below is my favorite recipe, although you can make all kinds of variations of quesadillas.
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Mexican cheese blend
  • Onions
  • Green Peppers
  • Tomato
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Chorizo (pre cooked, sold at Cora)
  • Rice
  1. Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice onions, green peppers, and the tomato.
  3. Place a tortilla out flat, and on half of it, put a layer of cheese, peppers, onions and tomato. Sprinkle chorizo inside.
  4. Fold tortilla in half and place it in the toaster oven for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  5. Enjoy with rice (as pictured below), cooked in a tea kettle!
For especially lazy days, Cora microwavable meals come in clutch.
Doesn’t that sound appetizing? I know right? My mouth is just watering writing this blog. Ok, ok, this recipe is absolutely mouth watering. I love popcorn, especially the caramel variety. It’s really impossible to find it in France though. This recipe is the perfect cure for homesickness.

Caramel Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup un-popped popcorn
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt + more for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda


  1. Pop ½ cup uncooked popcorn and place in a large brown paper bag (sold at Cora).
  2. To make the caramel, throw the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and kosher salt in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. After one minute, take it out and stir it and then microwave it again for 1 minute or until boiling. Be careful not to burn it!
  3. Add baking soda and vanilla to caramel and mix it up.
  4. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir it up in the brown bag.
  5. Roll down the top of the brown paper bag and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 1 minute. Remove from microwave, keeping the bag closed, and shake it vigorously. The microwave for another minute, and shake it up again.
  6. Pour some salt in the bag to taste and shake it up.
  7. Enjoy!

Paris: The City of Rivets

Dreaming of Paris? Take a peek into Lina’s itinerary this past weekend – and learn a few facts about the city, too!

Ah, the city of love. It is a place chock-full of art, architecture, and history. I mean, if you tried to read the entire history of Paris, you would be reading a book and not this blog post. Instead, I will let you in on some eclectic historical trivia that I encountered on my way through the city.
Upon arrival in Paris, after checking into our cozy bed and breakfast, my companions and I metro-ed over to the Champs-Élysees, which is a beautiful street populated with high-end fashion stores, restaurants and car makers. It is also the street on which the Arc De Triomphe is located. It was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, then emperor of France. He wanted a monument to represent the glory of France’s grand army. The Arc has been very symbolic throughout France’s history. Every time Paris is taken over, either by the Germans such as in 1940, or taken back by the French, such as in 1945, victory marches are led beneath the Arc. This occurred in World War I as well. Standing beneath it was truly awe-inspiring.

The Arc de Triumph is the perfect monument to show military prowess.
Would any Paris post be complete without the Eiffel Tower? The tower was initially built for the World’s Fair in 1889. The main architects for the project, Maurice Koechlin and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, had previously worked on the Statue of

Pictured above: A small blonde blogger and about 2.5 million rivets

Liberty project together. It took 2.5 million rivets to hold the structure together. If you gave everyone in Atlanta 4 rivets, you still would not have enough rivets to build the Eiffel tower. The tower was meant to be temporary, and was scheduled to be torn down in 1909.  However, it was saved because officials argued that it could

be used as a telegraph tower. In World War I, it was instrumental in intercepting enemy communications.

 My favorite part of the trip was my visit to the Musee D’Orsay, home to the most impressive collection of impressionist art in the world. The museum contains paintings and sculptures all the way from the classical era to post-impressionism. Walking around the arrays of priceless paintings was simply amazing. My favorite area however, was the Hall of Impressionists. Containing famous Monet, Degas, Renoir and Pissarro paintings, this hall showed lots of

Here is my favorite Degas painting in the Musee D’Orsay.

priceless masterpieces. I especially love Degas because he usually paints and sculpts ballerinas as his subjects. As a ballet dancer, the way he captures the motion and fluidity of this style of dance really speaks to me.

Next, we visited the Notre Dame cathedral. This was an amazing experience for me. The cathedral began construction in the 1163, where local serfs and artists were employed to make the monument. It took 182 years to complete, and it is considered the epitome of French gothic architecture. It is also cited for being the first building to utilize flying buttresses in its design. Going inside and looking up into the vast space made me really emotional. All of the stones had been laid by hand, all of the sculptures carefully carved, every mosaic artfully decorated, by people whose memories would live on in the historic building. I, more than 500 years later, was seeing their work.

The most iconic example of Gothic Architecture.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our meal at L’Encrier. The restaurant served classic French food in three courses, and my group was the only non-Parisian group inside. We couldn’t understand the menu (none of us spoke French well enough), so we each ordered something at random. I ordered a pork dish, which came with the best zucchini I have ever had in my life. Watching us try our best with the French, and listening in to our appreciative “mmmmms” the wait staff brought us an extra dessert and wished us well on our trip. It felt like a truly authentic Parisian experience, which juxtaposed well with our otherwise touristy trip. All in all, it was an enriching weekend.