A Hike to Switzerland

Interlaken is a favorite destination of Georgia Tech-Lorraine students, and Karsten has some advice for those thinking about going: “Be prepared with outdoor gear, because you’ll want be outside the entire time.”

Monday, September 9, 2019 | Written by Karsten

This weekend a group of us went to Interlaken, Switzerland. When I say a group, I mean essentially all of GTL—there were forty-nine of us in the GroupMe, and although everyone didn’t come, there are only just under ninety undergraduate students here. Interlaken literally translates from German to “between lakes,” and as you might imagine, it’s between to lakes—Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. It is a wildly popular tourist location as it is absolutely stunning, and there are many different, generally extreme, once-in-a-lifetime experiences to be had, including hang-gliding and paragliding, running a mountainous marathon, and ridged hikes.



Adam Bradshaw, the lone University of Colorado-Boulder student this semester, and I took the train after class to St. Louis (not the one in Missouri) and met up with four other study abroad students in Basel, Switzerland. To get from St. Louis, France to Basel, Switzerland, we just walked across the border, so that was a pretty cool experience in and of itself. We ended up at a Swiss bar to watch the Switzerland-Ireland soccer game, and there were a couple Irishmen there who talked to us for the entirety of the game.


The six of us left from Basel and went on to meet up with the rest of the group in Interlaken. From the train, we could all see just how insanely blue the water of the lakes was. It was the color of the Glacier Freeze Gatorades. Once we got off of the train, we went on to the hostel that most people were staying at. I think every traveler there was either from GTL or running the marathon that was this weekend. Once we dropped off all of our stuff, a group went kayaking while the rest of us decided to go for a swim in the lake. The water was absolutely frigid, as it was a very cloudy, fifty-five-degree day. Regardless, it was a good time and made for some funny pictures.


The main goal of going to Interlaken was to be able to hike up Augstmatthorn, an insane ridge ending in a peak overlooking the lakes. If you’ve seen pictures from a high altitude in Interlaken, they were likely taken here. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it, as it’s deemed an “expert” hike and the weather was very uncertain. We made it up Harderkulm without much of a struggle, but then the rain started and made going rather treacherous. We got to the point where we could turn and head down the mountain or continue all the way. As I hiked in some slip-on Vans (not my brightest idea but funny nonetheless) and the weather seemed like it was getting worse, I was in the group that went down there. All in all, I fell about five times and slipped many, many more, but it was a good time anyway, particularly when I slipped and fell from the path on the way down and somersaulted (but quickly caught myself) and scared the group badly. Once back and changed, we went out for dinner at a fondue place. I was particularly excited for this, as my dad has made fondue at home, and I love it. Needless to say, it exceeded my expectations.



On Sunday, we headed back to Metz. It was a pretty uneventful trip, but we played Spicy Uno for the entirety of one train ride, so that was a very good time. Once we were back, I edited my pictures from the weekend and reflected, and man, Interlaken is stunning. I highly recommend it to anyone reading this who hasn’t been before, but also be prepared with outdoor gear, because you’ll want be outside the entire time.

Creating the Nearly Perfect School Schedule for Travel

What goes into a semester schedule at Georgia Tech-Lorraine? Let Karsten walk you through the thought process in his latest blog post!

Thursday, September 5, 2019 | Written by Karsten

When I make my class schedule for a semester, I normally try to get my classes all in the range from 9 am to about noon and make the beginning of the week heavier than the end of the week. However, this semester, I knew I would want to make my schedule a little different. Because Georgia Tech knows that students who take part in this program want to travel a lot, they give students Fridays off, for the most part, in the spring and fall semesters. The exceptions come on bank holidays and other reasons that we would have Monday off. In these cases, our Monday classes get pushed to the Friday of that week. I knew I wouldn’t want to take only electives while studying abroad, but I also did not want to take an entire course load of engineering classes. I settled by scheduling three classes that are required for my major, one class that will eventually complete my humanities requirement, and one 2000-level elective. I could have found a computer science class that begins the respective minor, but I’m still unsure if I want to do that. I talked to my advisor and the required classes that she recommended I take while abroad were ME 3322 (Thermodynamics), MATH 3670 (Probability and Statistics with Applications), and ECE 3741 (Instrum and Electronics Lab). It worked out well that Thermodynamics meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 am, Probability and Statistics meets on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3:30, and Instrum and Electronics Lab meets on Wednesdays at 9:30, and none of these hinder travel in any way. For Electronics Lab, it was convenient that I had taken the lecture part of the class (ECE 3710) in the spring, so I have some of what we’ll talk about in my recent memory. Since the other two classes are not required courses for my major, I had a bit more leeway with what I chose. I knew I wanted to begin getting my humanities out of the way and I was likely going to take a language, so since I am studying in France, I chose FREN 1001 (Elementary French 1). French class meets on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2 pm, which means I would have to be back earlier, but it’s unlikely that I would be getting back that late on a school day anyway. Lastly, I picked Science and Technology in the Modern World (HTS 2100) because it is a study of European regions and because it begins to fill up my 2000 level electives. This class meets on Tuesdays at 12:30, and therefore also doesn’t affect travel in any way due to lecture, though there are a few fieldtrips that occur on Friday throughout the semester. A normal week for me this semester starts at 2 pm on Monday and ends at 9:30 on Thursday, which technically gives me 100.5 hours per week to travel out of 168 total hours in a week. Though I won’t be using all of this time to travel, as school does come first, it is reassuring to know that if I have an easier week ahead, I can make some pretty ambitious travel plans and still make it back with plenty of time for class. 

A Race to Belgium

Karsten is an avid Formula 1 fan, and he was able to attend the first race back from their summer break at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which was an exciting and sobering experience. See his photos and learn more about the sport in his latest blog post.

Monday, September 2, 2019 | Written by Karsten

This past weekend was the weekend I’ve been looking forward to since I first decided to study abroad. I knew that in any given semester at Georgia Tech Lorraine, there would be a Formula 1 race in continental Europe, but because I chose the fall semester, Formula 1 would be just returning from their summer break, and the first race back is always at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps just so happens to also be my favorite racetrack in the world, so I knew I had to go, so my mom and I started to plan it. I wasn’t sure who I’d be going with, whether someone from here, my cousin, who I’m really close to and also enjoys cars, or my dad, who I got my passion for cars and racing from. My dad ended up making the trip across the pond because my mom had a bunch of miles that he could use. This ended up being the best option, as neither I nor my cousin nor anyone here is old enough to rent a car, but my dad is. This cut three hours off of the travel time.

Skipping over some details about the trip over and the practice sessions, we arrived at the track on Saturday to watch F3, F2, and Porsche Supercup qualifyings, as well as the final practice session, qualifying for Formula 1, and the first F3 and F2 races. On any given Formula 1 weekend, all of these take place. Formula 1 cars are the fastest. F2 cars, or Formula 2, are next, followed by F3 and finally Porsche Supercup. Call me a fake fan if you like, but I don’t know much about the F2, F3, or Porsche Supercup drivers or teams, but my dad and I do keep up with Formula 1 pretty religiously. It was still very cool to see the qualifyings of these series as that was the first truly competitive driving of the weekend, since it sets the order of the grid for the races. Formula 1 qualifying happened next, and as had happened so far during the weekend, our favorite team, Ferrari, qualified first and second. The joy that followed was soon transformed into gloom, as during the final event of the day, a massive accident occurred which resulted in broken bones of one driver and the passing of Anthoine Hubert.

As you might be able to expect, the mood of spectators and drivers alike on Sunday was rather dampened. However, all races except the final F2 race (the crash the day before happened in F2) still took place. The Formula 1 race is always the most anticipated event of any race weekend, and therefore happens last. Both Ferrari drivers escaped the first corner accident that so often happens, and they stayed first and second for the first stint of the race. On lap 19, the number of Anthoine Hubert, there was a touching moment where everybody watching the race stood and clapped for the entirety of the lap. Fast forward to the end of the race, Charles Leclerc, a Ferrari driver won his first Formula 1 race, and Sebastian Vettel, the other Ferrari driver brought home fourth. After the race, on the way back to our shuttle, my dad and I noticed that there were lots of people on track, and we managed to find out how to get on the track, so we took pictures on the start-finish line. That was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.

Even though a tragedy occurred during the weekend, I’m so glad to have been able to go to my first Formula 1 race in nearly fifteen years, and that I was able to experience it with my dad.

Managing Time with Travel (Part One)

Georgia Tech-Lorraine students travel a LOT, but it’s a great way to learn time management and prioritization. Karsten has a plan in place so that he can do as much as he can while abroad!

Sunday, September 1, 2019 | Written by Karsten

Normally, when at school, I try to think about actually doing school as little as possible. While this isn’t always the smartest idea, I’d much rather hang out than do schoolwork, and therefore I can only really do schoolwork when I’m alone. Now that I’m here in France, I have even more distractions. It seems like all anybody can think about is where they’re going to travel next, and I’m the same way. Luckily, as with any typical semester, the first couple weeks—or first full week, in this case—are usually pretty slow, with the occasional homework assignment needing to be completed. Because of this, I’ve been able to make new friends, take lots of pictures (and stay on top of editing them), get the recommended eight hours of sleep, and yes, travel in both of my first two weekends (I’m currently writing this in Belgium).

The classes I’m taking this semester are Thermodynamics, Probability and Statistics, Instrum and Electronics Lab, French 1, and Science, Technology, and the Modern World. The most worrying ones are the three that are mandatory to graduate as a mechanical engineer: Thermodynamics, Probability and Statistics, and Instrum and Electronics Lab. These classes, though fair according to past students, will be very difficult to get an A in if I don’t take them seriously and make time to review the material. Thermodynamics is a flipped classroom, so in class we’re solving problems and outside of class we’re watching lectures. There are eighteen evaluations to be completed throughout the semester, and if they all get completed successfully, we get an A. Probability and Statistics is heavily based on the midterms and the final, but if I’m able to stay on top of the homework and not miss any classes, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Instrum and Electronics Lab is based around lab quizzes and lab reports, so if Jake and I are able to get the labs done in class, we should be set. French 1 will be the most useful class I take while I’m in France, because, well, I don’t know any French yet. Maybe by the end of the semester, I’ll actually understand what’s going on around me. Lastly, as long as I stay up to date on my readings in Science, Technology, and the Modern World, the class should be manageable.

The method of attack that I think is best for managing my time is to get as much work as I can done during the first three nights of the week, and then doing my reading, writing, and eventually studying while I’m on the train. So far, that’s what I’ve done, and it seems to be like the best idea. Hopefully, by managing school this way, I’ll be able to keep my stress levels low and stay ahead on my work (although I already feel a little behind—hopefully I can work to feel caught up this week).

A Trip to Paris

Karsten and friends made the trip to Paris last weekend to celebrate the first weekend of the semester, and even scored some amazing seats to a PSG game! Check out his blog.

Monday, August 26, 2019 | Written by Karsten Messer

Though this was the first weekend abroad and I hadn’t really explored downtown Metz much, I wanted to go elsewhere. I flew into Paris, as did most people on this study abroad, but I had never been there before. I didn’t think many people would be interested in going out of town in the first weekend, so I expected to go by myself or with one of the only guys I knew coming into Georgia Tech Lorraine, Jake Tjards (a fellow member of Cru). However, when I mentioned in passing that I wanted to go to Paris this weekend, others also seemed interested, so we began planning. Everyone that went had a couple of things that they especially wanted to do, and because there were eight of us, we had a pretty good list of things to do. My two bucket list events were seeing the Eiffel Tower and going to my first European football match. On Thursday night, we bought our tickets for the train and the game, and we booked our Airbnb. 

Day One

Once we got to the train station and got all of our Eurail passes activated, we waited for the track to be listed, which doesn’t happen until twenty minutes before the train arrives. Once it was listed, we went to the tracks and it seemed like it wasn’t there. However, about one minute before it left, we realized that it wasn’t pulled all the way into the station, but it was there, so we bolted to the doors and somehow all made it. We arrived in Paris and began getting to our itinerary – with the first stop being a bakery.

After we had some of the best pastries of our lives, we walked to the Louvre (more on that later) and then into the Sainte-Chapelle—and immediately back out because we’re all on a budget. Next, we walked by the sad sight that is the Cathedral Notre Dame, as we were able to see the severe damage caused by the fire earlier this year. The last thing that we had scheduled was the Pantheon. We made a spur-of-the-moment decision (heavily influenced by me for photography purposes) to go to the Montparnasse Tower to watch the sun set over the cityscape. It was an absolutely incredible sight. Once the sun had gone down, we made the three-mile walk back to our Airbnb, which put us at fifteen miles for the day.

Day Two

On day two, we woke up, went and got more pastries, and went back to the Louvre. Honestly, I was not very excited to go as I am not a museum person at all. However, this was one of the best museums I had been in (at least recently), and I definitely enjoyed it. My favorite part, though cliché, was seeing the Mona Lisa. After, we went and got crepes for lunch and then went to see the Arc de Triomphe. I very much enjoyed walking through the insanely wealthy Champs-Élysées on the way, which was filled with stores I’ll never buy from and half a million-dollar cars. From there, we headed to see the Eiffel Tower up close and then on to the Parc des Princes for the PSG vs Toulouse game. We managed to get tickets in the third row of a first level section for less than fifty euros. After getting my biggest lens confiscated (taken to the bag check), it was a very fun and unforgettable experience. I thought Atlanta United games were loud and hype, but honestly, I’ve never been to a game that compares to the Parisian Ultras at this game. To top off the experience, PSG beat Toulouse 4-0, with all four goals being scored in the side we were sitting on.


Overall, I’m very glad to have gotten to go to one of the biggest cities with a rich history in the world as a way to ease in to travelling around Europe via the train system. It was extremely cool, and I hope to go back and see what I missed before I leave (though we walked thirty miles in two days, we couldn’t have missed too much).