Summits above Switzerland

Join Kaitlyn as she visits a place she’s dreamt of – Switzerland. Read her story– one filled with chocolate, chess, and snow capped mountains– in her latest blog post!

 

Thursday, January 28th, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

From the Appalachians to the Sierra Nevadas, my favorite family trips growing up were always the ones we took to visit the great mountains of the United States. As I spent my time staring at and summiting peaks, I’ve always dreamt of being surrounded by the majesty of the alps. This weekend my travel companions and I journeyed to Luzern and Zurich, Switzerland to make what was once a distant dream, reality. 

Day 1

My group and I left Thursday morning to start our multi-train journey towards Luzern. Our travel went relatively smoothly… except for one of our transfers in Basel. We only had a few minutes to change trains and ended up sprinting to catch our next one before it departed. The nine of us running at full speed through a small train station must have been quite a sight to the other travelers.  While I was sprinting, I looked to my right to see a small Swiss boy take one glance at us, then start sprinting in the same direction. I was so focused on catching my train, I never glanced back to see if he realized there was no reason for him to run.

swan in a lake Once we caught our breath (safely on our train) we were able to fully take in the scenery as we rode closer to Luzern. In the span of just four hours, we had gone from viewing the lush green countryside of France to staring, awestruck, at the snow capped mountains of the Alps. We arrived in Luzern in the mid-afternoon, and had a few hours to kill before we could check into our Airbnb. So, we did as one would do upon arriving in a foreign city: we explored. It was a beautiful, partly sunny day (something that is hard to come by this time of year in Metz) and we took full advantage of it. We came across an urban park where two old men were playing giant chess. I’ve never played a game of chess, but I watched Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, so that must count for something right? Lack of chess knowledge notwithstanding, it was enjoyable to observe the men amicably argue back and forth in German. Our last activity for the day was hiking up to the top of a very tall hill. Standing on the top, I came to the conclusion Luzern has a sort of indescribable charm I could never aptly write about as I took in the view of the lights of the city.

Day 2

church in luzern Luzern still had plenty more to offer, so we spent our second day continuing to explore the city. A friend and I split off from our group and wandered around with no specific destination in mind. We walked into a stunning cathedral which reminded me more of a Disney princess’ castle than the typical gothic European cathedral. The ornate details of the architecture took my breath away upon our arrival. Instead of being made of stone and stained glass, it was covered in white and pink plaster and embellished with perfectly placed gold accents. chocolates, yum!After our time in the cathedral, we checked off a Swiss must-do: eating delicious Swiss chocolate. It might have been expensive, as everything in Switzerland is, but I can say with confidence that it was worth every Franc.

Day 3

zurich street photo Luzern treated us well, but we wanted to see more of what Switzerland has to offer, so we took a day trip to Zurich (only a 50 minute train ride from Luzern). One of our first stops was to grab lunch from a kebab restaurant. I have a feeling that this might be a recurring destination throughout my time traveling in Europe, as we also ate kebabs the previous day. It’s filling, delicious, and relatively cheap which is all a college student could ever ask for. After exploring the streets of the city, we hopped on a bus to Uetliberg, which is affectionately nicknamed the top of Zurich. To anyone who visits Zurich, I highly recommend you visit Uetliberg. We climbed the mountain to the summit, where we saw the entirety of Zurich below us, and the Alps above us in the distance. It was a fantastic way to end our last day in Switzerland and a truly breathtaking experience, mostly from the beautiful views, but partially from the steep uphill climb.top of zurich picture

Un Sac, S’il Vous Plaît & More First Moments in Metz

Join Kaitlyn as she details her first few days of living in Metz and the insights she’s gained from her new experiences.

Friday, January 22nd, 2020 | Written by Kaitlyn

Hello, all! As I sit at my desk in my dorm room, I believe I’m just starting to take in the fact that I’m in France, about as far away from home as I could be. Gone are the days of enjoying the comfort and security of home cooked meals and only ever leaving my house to walk my dog around the neighborhood (thanks, pandemic!). In their place are days full of adventurous attempts at cooking for myself and thrilling strolls around Metz and all it has to offer. It’s certainly a pretty intense shift from the past nine months of small-town America, but I know I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I feel so fortunate to be embarking on this journey. 

Flying into Paris with the moon overhead.

In the past ten days, I’ve learned so much about the French lifestyle, met so many incredible people, and seen so many beautiful sights, that it is all a bit overwhelming – but, I think that I can summarize my experience so far into a few key learning experiences and observations. Let’s jump right into it.

French customs agents? Anything but intimidating. When packing for this trip, one of the most important things we needed to bring was a plethora of documents. Documents showing proof of residence, negative COVID-19 test results, visas, insurance – you name it, we needed it. However, when we stumbled off the plane upon landing at Charles De Gaulle, and lined up to go through customs, we had a much easier process than expected. Maybe it’s because we are innocuous American college students? Either way, I was more than happy for the straightforward procedure.

Me, when I realized that I would actually need to speak French to get by while living in France.

Come physically and mentally prepared to Cora. After arriving at our dorms, a group of us decided to head to Cora, or as I choose to call it, French Super Walmart. When I and a couple others went to go check out, we realized that unlike most places in America, there were no grocery bags available; all the locals we saw around us had brought their own. Upon seeing this, I’ll admit I started to get a little nervous. How was I going to ask for a bag from the cashier? There wasn’t enough time to frantically Google “How to ask for a bag in French,” so I stuffed my newly purchased goods into my backpack (tragically crushing my chocolate croissants in the process), and resigned to hugging my bundle of paper towels against my chest on the walk back. My goal for my next trip to Cora will be to ask the cashier, “Je peux avoir un sac, s’il vous plaît?”

GTL couldn’t have been put in a better location. On Saturday we were given a tour of downtown Metz. I was instantly enchanted by the cobblestone streets lined with bakeries and shops, the cheerfully yellow buildings, and the general infectious liveliness of the city. We stopped at the most notable areas and buildings, then were left on our own to wander around. My group and I headed toward the Moselle river. We were greeted with a breathtaking view of Temple Neuf, lit up with its reflection shining in the water, and the cathedral glowing warmly in the distance.

Colors dancing on the walls of the cathedral.

The next day, we headed back downtown. It was a bit of a struggle catching a bus – we were about ten feet from making it to the bus stop when the bus we intended to hop onto blew right by us and the bus stop, not even slowing down for just a second. However, I am happy to report that we did eventually catch a bus and arrive downtown. We walked around the quiet streets (most places are closed on Sundays), taking in the sights with no specific direction in mind. A few of my favorite things I saw included: the Cathedral of Saint Stephen, where the sunlight shined vibrantly through the stained glass, a pair of ambitious swans looking for food along the river, and last but certainly not least, a delicious crepe that I consumed within seconds. 

Make the most of our time here. As a very wise person once said: “YOLO”. I like to think that this applies to studying abroad. Even just after a few days of living in a new country, I’ve had so much fun from figuring things out, experiencing French culture, and exploring Metz. Though it may be slightly more difficult to abide by this saying with certain restrictions in place such as a curfew, I like to think that there’s still so much at our fingertips while here in the heart of Europe. I’m very excited to see what’s coming up in these next four months, and I can’t wait to continue documenting it all here on the blog.

From College At Home to Studying Abroad!

A new semester brings a new Georgia Tech-Lorraine blogger! Meet Kaitlyn, the GTL blogger for this spring as she introduces herself and her anticipation to study abroad in Metz!

Friday, January 5, 2020 | Written by Kaitlyn

Bonjour à tous!

According to Google Translate, that means “hello everyone!” en Français. Unfortunately, my only experience with the French language is half a year of classes… from middle school. The irony in the fact I chose to study Spanish for four years, but am studying abroad in France, is not lost on me.

Anyways, hello! My name is Kaitlyn. I’m a second-year industrial engineering major, who like most of the other students enrolled at Georgia Tech-Lorriane this semester, has been looking forward to this opportunity for as long as I can remember. Since my older sister studied abroad in Italy two years ago, I’ve been dead set on studying abroad as well. When I was searching for colleges to apply to for my undergraduate degree, an outstanding study abroad program was a must. Luckily for me, Georgia Tech has exactly that.

Under normal circumstances, this upcoming semester would be remarkable. I feel that this year, with unusual circumstances, is going to be, although quite different, especially remarkable. This past semester, I chose to stay home and take my classes remotely. While I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the comforts of the at-home life (where I can attend classes in my pajamas), it has overall been… interesting. Plus, being at home all of the time has just made me that much more excited to have the opportunity to get out there and travel this semester.

Me and the classic French baguette, age 11.

When I was younger, my thoughts on France were very stereotypical; i.e, believing Paris was the only city and thinking that all France had to offer was baguettes and berets. This line of thinking was also perpetuated by an actual visit to Paris that my family took when I was 11 years old.

Being so young, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the places my parents took me to, and instead fixated on simple things like seeing pretty buildings and eating good food (not to say that I won’t still appreciate those things when I go there this time).

Wearing a Paris sweatshirt in Paris. Who could have possibly spotted me as a tourist?

 

This time around, I am looking forward to discovering the places in France 11-year-old me didn’t know existed, particularly Metz. While I’m sure I will still be drawn to the “touristy” places, I am excited to spend my four months in Metz exploring and seeing all that the small city has to offer. I am a firm believer in taking the road less traveled, and I plan on implementing that belief during my time abroad.

Whether it be through making new friends, exploring an unknown city thousands of miles away from home, or attempting to communicate with locals, I am beyond excited to use this time to further my global perspective. I will be far away from the comforts of home, and it is only given that I will experience personal growth and make progress on discovering my niche in the world. It’s amazing to think that soon I’ll be somewhere so different from home. Until then, don’t worry — I’ll be practicing my French.