To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Month: January 2019

Colmar – A real life fairy tale!

Written by Noa Margalit

For my first weekend trip a few friends and I decided to visit Colmar, France. If you’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, it is the town that it is based off of and it’s absolutely beautiful. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave town the first weekend, but a day trip to Colmar was the perfect solution. Also, I had definitely explored downtown Metz more than I was anticipating during the first week just because I had a lot of time after classes to do so.

To get to Colmar, we had to take a direct morning train from the central station in Metz, which went through Strasbourg, and finally arrived in Colmar. It was really easy to reserve tickets. Since none of us wanted to activate our Eurail passes, we just ordered some online and sent them to our phones. I think the most challenging process of the train systems here is that every single person you talk to tells you a different thing. For example, some people said you can’t reserve online, but only at the train station (this may be true for certain cases but in our case it was not). Also, we got to the train station way earlier than we needed to but it was good because we were able to figure out how everything works with no stress.

Since we had reserved seats everyone sat on a different part of the train, and we arrived about 1.5 hours later. When you first get into Colmar, it looks like any other French town until you make your way downtown. At the heart of the city every building looked straight out of a fairytale, with each one colored brightly and little details that made them look really special. I’m not really one to travel in a big group, and as we were walking downtown I already felt a little overwhelmed with the amount of people I was with. The first thing I saw downtown was one of my favorite stores in France, “Maisons du Monde” which has cute home goods and was also a good way to part ways with the group. My friend and I went to the store while the rest went to get lunch and after looking through there we also started exploring to find food. Every corner you turn in Colmar there is something really unique and special. We stopped so many times just to admire the area, I especially liked the copper roofs on the church that were partially turquoise. Eventually once we got lunch I got a baguette with chicken inside, which is my favorite thing to eat in France. First of all, it is so cheap, only about 3 euros. Compared to a sandwich in the states which runs for around  $8, it is also a lot tastier.

Downtown Colmar

After eating, we wandered around more shops, and I bought a scarf since all the French wear scarves and I have to fit in. We didn’t end up seeing the rest of the group until meeting at the bus stop to take the bus home. This was probably the worst part of the trip, since our bus was delayed by almost an hour, and it was very cold outside. I felt like Colorado prepared me well though, and I had on my two pairs of pants, leg warmers, coat, gloves, a hat, and my new scarf to keep me warm. Eventually we got on the flix bus (it took almost 3 hours), and made it home. We decided to take a bus back to keep things cheap, and so our day trip ended up being very worth it.

Overall, I am really glad I took a small trip on the first weekend just to demystify the train experience and to start seeing a little more of the places around me. Sunday was nice to take off and relax, but I think I will try to see a new place every time I have the chance!

Trying to Make Metz Home: The Adjustment Period

Written by Noa Margalit

My first day in Metz was super exciting. It still hadn’t occurred to me that I was actually here, and to be completely honest the next couple of days after that I learned a lot about myself. The adjustment was rather difficult. It feels strange that I’ve only been here for two weeks, because it feels like a lifetime.

On the first day of class, I stayed up pretty late cause of my jetlag, set my alarm wrong, and it never went off. I woke up very late and thoroughly confused, and after a few minutes realized that I had missed the bulk of orientation. Luckily, I made it in time for the tours and other important information, even if I tripped on the stairs in front of a ton of people and felt like a hot mess. The glow of being in a new place was kind of going away, and I barely ate anything the first day. I didn’t really enjoy CROUS, the dining hall here, since they served some couscous and weird meats which I did not try. It was fine for the price (3.25 euro) but I quickly learned during the week that there are other cheap food options that I actually will eat.

I think that the hardest adjustment was that I felt like I was spending a lot of money on things I didn’t really want to buy but needed and wasn’t eating like I am used to. I didn’t really think about it when I was back home, but I had to buy pots,pans, and cleaning supplies and it added up pretty fast. I budgeted myself out pretty well for this trip but I did not anticipate spending so much within the first week. Food wise, the first trip to Cora I bought some food I like, but didn’t really think about cooking anything and of COURSE my refrigerator froze all of my food cause the settings were off and so I ate soggy lettuce for that week. I was really adamant about eating everything that I bought because I didn’t want to be wasteful.

On the second day, I felt like I needed to get away from the area we live in and took a bus downtown which made me feel so much better. Downtown Metz is absolutely beautiful and seeing all of the quaint shops and things to do made me remember why I came here in the first place. I also ate a hamburger at this place called Burger Kebab which was really good – and the meal was only 5 euros! You will learn quickly through my blogs that I love hamburgers and fries, and they will probably be my only source of food (I’ve had it three times already). I also started meeting the girls that live on my floor, and they are all so welcoming and fun to adventure with. The bus system here is super easy to figure out and the train station is absolutely beautiful. It was actually voted the most beautiful in France! Here is a picture of it:

While the first week was definitely an adjustment, I learned that while I am definitely a social person, I also really need my time to myself. Taking a day to myself and not really talking to anyone was helpful, since I’ve never really lived in a dorm and needed some alone time. I also definitely shifted my sleeping patterns while here and have been going to bed rather late to stay in touch with people back home. Really thankful my classes start later in the day.

Class wise, I am taking an Electrical Engineering course, a Probability class, a Mobile Applications class, and a French class. I love my French class because it is improving my French so much, and we get to visit downtown Metz once every other week to learn more about the city and the associations within the city. It has been an excellent way to get to know the area so far. I also am one of the only people in my group of friends to speak some French, so I definitely have been forced out of my comfort zone trying to communicate with other people (like buying them sim cards, getting train reservations, and other daily interactions).

The last thing I did was join an Ultimate Frisbee team here! It’s a team of mostly adults and they play indoors (which was rough) but they were so nice and it was fun to do something completely unaffiliated with anyone I know. Playing was really exciting, and it was funny to see them practice the same drills and try to understand everything they were saying in French. I’ll probably continue to do that while I’m here!

Well, I have to say that the first week was definitely an adjustment, but I feel so much better now. I finally figured out which groceries to buy (got some tortillas woop!) and found more of a daily routine. My friends and I even found an adorable and hip coffee shop downtown to do homework at!

While I’m glad this adjustment period is mostly over, it was definitely the best way to learn about myself and figure out how to make this place feel more like home.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go (Like Cora)

Written by Noa Margalit

Bonjour! Salut! Oh la la une baguette! Je m’appelle Noa Margalit and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to blog about my experience at GTL and provide some insight into the things I wish I knew even a day ago.

I wish I could have told myself yesterday or even this morning what my first evening at GTL would be like. After waking up at 3AM in Denver, having an 8 hour layover in Dallas, and finally making it to Paris, I honestly arrived feeling pretty detached. I’ve never left home before alone for such a long period of time, and I’m a transient student from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Having lived with my parents for this long, leaving was pretty emotional. While I’m sad to leave all the close people in my life behind for four months, it’s about time I got out of my parent’s basement. (Just kidding, I live in the backyard, which is a HUGE upgrade from the basement.) Luckily on my flight there were two other students who were from Georgia Tech, and while we weren’t able to sit together on the flight, it was nice to already have some familiar faces when we landed. I also am really glad that another student from CU-Boulder is on this trip, but I also quickly found out that some people don’t know anyone, and we all started meeting people pretty quickly.

I was on the shuttle which (WOAH) took 4 hours when the train only takes an hour and a half. Not gonna lie though, I really am glad I did because I took up two seats, fell asleep, and felt a whole lot better afterwards. Maybe don’t do this though because I’m currently up at a very late hour writing this blog post due to my inevitable jet lag and my lack of attempt in trying to stop it.

When we arrived to the dorms (I’m living in Aloes), we signed in, got our room keys and made our way to our rooms. I live in a suite with my own cute room and a shared bathroom. My suitemate, whom I met a few hours ago, is from Tunisia and doesn’t speak much English, which will honestly be great since I need to practice my French a lot. I tried as much as I could today to speak in French but it’s pretty nerve wracking, and I felt like a small child who couldn’t formulate coherent sentences. I know it’ll get better, and I am looking forward to being able to speak more confidently.

I spent about two hours getting my dorm looking nice, showering and getting comfortable. I am really happy I brought a tapestry because the walls here are pretty bare, and I also was glad that I brought my favorite toiletries from Target (which I can now justifiably pronounce that as Tarjay since I’m in France). It was nice to have those immediately after all that travelling and I made sure to underpack on clothes because I know myself, and know that I will convince myself to buy a lot more clothes than I need.

My cute room!

Afterwards we had some weird pizza, set up the internet which works well in ALOES, and then 3 other students on my floor and I decided to head to the supermarket. We went to Cora, which is like a massive Walmart where all of my dreams came true. It’s only about a 7 minute walk from the dorm which is super manageable, and I brought my backpack to use since they charge for bags, and it was easier to carry that way anyway.

The first thing I bought was sheets for my bed since I really didn’t like the ones provided by ALOES. They gave us two fitted sheets and I’m definitely a duvet cover kind of girl. I also got a power strip since there are three outlets in the room and you need to unplug the fridge to use the microwave or the desk lights?? Problem solved, thanks Cora. I also got a BAGUETTE! For .90 Euros! And CAMEMBERT. And some yogurt, cause yogurt here is good. I don’t know why, since I hate yogurt in the States, but the French do yogurt right. The people at the supermarket were super nice, even though we were slightly overwhelmed by the monstrosity that is Cora. My French penpal from high school was saying people in the Northern areas of France are nicer than other areas, and even though it’s only day one I am feeling good about that statement. While I wasn’t sure about going to Cora on the first night, I’m really glad I did since now I’m sitting in my bed with my new linens and feeling a little bit more familiar with the area and the people.

But you know what is most important? That I had some of my baguette. (Fine. A lot of my baguette.) This is going to be fun.

Looking Back on the Se-Metz-ter

How could I end my time at Georgia Tech Lorraine with anything other than a bad pun? I can’t believe that the semester is already over, it seems to have flown by so quickly. Now that I’m back at home in the USA, it practically feels like I never even left—I’d almost believe that GTL was one long, crazy, wonderful dream if I didn’t have the pictures that proved otherwise! Thankfully, it wasn’t a dream, and I’m so thankful for the friends I’ve made, the memories I have, and the growth I’ve experienced that I know will last.

At Mont-Saint-Michel on my very first weekend trip!

This semester, I rode on a total of 64 trains and 4 flights, visited 10 countries (8 of which I’d never been to before), took 5 classes and 16 exams, and consumed more baguettes than I’m comfortable counting, all over the course of 17 weeks. It was definitely a whirlwind! More important than the numbers, though, is the quality of the incredible experiences I had. There were the big, exciting events, like visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, climbing a mountain, or spending a day in the Lego House. Then there were also the more everyday things, like the food eaten, games played, conversations had, and the many, many jokes laughed at. There were the hours spent in the library and in the student lounge at GTL, and the interesting things learned—from delving into society’s relationship with technology, to calculating that yes, wearing a tin foil hat actually would shield you from certain electromagnetic wave frequencies. All these things together—the highs and the lows, the big things and the small—helped to make my abroad experience as great as it was!

Sarah and I, halfway up the Schilthorn summit in Switzerland!

Laughing at dinner in Portugal over the long break 🙂

As to what I would have done differently, in general, I wish that I had taken more opportunities to push my own limits. Many of the experiences that I’m most grateful for or where I feel like I learned the most are where I was outside of my comfort zone: experiences like practicing my French “in the field,” or speaking to strangers and learning about their country and culture. (Not to mention hiking up a mountain; that was several thousand feet above my comfort zone!) I can think of many instances where I painstakingly composed sentences in French, about to pose a question or try my hand (tongue?) at a conversation, but chickening out at the last second. It may have saved me a couple of trips to Auchan, as well as given me a huge confidence boost, if I had only plucked up the courage to ask a stranger, “Excuse me, do you know where the bouillon cubes are?” Similarly, striking up conversations with people I didn’t know, while intimidating, usually resulted in an interesting conversation where I learned something new about the country or culture I was visiting. The funny thing is, every time I did go for it in these scenarios, I never regretted it. The worst thing that can happen is that someone won’t understand you or they won’t respond, which, although awkward, otherwise has no negative impact on you whatsoever. Bottom line: with things like these, if it scares you, you should probably go for it!

My blue octopus creation at the LEGO House in Denmark!

Although I regret never taking a solo trip to explore a new place on my own, I’m glad that I took a couple of weekends in Metz just for me when I needed to slow down and relax. GTL is filled with lots of fun and excitement, but all that activity gets pretty tiring, so I would recommend setting aside enough time to recuperate. Plus, Metz is such a beautiful city anyway that it’s a wonderful place to spend your time! Studying at Fox Café, walking along the Moselle, and taking in the Metz Cathedral are just a few of the activities you can do that are both fun and a relaxing break from the frequently fast pace of weekend travels.

I can’t even count how many great experiences that I’m grateful I had over the course of this semester. I’m really glad that I visited such a variety of countries that I’d never seen before, and that I had the chance to experience and learn about a wide breadth of cultures. On a more everyday note, I’m also happy that I branched out in the cooking department and tried lots of new recipes—my favorite dish that I made was Thai coconut chicken soup! I do wish that I had gotten to know more people better; there are tons of amazing people at GTL that I wish I had the chance to spend more time with. At the same time, though, I’m really glad that I got to know the people that I did spend lots of time with so well. (And that I’ve accumulated so many funny pictures of them sleeping on trains!)

 I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to come to GTL and experience how amazing it is. I know I’ll treasure these memories for life. Thanks so much for following along with me on this journey, and best of luck to any future GTL students reading—I hope you’re ready to have the experience of a lifetime!

My GTL Experience

The first week in Metz!

When I stepped off the plane and landed in France for the first time, I had no idea of what to expect. Immediately that first day, I was in a shock: I was surrounded by people speaking French, rushing through border control to get my luggage, and arriving at the Lafayette dorms exhausted from traveling. Little did I know, that first day would be the beginning of an important moment in my life, one that I will never forget. Since the beginning of Georgia Tech Lorraine, I had the opportunity to grow as an engineering student, a young woman, and as a traveler.

My dream trip to Paris!

 

Ever since I was younger, I dreamed of doing something exciting with my life, inventing things as an engineer, and traveling the world. Originally being from a small town in Louisiana, I always wanted to get out and see what the world had to offer. My acceptance into Georgia Tech was my first ticket to seeing more of just that. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that Georgia Tech would not just give me one ticket, but two: attending Georgia Tech Lorraine. This semester I was able to accomplish one of my greatest goals of traveling to Europe. While studying abroad in France, I was able to travel to 10 countries and over 20 cities. Through my travels, I was able to gain a better understanding of people from different cultures, develop a better perspective of the world, learn about and experience different traditions, make memories of a lifetime, and learn more about the countries I traveled to. Since starting the program, I became more adaptable and flexible to change as well; I no longer feel I need to know everything or plan every step to feel secure or have a great time while traveling.

Kayaked for the first time in my life. My smile does not show how much my arms were sore from paddling.

London!

I sprinted to catch trains, took tours around cities, slid down a mountain in a metal slide, kayaked in one of the biggest lakes in Switzerland, danced around Spain, and stood in front of the Anne Frank House. Some of my favorite memories from studying abroad were my trip to Switzerland, getting to see the Berlin Wall, climbing up the Eiffel Tower, standing in a crowd of people to see changing of the guards in London, and eating the most delicious fries and waffles in Belgium. The memories I made abroad will be some of the greatest ones of my twenty-somethings.

Coming to GTL, I knew I was going to have some great opportunities to travel, however, I was not expecting to grow as much as an engineer. I would say that this semester has been one of my most challenging ones yet. Throughout my time at GTL, I took courses in Deformable Bodies, Fluid Mechanics, System Dynamics, and Statistics and Probability. I was challenged, I was corrected, and I became a better future engineer because of it. Even though my classes were challenging, they were exciting because most of them were explicitly for my major and all the content from the preliminary courses I had taken were combining together to make more conceptual sense.

Where the Berlin Wall used to stand. One of my historical-rich and heart-touching trips!

There are some things I wish I would have done differently at the beginning of my semester at GTL. First things first, remember why you are at GTL; most people would say they are there for travel and school. However, at the beginning of the semester, the school part does not seem as important because you are in a new exciting place in Europe and are making travel plans to visit other countries, which is great! Something I wish I would have done differently was studying more before my weekend travels, do work on the train rides, and learn my teacher’s testing strategies earlier on. Another piece of advice that is important and rarely discussed

Fall break in Spain and Portugal!

is being flexible with the people you travel with. I can honestly say in the beginning, I was more focused on who I was traveling with than where I wanted to go. Do not be afraid to travel with another trustworthy group or person who may not be your best friend, because trust me, others will carry on with their plans, and you may miss out on a weekend of travels.

The most important part about traveling around Europe are the destinations, and you may even become friends with other people with being more flexible with your travel group! Also when traveling in Europe, I highly recommend getting a Eurail pass if you plan on traveling almost every weekend or want to catch trains often. It really paid off to have one for convenience and was a large cost saving on transportation. Another piece of advice for studying abroad would be to set a hard budget before getting to France; for every trip, you should calculate a projected cost of that trip and extras such as groceries and shopping. Trust me when I say the cost of living in France and traveling will add up quickly if you do not watch your spending. My last piece of advice is the most crucial: have the time of your life! Ask yourself, how many times will you be in Europe in your twenties with no commitments besides to pass a few classes? Remember that this experience is supposed to be fun and challenging, so make sure every day you find the good in the experience and to enjoy yourself.

Thanks for tuning into my study abroad journey!

During this program, I have made memories of a lifetime, grown as a person and student, and have been challenged beyond measures I never thought I would be. Coming to GTL, I would have never expected to be able to travel to as many countries as I did, or grow as much as I have. Studying abroad is truly a life-changing experience; from being abroad I have learned how to budget better, be stronger emotionally, be quicker to react to certain situations, make the most out of every moment, and have the time of my life. Thank you for keeping up with my study abroad adventures this semester. With this being my last blog post of the semester, I must best wishes and au revoir!

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