Thanks for the Memories

Harry has just finished finals – and he’s got some final thoughts for you! Check out what he has to say about his semester here at GTL.

Well, there you have it folks. I just got done with my last final here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. It was definitely a sigh of relief to finally be done after all the studying I’ve done, but also very bittersweet as it essentially marked the end of my time here. For the past three months, I’ve gotten to see a ton of cool sights, taste some delicious cuisine from all around Europe, and experience all of these memories with some really neat people. Being a Dukie, I had no idea what to expect when it came to Tech people. And now, I know that if I ever get stuck in Atlanta for whatever reason, I’ll have a list of people who would (hopefully!) let me crash at their place and show me the ropes of the city. By the way, the same goes for you guys! If you ever find yourself in Durham or want front row seats to watch Duke stomp GT in basketball on January 5th, we’d be more than happy to accommodate you.

Now, a short list of favorites:

Favorite City: Amsterdam, by a long shot. Absolutely beautiful all around; great vibe and culture; an absolute must. Tip: Try to go when it’s a little warmer 🙂

Favorite Hike: I had two: the Alps of Switzerland (duh) and Les Calanques in southern France. If you’re feeling mountain-y, go for the Alps. Or if you’re feeling ocean-y, shoot for les Calanques.

Favorite Cuisine: German. I’m pretty sure they only have three different food groups: potatoes, sauerkraut, and MEAT; but hey, I’m not complaining one bit! Also, mentally prepare yourself to battle before every meal. Their portions are so big that it’s a test of will to finish all the food. Tip: Go for the pork knuckle, you won’t regret it.

Favorite Country: I might be a little biased, but FRANCE!!! Every city here is filled with rich culture, monuments, and there’s things to do all over. From my time spent in Étretat, Nancy, Strasbourg, Paris, Cassis, Marseilles, Aix-En-Provence, Bordeaux, and our very own hometown Metz (another reason for bias), it’s been filled with good memories.

Favorite Thing That I Did: Snowmobiling. It’ll be the first thing I buy with my paycheck after I graduate.

Now it seems like we’ve all gone to many places all over, but I recently took a look at my bucket list and I feel like I didn’t even make a dent. Part of the reason is that it grew as I heard of other places that people went to, but also because you can only do so much in a semester and 3-day weekends (some places become far to travel to). I guess that’s where my next story would start, tackling on more of it. This experience at GTL has only fueled my desire to see the world, and I certainly will be continuing it on in the future.

Farewell GTL, thanks for the memories.

Photo courtesy of Katia!

Thinking in Two Tongues: Graduate Student Christian Caracci

Graduate student Christian is taking advantage of educational opportunities around the world, and now we’re lucky he’s at GTL! Check out Harry’s blog about this language guru.

Name: Christian Caracci

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st

Undergraduate Institution: Florida Atlantic University

Interests/Hobbies: Skeet, sailing, tennis

One piece of advice for students: “Don’t procrastinate!”

Baguette or Croissant? Baguette

(“I want sandwich for lunch today, ”a mix of Italian and English) – could be something that pops through graduate student Christian Caracci’s head. Don’t understand? I’ll translate it into two different languages 1) English – I want a sandwich for lunch today. 2) Italian – “akslfjlas.” A most interesting fact about our fellow GTL-er is that he thinks in two tongues. He was born in Italy, but has spent time there and in America growing up. It’s been a mix of both countries in his collegiate career as he attended Florida Atlantic University in the United States as an undergraduate and doing the dual degree program that Georgia Tech Lorraine has with Las Sapienzia – University of Rome.

After completing his dual degree program, he hopes to go into the workforce. Specifically, operational excellence on the manufacturing side as in engineering management. In his spare time, you could catch him doing any of the hobbies above, in addition to traveling or playing pool with his graduate school buddies in the GTL lounge.

A quick FYI, we have a pool table that’s behind these board separators in the GTL lounge! It was like finding treasure when Christian and his friends found it and has been incorporated into their daily schedules.

Good luck with your studies Christain, and best of luck in the future!

My Own Thanksgiving Break, Part 2: HackJunction

Part II of Harry’s exciting Thanksgiving travels – and this part is slightly more like school, just a whole lot cooler. What was Harry up to? Check out his blog!

Photo courtesy of HackJunction.

Being the somewhat nerd I am, the second part of my thanksgiving break was spent in Helsinki, Finland, at a hackathon called HackJunction. Junction is Europe’s largest hackathon, and draws over 1200 programmers from around the world each year to participate. There were 52 countries represented at this year’s HackJunction, working on different tracks that ranged from Financial Technology to Internet of Things. There were expert programmers who have worked in industries for years that attended, as well as inexperienced newbies such as myself. All in all, it was an awesome experience where I could use some of the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to a project or challenge.

First, before anything, let’s talk about the venue. The venue was SICK. The sponsors rented out a place called Wanha Samata, which was this big warehouse with multiple rooms for the different tracks. The coolest part was the laser that stretched from one end to the other that you can see below:

HackJunction’s venue.

The venue also had a snack room that was constantly filled up with energy bars, energy drinks, coffee, etc.; basically, whatever you need to not sleep and keep coding throughout a night! There were also many companies that came to talk about what they do, give out freebies, and network. It was a great space where lots of innovative minds came together to do all things tech.

Since I was a relatively inexperienced programmer, I decided to tackle on some the mini challenges rather than the big tracks that some of the fellow GTL-ers I came with. One such was a music challenge, where there was a jumbled audio clip and we had to figure out the name of the song. At first, there was an inaudible voice that couldn’t be understood. So I threw the clip on Audacity and reversed it and came a clear message this time “Come tell us the name of the song, but it’s not as simple as you think.” That’s honestly about as far as I got as after that, I tried nearly everything: encoding the clip, decoding the clip, modifying the bitrate, tracking down messages in the source code, etc. but nothing really seemed to work. Another challenge I did was mess with some algorithms a local Helsinki tech company provided, which put my creative mind at work with varying success.

One team, made of Ryan and Maria, decided on the track “revolutionizing the bus stop”. Their project was PetStop, where each bus stop had an interactive screen with a puppy that the user can interact with. They can feed it, play with it, walk it, etc. I got to see them demo it and it was really cool!

Being at a hackathon such as this one just opened my eyes to a world of technology; I saw some amazing creations (a guitar hero type platform, but with a real guitar – Yousician Company) and things that I didn’t think I would need until I saw it (a smart, social, interactive coffee cup that was fueled by the thermal energy of the coffee – Paulig Muki Smartcup). Even if you’re not a programmer, I would recommend dropping by a hackathon if it ever comes up. There’s plenty of neat things to see!

The Dream Team!

P.S. You also get a free t-shirt.

Faculty & Building / Security Support Nicolas Jacquet

Meet Mr. Nicolas Jacquet, who helps keep GTL operating smoothly – and has a passion for refurbishing cars!

w17-p1-p1Name: Nicolas Jacquet

Position: Faculty & Building / Security Support

Years at GTL: 11th year

Interests/Hobbies: Car restoration, biking.

One line to describe GTL: “It’s a place of connectedness. We get to be in touch with any different people and different cultures here.”

Piece of advice for students: Taken advantage of what Metz has to offer and explore around. Even though he is from Metz, he still finds himself discovering new things every day!

Meet Nicolas Jacquet, the man with the position of Faculty & Building / Security Support. I like to call him “The Rock” because of the solid foundation of support he provides us as a community. When faculty from Atlanta first come over here, he is the primary point man in the transition, handling all the transfer paper work from Atlanta and helping the families settle in with housing and transportation in France. That’s just one side of his job; on the other half, he works closely with security and Francis Gangloff, our building maintenance supervisor. All the things he does keeps us safe and the building fresh and clean! He’s a very flexible man, and that’s something that Nicolas says he loves about his job. Every day brings about new challenges and he gets to learn new skills by solving them. And if he ever needs a hand, the administration office is very supportive and always willing to help.

If Nicolas isn’t at GTL, you can find him at his garage doing car restoration. Some of his projects have included Swedish, Japanese, and America Musle. One of his prizes is the ’72 Ford Grand Torino, which was shipped from California. In fact, as he was driving it from Northern France to Metz, he was stopped by the police many times. It wasn’t because Nicolas was doing anything wrong, but because they just wanted to admire the beauty!

Check out some of his projects here (all photos taken by Mr. Nicolas Jacquet):

’72 Ford Gran Torino


69’ Citroen Ami8


90’ Honda CRX (SI)


70’ Plymouth Duster

If you’re into cars or just looking for some friendly conversation, don’t be afraid to stop by Nicolas Jacquet’s office in the administration wing!

(Not Really) Free Mobile, But Still a Great Deal

Staying in contact with friends and family is pretty important while abroad, so here’s Harry reviewing on of your options for phone carriers while in Metz.

All photos courtesy of Free Mobile.

As the semester draws to a close, I have to give my thanks out to Free Mobile. At first, I wasn’t planning on getting a SIM card. I had just spent the whole summer in Vietnam and I was totally okay without one. But after seeing the deal that Free Mobile was offering, I couldn’t resist.

For 19,99 euros/month + 10 euros (for the physical SIM card) you get:

It’s come in really clutch multiple times. For instance, you can call and send texts internationally for up to a total of 35 days, which is plenty for the semester. This includes the entire European Union (save for Switzerland) and also includes US landlines. It was very clutch when I had to call hostels telling them of late arrivals or contacting my US bank for information. A map of the coverage is here:

In addition, 50 GB of data is HUGE! It’s more than anyone ever needs, so I can use data whenever I wish. This is useful for looking up map information or places to eat/shop when traveling, and can be used as a hotspot for your computer should you decide to bring it on a trip AND when the Lafayette wifi is down.

I’ve found it to be very reliable in most countries I’ve traveled too, but it does tend to have less coverage in some spots. But for 20 euros a month, I’d definitely give it a go.

Note from the editor: It’s pretty easy to start – there’s a vending machine for SIM cards at their store downtown, but make sure you cancel Free Mobile BEFORE you leave! It is very tricky to handle otherwise. There are step-by-step instructions distributed for mail-in cancellation.

My Own Thanksgiving Break, Part 1: Hunting for Auroras

Sometimes you’ve got to bend the rules to have fun…so, where did Harry go over Thanksgiving? Read his first blog post on his adventures now!

Since I decided it would feel weird to have school when it is usually Thanksgiving break, I decided to make my own vacation! To be honest, I wasn’t planning on skipping class, but after already booking a journey to Helsinki for a hackathon that weekend, I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity of going north and try to catch some Northern Lights while I was at it.

My journey started Wednesday morning with a quick train ride to Paris. From there, I took a flight to Helsinki, and then another flight to Rovaniemi, which is a northern town in the Finnish Laplands.

Photo courtesy of blog

The weather was very cloudy the first evening I arrived, so I decided against hiking out to the middle of nowhere to hunt for lights and just sleep. The next morning, I explored what the town had to offer. I walked around town and saw the Christmas festivities and lights and some views of the frozen surroundings before making a trek up to Santa Claus Village. Oh yeah, did I mention? Rovaniemi is the official town of Santa Claus! It was bit of a long walk, but I thoroughly enjoyed the wintry scenery around and especially the Christmas mood of the village.


Following that, I went back into town and took a nap. Since the town is so far north and within the Arctic Circle, the sun rose around 10am and set around 2:30pm so by the time I was back at my AirBnB, it was already dark! Waking up, I went to a local bistro and got myself a reindeer sandwich in placement of the usual Thanksgiving turkey. It was quite delicious!

Now came the fun part. Since this was going to be my last trip, with my Eurail expiring the next day, I decided to go all out and book a Northern Lights hunting snowmobile safari! It started with an hour drive to the middle of nowhere where we then hopped on the snowmobiles and rode around to different “prime” locations to see Auroras. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the most generous, as it was cloudy again. However, that meant we got to ride around much more, and that we did. We went on various trails through the forest and when we got to this flat, swampy area, our tour guide let us go on a little joy ride and crank up the speed to about 70 km/h!  Regrettably, my phone died in the freezing temperatures and no photos were taken besides the dashboard of my beast.

Even though it was a short trip, it was definitely one of my favorites and was an excellent way to end my travels with a bang. It also means I must buy a snowmobile in the future, as I had a blast!


The BDE makes dreams come true! Check out the blog as Harry chronicles what all this group of students has organized for their peers this semester.

If you haven’t heard about it already, Georgia Tech Lorraine has a Bureau Des Etudiants (BDE) which translates to “Board of Students”. This small group consists of students who plan out fun activities, food giveaways, and other events for the student population here. They are given a budget for funding and work closely with administration to ensure everything goes smoothly. If this sounds like something you’re interested in during your semester at GTL, definitely go for it! I know some of the board members and they sincerely enjoy what they’re doing.

Here are some of the events they planned/planning this semester:

Pizza Nights in the GTL commons
Game Night
Halloween Party
Breakfast the morning after the election
Indoor Skiing
Bowling and Laser Tag
Thanksgiving Potluck
Christmas Celebration

The Thanksgiving Potluck this past week was quite obviously loads of fun and food, as per the photos below!


Thanks for an awesome semester thus far BDE! Can’t wait to see what you have planned to round out our time here!

Planning With The Parents

It’s pretty common for parents to visit GTL and travel with their student, and as Harry shared a few weeks ago, his did too! Read for tips on things to communicate about and plan for whether you’re a GTL student, a parent of a GTL student or jsut someone who likes to travel.

Photo courtesy of Travel Trazee.

As a tangent to a blog post I had a couple weeks ago about doing fall break with my parents, I’ve decided to give an overview of coordination and planning to help assist those who might want to do trips with their parents while at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the future!



Well first off, you and your parents have to pick a time to do the trip. Popular choices are usually before the semester starts, fall break (since it’s a week long), and after the semester ends. Some parents decide to just drop by for a weekend, and that’s not usually too tough to plan since it’s a couple of days.

Next, is the “where” of the trip. I’d say this is pretty important since this is a picking a place that both you and your parents want to go and visit. It’s also very important because from here, train or flight schedules need to be made to match. I offered to buy tickets for my whole family but my parents opted to buy them online. We simply decided around a certain time to leave cities and I let my parents book first. After they got their tickets, I cross referenced them with my Eurail app and proceeded to buy the matching ones. It was quite interesting, as some of the trains they bought weren’t on Eurail plan (ex. Italo in Italy is not part of the Eurail network) so I had to improvise and buy train tickets that were close to the same arrival and departure times.

Once that was settled, we needed places to stay for the night. I let my parents take the reins on this one, as they booked hotels for all three of us.



“All roads lead to Rome” – and that is where we decided to meet. I took my overnight train from Munich to Rome, and they took a shuttle from the airport. I arrived two hours earlier than they did so I did some exploring before meeting up with them. We decided that in case the train station Wi-Fi wasn’t working, there would still be a rendezvous place. Notably, this was going to be the McDonald’s in the Roma Termini station. Luckily the Wi-Fi did work, but we still met at the McDonald’s since it was convenient.


During the Trip

Plan out some things that you would want to see and see what your parents want to do as well! Things should run pretty smoothly from here, since we’re basically all pros at traveling at this point and can point our parents in the right direction. Gotta keep in mind that they aren’t college kids and won’t do the typical “college” things that we’ve come to expect when traveling.



I don’t think there’s anything left to do but to give them goodbye hugs and wishes until you see each other again! Or if you’re traveling with them back to the United States, enjoy the trip back to the homeland.

A Little Treasure in Our Own Backyard (Kinda)

Where did Harry go this weekend? Two clues: this country starts with an “L,” and is right next to Metz. Think you know what country he visited? Read the blog to find out!

Posted by Harry

With the semester over in just under 4 weeks, I have begun to see some slight problems I was running into. The first was that the places on my bucket list (e.g. Spain, Iceland, Denmark, etc.) were getting a little far and difficult to travel to. The second of which was that my wallet was running a little dry. Next week, I’ve already planned a pretty epic hunting-of-sorts trip mixed in with a bit of nerdiness (stay tuned!), so this weekend was going to be a little more relaxed. I spent much of the weekend catching up on work and even getting ahead in preparation of what was going to come. One thing though, I did end up finding a little treasure of a hiking trail(s) nearby Metz in an area known as the “Little Switzerland” of Luxembourg.

To get to Luxembourg is about an hour’s train ride. From there, you take another hour bus to Echternach, a little commune in Luxembourg where much of the Mullerthal Trail runs from.

Photo courtesy of

As you can see from the map above, there’s plenty of trails to hike in this area. My friends and I just did a short day hike on Saturday to break up our workdays. The actual distances of each of the three trails are over 20 miles each, but we followed a shorter loop that let us hit the lake near the town and then parts of trails 1 and 2.

The trails weren’t too hard, and it just offered a lot of fresh air when you’re submerged in a forest and get to see parts of Luxembourg that you ordinarily wouldn’t see. It was a great way to spend a day, and would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a simple and close (and cheap!) day trip. Even though two hours isn’t exactly in Metz’s backyard, it can seem that way when a majority of the places you’ve been to have been 6+ hours away!

Home-Country-er: Graduate Student Djegui Dembele

Meet Djegui, a French graduate student making the most of the newness of GTL. Learn more about the differences between the French & American education system styles – plus he’s got some great advice for all students, regardless of what educational system you’re studying in.

Posted by Harry

Photo Courtesy of Djegui Djembe.

Name: Djegui Dembele

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st year

Undergraduate Institution: Lycée Chaptal (Paris)

Interests/Hobbies: Playing tennis, solving a Rubik’s cube (11 seconds is his quickest), learning about science and relativity.

One piece of advice for students: “Pay lots of attention to the professor and ask lots of questions in class. If you do, it will save time down the line. Be an active member in class, or otherwise the amount of work doubles if you’re passive. Also, have an active lifestyle, too. And keep your body strong.”

Baguette or Croissant? Both, but baguette is much more flexible as it can be used at any meal. The croissant is only a morning thing.

Meet graduate student Djegui Dembele, who (surprisingly) is the first French Graduate Student I have met. This is also the reason for the title “Home-Country-er”, which is a slang word I made up to describe someone who is a native person to the country. Talking with Djegui was interesting, since we got to discuss some of the differences between French and American education styles. The biggest thing he points out is how much more independence-driven the English education style is. In America, we usually get assigned homework that we must do by ourselves. In France, it is usually done in groups with a teacher guiding them along the way. “It’s much less autonomous, we never work by ourselves,” Djegui describes. In addition, he mentions that in lectures, the professors go over the basics of a topic and leave the rest of the “figuring out” as homework.

Although different from what he’s regularly used to, Djegui is making the most of the opportunity he has with the graduate program and can’t wait to head to Atlanta next year! Best wishes Djegui!