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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!