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.
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!
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!
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!