A Flight to See the Northern Lights

Only the most determined Georgia Tech-Lorraine students make it to see the northern lights during the semester, and Karsten and friends to the opportunity of a four-day weekend to make the trek up to Norway! Check out his blog for the beautiful photos!

Monday, November 11, 2019 | Written by Karsten

Pretty early in the semester, someone mentioned potentially going to Norway over the four-day weekend in November. While that was a very long time away and many trips away, I was interested, so I began to do research on places to go. The most obvious place would be to go to the biggest city, Oslo. However, I didn’t find anything too unique to do there, so I moved my search further north. This is where I found Tromsø. Tromsø is located in the Arctic Circle and is home to the northernmost university and is the northernmost city in the world – and is one of the best places to see the Aurora borealis. I decided that this was where I wanted to go. However, I made the mistake of waiting to see who all else would want to come along, and therefore didn’t actually book the trip until late October, which made the trip more expensive than anticipated. However, it was still cheaper than being able to see the northern lights at any other time due to living in the southern United States. Two people ended up coming with, so we packed our bags and headed to Tromsø.

We walked out of the Tromsø airport at about 12:45 PM and the sun was already beginning to set. The position of the sun was only the second craziest thing about this trip. We knew the sun would only be up for about five hours each day, but during those five hours, it was barely above the horizon and therefore provided five golden hours of sunlight—a photographer’s dream. However, what isn’t a photographer’s dream is it being 15 degrees out, meaning everyone is bundled up and lenses fogs up almost immediately. We didn’t have many plans for the day, so we went and found lunch while the sun fully set, and then went to find our Airbnb to take a short nap. Once we were rested up a little bit, we took the cable car up Fjellheisen, a mountain on an island adjacent to Tromsø. This provided magnificent views of the city and is the cheapest way to potentially see the northern lights. We lucked out: while overlooking the city lights, a bit of northern lights came out to play. After taking the best hand-held pictures we could manage, we headed back to our Airbnb and called it a night.

The next morning, we went to the Polaria Aquarium and saw their featured animal, the seal. From there, we went and found food, coffee, and $1 ice cream. I recreated my ice cream picture from Banff last winter, as apparently I enjoy eating ice cream in below freezing temperatures. We had a northern lights tour planned for the evening, so that was where we headed next. The Chasing Lights Minibus Tour took us to a different adjacent island, Ringvassøy, and set us up with tripods, thermal suits, a stew dinner, and a fire. Because we were away from the city, we could see the northern lights even better when they decided to come out, and luckily for us, they came out dancing. At about 11 PM, after we had been out in near zero-degree weather for three hours, the Aurora borealis came out so strong that we were able to see more than just the usual green color. We saw red and yellow dance around as well. Thanks to our knowledgeable guide, we knew that these were the strongest that the northern lights could be, and it was absolutely stunning. Not too long after this, we got back on the bus and headed back to the city and then back to our Airbnb, which we arrived back at 3 AM.

The final day wasn’t too eventful, unless you count getting ice cream again as eventful. Our flights left at about 7 PM, so we left the Airbnb at about noon and just wandered around and eventually sat down at a cafe to waste the rest of the time playing cards. After that, we just had the long journey back. When I say long, I mean it—we ended up traveling there and back in slightly less time than we were actually in Tromsø, and we were in Tromsø for about 55 hours. I think the total travel time was about 40 hours, but the lengthy journey was so worth it. Seeing the northern lights was a dream come true and a truly unforgettable experience, and I hope that I’ll be able to see them again some day soon.

Le Grand Mix

One of the strengths of Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech-Lorraine are the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of its students, so Professor Serafin organized a night of “speed-networking” for undergraduate and graduate students to meet and share experiences! Check out Karsten’s latest blog on the evening.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019 | Written by Karsten

The Georgia Tech-Lorraine program includes both graduate students and undergraduate students. However, naturally, students tend to hang out in their respective program. This is because of the age difference, schedule differences, and some language and cultural differences—many of the graduate students haven’t been to the Atlanta campus, while the undergraduates, excluding transient students, have. Some of the graduate students learned English as their second or even third language. Being fluent in more than one language is something I’m quite jealous of.

Since students stick to their programs, even though some of us live in the same building, most of us haven’t met. However, for the first time, the French professor at Georgia Tech Lorraine, who has classes with both graduate and undergraduate students, planned an event for the two programs to come together and mix so that graduate students and undergraduate students could meet. She thought this event could be beneficial to both groups, as some graduate students are coming to the Atlanta campus in the spring and needed information on housing and things to do in the city, and undergraduate students could hear about graduate programs. Professor Serafin introduced the idea to her French class, which I’m a part of, and there was a general interest from our group. She sweetened the idea with free pizza so we could get some of our friends to come, and we promised we could get some more undergraduate students to come, and so Professor Serafin went ahead and planned the event. 

The event happened on Tuesday immediately after the CROUS cooking event. On this rainy Tuesday, more than twenty students from each program came out to meet each other. It was set up in a “speed dating” manner, meaning there were a bunch of tables lined up, with undergraduate students on one side and graduate students on the other, and one side rotated after about two minutes. While this ended up seeming like a really short time, both sides were able to introduce themselves and share some valuable information with the other. After about thirty minutes, there was about five minutes of free for all, so you could meet new students or pick up on a conversation that was cut short by the two minute timer. After all of this, we could continue to mingle and eat the pizza that just arrived. 

Being an introvert, naturally, I wouldn’t expect to have liked an event like this. However, being that I promised Professor Serafin that I’d come and the event having free food, I came and actually had a good time. It was very interesting to hear the graduate students perception of Atlanta and it was good to be able to help them with whatever they might’ve needed that we had previous experience with.

A Near-Disaster in London

Karsten and friends ran into some issues on their trip to London in October! Check out his latest blog for the full story.

Sunday, October 20, 2019 | Written by Karsten

After our HTS field trip to Electricite de France (EDF) Cattenom, Julia and I headed to London to meet up with DJ. We booked our train tickets and our Airbnb nearly two weeks prior, and we were all so excited to be able to understand everything that was said to us. However, upon arrival and messaging our hosts that we were on our way, we received a response that took us by surprise: they could no longer host us, as their pipe from the toilet had exploded. There we were, outside of the London train station at 10:00 P.M. with no place to stay. We headed to the nearest hostel with decent ratings and asked if they had three places for two nights, and luckily for us, they did. We put our stuff in the room, planned out what we wanted to see for Saturday, and went to sleep.

We got up on Saturday and headed towards the London Bridge. It was extremely cool to see the iconic bridge near sunrise. We walked across the bridge and then found a bagel place for breakfast. After breakfast, DJ split from us to head to the Imperial War Museum, and Julia and I headed towards the Buckingham Palace. From there, we sat in Green Park for a little and then went across town to the shopping district for lunch.

Getting there there was more difficult than expected, though. The street we had to cross had a one million-person protest against Brexit. I guess that’s what we get for going to London the weekend before Great Britain was supposed to leave the EU.

We decided to continue on, so we just walked alongside the protest, took a couple of pictures, and walked across and out the other side. After seeing a couple of high-end car dealerships and a couple of stores, we found a fish and chips place for lunch. It was extremely good and a ton of food for the price.

Next, we went to Harrods to check out what was outside, as I knew the place is famous for what supercars are parked out front. On the way, we were able to walk through Hyde Park and, in typical London fashion, we got rained on. DJ met back up with us on the way to Harrods. After seeing what was parked outside, we decided to walk in for a little only to see that everything was out of our price range. Another group of GTL students was in London for the weekend, so we met up with them at Nando’s for dinner and then headed back to the hostel for the night.

On Sunday, we went to the British Museum. The highlights from the museum included seeing the Rosetta Stone and an Easter Island head—you know, similar to the talking one in Night at the Museum. After a couple of hours there, we headed for lunch, and I had Bangers and Mash. The only food that I felt was missing from this weekend was a traditional English breakfast, but oh well. From lunch, we went back to the main station to catch our train back to Metz. Besides being able to understand all of the words around us, one big highlight from the weekend was definitely being able to try a lot of traditional – stereotypical even – English foods and trying tea for the first time. Despite the price, London is easily one of my favorite cities that I’ve been to during this semester, and I hope to come back one day.

Endurance Trip to Vienna

Karsten took his first solo trip, and it didn’t go as planned, but he still got in plenty of exploring!

Saturday, October 12, 2019 | Written by Karsten

I had a plan to see three new countries today—or so I thought. After the Munich HTS trip, I thought I was going to take a train to go to Rajka, Hungary, walk about two and a half miles to stand on where Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary came together, and then head back to Vienna and spend the day there and then take an overnight train back to Metz. Well, a couple of those stayed true—I’m writing this on the overnight train back to Metz. However, after making a couple of questionable moves, I ended up not going to Rajka.

After the field trip, I hung around Munich for my first train, which left at 8:00 P.M. I grabbed dinner with a couple of guys that were staying in Munich for the weekend, and then headed to the station for my first solo trip. My trains took me through Salzburg, Vienna, and eventually to Parndorf, Austria, where I spent the wee hours (from 1:30 A.M. until 5:30 A.M.) of the morning. I was the only person at this tiny train station in the middle of nowhere. Needless to say, I hated that and was creeped out the entire time I was awake. I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep (putting me at 11 hours of sleep in three nights), but it was here that I decided to skip out on Hungary and just head to Bratislava, Slovakia, and then to Vienna. This decision let me get out of Parndorf a few minutes earlier and into Vienna four hours earlier. After spending twenty minutes in the Bratislava train station, I have now been to fourteen countries in my life.

I took the hour-long train back to Vienna and got there at 7:00 A.M.. I decided to walk to all of the major landmarks I had originally planned to see. These included the Rathaus, the Hofburg, the Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the Danube Tower. These places weren’t very close to each other, but I had no other plans. I started from the train station to Schönbrunn, then to the Rathaus, then to the Danube Tower, and lastly, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Hofburg. My favorites were the Schönbrunn and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

 The Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens were absolutely massive, kind of like the Biltmore in the United States, and it was really cool to see. St. Stephen’s Cathedral was also huge and beautiful. I spent roughly an hour around the cathedral, but I regret not going in. I ended up just eating some ice cream and drinking a coffee outside, as I was exhausted. From here, I made the hour trek to the train station, grabbed dinner, and hopped on this train. I ended up walking over twenty miles throughout Vienna, so I’d say there isn’t too much I didn’t see, except for Eliud Kipchoge breaking the marathon record in Vienna on the same day, but I felt as if I had also completed a marathon. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some sleep on the rest of this train, as I need to catch up.

A Field Trip to Munich (Part 2)

“It’s crazy to me that this is just another part of the HTS 2100 class, and I’m so glad that I decided to sign up for this class…” Karsten wraps up his summary of his jam-packed trip to Munich with Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s HTS 2100 class in his latest blog post!

Friday, October 11, 2019 | Written by Karsten

After we went to the BMW Factory, we had a little bit of free time. Many of us went to get coffee or hot chocolate and then to explore the English Gardens, as this was right by where we were supposed to meet for dinner. It was beautiful outside and felt so good—maybe I can bring these European temperatures back to Atlanta! After wandering around for an hour, we made it to the restaurant where we were meeting Georgia Tech alumni for dinner. The HTS professor arranged this dinner so that we could network and hear about working or interning in Europe. We all were able to learn lots from the experience. We returned to our hostel at about 1:00 AM and immediately went to bed.

We had another early morning on Friday morning. I woke up at 6:30 AM – and therefore was running on about nine hours of sleep for the past two nights combined. We had breakfast and then left for BMW World. Here, they had on display almost all of their new cars as well as a large BMW and Mini merchandise store. The main reason we were at the BMW World was to be really close to the BMW Museum when it opened, as this would make the timing for the rest of the day easier. We got to see all of the cars and engines that are important to BMW’s history. To save you most of the details of my part of the BMW presentation we gave in class, the most important pieces were the airplane engines that BMW started as a supplier of and the BMW Neue Klasse. 

From the BMW Museum, we headed into the middle of Munich for lunch. We had forty-five minutes to walk around and find food before we headed to another museum. I had a pizza but more importantly a gingerbread cookie—it was massive and so good.

We met back up where we all dispersed from and headed to the Deutsches Museum. This is a museum of German technology, and we were given an assignment to do. Firstly, we all had to look at their special exhibit, which was coffee. (We all ordered a coffee after. It was extremely good.) Then, we had to pick one exhibit in particular to focus on and answer a couple of questions with a partner. My partner and I chose the airplane exhibit, as aerospace is quite cool. There, they had many instantly recognizable planes and flying objects, though replicas and models, such as the Red Baron’s triplane, the Hindenburg, and the Wright Brother’s plane. Once we had all of the information we needed, we decided to rush through everything else that we thought might be interesting, primarily the astronomy and cosmology sections. Getting to learn (and remember) about outer space is one of the best and most interesting topics out there. Once we were done, we met back up with the class, and from there officially went out to the rest of our weekend’s adventures. It’s crazy to me that this is just another part of the HTS 2100 class, and I’m so glad that I decided to sign up for this class where I can learn and visit places that I likely wouldn’t have chosen to go myself.

A Field Trip to Munich (Part 1)

As a self-proclaimed car nerd, Karsten enjoyed the HTS 2100 class’s trip to the BMW headquarters and manufacturing center! Check out his blog about the first part of the field trip.

Friday, October 11, 2019 | Written by Karsten

I am a car nerd. I can’t tell you how an engine works exactly, I don’t know the relationships between different parts, but I can name random facts about cars and correctly guess most higher end models from a fair distance away. When I signed up for the HTS 2100 class I’m in, I had no idea there were field trips involved (luckily, they didn’t mess with plans I had already made). Before this weekend, we had only had the one to Crystal Saint-Louis, but this weekend was the one I was most excited for about any of them on the list. We went to Munich to see the BMW factory and museum.

The field trip started after classes on Wednesday. Since our first train was at 5:38 PM, the 3:30 PM classes got to leave a little early to ensure that we made it with plenty of time. We were all good with trains until our last one, which we thought we were going to miss, got delayed, but people were getting food and so most people waited for the next one anyway. However, a trio of us didn’t get that memo, so we arrived in Munich an hour earlier than everyone else. We finally made it to our hostel at about 1:30 AM, and with breakfast at 7 AM, no one slept too well. From breakfast, we went to the FIZ, which is BMW’s information and R&D headquarters. We met with a few German interns, and they were our tour guides for the day. We went almost immediately to a Georgia Tech alum, Tomohiro, who currently works in acoustics, and his intern Nate, a current Georgia Tech student who was in this class last fall.

To see the impact of someone who knew nothing about acoustics and also knew no German a year ago definitely made me consider trying to get an internship for sometime next year. After learning about their jobs, we had lunch at the “small” cafeteria in the headquarters. Apparently, the one in the FIZ is substantially larger, but I guess that makes sense, as 15,000 people work there. We watched a few presentations after, and considering the little sleep we all got the previous night and the presentations being immediately after lunch, it was rather difficult to stay awake, but at least the topics were interesting.

After the presentations was the factory tour. The thing that stuck out the most about the factory tour was that the production of the body is over 99% automated, meaning that there are tons of robots doing all of the welding and shaping of the body. We also saw the production of the engines, seats, and the pairing of engines to the transmissions and to the body. While this isn’t the first car factory I’ve toured (I visited Lamborghini before my senior year of high school), it won’t be the last car factory I’ll tour (I’m visiting Porsche around Thanksgiving). And though the cars we saw in production (3 Series coupes and wagons and 4 series coupes) aren’t as interesting to me as, say, a Lamborghini Huracan or a Porsche 911, it was very in depth, and we got to see it all come together, which was very cool. 

This post is ending at about 5:00 PM on Thursday, meaning there is still almost a day’s worth of the field trip remaining, so stay tuned next week to see the post about the alumni meet and greet and the two museums we are going to on Friday.

Cooking at CROUS

The BDE did it again! Students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine this semester were able to make pasta a chocolate fondant from scratch at the local cafeteria CROUS. Check out Karsten’s review of their handiwork.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019 | Written by Karsten

About a week ago, we got an email about having the chance to cook with a couple of chefs at CROUS, a cafeteria close to Georgia Tech Lorraine’s campus that lots of students go to for lunch. Set up by the BDE, students would be learning to make pasta and pastries—this alone enticed me enough to sign up, as my Tuesday afternoons are very free. However, when I talked to my friends, most of them didn’t sign up for one reason or another, so it was my goal to try to convince them to go so I wouldn’t be alone. I managed to get a couple of them to come, so I knew it’d be a good time.


We started with pasta. On the tables, there was 100 grams of flour, one egg, and salt and pepper. We poured the flour onto the table, made a gap in the middle for the egg so it wouldn’t go everywhere, and mixed the two together by hand. From there, we added a pinch of salt and pepper and then let it rest for twenty minutes. Since we were making tortellini, we were able to make the filling while the dough rested. The filling was cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, pepper, a little bit of olive oil and an even smaller bit of truffle oil. Next, we put the dough through the pasta press, which made our dough into a very thin sheet. In the end, the dough was only one to two millimeters thick. From there, we used a circular cookie cutter to make as many circles of dough as we could fit. We put a little bit of our cream cheese mixture into the middle of the circle of dough, put some water along the edges of the circles (so the dough stuck to itself upon folding), and folded the pasta. Once all of our pasta had been folded, we dropped them into a primarily water, boiling, water-oil mixture. They only needed a couple minutes in there until the tortellini was done. There was no sauce for the pasta, but it was still some of the best pasta I’ve ever had—not that me making it had anything to do with that.


For the pastry, we were making a chocolate fondant—better known in the U.S. as molten chocolate cake. We actually didn’t get much in terms of amounts of each ingredient, but we did mix eggs, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, and butter (chocolate chips and butter made a chocolate liquid when heated). That was all we had to do, and so we scooped some of the batter into a little cup and into the oven it went. When it came out, it was very molten—so much so that it didn’t stay in the cake shape when we took it from its container. Though it probably should’ve been cooked a tiny bit longer, it tasted phenomenal and I had three, as my sweet tooth can’t be contained at times.


I’m really happy that I signed up to do this, as I’d never done any form of homemade pasta before. If my hands weren’t so dirty, I would’ve enjoyed taking more pictures of the event, but luckily Katia was there with her camera and got lots of pictures for us. The chefs were interested in doing another event in the future, so if you’re reading this from GTL, please come out, it’s a good time.