Written by Swati
February 8th, 2023
As I’m writing this, I’m sat on the train back to Metz from Paris, watching the sunrise and thinking back on my first month abroad. A month, over already, gone in the blink of an eye. I never want to leave. I want to go back this instant. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times. we are truly capable of so much just as we are. Weeks ago I could barely string together the words to introduce myself in French and while I’m most definitely stumbling around, I’ve only ever used English two or three times in particularly stressful situations, favoring the immersive style of language learning. I’ve met people from Scotland, Japan, Canada, and different ends of the United States across my travels so far and it reminds me that the world isn’t quite so big after all. I’ve always heard it told to me that fortune favors the bold, but recently I’ve figured the opposite. Fortune doesn’t favor anyone, the bold favor fortune. I’m pulled to believe that we’re all given a sacred few chances that set the course of the rest of our lives, if only we muster up the courage to take them. The things that have proven most useful to me the past few weeks are research and advice- to know and be aware is far more useful than I would’ve thought prior. So much of life is white noise, focus on the things that strike a chord in you. Soldier on and forge your own way, Better if it’s off the beaten path because that’s what makes it your own. And for future study abroaders and GTE students I’ll give you a few tips for reading through my musings:
1. Bring a card holder and only carry essentials! Your student ID, credit card, phone and bus pass are all you really need on any odd day out in Metz or traveling. If you’re here during the early spring or transition months, add an umbrella! The weather is much more overcast and rainy in Metz than many originally planned for!
2. Bring a reusable bag. Shops often charge for disposable bags or don’t have them at all! Purchasing reusable bags embossed in french grocery store emblems is a bit of a shared GTE experience, but I was thankful my mom sent me off with a big post-christmas reusable bag from Bed Bath and Beyond. I’ll always have a piece of her reminding me not to buy the unnecessary trinkets I always end up rummaging through.
3. Give yourself lots of room to mess up! What I mean by this is to pad your travel time with time to transfer between trains or metro stations, budget time for getting lost or possible delays along the way (at least the first few times, metro and bus stations in new areas can be difficult to figure out! Coming from someone who has taken the wrong line one or two or four– too many times to admit). Public transit in Europe is far and wide and much better than the MARTA could ever dream of being, but it’s not foolproof and there are often strikes and delays. Try not to let a freak accident stop you from catching a connection or flight to a new place!
4. Be cautious with new foods and favor cooked and familiar foods when possible! While some of us have the stomachs for escargot and steak tartare, it’s always tough to tell how you’ll react to unfamiliar ingredients and cooking styles, especially in travel. When in doubt, look around at who’s in a restaurant or street food stall, read reviews, favor fully cooked food, and gauge freshness and cleanliness before taking the leap. As someone with a very weak stomach, I’ve been lucky (knock on wood) to make it this far without a bout of food poisoning, but I’d advise caution! You don’t want a reaction to an unfamiliar food stall to ruin a trip. Along those lines, spend money on what’s important to you! If it’s a bit of a higher end restaurant, shopping in a popular district, or a nicer hotel, make sure you prioritize because this semester can quickly shape up to be not very budget-friendly.
5. Don’t be afraid to venture out on your own! Being a Georgia Tech student is intense to say the least and many follow the motto “work hard, play hard” to a certain extreme. If you’ve read any of my posts so far, you know that I’m a big proponent of solo travel (as long as you’re being safe and have done the proper research on safe places to stay and people to check in with) it’s easily the best way to really immerse yourself in meeting new people, understanding the lifestyle in a new town, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. In my case, I find it easier to talk to locals and meet new people on my own. I find a greater sense of accomplishment in feats done on my own and I tend to have a stronger desire to do things at my own pace and based on my interests. don’t be afraid to say no to things you know you won’t enjoy, especially if it’s with people you’re not sure you feel totally comfortable with!
At the end of the day, this experience is all about finding your footing and it really is what you make of it. I’m a strong believer that you get what you want out of new adventures if you do your due diligence, and what I came in search of is time and space to navigate my young adulthood as I come into my own. About a dozen marketplaces, bookstores, and museums later, I find I’m really liking who I’m shaping up to be.