Written by Blanca
*Disclaimer: This story takes place in March before Spring 2020 students returned to the U.S.
My last full day in Europe was spent as it always was: taking a series of trains. This time, though, was different, not only because I was on the final leg of my journey. Sitting at the Lorraine TGV station, I waited for my penultimate train under the sun, which had come out for the first time since I came abroad (and on the day I was leaving, too; fate sure does have a twisted sense of humor).
Interestingly, while I’m sure most Georgia Tech-Lorraine students are just as accustomed as I was to taking high-speed trains like France’s TGV while in Europe, on this day I witnessed a TGV pass by me as an observer, not a passenger, for the first time. It zipped past the station, the thundering echo lingering in my ears the only indication that it had ever been there at all. Meanwhile, the ride from inside a TGV is peaceful and relatively smooth; the landscapes and scenery that pass by seem tranquil as they fade in and out of view. Therefore, it was a bit shocking to witness just how fast and rumbling they are as a bystander.
I suppose this is a testament to the strength of French engineering, but I realized that it also represents the 2 months I spent at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Like the TGVs, I’d been going around Europe, one place after the next, seeing more of the world faster than I’d ever dreamed. Like the TGVs, I was truly zooming. But, while living the experience, day-by-day going was easy, and I’d mastered as much of a graceful ease as one can possess while trekking across countries and simultaneously doing probability & statistics homework. Each week, and all the sights I saw, seemed to fly by.
Now, as I’ve become an outsider once more, I see my European experience like an onlooker observing a TGV. Those ten weeks were a hectic, nonstop cycle of classes, then traveling to a place I’d always dreamed of seeing, and then back to classes and assignments again. Now removed, I can see that they went by almost in the blink of an eye. I took my study abroad experience by storm, swiftly blazing my way across cities and counties and countries, not unlike the thunderous TGVs. Just as soon as I arrived, I was leaving again.
And so, just like that, the high-speed train left the premises of the TGV station, as it was only passing through while heading to its destination. I, too, soon departed Lorraine TGV, departed France, off to do whatever else I have planned to be doing. To be sure, I have a lot of stops ahead of me, but so do TGVs, and they still always return to the same station on other days. Some other day, maybe I’ll be back—whether that will be in a short while or after the span of many years is about as predictable as the SNCF timetables.