To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: November 2018 (Page 1 of 2)

A Very French Lunch

At the very last minute, I was able to join the group from GTL going to the Very French Lunch. I was excited to join as I wanted to try some top-notch, classic French dishes. The purpose of the lunch was to give students at a waitress and culinary school the opportunity to get evaluated for their class. As our herd of GTL students walked into the university banquet area, we were greeted by the waitressing students and their directors. Walking past them, you could see the excitement and nerves as this would be a big moment for them: getting their waitressing certification.

Once everyone sat down at the tables, bread, still water, and sparkling water was served. At my table, we all looked around as if the water and bread was untouchable; we weren’t sure if we could eat start eating or not. Being the hungry college students that we are, we decided the latter and began eating; the bread was gone within a span of 5 minutes. One of the waitressing students was going back and forth through the kitchen so much, that they began to run out of bread and told us to slow down on the bread eating as we wouldn’t have enough for our meals.

The first dish with the perfect egg.

The first dish that came out was a perfect egg with a pea purée, mashed potatoes, bread, and a small slice of bacon. The dish looked lovely; however, not being a fan of unscrambled or unfried eggs, I gave my egg away to another student. Next on the list for the course was the main (entrée in France means the appetizer!): grilled chicken with risotto, vegetables, and a corn fritter. I think this was my favorite part of the meal as the chicken was cooked to perfection, and the risotto was very savory.

After our entrée, many of us were feeling very satisfied with the food, and then suddenly we were given a warning that the next dish we should not touch with our fingers. We all exchanged curious looks as we were all given varieties of cheeses with strong odors.

Being carried by the students sauntered in the last dish, dessert! Beautifully drizzled with a fruit sauce on top was a sweet, crunchy nougat glacé. The very French lunch was very good and very French. After lunch, the GTL students and I went back to our classes with grinning faces and full stomachs.

Nougat glacé

Before coming abroad, I always took a great interest in others cultures. However, since being abroad, I have gained a new level of respect for people’s cultures and lifestyles. In France, waitressing is not seen as a lower level occupation like often times in the United States, and I think that is awesome. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what someone chooses to do with their career, as long as they are happy and enjoying life. In conclusion, it was really nice to share with the French waitressing students a monumental moment in their career goals , seeing the relief on their faces at the end of the lunch, and getting to eat a very yummy lunch!

This Is What “Peak” Performance Looks Like

This was the trip that is undoubtedly the high point (literally) of my European travels: Interlaken, Switzerland. Not only was it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, but I climbed my first mountain there, something that I’ve always dreamed of accomplishing!

I could barely take my eyes off of the beautiful, grassy hills and the spectacular mountains, which was somewhat problematic for my stubbed toes.

Interlaken is a lovely town situated between two lakes (hence the name), which looked stunning with a beautiful mountain backdrop as we rode the train into the city. Walking down the main boulevard, we saw many quintessentially Swiss things, from watch stores to chocolatiers to a fondue restaurant, all the while marveling at the soaring mountains that framed the sky. One of the most exciting parts of this walk was seeing hang gliders and paragliders soaring and swooping through the sky! They floated down from the mountains and we sat and watched, fascinated, as they all landed on a huge green lawn in the center of the city.

We stopped to take scenic pictures and have a nutritious lunch of brioche, Nutella, bananas, nuts, and other snacks.

The next day, we were ready to hike! The woman at the tourism office recommended that we walk through the valley of waterfalls, as it was very beautiful and suitable for beginners. We decided not to follow her advice, however—we wanted to see the sights from high up, so we decided to attempt a hike to the summit of the Schilthorn from a little mountain town called Mürren.

After stocking up on food and taking two trains and a gondola from Interlaken to reach Mürren, we were ready to begin. It was 11 am when we started, so our goal was to get as far as we could by 3 pm and then turn around to allow us enough time to catch the trains back to Interlaken. The beginning of the hike took us through rolling hills and many pastures, punctuated by the constant clinking of cowbells and the occasional moo. Sadly, the cows did not really want to be pet.

I found a nice branch early on the hike that I used for a walking stick the rest of the way up. It proved very helpful, especially in the slippery snow!

As the hours passed and we continued to ascend, the trail turned from sharp, steep switchbacks up grassy hills to a flatter, rocky path towards the final summit, and then to no path at all as we approached the most difficult part of the journey. At this point we had truly transitioned from hiking to climbing: we carefully pulled ourselves up rocky ledges, following spray painted arrows through the otherwise confusing landscape, and we gingerly made our way up steep, snowy inclines, testing our weight with every step and hoping that the powder wouldn’t give way

On the way down, I was often prone to sprinting down the mountainside, both because it was fun but also because the steep slope made it hard to stop, so you can see my traveling buddies in the distance behind me along with the foggy mountain peak.

beneath our feet. Near the top, thankfully, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the more treacherous inclines, and railings to hold as we crossed narrow rock bridges towards our goal.

With our tired lungs and aching legs, we finally reached the peak of the mountain—at precisely 3:00 pm! I can’t describe the feeling I had when I reached the top; after 4 hours and after scaling 4,366 feet of vertical elevation, I was so exhilarated, so full of endorphins from the strenuous hike up, and so proud of our achievement that all I could think was “When can I do this again?” I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain at some point in my life, and after actually doing it that desire has only gotten stronger. This amazing trip really opened my eyes to the wonders of hiking and climbing, and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to test my limits and scale taller summits!

On the way down the mountainside, after the rain had stopped, we were treated with an absolutely gorgeous double rainbow!!

The Tale of Two Countries: Waffles, Fries, Bikes, and History

 

Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

This past weekend, I visited not one, but two countries near France! The first stop of my weekend trip began in Antwerp, Belgium! In Antwerp, I was able to eat some of the most amazing waffles I ever had in my entire life, munch on crispy Belgian fries, go shopping, and embrace the different architectural styles of each city. Something that fascinated me about Antwerp was it had the bustle a big city while still maintaining an old town vibe. Even though there were many tourists visiting all the restaurants, museums, and shopping, it seemed as if the locals were enjoying big tourist spots just as much as well. Another thing I really appreciated about Belgium is their craft for making the best waffles in the world, as I not only had one waffle, but two during my stay!

Architecture in Antwerp

 

After checking Antwerp of the list of places to visit, next on the list was Amsterdam, Netherlands. Walking out of the Amsterdam Central Station the next day, I was immediately hit with The Fault in Our Stars vibes and was surrounded by tourists

Me in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

early in the morning. The first item on the list of places to see that day was Bloemenmarkt, the famous flower market in Amsterdam. Walking to see the market made me more aware of my safety and the safety of the massive amount of bicyclists in Amsterdam! Bikes where everywhere: cruising down the street, chained all along the canal, and on the sidewalks. As I made it to the street of the market, I saw tulip buds for purchase everywhere, cute cafés on the other side, and a Christmas shop. While the flower market was beautiful and the scents from the flowers wafted through the air, the Christmas shop stole my attention with the “66 days until Christmas sign”! After buying an Amsterdam themed Christmas ornament, my stomach was growling and I knew it was time for lunch. At lunch, I ate a savory chicken curry sandwich from Toastable, a very cute and non-touristy café. After lunch, I saw The Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank lived when she was in hiding with her family during World War II.

 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam had great sights to see, things to do, and museums to visit, however, I was slowly running out of time to do many of the great things the city has to offer. As a compromise, I decided to learn more about the history of Amsterdam and see sights at the same time! That day, I took a free classical tour of Amsterdam that covered many gems of the city, social classes during different times, changes in the industry, and architecture of the city. During the tour, it was interesting to learn more about the history, such as squatting and the Dutch East Indian Company. After my tour, my time in Amsterdam came to a close as the train back to Antwerp would be leaving soon. Once I made it back to Antwerp, I did the one thing I knew I had to do: eat another Belgian waffle! 

Delicious Belgian Waffle

The next morning began a bit frantically at the train station once I looked to see which platform my first connection train would be on and it saw “afgeschaft” under the train time. Do you know what that means in Dutch? It means abolished! My first train of the day was canceled, however, thankfully there was a train leaving in 10 minutes that went to the same connection station. Besides that little mishap, making it back to Metz was a breeze. I truly did enjoy my trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp because it was relaxing, fun, and involved quick thinking when it came to changes in travel plans. I also greatly appreciated the amount of knowledge I was able to gain from learning more about the history of Amsterdam. Amsterdam and Antwerp truly were great places to eat delicious food and have some good times.

Madeleyne Vaca Is Constantly Rising

Madeleyne at the fruit picking excursion at the farm with GTL

When I first met Madeleyne Vaca, it was when I was shouting in a room full of GTL students for her to come meet her host for the French family dinner. I sat down to interview Madeleyne the next day, and then I learned that she is not a fan of the nickname Maddie, was born in Columbia, and moved to the United States with her family to Georgia when she was younger. Before coming to GTL, she completed her undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech in Atlanta; at Tech she doubled majored in electrical engineering and computer science and minored in Mandarin. Currently, Madeleyne is completing her Masters at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in electrical engineering.

Before coming to GTL, she studied abroad in China and interned with Microsoft four times before completing her undergraduate degree. Currently, she has a job lined up with Microsoft as a Software Developer and will become a Firmware Developer next year. Next year, she is excited to start her new job role because she will be able to use all of her degrees and knowledge of electrical engineering and computer science. Since being at GTL, Madeleyne travels every weekend to different places and has made an impressive list of countries she has visited including Amsterdam, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Switzerland. While traveling, she also tries to step out of her comfort zone and be adventurous by doing extreme sports.

Madeleyne went canyoning in Slovenia, and this is her jumping off a 10m waterfall!

Since I began interviewing graduate students, it has been interesting to hear their different stories and favorite part about GTL. I was interested in hearing from Madeleyne was her comparison of all the places she has lived considering how vastly different they all are in culture. Being from Columbia, she often misses being closer to her extended family, and the warmth and community focus of the culture. When I asked Madeleyne what her favorite part about Georgia Tech Lorraine has been so far, she said, “The way French people greet each other reminds me a little bit of home. They have the double kiss [on the cheek], and in Columbia, we have the single kiss [on the cheek]. I always stop halfway and then remember it’s two here! It’s nice being somewhere that reminds me a little bit of home.” She also says that it is exciting to travel and see how people in France know many languages and understand other cultures well. Madeleyne also says that it is nice meeting people who speak different languages, as she is trilingual herself!

Taking a picture near the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium

Madeleyne is one of the coolest people I have ever met – and not only because has she been successful with getting a full-time offer with Microsoft. She also listens to Ariana Grande on repeat, has traveled to many places, played handball throughout her college, and yet she is still pushing towards the goal of achieving her Masters. It goes to show how regardless of how physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging life is at times, that she will continue to push through adversity and rise above the challenge. As she rises to the goal of getting her Masters, traveling the world, and salsa dancing and jamming to Ariana Grande along the way, Madeleyne continues to go with the flow of life and keep a positive attitude through it all.

Dinner with a French Family (of Students)

Every semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine, the French Family Dinner is organized! Local families in Metz host GTL students in their homes for the evening, giving students a chance to experience French food and culture, to meet a French family and even to speak a little bit of French. Two friends and I took part in the French family dinner together last Tuesday. When we met our family at GTL, we discovered that they weren’t a family at all, but instead a group of friends, students our age who were also studying engineering in Metz!

We had a wonderful time eating, laughing, and playing games with our French family of students! 🙂

Clara and Alexandre drove us to a lovely apartment near the center of Metz, complete with colorful decorations on the walls, a long line of sweet Polaroid pictures on the mantle, and a little dry erase board to write fun notes on. Once there, we met their two other friends, Elodie and Alexia. As they prepared dinner, we talked to them about their time in Metz and what they were studying. Right now, they’re studying for big entrance exams for engineering schools that they’ll take in the spring.

For dinner, we had raclette, which is melted cheese over potatoes and charcuterie meats. You put a piece of cheese (the raclette) in a little tray and then on a special heater so it melts, then you scrape the cheese from the tray onto your food. We also had snails, or escargot, which was on my list of things I needed to try while in France! Apparently, there are special sticks you can use to get the snail out of its shell, but we improvised with forks. The taste was good, as it was cooked in garlic and butter, but the squishy texture was too much for me to handle and I was satisfied with just trying one.

 After dinner we decided to play a game. If you’ve played the game Heads Up on a phone, this was a bit similar to that. We each wrote down something on a piece of paper (writing it in English and in French for everyone’s ease), such as an object or an animal, then taped what we wrote on someone else’s head so that we all had a word on our foreheads that everyone could see except for the person who had it. Then, we had to ask yes or no questions to try to figure out what word was on our forehead.

As someone taking French 1001, I was by far the least bilingual person in the room—one of my two friends there is in the highest French class available at GTL, and the other is too advanced for even that. The French students spoke great English in my opinion, but they frequently apologized for their bad English and sometimes switched between English and French to clarify things to my friends. It was not only fun but educational for me to play this word game because it helped me to learn by listening to them, and I also learned to say some fun new French sentences, such as: “Am I bigger than a table?”

Playing the game and hanging out with the French students was tons of fun, and I’m so glad that we got to have dinner with them through this GTL event! I feel like I got a glimpse into student lives in Metz, and luckily, I made new friends at the same time!

Driven By Passion & Appreciation – Meet Yacoub

Everyone has a story to tell, and the students at GTL surely do have great ones to share. I met Yacoub the first week at GTL, and the first two things I learned about him were that he is getting his Master’s in mechanical engineering and that he is from Morocco! After that first week, I was able to get to know Yacoub’s story more and more over time. He studied aerospace engineering in his undergraduate career at the Université Internationale de Rabat. Driven by his passion for research, appreciation for his parents, and goal to work in the aerospace industry, Yacoub has worked hard since his undergraduate years to be successful at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. 

During the interview, it was interesting to find out about Yacoub is that he is an only child, and is very close with his parents. When I asked him about his life goal, we discussed how we would like to become an aeronautical engineer, and that he would like to work hard and give back to his parents and make them proud. It was also interesting to learn that for him to come to Georgia Tech-Lorraine and be considered for admission, he had to stay in the top of his class at his undergraduate university. During his undergraduate career for four years, he worked hard to be where he is today. With his dedication and hard work for the past couple of years, he can proudly say that he has made it to where he has always wanted to be. I am grateful to listen to graduate student stories like Yacoub’s because being an undergraduate it is inspiring to hear how hard-working, motivated, and all the different journeys they have taken to get to where they are today. It also reminds me that even though it may get tough during the undergraduate years, it will only make you stronger.

When I asked him about what he sees for himself in the next 5 years, he said that he plans on finishing his Master’s at Georgia Tech, doing research, and working full-time in Europe doing work in the aerospace industry. His dream is to someday be an aeronautical engineer at Airbus. During his time at GTL, he also hopes to get more involved in research and get some internship experience with a company in the aerospace industry. In his spare time, he enjoys sightseeing and trying different spicy foods from new restaurants in the city. Since being in Metz, he has interacted with French students in the city playing an escape game at a university-wide event in Metz.

Since I have started interviewing graduate students, it has also been interesting to hear what their favorite part about GTL is. I asked Yacoub what his favorite part about GTL is, and he said, “The friends that I have made all come from different countries, different cultures, and have different ways of thinking which is very exciting because you get to discover a new culture everyday. The opportunity to travel is great as well; since we are in the center of Europe it is very easy to catch a bus or take a train ride somewhere.”  He says that his thoughts and perceptions about different nationalities and cultures have changed from the time spent meeting and getting to know people and has positively affected the way he now thinks about other nations and cultures. Even though homework and projects have been a lot to handle at times from Yacoub’s perspective, he says that he plans on traveling a lot more in the near future while at GT-Lorraine. Currently, he has already visited Trier, Germany, and is looking forward to traveling to the Chocolate Festival in Paris and Switzerland.

How to Enjoy A Travel-Free Weekend in Metz

Centre Pompidou-Metz

This weekend, I decided to stay in Metz and take a break from traveling. While traveling at GTL is great and thus far has been the highlight of my experience, I realized I needed to hit pause and take a break to refocus on school and finances. While studying abroad at GTL, I would highly recommend taking a couple of weekends to relax in Metz, and explore the city even more. While doing so, I was more productive with my schoolwork and has new experiences.

While taking my first break from traveling in a month, I decided to explore more that Metz has to offer. This weekend I went to the Centre Pompidou and saw the amazing, vibrant artwork that decorated the museum. To my surprise, the museum was a lot more than seeing artwork on walls; it was an interactive experience as well. Throughout the museum, they had interactive exhibits such as walking in a dark room with blinking lights, a room called “Little Cafe” where you could write and draw on the walls of the exhibit in chalk, and a purple hued room playing piano tunes.

Little Cafe in the Museum (an interactive chalk artwork display)

As I entered the purple room exhibit, all of my senses were intrigued as my eyes were seeing dimly lit purple lights and walls, my feet walking on a plush purple-hued carpet, and my ears hearing erratic, yet strangely calming piano sounds. As I sat in the room, I was overcome with a sense of peace. After I experienced a bit of what the room had to offer, I made my way to my favorite part of my visit. At the entrance of the Centre Pompidou, there was a giant metallic ball in which I walked in and was surrounded by a layout of the constellations. I enjoyed the museum as I was able to not only see artwork, but also interact with it and be a part of creating it.

My favorite part about visiting the Pompidou Centre was that I was able to standing inside of this giant metallic globe and see a portrayal of the constellations.

After visiting the Centre Pompidou, I walked to the nearby mall, the Muse, and went shopping until my hunger and account balance put me to an end. So much for me looking out for my finances this weekend! The mall was stunning and filled with high-end brands and department stores alike. My favorite part of my shopping experience was going to Primark; I was in shopping heaven as I was able to catch their fall sale of the year. After shopping and making my bank account just a little more depressing to look at, I ate lunch at a local Chinese restaurant near the mall. The best part about staying in Metz for the weekend was experiencing different things, and being able to go back to my room and study and complete my homework for the week without the guilt of attempting to do homework in a new country or city.

As my weekend in Metz came to a close, I decided to go on a hunt for the chicest and most comfortable café to get some more studying done. While staying in Metz for the weekend is fun, it can get boring stay in the dorms doing work or watching Netflix. The best decision I made was to get out and about and change the scenery in which I would study for the day. When entering Fox Café, I was greeted with the vintage chic, coffeehouse vibes I dearly love. The café was great, and the food and desserts were tasty as I decided to get lunch there! I would highly recommend checking out this little café if you ever need a change of scenery because they have wifi, is close to the train station, and the best part, for my non-French speaking peers like myself, is they speak English!  

Lunch and studying at Fox Cafe

Overall, I had a satisfying weekend staying in Metz, and catching up on some things and work. The benefits of traveling are incomparable, however, make sure to recognize when you may feel stressed or need a break from travels to regroup. It is difficult at times to keep a balance of studies and trying to reap all the opportunities of being abroad at the same time; always make sure to maintain a good mental health and grades through it all. While staying in Metz this weekend, I was able to visit a museum, go shopping, finish my homework for the week, study in advance for a quiz, do laundry without competing for a washer and dryer, and find my new favorite study spot. You never know what you can discover if you just take a minute to press pause.

From Robotics to Scale Models – Building with Bilal

Today I got to speak to Bilal Ghader about his time as a graduate student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine! Bilal is from Lebanon, and he got his undergraduate degree there in electrical and computer engineering at the American University of Beirut. When he was originally thinking about grad school, he couldn’t decide if he wanted a PhD or not, so he decided to start with a Master’s degree and see how it went from there.

He is especially interested in the field of robotics and decided to come to Georgia Tech-Lorraine because Georgia Tech is one of the best schools for robotics research. At GT-Lorraine, he’s pursuing robotics research and is currently working on a robot that uses laser scans to approximate its position more accurately than GPS can. In the long term, he’s interested in continuing to do robotics research, whether through a PhD program or through working for a company. “I was looking a bit,” he said, “and I see that there are some good opportunities in France and in Europe in general, so I’m thinking about applying to a few of those.” Depending on whether or not he decides to do an internship next semester or the next, he’ll finish his degree in either summer or fall of 2019.

One of Bilal’s favorite aspects of GT-Lorraine is the small class size and the fact that you can get to know just about everyone. He also likes that this small size allows you to take the classes that you want. In addition to this, he said, “I like the fact that Metz is in a very strategic location. I’ve been to two or three cities already—I’ve been to Strasbourg. I’ve been to Nancy. I’ve been to Luxembourg, and I went to Trier when they did the whole trip. So this is interesting!” He’s eager to take more trips next semester if he doesn’t do an internship now that he has more time and is settled into life GT-Lorraine.

An interesting and cool fact about Bilal that I learned during our conversation is that he enjoys collecting and assembling scale models! Right now, for instance, he’s waiting on an Amazon package that contains both a new car model and a new plane model. “I don’t know how or where I’m going to do them since I’m restricted in space in my dorm,” he pondered. “Basically what happens is that you have gray pieces of plastic, and you start by coloring them. I tend to get creative with the color; I don’t follow the instructions. Then you need to put the pieces together. It’s very delicate and it needs time, it needs precision and focus.”

Bilal also had lots of stickers on his laptop reflecting his interests, and he was kind enough to explain each one to me. Several were from hackathons, others from student organizations for events, and some were fun and artistic stickers that his friends had designed themselves! My favorite was one advertising a Lebanese hackathon called Reboot Beirut, naturally because it rhymed. From robots, to scale models, to hacking and coding projects, I’m sure Bilal’s passion for building and creating all kinds of things will serve him well in his engineering career! Best of luck to you and have an awesome rest of your time at GT-Lorraine, Bilal!

Day Trips Are Delightful

This past weekend was the first weekend that I stayed in Metz since the start of GTL. On Friday I went on a day trip to Luxembourg, and on Saturday to Nancy and Colmar, but at night I came home to my blissfully familiar Lafayette dorm. I’ve loved all of the adventures I’ve had and the gallivanting around Europe that I’ve done so far, but after a busy and stressful week packed with three midterms, I was very ready to have a calmer, more chill weekend. It was quite refreshing not to have to worry about the usual travelling concerns, like lodgings, train reservations and schedules, packing my backpack within an inch of its life, and inevitably forgetting my pajamas.

Our hearts may have been set on the hot chocolate, but these beautiful rainbow-colored truffles were enticing as well.

Pear cinnamon isn’t a flavor combination I would ever have thought of for hot chocolate, but I’m glad someone did because it was marvelous!

It was a beautiful day as we walked around Luxembourg after our short morning train ride. Our first and most imperative stop was at The Chocolate House! They had hot chocolate spoons in a massive variety of strange and wonderful flavors, so we ordered some with hot milk and stirred them until they melted into perfectly delicious hot cocoa. After wandering the city and taking a nice nap in a sunny park, we decided to go to the Mudam, the museum of modern art in Luxembourg. This was definitely one of the coolest museums I’ve seen thus far. (And also free for students! Hooray!) It’s situated on top of an old fort, Fort Thüngen, and the juxtaposition of the ancient brick walls with the sleek architecture of the museum created a very neat aesthetic. The main exhibition was a series of kinetic sculptures themed around wind and water called Spaceship,by Susumu Shingu. My favorite piece was this fascinating moving water sculpture, which we sat and watched, mesmerized, for at least ten minutes.

This is only one side of an amazing sculpture we saw at the Mudam. As you can see, it was a conglomeration of all sorts of random things, including plastic plants, yarn, water, sticks, a fan, some tea, pebbles, etc. Some parts of it moved, too!

The next day, on Saturday, we went to Nancy! It was a lovely city, with lots of gold leaf and casually ornate facades and gates. First we ventured into the city’s cathedral, something I always like to do when exploring a new city. While Gothic cathedrals obviously share many similarities, each one has its own personality and character, and it’s always very calming and beautiful to amble along the ambulatory and look at the stained glass. Later, we stumbled upon a Japanese botanical garden exhibit in a square, complete with intricate sculptures, flowers, a koi pond, and many bonsai trees. It was incredibly beautiful, and it was wonderful to see the local residents enjoying the public art as much as we did.

I really love plants, especially succulents and bonsai trees, so stumbling upon this botanical garden in the middle of Nancy that had both of those things was the most pleasant of pleasant surprises!

After having a hearty lunch at a pizza place, we power-walked to the train station to avoid missing our train to Colmar. There, we wandered around the old town and admired the beautiful houses, cobblestone streets, picturesque canals, and innumerable dogs. We ate some yummy crepes and spent lots of time sitting in a park, just talking and people-watching as a group of teenagers did tricks on their bikes and as children played nearby in a fountain. On the whole it was a lovely, relaxing weekend to explore interesting cities in closer proximity to our home in Metz!

Colmar was just as cute as you would hope an old French town would be (it reminded me a bit of the villagee from Beauty and the Beast!).

Nice is Nice!

The picture speaks for itself!

I stepped off the train in Nice, France and was greeted with moisture in the air, people walking around wearing summer clothes, and surrounded by multi-colored buildings and bustling streets. The city is a dream summer location spot. And the deeper we made it into the city, the more I started to smell the beach breeze in the air. I was so happy to be in a place that did not frown upon shorts and sandals, being able to dive in the cool water, and just have a great time.

Even though the train ride to Nice was 9 hours long, that did not stop my excitement. The first thing I did was eat delicious homemade Italian pasta, and go on the pebble-covered beach! The beach was beautiful: the water was a glistening turquoise color, it was surrounded by vibrant colored houses and rocks cascading up the rocks, and people of all ages walked along the beach. Later on that afternoon my friends and I ate the best gelato ever, saw a street show with a man jumping over fire, and enjoyed the nightlife in Nice.

The next day, I took a monumental step in my traveling journey as I visited another country on my own. After basking in the sun at the beach and eating even more Italian food, I walked into the train station in Nice alone to head to Monaco! The train was less than 30 minutes away from Nice; I began my little journey to one of the most beautiful, expensive places in the world. Getting off the train in Monaco, I felt independent, happy, and nervous about what to expect exploring the city on my own. I didn’t have anyone else making suggestions on which ways to turn or what to do. It was just me, and what I wanted to do! It felt great walking down the streets seeing hidden monuments along the way, stopping and taking pictures, soaking in the scenery, and wandering around. Never once in my life have I felt so unattached from the rest of the world and complete at the same time. It felt awesome to be able to discover something new on my own!

The famous casino Monte Carlo in Monaco.

While in Monaco, I passed by the famous Monte Carlo Casino, walked through the Princesse Grace Rose Garden, walked past people casually cruising around in Ferrari’s and walking around with Gucci logos dripping from every piece of clothing they were wearing, asked other tourists to take my picture, and sat on the small pebbles of Larovette Beach. My favorite part of my solo travel day trip was that I never felt out of place or uncomfortable; I felt like a tourist enjoying my surroundings. While I was there, I even went to Starbucks to get a peach citrus green tea! Something I was surprised to see was the plant life being a combination of desert plants and lush greenery.


As my trip in Nice came to a close, I was able to shimmy my way throughout dinner as a musician and singer performed in the Mexican Restaurant we ate at, eat more gelato, hang out with other American students traveling abroad, and go shopping along the main strip. Remember how I said I fell in love with Paris a few weeks ago? Well, Nice comes in as a close second. I loved the culture of the city as it felt fun, carefree, and peaceful! When leaving Nice, I rolled past the clear blue water, white and orange houses, cacti, and rocky mountains covered in a lush green terrine. Heading back to GTL, I felt more relaxed than I did when I left. I had come to realize that even though planning trips can be stressful at times with having to make reservations, finding places to stay, and getting studying and coursework is done before leaving, it is relaxing to get away and truly fulfill the study abroad experience.

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