A Whirlwind First Week

Blanca has finally arrived in Metz! After a long flight and experiencing the wonders of Cora, Blanca recaps her first taste of life in France. Check out her blog post to hear her describe one of the many amazing adventures ahead of her!

Monday, January 13th | Written by Blanca

Bonjour à tous!  Je m’appelle Blanca Zhang.  Puis-je avoir une table pour trois s’il vous plaît? 

Hello, everyone!  My name is Blanca Zhang, and while I don’t actually need a table for three at the moment, I’m thrilled to be posting again!  (These are the only three sentences in French that I currently know.)

This time, I’m writing to you not from my desk in the North Avenue Apartments, but from my (substantially more spacious) desk in Crous Lorraine, Campus Technopôle.  Since my arrival, I’ve already seen more sights, experienced more cultural nuances, and eaten more bread than I could have hoped. But wait—*record scratch* *freeze frame*—you’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.  For that, we’ll have to turn back the clock a week.

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 6:00AM EST: I am rudely awakened by my alarm, a cacophonous sound which evokes in me more rage than empty staplers, comma splices, and drivers-who-don’t-use-their-turn-signals-until-they’re-actually-turning combined.  Cursing the past three weeks spent waking up at noon and ruining any modicum of a sleep schedule that remained after the fall semester, I blearily finish packing (yes, I am that person, and no, I don’t recommend it) and am soon on my way to Queens, New York.  

Fun fact!  The boroughs of New York City are where I spent the first few years of my life, but this time, instead of going home, I’m heading far, far from it.

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 3:00PM EST:  Maybe my roots in Queens are stronger than I thought, because I cannot seem to leave.  My flight has been delayed for the umpteenth time, and I count the flight departure update messages I have received from American Airlines since that morning; there are eleven. I am sure to miss my connection in Philadelphia.  I consider my options: 1) cry, or 2) frantically message my much more knowledgeable friends in hopes that one might know what to do. I choose the latter and decide to revert to option 1 if it isn’t successful—luckily, it is, and I’m given a crash course on how to ask for a flight change.  Here are the steps if you ever find yourself in such a situation: 

  1. Find a different flight with your airline that shares your current location and intended destination.
  2. Explain to the airline representative at your gate that, due to the delays with your flight departure, you are going to miss your connection at a different airport.
  3. Request to be reassigned to a flight that will arrive at your destination.  If you must arrive before a specific time to, say, catch a shuttle to campus, as I did, be sure to emphasize so.

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 5:45PM EST:  I board my new plane and settle in for a six-hour flight.  Already, most of the passengers around me are speaking French—this comes as little surprise, since we’re heading to Paris.  I recall that I, however, do not speak French, so I try to draw upon my Duolingo French expertise but remember that I quit halfway through the first lesson.  Should I reinstall the app on my phone and practice during the flight there? I try, but a flight attendant asks that I switch my phone to airplane mode, and I am left without WiFi.  Such is a modern tragedy of our day.

Monday, January 6, 2020, 4:00PM CET:  My flight touches down at the Paris-CDG airport at half past 7:00AM, and after boarding the GTL shuttle and falling asleep almost immediately, I wake up to foggier skies, the incandescent glow of street lamps, and yellow stone façades with wrought-iron terraces.  We’ve made it to downtown Metz!  

Charming downtown Metz
Charming downtown Metz

Soon, however, the neo-Romanesque structures begin to fade, and cobblestone gives way to paved roads.  As the shuttle rounds the bend of a pristine lake, I’m greeted, after a long day of travelling through unfamiliar sights, by one I know very well: a glass building that reads ‘Georgia Tech.’

Monday, January 6, 2020, 6:00PM CET:  A couple other GTL students and I have decided that we are not tired enough yet, so we’ve made the 15-minute trek from Crous to Cora, a walk that was well worth it.  While I’d been aware that Cora is dubbed the ‘French Walmart,’ nothing could prepare me for its sheer magnitude. I’m a lover of grocery stores, bakeries, furniture/homewares stores, and garden centers, so you can imagine my awe at a single store that combines all those and more.  

An image of lots, and lots of beautiful sweets!
The Cora bakery section, also known as “what dreams are made of”

Armed with my list of room essentials, I wander around Cora without a single idea where anything is located but not caring one bit—this is objectively the most amazing supermarket I’ve ever visited.  Not knowing French poses a slight inconvenience when you find yourself on a wild goose chase around Cora in the hopes of finding Brita pitchers and can’t read any of the aisle signs (but hey, at least you can get your steps in)!  I’ve always heard that European culture involves much more bread-eating and walking than in America (among many other things, of course), and Cora is, unexpectedly, a place where you can do both!  

Present Day:  The past week has been exciting, exhausting, eye-opening, exhilarating, plus a bunch of other adjectives that start with ‘e’—and it’s only been a week!  I’m looking forward to many more of them, and since I plan to write all about it, I hope you are, too.