A Week Before Leaving for GTL
As I began getting ready for my semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I was overcome by a wave of emotions. I felt ecstatic, nervous, upset about being away from my family, and proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone to study abroad all at the same time. About a week before I left for GTL, I entered what I would call a phase of “extensive research.”
During my time of extensive research, I watched YouTube videos on what to wear in France to blend in with the locals and everyday French customs; went shopping for a more neutral, minimalist wardrobe; and gathered advice from female solo travelers and young students on the best ways to safely travel abroad. This research was a result of my nervousness: by doing this, I felt ready and more comfortable with what to expect while traveling in Europe and living in Metz, France.
As the days began to wind down and I got closer and closer to leaving, my nerves and excitement started to kick in even more. This semester is my first time going overseas; I had no idea of what to expect besides from what I could learn online. This program has provided me with the opportunity to be the first in my immediate family to ever travel and study abroad. Saying this, the last few days were not only nerve-wracking for me, but also for my family.
The last three days before I left, I spent time with family and friends by going out to eat, binge watching tv shows and shopping with my mother, and watching the exhilarating, well executed Mission: Impossible – Fallout with my father in theatres. While I do travel and am away from home due to internships and school often, this experience of studying abroad is slightly out of my comfort zone. This is truly an experience that I am ready to fully immerse myself in every day.
First Week At GTL
Being at Georgia Tech Lorraine for the first week, my experience thus far has already taught me some lessons and has me eager to learn the mechanical engineering coursework to come. Stepping off the plane in Paris the first day, I was exhausted. I was not expecting my flight to be so long and turbulence-filled. I remember an hour before my plane landed in Paris, I awakened from my 2 hour nap to look at my flight attendant with my sleep eye mask still on my face, as she placed my prepackaged breakfast on the plastic tray in front of me.
As a group of Georgia Tech students and myself made it to our meeting spot at the Paris airport, I collapsed on the ground and patiently waited for the shuttle. On the shuttle to Metz, I had the best sleep I had in 24 hours. The first day, many of the students and myself worked on cleaning our rooms and getting rest to start the next day off the right way, as day 2 would be orientation.
On day 2, everyone went to orientation with bright smiles and excitement in our trot. We took a tour of the Georgia Tech Lorraine building, grabbed leftover items from previous students, and went to class and an after-party. This day, I also truly experienced culture shock for the first time in France. After digging around the leftover items from previous GTL students for appliances and toilet paper like my life depended on it, I had my first French food ordering experience all by myself!
I ordered a sandwich and a Coke from a restaurant on the corner near the Lafayette dorms. The fun part about all this is that I don’t even really like Coke, and I had no idea what sandwich I ordered until I took a bite into it. The reason this happened is because I hardly know any French besides the basic greetings, and the woman who took my order did not know much English. The sandwich actually tasted very good as it had chicken and cheese stuffed in the bread! When I left the restaurant, I was not upset that the woman did not know what I was saying. Yet I realized how ignorant I am to the French culture and that in order to survive and be more respectful to other cultures, I needed to quickly learn some French. After all, I am in France!
Overall, the first week mainly consisted of getting settled in the dorms, grocery shopping, attending classes, and making weekend plans to see Metz. Already I have learned a few lessons such as: French greetings, how to navigate the GTL campus, and to never again try to carry two 30-pound bags from the grocery store for a mile to the dorms. Regardless of the jet lag and new cultural immersion, in the words of Annie, “I think I’m gonna like it here!”