Monday, December 16th | Written by Karsten
I’m now back in my home in Augusta, Georgia, and have had some time to reflect on this past semester. Before I get into my thoughts, I’m going to lead off with some stats. This semester was just shy of 17 weeks, including finals and travel. In that time I’ve been to 15 new countries and 25 new cities, been on 180 hours of trains and buses, spent 5 nights in airports and train stations, been on 9 flights, wrote 21 postcards and bought countless more, and traveled thousands of miles all while taking 13 credit hours of classes.
There were three trips in particular that were beyond special: Tromso, Spa, and Monaco. I’ll start with Monaco. I’ve been watching Formula 1 for as long as I can remember, and one of the races is in the streets of Monaco. Because of Formula 1 and my dad’s influence, I love cars, and because Monaco is so rich, there are an insane amount of luxury cars and super cars. I’ve always wanted to be able to go to Monaco to see these cars and to be able to walk the track, and because the circuit is just streets for most of the year, studying abroad allowed me to do that. Also because of Formula 1 and my love for cars, I wanted to go to a Formula 1 race while abroad, since about half of the races are in Europe. My favorite race track in the world is in Spa, and the race happens to be at the beginning of the fall semester every year, so I wanted to go. My mom made it happen, and my dad got to come too, so that was an unforgettable experience. Lastly, Tromso—it was by far the most expensive trip that I planned, as well as the furthest distance from Metz (and therefore the most difficult to get to). After traveling for 20 hours, a couple of friends and I got to see the Northern Lights on both nights that we were there. They are absolutely stunning I could not recommend them enough if you have the ability to go see them.
Things I Did Well
I would like to think that I did quite a few things well during this semester. I managed to travel tons – almost every weekend – and got to see many things that I never would have thought I’d be able to see. I was able to take 13 credit hours (I have been taking 14-16 every semester before this one) and still be able to do this traveling and be social. Another thing I did well was being social: I’m an introvert, and therefore being social is usually a problem, but I was able to be pretty social among the group of students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Lastly, I don’t think I got lost at all this semester—I had limited data and though a couple of wrong turns were taken, I always made it to the end destination relatively quickly.
Things I Didn’t Do Well (and Advice for Future GTL Students)
First, I would advise getting the Free Mobile plan that is mentioned during orientations. You do get a new number, which is annoying, but I was paying substantially more with Verizon and had very limited data. Second, plan your trips decently in advance. There were multiple occasions where I had to make last second plans to go to a city that wasn’t my first choice because all of the trains were sold out to get there. Another reason to plan bigger trips in advance is that planes are cheaper when tickets are bought in advance. Third, talk to people outside of the group you’re with. I struggle with this because I’m such a shy person, but I heard some really cool stories from people who talked to locals. Lastly, do focus on school some on the weekends. While I did well enough, I rarely did anything school related on the weekends, and therefore caused a bit of unnecessary stress for during the week.
This semester has been the craziest semester I’ve had yet. I’m not going to lie, only knowing two people coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine with me terrified me; I thought I was going to end up being quite lonely because I wouldn’t talk to people, but I actually didn’t really have to try to be social. Everyone was so extremely nice and generally outgoing. I think I met almost everyone in our program, and I did something – be it playing cards or traveling – with about half of the group. I got to do so many things and travel to so many places and make some good friends, and that’s what made this semester so special. I wasn’t fully sure I had made the right choice to come study abroad, and while it was difficult at times, I would do it again and not change a thing if I had the option (well maybe some small things, but you get the point).