Bienvenue à Metz and Settling in to Life in France

Since making her decision to get her undergrad degree at Georgia Tech, Mira knew that she wanted to spend a semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine— and after 3 years, Mira has finally made it to Metz! Read her latest blog post to find out more about Mira’s love of travel and her first experiences in France.

Friday, September 10, 2021 | Written by Mira

View of a city from a tall apartment building. Three tall buildings rise above a collection of smaller buildings. Clear balcony walls are in the foreground. Fluffy clouds are spread out across the blue sky.
The view from my apartment in Tel Aviv this summer.

Bonjour, Je m’appelle Mira!  I am a third year at Georgia Tech, majoring in biomedical (BMED) engineering, minoring in health and medical sciences (HMED), and pursuing the International Plan (IP). I just spent an incredible summer living and working in Tel Aviv, and I am so excited to take my sense of adventure to Europe!

This study abroad experience has been years in the making— studying at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is one of the reasons I chose to go to school at Tech in the first place. I had to hold off on going until my third year, constructing my academic plan carefully, and I can’t believe I have finally made it to Metz. 

Wooden table with a light brown latte in a white mug on a white plate. The latte art is 3 white hearts in a vertical line. To the left of the mug is the corner of a silver laptop keyboard with a half peeled off sticker of Eurasia and Africa.
My phone is full of aesthetic coffee photos and I am excited to add to my collection.

This semester, I only have class on Mondays and Wednesdays, which means I get the day in between to explore Metz (pronounced: “mess”). I know as the semester rolls on I will be spending my Tuesdays in quaint coffee shops doing schoolwork while sipping a latte and munching on pastries. Coffee shops have always been my primary study spot and I can’t wait to experience the French café scene, so stay tuned for a detailed review of coffee shops in Metz! Also, while all Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have no classes on Friday, I am lucky enough to not have Thursday classes either (yay for four-day weekends). 

My deep love of traveling (and to be honest, of reality TV) came from watching the Amazing Race with my brother. I would fantasize about where we would go if we were on the show together. As contestants would we be scrubbing trolleys in Moscow, playing table tennis in Shanghai, or leading  llamas to a pasture in Cuzco?  While as a part-time wheelchair user competing in the Amazing Race is somewhat unrealistic for me (literally running around the world would not be the safest thing for me), my dream is still to experience as many cultures and sites as possible. I know throughout this semester I may face accessibility challenges as I travel, but I am interested to see what “accessibility” looks like in other areas of the world.  

The preparations for coming to France involved a lot of paperwork. The visa application process was a little stressful, but if you stay organized and work on the process as early as permissible, it should be smooth sailing. The week leading up to my departure from America, I talked to as many Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumni as possible, getting restaurant recommendations in Metz, beach recommendations in Nice, tips and tricks for study abroad, and everything in between. My excitement was bubbling over by the time the Thursday of my flight arrived.

That Thursday and Friday are a blur; upon arriving in Paris CDG, there were  shuttles to take us from the airport to the Lafayette Residences in Metz. I tried my best to fight the jetlag, but I ended up falling asleep. The four hour journey to Metz went by in a snap. We arrived at Lafayette around 4:00 pm, and I quickly went to bed, letting jetlag do its work.

Road lined with pale colored buildings with red brick roofs. In the median of the road are purple flowers. The sky is a pale blue with no clouds.
A picturesque walk through Metz!

The following morning, it was Saturday in Metz. My first “official” day in France! In the Georgia Tech-Lorraine GroupMe, someone suggested going into downtown around noon to get SIM cards and lunch, and I jumped at the chance to meet other Georgia Tech-Lorraine students. A small group of us meandered down the streets, taking in a 45-minute walk to downtown that was incredibly picturesque (a descriptor I’ll probably be using a lot). We went to Free Mobile, one of a few SIM card options in Metz, another being Orange. After using my beginners’ French, the employee’s beginners’ English, and Google translate, I got my SIM card, and instructions on how to cancel the monthly plan at the end of the semester.

We walked down the street a little bit to Café de la Presse (3 En Chaplerue, 57000 Metz), where we strung together six or seven tables to have a late lunch and meet other students. I struggled a little to order an iced coffee. Coffee culture varies wildly across different countries and apparently “café glacé” was not the correct way to ask for an iced coffee and ordering a “café froid” did not come with ice.

After a leisurely lunch, two other students and I walked around downtown, making note of some restaurants and shops we might want to try. There’s a vegetarian breakfast and lunch restaurant that I’ll definitely be coming back to! We also found a cute bookstore, adding to the charm and romanticism of Metz.

On Monday, we had an orientation in small groups of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building. Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s campus is one building containing four-stories full of study spaces, classrooms, faculty offices, and laboratories. At the end of our tour, we got to go through donations of  items left by previous students. I highly recommend grabbing one of the MANY fans and a trash can. I also grabbed a mug and a French press, to fuel my coffee dependency. 

On Tuesday, we had a virtual academic orientation, welcoming us to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, where we got to learn about all that Georgia Tech-Lorraine has to offer including the Bureau Des Étudiants (BDE, the student government) and the Leonardo Program (cultural excursions organized by Mme. Serafin). After the orientation, I had a deeper appreciation and excitement for the semester to come. Being in France still feels like a dream, and I can’t wait to take you on this adventure with me! À bientôt!

Meet Mira, the Fall 2021 Blogger!

Meet this fall’s new blogger, Mira! Be sure to keep an eye out for stories of her travels, tips and tricks for living at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and so much more— coming soon on the blog!

Bonjour mes amis, je m’appelle Mira Mutnick! I am a third year at Georgia Tech, majoring in biomedical engineering, minoring in health and medical sciences, and pursuing the International Plan. I am 20 years old and originally from Roswell, GA. My love of traveling (and reality TV) came from watching the Amazing Race with my brother. I have been to Ireland, England, Italy, and Israel, but I am so excited to live in France—and finally add a consonant to my international travel list!

A Paddle Down the Moselle

With its location on the confluence of the Moselle and Seille, rivers are as entwined in the history and culture of Metz as they are with the buildings downtown. Join Kaitlyn as she explores the heart of Metz in a way she hasn’t before — afloat. Read more in her latest blog post!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

What better way is there to spend a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon devoid (with the exception of the ECE homework I was avoiding) of responsibilities than on a trip downtown in Metz?

Since the French lockdown began, my friends and I have been looking for places to explore while staying within the allowed 10km of our dorms. Luckily, downtown Metz is within this radius, so when we discovered that a boat rental place downtown we set a plan in motion for an afternoon on the river. 

An image of kaitlyn and her friends reserving a boat at la flottille in metz. It is a small green shed on a dock.
Speak to the worker at the green shed to rent a boat!

The rental company is called La Flottille, and is only a few minutes walk from Republique Square, the center of Metz. La Flottile has all sorts of boats, but since there were four of us, we decided on renting a four-person paddle boat.  The worker brought us onto the dock and handed us each a bright orange life jacket. There’s no doubt in the world that we looked extremely goofy with the giant life jackets swallowing us, but of course, safety first. 

An image of Kaitlyn and another friend sitting in a bright yellow paddle boat on the river. Their backs are to the camera and they are looking to the right at the Temple Neuf from the water.
A brand new perspective of a familiar sight.

A few seconds later, and we were seated in the boat and already pedaling our way down the river towards Temple Neuf. It was really neat to see Metz from this perspective; we’d seen the city from our many walking tours, but never from the water! 

An image of three white ducks to the left of the yellow paddle boat on the river.
Don’t mess with the Metz ducks!

A brave family of three very large ducks came extremely close to our boat. It seemed like we were about to run them over, so we had to frantically change direction. Luckily, the ducks escaped unharmed and continued on their merry way to pester other boaters for food.

An image of a canal with a triangular bridge connecting two buildings.
Shh… the Venice canal system is actually in France.

Cruising our way down the river, we saw a small gap in between the buildings that we could enter via a narrow canal. We floated underneath a footbridge to check out the space; it felt like a quiet courtyard, but one filled with water rather than grass. I’ve never been, but the area gave me strong Venice vibes. Swap the fluorescent yellow paddle boat for a gondola and we would basically be on a canal in Venice, right? Due to the tight nature of the space we were in, it was just a little bit complicated to get out of there. We played bumper cars with the walls for a couple minutes in our attempt to exit the canal. 

We continued down the river, as far as we could go. The rest of our boat ride took us underneath three different bridges, one of which was so short that I was able to reach up and touch the underside of the bridge.

We had this view all to ourselves on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

There’s a lot more to discover; we didn’t have a chance to go in the opposite direction toward the Plan D’Eau, so we’ll probably be back soon after our legs recover from the slightly strenuous pedaling!

Dr. Birchfield’s List of the Best Bakeries in Metz

Boulangeries, patisseries, et fromageries, oh my! France is known for its amazing bakeries, cheeses, butchers, and markets and while studying in Metz all of these are a short walk (or bus ride) away. Join Kaitlyn and her friends as Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s Professor Dr. Vicki Birchfield shows them her favorite spots in Metz!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

*Disclaimer: Kaitlyn was not paid to endorse any of the businesses mentioned in this article, nor does Georgia Tech endorse any of these businesses.*

This past weekend, INTA professor Dr. Birchfield took a few of my friends and I downtown to check out some of her personal favorite bakeries, delis, and fromageries in Metz! 

Statue of Charles de Gaulle in Metz
Statue of Charles de Gaulle in Metz,
Photo by P.Gisselbrecht.

We first met at the train station, right underneath the newly constructed statue of Charles de Gaulle. Being an expert on all things EU, Dr. Birchfield regaled us with a brief history lesson on de Gaulle and his prominence in this area of France, specifically due to his history of being a colonel while posted in Metz. 

An image of pastries in a display case.
Le Moy Boulangerie, Metz

Across from the train station is Le Moy, a family owned shop specializing in chocolates and pastries. According to Dr. Birchfield, Le Moy has the best pain au chocolat in town, which is pretty high praise, considering we’re in France! My friends and I sampled the Paris-Metz, a cake that was created during a competition organized by the mayor to celebrate the opening of the TGV line from Metz to Paris. It’s a three-color macaron, filled with harlequin candy mousseline and raspberries. We all agreed that it was the most delicious pastry we had eaten in Metz. Le Moy is so close to the train station every Georgia Tech-Lorraine student should visit this exquisite shop, and try this classic Metz pastry.

An image of the Paris-Metz described above
The delectable Paris-Metz from Le Moy
An image of the exterior of Boulangerie Poulard.
One of the city’s most up and coming boulangeries.

Next up was Boulangerie Poulard, which was dubbed the “hottest new bakery in town”! This boulangerie has won several competitions for having the best croissants and baguettes in this region of France. In fact, it was a finalist in the competition for best bakery in France. The owner and chief baker, Seydou Diallo, has two shops: one on Rue du Grand Cerf, and one of Rue Perrat (just a block away from the train station). We picked up a classic, baguettes, from Boulangerie Poulard. It was pretty much everything a French baguette should be, so I can see why this bakery is one of the city’s favorites! Boulangerie Poulard is also a designated “Agriculture Biologique” boulangerie, meaning that it utilizes products from organic farming. This label  identifies a bakery as being respectful of the environment, animal welfare, and biodiversity. Boulangerie Poulard has award winning baguettes and environmental conscientiousness; what more can you ask for in a bakery?

An image of pastries in a display case at Boulangerie Poulard
Boulangerie Poulard, Metz
The exterior of Au Veau D'or
Au Veau D’or also known as Maison Heitzman

We took a shortcut through the city center to get to the other side of town, to a street called Rue du Grand Cerf. Dr. Birchfield informed us that this is “the best street for food shopping in Metz”. We first stopped by a deli, Au Veau D’or, also known as Maison Heitzman. They specialize in deli meats like sausages, but they also have charcuterie and roasted chicken for takeaway. They offer classic French cuisine in the form of a warm Plat du Jour for well under 10 euros.

an image of the rotisserie in the deli

 Directly next to Maison Heitzman is a small shop, Prime Primeurs, that sells the regional products of Lorraine. Here, you can purchase things like fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as French jams and beverages.

An image of the exterior of the prime primeurs store front
Prime Primeurs is a great place to get a true taste of this region of France.
An image of the exterior of Boulangerie Fort
Boulangerie Fort, Metz

Also along Rue du Grand Cerf is Dr. Birchfield’s second favorite patisserie, Boulangerie Fort (after Poulard). She recommends trying the pain tradition “la festive” and the quiche Lorraine from this bakery.

If you’re a cheese fan, you’re in luck. Also on this street (see how it’s living up to its reputation as the biggest street for food in Metz?) is La Fromagerie du Grand Cerf, a cheese shop run by a former pro footballer. He is passionate about sourcing his cheeses from smaller and more specialized producers. Not too far away, just off Place Saint Jacques is her other favorite fromagerie, Conrad, a very classic, family-run cheese shop with three locations in Metz that have been operating since 1920.

Our little food tour of Metz ended here, but it wasn’t the end of Dr. Birchfield’s recommendations. She suggests visiting the Marché de Saint Therese on a sunny Sunday. The market has stalls that sell warm meals (think roasted chicken, pizzas, calzones, and galettes), cheese, fruits, and vegetables. From there, on your way to the botanical garden, where you can enjoy your freshly prepared food at a picnic table, you can pick up baguettes and pastries from the fantastic L’Ecrin Gourmand.

Of course, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the amazing food options in Metz, but hopefully it inspires you to explore the iconic French cuisine that is practically in your backyard during your time at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

It’s Always Sunny in Madrid

Delicious restaurants, mystifying paintings, mosaic tiles, and canoes: the city of Madrid has all this and so, so much more. Join Kaitlyn on her latest adventure to Madrid over Easter weekend as she explores all the gorgeous city has to offer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

**Disclaimer: The following trip took place over Easter weekend, before the most recent series of COVID-19 related restrictions were put in place in France.**

Dear Madrid, thank you for being the perfect getaway for a long weekend. We love you and your sit-down restaurants, energetic nightlife, and never-ending shortage of things to do.

The city of Madrid fully alive at night.
The city of Madrid fully alive at night.

The night we arrived it quickly became apparent Madrid is a city that thrives at night; its streets were full of life and laughter, revelers were celebrating the long weekend in stride.

The next day was off to an early start; there was so much to do, to see, and most importantly, to eat (which is exactly what we did)! Due to COVID-19 restrictions we have been unable to sit down in restaurants until this weekend so you can bet we were going to eat out every chance we got. Our breakfast was one of champions. We were craving familiarity and jumped at the chance to have an American style breakfast, and dare I say the Spanish almost do American breakfast better than Americans? With our stomachs full and smiles on our faces we headed to our next stop: a shopping spree on the iconic Gran Via.

We wandered through a park, where we stumbled on a man with an extremely old-fashioned camera. He offered to take a photo of us, and showed us the process of developing it.

2021 or the 1880s?

We then headed toward the Prado Museum to admire some artwork. There were many memorable pieces, but one that particularly called out to us was Las Meninas, a Baroque-era painting depicting Margaret Theresa, the king’s daughter.

This piece of art has fascinated and mystified the public for hundreds of years.

After getting our fill of art history and seeing more than a lifetime’s worth of Spanish royalty paintings, we ventured into trying traditional Spanish dishes. I ordered their famous huevos rotos con jamón (broken eggs with ham). 

 

Our culinary tour then took us to El Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid’s oldest and most famous chocolate shop. The churros were delicious! It was a thousand times better than the frozen and reheated churros I’m used to having at my state fair… although now that I think about it, that’s a pretty low bar. 

One of my favorite things about Madrid was seeing the architecture. They seem to slap Spanish tile on everything. Even their street signs are artfully painted tiles!

Painted Spanish tiles are everywhere in Madrid.
A beautiful Easter Sunday in an even more beautiful park.

The next day was absolutely beautiful weather-wise, so much so that we spent half the day relaxing in Buen Retiro Parque. It reminded me of New York City’s Central Park, but better. Flowers were blooming all around us as park musicians serenaded us with a variety of instruments, from the saxophone to a man creating notes from the rims of glasses.

One of the main attractions of Retiro Park is canoeing on the lake in the center of the park. My friends and I excitedly hopped into the boats and rowed around the lake. We raced in the water, laughing as we got close to bumping into each other and generally causing chaos in the small lake. 

An image of a boat in the middle of the lake.
The perfect place to spend a sunny day in Madrid.

The park was so photogenic that we couldn’t pass up any chances to hold impromptu photo shoots, especially with spring in full bloom.

Jumping photos always make the most fun shots.
Jumping photos always make the most fun shots.

Of course, we couldn’t vacation in Spain without fully embracing the culture. We were a little tired from our morning activities, so we returned to the Airbnb for a short siesta. Honestly, America could learn from Spain — siestas are always a good idea.

At night, we scouted out the best sunset spot in the city, the rooftop of the art gallery Bellas Artes. Though we didn’t exactly catch the actual sunset, the afterglow was magical with the lights from the city twinkling all around us. 

Madrid’s skyline at sunset
Madrid’s skyline at sunset

Battle of the Dorms

Have you ever wondered what the residences at Georgia Tech-Lorraine are like? Well, here’s your chance to learn more! Read Kaitlyn’s latest blog post detailing the advantages of both dorms from a student’s perspective and get a glance at your future home away from home in Metz!

Friday, April 9, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

Lafayette or ALOES? Depending on the semester, you may be able to select your residence while at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. To help make your decision a little more informed, and give you some insight on where you’ll be living regardless of your choice; this post is about the differences between the two, so you can figure out which one suits your lifestyle better. As a resident of one of these dorms, I’m biased and inclined to believe that one is slightly better than the other *cough* Lafayette *cough*; but both residences are great and the decision of where to live is in your hands!

Location

There’s a few places you’ll find yourself visiting very frequently while in Metz. First, obviously, is the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building, where you’ll be spending most of your days during the week. Then there’s the two grocery stores, Cora and Auchan. Lastly, Georgia Tech-Lorraine students commonly frequent the nearby university cafeteria, CROUS, to take advantage of the student discount on meals.

Both the dorms are about a 10 minute walk away from campus, but ALOES is much closer to the large grocery store, Cora and CROUS. Lafayette is closer to the PAUL near the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus and Auchan. ALOES also has a great view of the lake!

Dorm Room

ALOES can rooms differ greatly among themselves, but the standard is a bedroom with an attached private bathroom. You’re given a microwave and refrigerator, along with the standard bed, desk, chairs, closet, and shelves.

Lafayette rooms come with a bit more space and furniture: you’ll have a (admittedly tiny!) kitchen with a sink, cabinets, fridge, hot plates, and microwave. The main difference between the two dorms’ rooms is that Lafayette comes with a private kitchen, whereas you share a communal one in ALOES with anywhere between three to ten other students.

Laundry

Oh, the laundry situation… the bane of any Lafayette resident. Students have a lot of gripes with the washer and dryers here, mainly due to the fact that the dryers just don’t do their job of fully drying our clothes. Additionally, each wash cycle costs three Euros, and each drying cycle costs one Euro. At ALOES students are given two tokens a week, each one good for a wash cycle, and the dryers are free.

Wifi

Where Lafayette has its issues with the laundry, ALOES has its fair share of headaches with the wifi. In some rooms the connection is just simply unreliable, and goes in and out. Students in Lafayette have had the wifi cut out a couple times unexpectedly in Lafayette, but only for short periods of time.

Both dorms have advantages and are overall great places to live in Metz while at Georgia-Tech Lorraine. Hopefully this information will help you make a decision on where to make your home away from home while studying abroad!

Meandering around Mont St. Michel

Join Kaitlyn to the mystical Mont St. Michel, a tidal island, fortress, and town all in one!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

Ahh, the famous Mont St. Michel: the third most visited landmark in France, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its fame might be due to its multifaceted nature; a tidal island, town, and fortress all in one. For the history buffs out there, it is truly a fascinating place to visit. It was built in the 8th century, when the bishop of Avranches had a vision of the archangel St. Michael. Since then, it has been used as a pilgrimage center, an abbey, a monastery, and prison.

Mont St. Michel

But before we actually made it to this incredible site, we stopped in the walled city of Saint Malo for a few hours. This little city is known for its beach, where the low tides make for a uniquely large stretch of sand. The amount of people we saw using the beach as a playground for extreme sports was astounding. There were paragliders (or were they parasailers? I might never learn the difference…), sailboats, and people sail-karting.

Two of normandy’s specialties: crepes and cider!

It became apparent to us that the people of Normandy are very proud of their apples— everywhere we looked, apples were on their menu, either in the form of crepes, pastries, or ciders. Of course, I had to try the signature specialty of the region I was in, so I enjoyed a piping hot cup of apple cider. The fact that it was warm enough to heat up my cold hands made the already delectable drink all the more appetizing.

The real life Diagon Alley.

 

 

Our next day was dedicated solely to touring Mont Saint Michel. As we walked along the bridge that took us across the bay to the island, all I could think of was how much the shape and style of the abbey reminded me of Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter series. Even the streets gave me Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade vibes, with their crooked and narrow alleyways and vintage shop signs. If I saw Hagrid sauntering down the street I don’t think I would have even batted an eye. 

We took note of how even though it was the off-season for tourism, Mont Saint Michel was still teeming with tourists. I can’t even imagine the peak months when the tiny streets are overrun with other people. It must be so hard to get around!  We ran into a few furry friends during our trek through the streets of the town: five different cats, a flock of chickens, and an ungodly amount of seagulls.  Don’t ask me how the cats and chickens survive in the walled off island, I was wondering that myself. It may just have to remain a mystery!

French cats are just natural models.
Mont St. Michel tapestries in the souvenir shop.

We concluded our visit by walking around the island on the exposed sand flats. Once we were outside of the walls, the characteristic windiness of Northern France made itself very known. Our hair was flying all over the place in our pictures; for this reason you won’t be seeing any selfies in this post! It really was quite an adventure bracing the howling winds, and made us all the more appreciative when we hopped in a warm, windless taxi to take us home. 

Studying Abroad During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all aspects of daily life, and the experience of students studying abroad is not exempt from this. Read about Kaitlyn’s experiences with studying abroad this semester and how she feels it compares to a typical semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in her latest post.

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!

    This is a picture of a usually crowded street in Bellagio, Italy.
    It’s easy to photograph places when there’s no people! This is a picture of a usually crowded street in Bellagio, Italy.

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!

If You Don’t Like to Cook…

… then this blog is for you! Read on as Kaitlyn details some of her favorite places to get food from at Georgia Tech-Lorraine when she doesn’t want to rely on her own culinary skills!

Friday, March 26, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

Like a good majority of college students our age, you are probably only just beginning to venture into the world of learning to cook for yourself. Luckily for us, we have an abundance of options of prepared meals here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine! Here’s a look at them; bon appétit!

CROUS Student Cafeteria

Thanks to our status as French university students, we have access to the student lunches at a neighboring college. For just one euro, we can pick from a menu that usually features warm sandwiches, pasta, and a chef’s meal of the day. For our sides, we are given fruit, salad, yogurt/compote, and a bottle of water. The panini poulet is always a popular choice with Georgia Tech-Lorraine students, but there’s plenty of vegetarian and vegan options too! The cafeteria is about a ten minute walk around the lake from the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building, so it’s a great option for a quick lunch between classes. 

PAUL and Aux Petits Choux

Another favorite with Georgia Tech-Lorraine students is the bakery chain, Paul. It’s an industrial bakery, meaning that it’s not an authentic French bakery, but that doesn’t stop it from tasting good. They specialize in breakfast goods, pastries, and sandwiches. Their prices are a little higher than most bakeries you’ll find in France, but you can’t beat the location, it’s about a three minute walk from the Lafayette dorms and on the way to Georgia Tech-Lorraine. If you’re looking for a slightly more affordable option, there’s another great bakery called Aux Petits Choux down the road from PAUL. It has a smaller selection, but they bake everything fresh daily! 

French Fast Food

Because of the local preventative measures for the pandemic, for example the curfew and restaurant closures, we’ve all become good friends with food delivery apps like UberEats and Deliveroo. Metz’s abundance of restaurants — Metz is the third highest French city in terms of the number of fast food restaurants per inhabitant — makes it really easy to order delivery! Some Georgia Tech-Lorraine students’ favorites are Burger Kebab (sandwich kebab shop) and O’Tacos (French tacos chain). 

Auchan & Cora

Of course, you can always buy premade meals from the grocery stores. There’s Cora, the superstore, but also the smaller, more traditional Auchan. While Cora has a wider selection, I and others have found ourselves going to Auchan more often for our weekly groceries. It’s closer to the Lafayette dorms, and set up more like an American grocery store. 

A First Taste of Italy

Join Kaitlyn on her first taste of Italy as she tours her way from pizza shop to pizza shop, and of course, she’d be remiss if she didn’t stop for gelato along the way. Read all about her journey around the pants shaped Lake Como in her latest blog!

Thursday, March 25, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn


Italy: the home of pizza, the perfecter of pasta, and the gelato capital of the world. It’s easy to say that it’s the perfect weekend getaway for any food fanatic — ideal for my group and me!

It was apparent we were in Italy from the moment we stepped out into the lakeside town of Como, Italy. Blooming cherry blossom trees dotted the sides of roads filled with drivers zipping around on their Vespas. Every block we walked by was home to one gelato shop at a minimum.

an image of an adorable small puppy
The happiest dogs live in Italy!

While the name of the movie may be All Dogs go to Heaven, based on my observation heaven for dogs must be Como. There were so many dogs, and every single one of them looked like the happiest pup in the world — one friendly puppy was practically jumping all over us to receive pets.

Lake Como is situated on the border of Switzerland and Italy. My friends and I likened the shape of the lake to a pair of pants; while traveling along the lake we would use this analogy. It was silly, but extremely helpful! For example, the city of Como was on the “left foot” of the lake.  After a couple hours sightseeing, we boarded a ferry (the lake is so large that the main way of transportation between the towns is by boat!) to travel up the pants leg to Varenna, our home base for the weekend.

We disembarked the ferry right at sunset, and what a sunset it was! It was a real treat for us, as our ability to view sunsets in Metz have been restricted by a curfew. We quickly learned that the town of Varenna was tiny; it is home to a grand total of 800 residents! But what it lacked in population made up for in charm. We ordered some takeaway pizza from a restaurant in the main square and while we waited, considered our options for how to get to our Airbnb. 

The amazing view from the balcony of our Airbnb.

The house we picked was actually in an even smaller town, Perledo, which sits prettily on top of a hill. It’s only accessible through hiking up a steep trail of staircases, or through a road that has a hairpin turn every few meters. Our exhausted bodies gave a resounding “no” to the first option, so we hitched a ride in a taxi. It’s difficult to tell if that was the right decision in the end, because the taxi ride was simply chaotic. Trying to communicate to the driver that only knew Italian where to drop us off as she whipped around the hairpin turns at lightning speed was **shivers** quite the harrowing experience. We made it to our destination in one piece, though, and our home for the weekend was incredible. The villa we stayed in was complete with private gardens and balconies that highlighted a completely unparalleled lake view.

The traumatizing taxi ride was worth it for this.

 

Authentic Italian pizza deserves all the hype it gets.

Exhausted from our eventful day, we tucked into our authentic Italian (!!) pizza and called it a night.

 

The next day we caught another ferry to the town of Bellagio. Of course, we couldn’t visit another Italian town without trying their gelato. Trust me when I say, Italian pistachio gelato just hits differently.  We continued to roam the small streets and talk to locals. 

We returned to Varenna a few hours later with a fun idea in our heads. One of my group’s absolute necessities is watching the Rick Steves video about our destination, so we thought it would be fitting to try our best to recreate certain scenes from the Varenna video. I’ve gotta say, I think we did a pretty decent job. I think Rick Steves would be proud of our attempt. 

You really have to look hard to find the difference between these two photos!

We wrapped up our last night in Varenna simply relaxing and enjoying our surroundings. It was a wonderfully peaceful evening on the lake, and the perfect ending to my first taste of Italy.