Monday, March 29, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn
For many of us studying at Georgia Tech-Lorraine this semester, our study abroad experience is, to put it lightly, much different than most of us originally imagined. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that there is a global pandemic taking place as we are studying in France. Things have been wildly different than a “normal” semester, but I believe I speak for all when I say that every student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine feels extremely fortunate just to be here during this time of crisis.
For many of us, studying abroad has always been something we’ve wanted to do. It’s an integral part of our college experience, when we can learn to broaden our perspectives and expand our horizons. Thanks to the safety protocols and preventative measures taken by Georgia Tech-Lorraine, we’ve still been able to have that transformative experience while prioritizing the health of the community.
What is different from a typical semester?
- When you throw a handful of young, ambitious college students into the heart of Europe, our natural instinct is to travel as far and wide as possible; however, COVID-19 has thrown a bit of a wrench into this plan. Travel restrictions and lockdowns in certain countries have limited our capabilities to check off every single country on our bucket lists. Since circumstances change rapidly, we’ve had to keep ourselves well-informed on the conditions in other countries.
- Fortunately, here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine we have access to free testing in France. One testing location is a short walk away from the dorms. It is quick, convenient, and free. We are encouraged to test as much as possible, and most of us do.
- We are all doing our part to prevent the spread, and that means wearing a mask in all public spaces.
- We have to set more realistic expectations for the semester. As much as we may want to travel to a multitude of countries, sometimes it simply is impossible. We are currently living through difficult circumstances where we cannot compare our experiences to previous students’, which took some time to get used to. It is a changed world and situations are constantly evolving around us.
Despite the challenges, there have been lots of positives!
As an optimist, I couldn’t address the discrepancies of this semester without looking on the bright side.
- We’re learning how to deal with unfamiliar situations, and how to be adaptable. There’s nothing like your plans for the upcoming weekend falling through because of a sudden lockdown. This entire experience has taught us how to be flexible and prepared for whatever the next week may throw at us.
- Since certain countries are closed, we’re exploring more of our host country of France. The travel restrictions have made us stay close to Metz, and in some ways I am extremely grateful for that. We’ve ventured to many off-the-beaten-path destinations in France that have given us an authentic taste of the country’s culture. We’re seeing the less touristy and more real parts of France.
- On a similar note, it’s not uncommon for us to be one of the very few tourists in a place normally teeming with sightseers. We can experience places like the iconic landmarks of Paris without the usual bustling crowds!
In the end, the hallmarks of a study abroad experience are learning about a new culture, meeting new people, and dealing with unprecedented circumstances. We are very lucky to be crossing off all three of these items, even if they are not in the way we originally imagined!