Buzz: The World’s Best Travel Buddy

Buzz has made his way to GTL – and he enjoys traveling for study breaks, too! Check out where he went with Harry this past weekend.

Posted by Harry

Hi there! I was recently introduced to the Georgia Tech mascot, Buzz, for the first time (I’m a Dukie, so don’t point fingers). As a personal motto that I just came up with, I’d like to say “there’s no better way to get to know someone than to travel with them.” Following my own advice, I decided to take Buzz out on some of my weekend adventures!*

Stop 1: Nancy, France

Photo courtesy of Jack Livingston.

Here we have Buzz with 5 Duke students (the irony is very real) and one of Buzz’s family members who has been idolized enough in this area to have a trimmed hedge in their honor. Buzz told me this was his brother-in-law’s-second-cousin’s-fifth-removed-uncle’s-father. I believe him.

Stop 2: Strasbourg, France

When we took Buzz to Strasbourg the next day, we almost lost him. The cathedral in the center of town immediately caught his eye and he flew to the top! Luckily for us, we found some stairs as well so we could join him up there. Check him out below!


A before and after shot of Buzz before he flew up to the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Honestly, this weekend with Buzz was amazing. He’s definitely the best travel companion I’ve had up to date (no offense to anyone that I’ve traveled with!). He’s always got a smile on his face, never complains, and open to any and every idea. Thanks for a great weekend, Buzz.

*If you’d like to take Buzz out on travels and have a couple pictures taken, sneak a peek inside Katia Menard-Pons’s office, first door on the left of the administrations hall, to show him around!

Working Towards a More Energy Efficient Tomorrow: Graduate Student Matt Jordan

Solar energy is generating a lot of buzz, as an up-and-coming source of renewable energy. Take a look at the people innovating behind the scenes with a glimpse into the life of graduate student Matt Jordan at GTL.

Posted by Harry.

Photo courtesy of Matt Jordan.

Name: Matt Jordan

Major/Field of Study: Electrical and Computer Engineering

Year in Graduate School: Starting 4th year

Undergraduate Institution: University of Richmond in Virginia

Interests/Hobbies: Playing the trumpet and tour cycling

One piece of advice for graduate students: “It’s not just about being in the right place. It’s about being there at the right time too.”

Baguette or Croissant? Croissant. It gets even better with chocolate.

Meet Matt Jordan, a man from the southern part of the USA. After obtaining his Master’s Degree at Alabama, he chose Georgia Tech Lorraine as his next destination in his studies. During his time here, he has had his hand in many different research topics around the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Currently, his focus is on making solar energy more energy efficient by maximizing the amount of electricity generated for the least amount of cost.

Matt had some really nice options on the table when picking a school after his Master’s. Alongside GTL, he also had an offer from Stanford (wow!). GTL was the enticing option for him because of the opportunity to work with people across the globe and live in Europe. It’s definitely worked out, as he has gotten to work on a variety of projects and integrated himself into the graduate student “family” here. Upon completion of his degree, he hopes to take his research skills to the next level at a US national lab.

Outside of class, you can call Matt a renaissance man. He can play the trumpet, cycle for kilometers on end, and is a passionate skier too. His one recommendation to undergrads who like skiing is to go to the Alps. I’m not much of a skier so I probably won’t take that advice, but I will pass it on to those who do!

If you’re ever looking for some advice from an established graduate student in the ECE field or just looking for someone chill to hang out with, don’t be afraid to drop by the PhD students’ office and say hi to Matt!

A Neat Little Place Up North

France has some lovely destinations other than Paris. (Although the City of Lights is beautiful, too!) Check out where Harry and his friends ventured this weekend!

Posted by Harry

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Well, my first weekend at Georgia Tech Lorraine came and passed, and I’ve already hit the ground running with my travels. Instead of hitting up Paris like most of the GTL students (disclaimer: no negative feelings towards those who went), some buddies of mine and I went up north to the quaint little town of Étretat in the Normandy region. How did we find this place? To be honest, I have no idea. It was somehow on my bucket list of places to see and I decided to take advantage it.

Words can’t really describe how pretty these cliffs are. From the bottom, you just look up and see an endless wall of rock stretching in both directions. If you take a closer look, you can pick out the layers of chalk and limestone that have built up these cliffs over thousands of years. The view is even better from the top: you can see for a couple of kilometers and watch the transformation from countryside, to town, to beach, and finally to the vast openness of the English Channel from 70 meters (230 feet) high. As an aside, don’t let my beach picture fool you into thinking it’s sand, because it is definitely not! It is actually a rock beach (which France has a lot of) and quite an interesting change from the sand that many us are used to.

I had a lot of travel jitters heading into the first weekend with the whole riding-multiple-trains-and-hopping-on-some-busses deal, but this place sure got rid of those.

Dorm Essentials

There are some things that you just don’t think about when you’re packing for a semester abroad. Don’t fret – Harry has some suggestions on what to get and where to get them.

Posted by Harry.

After spending about a week in the dorms, I’m lucky to have some extremely useful things laying around. HEADS UP: Some of the stuff I got was from the beginning of the semester “fire sale,” which was a giveaway of items that have been left by from previous semesters’ students to help us out. Other stuff I bought in the US and brought over.

A Universal Adaptor. Photo courtesy of

1. Universal Converter/Adapter (Bought in US)

This little piece of hardware is the Swiss Army Knife of electrical converters. It has a voltage capacitance of 100V – 240V, converts any type of plug into any other type of plug, and has two USB ports on the side to boot to help charge those smaller devices you have.

2. Trash Can (Picked up at fire sale)

When I first arrived in my room, it did not come with a trash can. Luckily, picking this up allowed me to compact all my trash in one area with a fitted bag. Easy to clean and just really handy overall!

3. Laundry Basket (picked up from fire sale)

The laundry room is quite a walk from anywhere in the dorm, especially if you have some stairs to climb. Makes the trip much easier and helps contain the bad smell of dirty clothes. Many of these are available at the fire sale!

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4. Power Strip (picked up from fire sale)

There are a limited number of outlets in the room but this little guy transforms one outlet into five. Which, if you calculate it out, is 500% more than you originally had. Snag one from the fire sale as there are plenty of these to go around as well.


Photo courtesy of

5. Traveling Backpack (Bought from US)

A must-have for weekend trips! It will store everything you need that weekend and some. For other purposes, it also serves as a great shopping bag for when you make those runs at Cora.


The Next Big Thing: Graduate Student Taha Ayari

Get to know Taha, a graduate student pursuing his passion for photonics and electronics with research and classes at GTL.

Posted by Harry 

Photo courtesy of Taha Ayari


Name: Taha Ayari

Major/Field of Study: Electrical and Computer Engineering

Year in Grad School: Currently in his 4th year with Georgia Tech in pursuit of a PHD.

Undergraduate Institution: Ecole Supérieure des Communications de Tunis (2 years), Georgia Tech (2 years)

Interests/Hobbies: Sports, especially soccer and swimming.

One piece of advice for graduate students: “Hard works pays off.”

Baguette or Croissant? “Depends. A croissant in the morning and a baguette for lunch.”

Taha is a graduate student currently working in the “Materials and Nanostructures for Photonics and Electronics” group at the Georgia Tech-CNRS (French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) international research lab. He works closely with his advisor and the boss of our Georgia Tech Lorraine campus, Dr. Abdallah and also with Dr. Paul Voss. The research they do focuses around Semi-Conductor Material and Optoelectronics.

Taha’s journey here to GTL started in Tunisia, where the school system is a little different. After high school, they go to an “école préparatoire” or “preparatory school” for two years before pursuing their degree. He chose GTL after graduating and considers it a very special opportunity because it is both international, a chance to gain a dual degree, and overall best program. Upon completion of his research, Taha hopes to hop into the R&D Industry and get a job there. He’s already got his Master’s degree and published a paper, so the future looks bright!

Talking to Taha, you can really see the passion he has about his research and the overall atmosphere and opportunity of being at GTL. The things he loves about GTL is that it’s a small, close-knit community, unlike many of the large collegiate institutions we hail from in the states. He also loves Metz, because unlike some touristy places across France, it actually “looks like France.” At his lab, he praises the teamwork that goes on.

Amongst all the hectic travel we’ll be doing, there will be definitely times we should just take a breath and appreciate life at GTL, the community we’re a part of, and the wonderful city of Metz as Taha mentions. Best of luck with your semester Taha, and best of luck to all of you fellow GTL peers.

My Pet Velociraptor

Surprise! Harry has a pet! It helps him get around town when he’s going to class or exploring Metz, and has a great, French-inspired nickname.

Posted by Harry

My new “pet!”

On my second day at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I adopted a pet velociraptor. As you can judge by the picture, it’s not really a velociraptor. Rather, it’s a play on words with the French word for bicycle “vélo.” When people back home ask me how I get around Metz and campus I just reply: “I just hop on my velociraptor and it takes me around.”

To be honest, I highly recommend getting yourself one of these (as both advice for current GTL students and future GTL students!). There are so many perks, including:

1) It makes getting from place to place much faster. A long, long time ago, humankind made simple machines to make life easier. The wheel is one of them.
2) Although somewhat aesthetically unpleasing, the basket is definitely very practical. It can hold your backpack, groceries from Cora, or a couple of baguettes from Paul.
3) Seven, that’s right, SEVEN gears to make the hills of France much easier to conquer.
4) Probably the most important, but you don’t have to do leg day if you’re biking because this way, every day is leg day. (I told all my friends here to get bikes because we all know that friends don’t let friends skip leg day).

On a more serious note, there is quite a hefty deposit to rent one of these but the monthly fee is extremely cheap. If you can cover the deposit, it will definitely pay it’s dividends.

Hope to catch you around on your pet “vélo-ciraptor”!

First Impressions

Sometimes the best travels are the quiet ones – the ones where you can take in your surroundings without too much hustle and bustle. In “First Impressions,” Harry reflects on his arrival in France and Metz.

Posted by Harry

Left: Photo Courtesy of Patrick Morand; Right: Photo Courtesy of The Wine Guild of Charlottesville

I wish I had some wild story to tell about my journey to Metz and Georgia Tech Lorraine, but I don’t. Rather, I just took the shuttle (free!) that was provided by GTL from the Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport. Usually, I’m a person that sleeps on long bus rides like the 4-hour trip it takes between the two locations, but I didn’t. The reason why? I was blown away by the stunning views of the French countryside. It really was something else. Something about the hills that stretched on for miles (or kilometers, I should say) and the quaint little villages that we passed by just took my breath away. Even if the majority of the scenery was farmlands and fields, my eyes were locked outside nearly the entire time. The pictures you see above are some stock photos off of Google Images that I found, since the ones I took really don’t do it any justice.

Upon my arrival in the outskirts of Metz where GTL was, there was something specific that really stood out to me: the silence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like a ghost town-ish area we are in, but it was just very peaceful and it’s something I’ve really grown to enjoy. The walk from my dorm to school is no longer filled with the loud sounds of construction or the conversations of thousands of students, but just a relative quietness.

Even on my first day, the GTL experience has far exceeded my expectations.