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No “Go, Go, Go” Mindset

Hello –

So you must be thinking: you travel a lot! We get the abroad part, but are you actually studying? What goes on during the week?

That in all honesty is a fair question. While I’m usually out of town Thursday night through Sunday, I do actually spend some time in downtown Metz and stay on top of my school work. Since everyone here is in this “go, go, go” mindset of seeing everything Europe has to offer, I think that the teachers have eased up a bit here in comparison to studying in the States. I also believe that part of the lack of stress on the school front here is because aside from classes, I don’t really have the same commitments I did back in school. In Boulder I was working several jobs, a part of multiple extracurriculars, and tried to balance a way heavier class load which my classes here don’t really compare to. Don’t get me wrong, my classes are still intellectually challenging, and I have coursework and projects to complete, but I am a lot less stressed than I am when I am back home. Another nice part is that each class is only twice a week, which gives me time to do all of the other things I’ve described in past blogs.

This past week I decided it was probably in my best interest to travel less. I’ve been pretty exhausted – and so is my bank account, especially after planning and reserving everything for the month of April. Also this past week I had a fairly large portion of my CS project due, and so I spent most of Friday and Saturday working on my code. Saturday morning I was planning on taking a Flixbus to Paris but when I woke up at 6am and saw that there was a train later at night for cheap, I canceled my bus and spent the rest of the day doing homework. It was really nice because my friend Taylor stayed back in Metz most of the weekend too, so we got dinner downtown before my train left. We ate at this burrito place which was actually pretty good… nothing compared to burritos back in the States, but a good temporary replacement. The reason I went to Paris that evening was because my boyfriend Danny is on his spring break, and I was going to meet him Sunday afternoon, so I thought I’d make a little day trip out of it. I stayed in a hostel that was fairly nice, but I have never in my life experienced that much noise from other people at night. The man underneath me was snoring so loudly I thought he might die, and the girl in the bed that was connected to mine kept moving so intensely that all the beds collectively shook. It was quite challenging to stay asleep. Especially when the entire 8 person room all woke at the same time at approximately 4am and started packing up their stuff, “quietly” whispering to each other, and stomping out. I tried to sleep in since check out was at 12pm, but woke up to the cleaning ladies stripping the beds at 9am. It was a truly bizarre experience, but I hopped out of bed and made my way to a breakfast place.

After my açai bowl experience in Lisbon last week I kind of had to relive it. But the açai bowl I had in Paris was nowhere near the fresh taste or cheap price that I had had in Lisbon. Regardless, it was pretty yummy, and I headed to a nice park where I finished my book I’ve been reading and then bought some new jeans at a mall nearby. I promised myself I would finish the book before buying a new one so after some lunch (I had a burger of course, at Steak-n-shake, which I found out they have in Paris) I headed to Shakespeare and Company to buy another book. I ended up getting the book Boomerang by Michael Lewis, which is the same author as the book I had read before (Flash Boys, would recommend). Once I bought the book I grabbed some boba next door and headed to the train station where I met Danny, and we trained back home to Metz.

It was finally nice to have a laid back weekend, especially because the month of April will be very travel-heavy for me.

Love, Noa

A Day in Metz

Metz is honestly a great place to be. Everyday I go downtown I discover another nook or little cafe that makes me wish I had a little bit more time here.

While I wish I had known more in the past, I think it is important that I share with you all what I do know in case you find yourselves in Metz.

The first place I would recommend to go in Metz, and somewhere I visit quite often, is a coffee shop called Fox. It’s situated about a 5 minute walk from the train station, with little lights hung around the door and hip decor throughout the entire two rooms that it takes up. When I walk in, I usually first find a chair to sit (by an outlet if I know I’ll be doing work for a while) and then maneuver my way to order a drink. The coffee shop is usually busy at almost all times of the day, which makes me wonder sometimes how the French have time for this. I usually order a Black Chai Latte Glace, which is an iced chai with a shot of espresso, and then sometimes I treat myself to one of the infinite pastries they have to offer. The best thing I ever had to eat there was a bagel with brie, spinach, and balsamic which looked and sounded not necessarily incredible, but it was so delicious. They’ve only had it one time even though I go there so often and I’m hoping they have it again before I leave. After spending an hour or so at Fox, whether you are chatting with a friend or doing some work, you can walk to the main area of downtown, or where I sometimes take the bus (to the République bus stop).

Once you’re downtown you’ll find yourself on a main stretch of shops, with every store you can think of. If you’re trying to fit in to France and find yourself wearing more dresses than usual, then Calzedonia is a chain store where you can find all of the tights and leggings you may need to accompany your newly found outfit. After continuing on that street you’ll eventually arrive to Place St Jacques, where you can see a lot of restaurants, bars, or coffee shops to visit. You’ll also see the Klub, which is the local movie theater of Metz. I’ve yet to see a movie there, but it was recently remodeled and seems to be a great place to catch a movie.

If you walk a little bit past that you will run into the most beautiful cathedral that takes my breath away every time I walk up to it. Recently I actually went inside and visited the crypt and the treasury. It’s only two euros for students and is really fascinating actually. They have information to read about the history of the cathedral and about all the different stories of all the cathedrals in France. I didn’t realize how many replicas of different cathedrals there were in France, and we even had a nice guide explain to us the influences behind certain statues and show us the impact that Germans had on the church as well, since Metz was occupied by Germany for quite some time.

You could honestly spend a long time in the cathedral, but when you’re ready to leave, there is a great indoor market right next  door that while it smells strongly of fish it is still fun to see all the different fresh food vendors in Metz. Nearby you can walk alongside a beautiful river, and even catch a ballet at the Opera. I was able to see an opera/ballet through GTL, and while it wasn’t my favorite, it was definitely a good experience.

If you want a more modern side of Metz, you can definitely visit the mall Muse, which has a lot more dining options, but overall I really like the older, downtown side of Metz. While I spend so much time out of town, I also do enjoy my time spent in town, and I would definitely recommend someone to come visit Metz because I  have grown to love it.

Meet Thomas: Making the Most of Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s Master’s Program

In the midst of a very busy time for many graduate students who are preparing for exams and working on projects, I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, a French graduate student studying Mechanical Engineering. I met with Thomas in the student lounge, found him working with Sommy, another graduate student I’ve met, and stole him away for a few minutes to hear about his experience at GTL!

Thomas comes from a small city south of Paris, and before GTL he studied Mechanical Engineering at a French engineering school called UT in Troyes. This school partners with GTL so that he can do the dual-degree program similar to many other grad students I have met. Thomas explained that while this is his first semester at GTL, he will do an internship in the summer/fall and move to Atlanta in the Spring of 2020, where he plans to graduate.

After college he isn’t quite sure what field he wants to work in, but he did say he has worked in the automotive industry in past internships. This internship was done with French automotive company Renault, and while he said it was very interesting, he said that the field he works in all depends on where he ends up initially after he graduates. Thomas has been to California when he was young, but he said he would be willing to try to find work in the States or another country if it works out. Later on though, he does see himself coming back to France.

Currently he is taking linear elasticity, acoustics, a mathematics class, as well as another mechanical engineering class at GTL. His favorite is linear elasticity, because “it’s used with many things that I’ve worked in at my years at UTT.” The other thing that Thomas mentioned he really likes about being at GTL is that it’s nice to have to be in an environment where everyone speaks English. While I asked him if it’s challenging, he said it’s not too bad – that it’s just the right amount of difficulty. I am honestly always so impressed by the French graduate students because taking a technical class in a completely different language sounds so challenging but they do it without no complaints.

For fun, Thomas likes to spend time with the rest of the graduate friends and tries to organize things to do with them. Last weekend, they went to Strasbourg, which was really nice, and he has gone to Paris with some other friends. He mentioned that “for me, it’s new to have the weekend start on a Thursday, so it’s nice to organize many things to do on the weekends with the other graduate students.” It’s definitely great to see that graduate students are also able to partake in the similar experiences that us undergraduates have, such as travelling and being a part of GTL-sanctioned events.

Meeting Thomas was really nice, and I hope I get to meet a few more graduate students before this semester ends. Their experiences really makes me consider graduate school myself and inspires me a ton!

Spunky, Sassy, and Portuguese

It’s time to set the mood. Set your record player to play So Danco Samba by Antônio Carlos Jobim on a low volume, crank up the heat in your room to about 70 degrees, spray the Febreeze scent “ocean”, and let a cool breeze make its way through the window. Welcome to Lisbon, Portugal.

If you haven’t been to Portugal… go. I decided I was going to go quite a while ago when I saw round trip flights from Luxembourg for about 35 euros, and when checking the weather map of Europe, it was the warmest destination. Quickly after buying the flight I found a decently priced hotel and reserved it, knowing it wouldn’t be too difficult to find someone to go with me. The first person I called, was one of my best friends, Elle from CU Boulder. She’s studying Mechanical Engineering abroad in Ireland this semester, and we had talked a lot about how we need to see each other at least once (and I actually will be visiting her in April in Ireland as well!). It wasn’t hard to convince Elle, and it was lovely when I landed late at night in Portugal and made my way to the hotel that she greeted me with a big hug and a Big Mac in hand.

That night, we didn’t mean to, but ended up staying up until about 4am, catching up on everything and convincing ourselves that we would eventually go to sleep. We woke up pretty late the next morning so we took an Uber to the breakfast place that I had seen during my intense food research of Portugal. Most places don’t have Uber at all, and usually I prefer to walk, but I was pretty hangry, needed to get there FAST, and it was also unusually cheap. Normally I don’t do much research, if any, about a place (if you haven’t noticed) but this was my number one trip destination so I wanted to make sure we were well fed. And boy, were we well fed. The first brunch place we went to was called Nicolau and was right in the middle of downtown. I ordered Eggs Benedict with a Matcha tea latte, and Elle got a burger with a red bun. Not only was it the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had (I came back my last day and got it again), but it was so well-priced. That’s when we realized that Portugal is in fact one of the cheapest countries of western Europe. It wasn’t even that it was absurdly cheap, it was that it was just very very reasonable.

After brunch we adventured around and every building was noticeably more beautiful than the next. Each wall was lined with unique tile in the most vibrant colors that contrasted so well with everything else whether it was the flowers on the trees or the ocean in the distance. Elle and I repeatedly mentioned how happy we felt just walking and talking in this dream of a city. We visited Castelo de São Jorge which gave us an amazing view of Lisbon from the top of the hill and got to see a lot of peacocks parading about. After walking more throughout downtown we grabbed a cappuccino and an egg tart (a classic Portuguese treat) and then headed to get dinner at another place I had read about called Frangasqueira Nacional. This place is a hole-in-the-wall chicken joint, run by a spunky, sassy Portuguese woman who doesn’t have a care in the world. We met this man who has traveled and lived all over who gave us some reassurance that waiting for 35 minutes for our chicken was just what was going to have to happen, and it was worth it. I’m fairly certain that our chicken was ready after 5 minutes but the woman placed it on the side, helped 5 other customers before us, and kept making sarcastic jokes that were confusing but we laughed since she was what stood between us and our chicken. Either way it was probably the best chicken with garlic rice I have ever had. We ended up taking it back to the hotel and even though we ordered an enormous amount of food we ate it all immediately and it was only 11$ for an entire chicken and a large side of rice. So that was something else.

The next morning we woke up a bit earlier and walked to another brunch place called Fauna & Flora where we split an açai bowl, and I got an iced coffee with avocado toast and poached egg. The Portuguese win at brunch, I just will put it like that. The restaurant was near the beach, so for about 2 hours afterwards we laid in the sun and listened to a band play jazz music (bossa nova specifically). If you know me well, you know that this is genuinely one of my favorite and most listened to genres of music, so Elle got to see me feel so much joy that I knew every song they would play and could sing along.

Post-beach, we walked more around downtown and eventually had dinner at an indoor food market (similar to the one I went to in Amsterdam) where I had a burger (she’s back!!) and met some other girls studying abroad in Spain. Afterwards we sat at a nice bar and listened to more jazz music and then went home.

Elle left early the next morning back home, and while I was quite sad that she wasn’t with me anymore, I got my butt out of bed and headed towards a flea market. It was amazing! There were so many cool antiques and artists that were selling their work. I bought a scarf since my other one disappeared on my ‘night hike’ in Austria and wished that my mom was with me the whole time because it was right up her alley. Afterwards I headed back to Nicolau nearby to grab some breakfast and an açai smoothie before making my way back to the airport.

My whole trip to Portugal felt meant to be. Every single person was kind, the weather was absolutely perfect, the food unbelievable, and I got to experience it all with my best friend.

Excited to keep you all updated on everything! Time is going by so quickly and I am appreciative of every minute and every person who reads my blog.

Ciao,

Noa

Meet Zaineb: At the Crossroads of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Another graduate student I met, this time not in my CS class, was Zaineb, who I got introduced to through Sommy, a previous grad student I interviewed! Zaineb is a mechanical engineering student with an aeronautical background. I first asked her why she chose Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and she mentioned that she initially had a chance to study in Mississippi and pursue an aerospace masters, but decided it was not interesting for her since she already has a bachelor’s in that. Georgia Tech-Lorraine, on the other hand, offers both a mechanical engineering degree with an emphasis on aerospace, so it was much better suited for her. Also, GTL allows for an international experience where she is able to meet people of all cultures, unlike in America where, well, there are definitely more Americans. The last reason she chose coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine is because Metz is so close to so many other countries like Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, which gives her so many opportunities to travel around.

Originally, Zaineb is from Morocco, where she did her undergrad in an international university that partnered with Georgia Tech-Lorraine, which is how she found out about her program here. She is on her third semester and had an internship in Paris prior to this semester doing research and development with an oil and gas company! It allowed her to develop her software and teamwork skills and get to know a diverse set of people while working on different models and simulations. Their goal was to optimize a control loop, and she would definitely be interested in going back into that field. She just wants to be in a field that she can develop her knowledge and not “stay stagnant.” Her primary goal is to not do something that is redundant and wants to be constantly doing something important.

Unlike the other graduate students I met, Zaineb will not be studying in Atlanta, since she would rather just visit there and is going to stay at Georgia Tech-Lorraine for the course of her degree. At GTL, she is taking a few mechanical engineering classes, as well as a special topics class in acoustics. After graduating from school, she would love to move to Germany, because she really wants to work on her German and thinks that they are very strong in the mechanical engineering field, and so it would be an excellent place to work. The job hunt is definitely going on right now, and she’s excited to see where she might end up!

For fun, Zaineb has been lucky to travel to Luxembourg, 5 different cities in Germany, Belgium, as well as Spain and Portugal. Her favorite has been Iceland though, because she got to see the Northern Lights almost every day and it was absolutely beautiful.

I had a really nice time chatting with Zaineb. She was so positive about her experiences at GTL and it was inspiring to see someone with so much interest and passion in her field! I hope to see her around more and am thankful again to get to meet so many graduate students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

A Much-Needed Breath of Fresh Air

I think today’s blog deserves a few moments of honesty. First of all, I think it is really important that I stay honest with others and myself because while most of the time everything is truly incredible I do actually have times where I don’t really feel like myself or I feel slightly detached since there is so much to take in. I try exceptionally hard to not let any negativity affect me, but it’s something I do need to accept as reality and move on from. I feel like I am learning so much about myself and what I need to do to make me happy while I am here so it’s been invaluable in that regards.

Last week I ran into some difficulties traveling that made me a little bit unsteady for a short time. Some girls and I had been planning a trip to Budapest, and I wasn’t anticipating being so exhausted after spring break and wasn’t really looking forward to that trip. I think I needed a week off. However, since I had made plans and hotel reservations I went to book the trains when I was in Paris (since it was an overnight train we had to) and they had told me it was all sold out. I tried to book it in Metz, too, and they told me the same. It was quite stressful since I didn’t want to mess up my friend’s plans.

Luckily (but unluckily, just stay tuned), my friend had called the Zurich train station and was able to somehow secure me a seat on the overnight train. While I wasn’t looking forward to the seating situation, after looking at all the fun things to do in Budapest I started getting excited, and Thursday night we made our way to Zurich, the first stop before the overnight train. If you’ve ever had that feeling where things have been going wrong for so long, and it seems strange that things are finally going right, then you know exactly how I felt when I joked that at the Zurich train station where I had to go get my ticket printed something would go wrong. Because it did! Our train arrived at 9:03pm and little did I know that the ticket office closes at 9pm, and they couldn’t print my ticket. So with no other options, my friends left to Budapest and I spent the night in Zurich. Out of all the places to get stuck, it definitely wasn’t a bad place, but after having a kind of rough week emotion-wise it was kind of a struggle that night.

Rainy day in Zurich.

Thankfully I fell in love with Switzerland. It reminded me a lot of Colorado, and I felt so comfortable. I think it was being surrounded by mountains, and the people were so friendly and spoke English so well. Luckily, my aunt who lived in Lucerne invited me to spend the rest of the weekend with them, which made me feel so much better. She picked me up after a day spent exploring in Zurich, and then I stayed in their beautiful apartment in Lucerne.

This very quickly made up for the struggles with the Budapest trip, and there was even a huge festival going on in Lucerne that made the weekend so fun and exciting. My aunt, her twin daughters and I adventured around town and saw all the incredible costumes, listened to different music, and joined in on all the fun. I have never seen so much effort put in by a whole town to make an occasion so joyous and well-intentioned. It was awesome. In addition to the festival, we went to a Swiss grocery store, cooked lunch together, and spent a morning walking around the beautiful lake. I’m really thankful that she was so inviting, and I had a lovely time with her and her family.

The view from the apartment in Lucerne

After that week I figured I’d take the next weekend off, but since it was my last weekend with the Eurail, I knew I had to fit in one more train trip before I couldn’t anymore. Randomly, these two guys that I had met while stranded in Luxembourg on the way home from London, texted the GTL GroupMe asking if someone wanted to join their ski trip. I didn’t think I’d be able to go skiing while here, but my friend had just bought some gear, which she said she’d let me borrow, and I quickly joined their trip.

So here I was going skiing in the Alps with two kids I barely knew, and they mentioned they had an Airbnb booked with a sauna, hot tub, beautiful views, but had “one small catch.” They told me it was a 2.2 km walk up a trail and that the reviews said it was worth the hike, but nothing too bad.  I saw the pictures, it looked incredible, and I decided that it was already weird enough that I was skiing with some guys I barely know, so why not.

I ended up training alone to Munich where I met them at our hostel, where we spent the night. The next morning they left at 5am to go skiing, while I left at 9am (I really value my sleep). I didn’t actually see them at all throughout the day. I was pretty anxious on my way to the resort in Kitzbuhel, Austria, since I haven’t skied in a while and wasn’t really sure how to get to the right place. I ended up meeting a super nice girl who was an instructor at the resort and she told me everything I needed to do. I rented some skis, and then I made my way to the free lifts at the resort. Everyone was so incredibly helpful that I felt so much better. People were also giving me mass amounts of chocolate throughout the whole journey. On the train to Munich the man who worked the food department kept giving me handfuls of chocolate, and the ski people in Austria helped me carry my infinite stuff – and then gave me more chocolate! After they helped me load up my locker, I headed to the lifts. It was really nice because they had three free lifts so I didn’t have to pay for a ticket. While it definitely could’ve been more exciting to go up further into the Alps, I really wanted to work on my technique and my control since it had been so long since I’d skied, and I felt way better by the end of the day. Also the snow was pretty bad, and I heard that visibility was terrible higher up so I felt good about my choice. Later on the boys finished skiing, and we took a train to the city where our Airbnb was. By then it was already dark out, so we got dinner, and I convinced them to at least take a taxi to the trailhead where we were supposed to walk to the Airbnb.

We got to the trailhead, and I realized pretty immediately that this was no “walk.” After a full day of skiing, we now were faced with what ended up being a 2.5 mile hike, and by hike I am talking full incline and lots of stairs, through the middle of a mountain in the complete darkness. We were following some sketchy Google-translated instructions from the Airbnb host and started trekking through the mountain. These poor kids had no idea what they were thinking bringing me on this hike. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to hike if it is what I am anticipating. But I was not ready for this and complained a little bit more than usual (they might tell that part differently :)). Eventually after an hour of hiking we finally reached what we thought was our Airbnb but turned out to be a different random hotel in the middle of nowhere. Then right before we got to the Airbnb, we walked by this creepy mini church that literally LIT UP when we got close to it, and it was terrifying. While I almost gave up, we hiked for another couple minutes and finally made it. Thank God I wasn’t skiing the next day. While I had plans to go to Salzburg, I knew there was absolutely no way I would make it up this mountain a second time.

But the reviews on the Airbnb website were definitely true. When I woke up in the morning and looked out the window I realized it was all worth it. The guys had gone skiing that day too, so I didn’t see them until dinner, but I had a really relaxing day.  My legs were exhausted but I got up and hiked a few miles. In all honesty I have no idea how I made it up the mountain in the first place in my crappy rain boots because the next morning I got so many weird looks from people with their hiking poles and full on gear as I was wearing the most random outfit to hike around. Regardless, it felt so refreshing to be outside and be in such a serene beautiful place. I missed hiking, I missed skiing, and I have to say that while the journey to get here was absolutely bizarre, it was the best weekend I’ve had. I spent some time in the hot tub and sauna, where I met some really nice girls from Munich and talked to them about how weird it was that I was there in the first place. For dinner we ate at the Airbnb, and I had this crushed up pancake that is apparently an Austrian delicacy. The Airbnb host was telling us that it’s named after some emperor that only ever requested that to eat and his cooks were always so confused because out of everything he could’ve eaten he’d request that. I feel like that’s how my mom feels when I order mac n cheese at a restaurant.

The next morning the guys left super early again, and I made my way down the mountain and trained home alone. This weekend was special in the sense that I was finally able to be outside and in nature rather than in the hustle and bustle of the cities. I felt so refreshed after that weekend and was thankful I didn’t stay home. That was also an incredibly long blog, but I am FINALLY! caught up on all of my trips, and can be more up to date from here on out.

I am feeling so much better this week, and I can’t believe it is already week nine of being abroad. I’ll be back home before I know it, and I am not ready. I think I’ll have to come back for sure.

See you soon!

Noa

Meet Hadrian: From MApS to Software Engineer!

This week I met the last graduate student in my Mobile Applications and Services class. This class has been super interesting and a great way to get to develop an actual application that we hope people will use. My group is doing an app that is basically an Uber for kids, and the grad student I met, Hadrien, is developing an app with his group that is promoting being environmentally friendly. The main purpose of the class isn’t only to develop the app, but make sure we have all aspects of a business/startup in place for a competition in April. Tonight I sat down with Hadrien to get to know him a little bit better!

Hadrien is from northern France, where he is doing the dual degree program with ENSEA and Georgia Tech, like many of the other graduate students I have met. He is doing an Electrical and Computer Engineering masters, and taking the MAS class, the securities class, wireless networks, as well as autonomous robotics. He plans on going to Atlanta in the spring semester of next year and is hoping to find an internship in Europe between finishing at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and starting in Atlanta. When I asked what he was interested in, he mentioned that he is mostly a “newbie” when it comes to this degree and even though he did a lot of electrical work before this in his undergrad, he is now delving into the software side of things. He is definitely curious about everything and is interested in development, which is why he is in the mobile applications class and is looking for internships in that field. Hadrien shared that his favorite class is probably securities because it is really new to him, and even if he isn’t good at it necessarily, he is excited about it.

In the past, he did internships specialized in electrical engineering, and even interned in Japan which sounded really amazing! I asked him how he got involved with that, and he mentioned he had a teacher who had told him about that opportunity. “I really wanted to go to Japan because I was really curious about the language and the culture, and to have the opportunity with my former school – I was like yes, I have to go.” Regarding what he wants to do after he graduates, he has no idea, but is really excited to study in the United States since he has never been there. He spends most of his time in Metz, and isn’t able to travel as much as he’d like, given that he works a lot – and it’s a pretty expensive hobby.

I really enjoyed meeting Hadrien and it is always great to be able to talk to people in my classes beyond just a class setting. I’m thankful that this blog allows me to do that and gives me the chance to have more meaningful conversations with other students, especially graduate students that I wouldn’t have otherwise met!

MTV Spring Break 2019 (My Time in Venice)

My spring break began when my amazing parents arrived to Metz on Valentine’s Day. How fun for them that they can spend the day of love with the child they love the most! (I’m one of five and by far the most expensive, so you decide for yourself if that’s true.) Anyway, it was so good to finally see them. I picked them up at the train station, and after convincing my dad that Uber is not an option here, we took a taxi to their hotel, which was a 10 minute walk from my dorm. We gossiped for a while, and then my dad walked me home, which was super sweet since it was really late, but I still feel guilty for making him walk through the mud that we could’ve avoided. Every time I walk through the mud that technically isn’t really a shortcut I remember how I made him ruin his brand new shoes. It’s okay though – I bought three new pairs of shoes for myself since then to compensate for the damage I caused.

The next morning, I took my parents to Fox, a coffee shop downtown that is super hip that I study at probably once or twice a week. After getting breakfast, I showed my mom all around downtown Metz as quickly as possible before we caught a train to Paris since we were flying out of Charles de Gaulle that evening to Venice.

I didn’t really have many expectations for our trip to Venice since I kind of had hoped that since I was with my parents I wouldn’t really have to have anything planned. But I guess they thought that I would because when we landed in Venice it took us a hot second to figure out what was going on. First, I didn’t really do any research whatsoever and failed to realize that Venice was a literal island. I know this sounds incredibly dumb, but then my dad was pretty confused as well when we asked the taxi driver to take us to the hotel and he said it was impossible. My dad looked at him and said, “what do you mean it’s impossible,” and that’s when we realized that my mom had been right all along (she always is by the way), and that we had to take a literal boat to the hotel. We laughed for way too long and were still very confused as we took a boat taxi, in the middle of the night, to our hotel, and the second we reached the island we realized it was all worth it. It was completely quiet when we got off and as we turned the corner to find the hotel we saw the most beautiful gondola next to our incredible hotel with glass chandeliers that looked like candy.

Getting to Venice

The next two days in Venice were absolute magic. We had perfect 60 degree weather, and since it was an off season the crowds (while still pretty big) weren’t too much to handle. The first day we walked all through the downtown, got lost in colorful alley ways, ate some gelato, and ended the day by taking a boat to Burano, an island known for its colorful houses and lace. We stayed there until the sunset, and it felt like I was living in a Disney movie. On the way home we had the tastiest dinner of my entire life. So much pizza, gnocchi, spaghetti, and every single bite was absolutely delicious. Then for dessert we shared tiramisu and chocolate mousse, and I am so hungry just thinking about it. Sometimes I wish that I was in Italy all the time because the food is so much more up my alley than the food in France.

The next day my mom and I went on a tour of a glass factory in Murano, another nearby island that was organized by our hotel. It was really fun because we got to take a private taxi boat, and the weather was still perfect, so it felt like we were in the middle of the summer. Then we met back up with my dad, walked around Venice some more, and eventually took a train to Milan. I’m not a huge fan of Milan since it is so industrial but it was still fun to spend some time there with my parents and walk around the Duomo. My parents had a few meetings planned the rest of the break, so after Milan we headed to Lucerne, Switzerland, where we met my aunt who lives there. While we were in Lucerne for a short time, I actually went back there a few weeks later (which will be in my upcoming blog post) and got to experience more than just a short stay. From there we flew to Nantes, France where my parents had some more meetings. I actually work for my parents too, so I was able to go to some of the meetings as well. It was nice to visit another French city that was different than Metz and Paris. I actually liked Nantes a lot because the downtown was pretty well established and had a lot of smaller, cute boutiques and antique stores.

After Nantes, I had to say goodbye to my parents which was really hard, but luckily right when I dropped them off at the airport, my boyfriend landed and we spent the weekend in Paris. I feel so lucky that he came to visit for such a short time because I really missed him, and it was nice to be surrounded for so long by people I know and love so well. Thankfully, we also had perfect weather in Paris, and I truly feel that Paris is a completely different city based on the weather. We visited Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay (my personal favorite since I love Monet), and drank a whole lot of boba. I also bought a book I’ve been really wanting to read at Shakespeare and Company, and so far it is the best book I’ve ever read.

Quick plug: it’s not that new of a book, but it’s called Flash Boys by Michael Lewis and is about high frequency trading. It’s incredibly interesting, and I’m not done reading it, but it is absolutely insane and worth reading.

Eating banana bread with Danny

Anyway back to my time in Paris: one of the days we just walked along the seine until we got to the Eiffel Tower, and I made us walk for 30 minutes until we found this coffee shop and drank cappuccinos with banana bread. In all honesty, it was the best cappuccino I’ve ever had.

Afterwards we visited Sacre Coeur since I’ve never been, and that pretty much concluded our short weekend together. Luckily he is visiting again in a couple of weeks and I get to see my friend from CU Boulder in Portugal later this week as well as in Ireland in April, so lots of familiar faces coming up. That was definitely one of my longer blogs but so much happened – and I didn’t even share it all! I think that spring break was exactly what I needed.

Another blog is coming very shortly! And then I will finally be all caught up on telling you about all my adventures.

Phone A Friend!

Hello all!!

Things are getting fairly busy here, which is nice since I like having stuff to do, but it’s also nice because it is definitely not a stressful busy. I have class work but I am never rushed and am only really tired from so much traveling! I just got back from Spring break, but I’ll first tell you about my travels, woes, and other choses (that rhymes and proves to you that I am a French connoisseur), up until spring break. I’ll definitely share about my spring break with my family in a few posts!

So to begin describing my time in Milan, it’s important I give some background information about my best friend Christine. Christine is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. She is also the smartest person I know and is exceptional at everything she does.

As a quick aside, in high school, Christine was initially my math tutor before we became best friends. She helped me a LOT and then one day she texted me in college asking ME for some help with something. This was my chance! I could finally repay Christine for the countless hours she spent explaining the intricacies of vectors. Maybe she will even need MY help with math, I wrongly thought, not even considering the fact that she finished Calculus 3 in high school and I hadn’t even reached that level of math. I told my dad how excited I was, and I waited eagerly until Christine finally responded to my “of course I can help you” text with: “what color nail polish would look better with my dress?”

Why am I sharing this story with you all today? First, to give you some context on why Christine and I are a perfect friendship match, because we provide different (some may even say equally valuable – I KID obviously) knowledge to the table. And also to remind us all to stay in our lanes and remember where you come from.

Okay while that was all incredibly irrelevant to my time abroad, Christine is also a very busy woman who I never get to see. Even if we schedule something for the one day she is in Boulder every year, it usually doesn’t work out. But! We have had weird luck, and what I would classify as a “blessing” by somehow planning trips to be in the same place at the same time without knowing. Last year, we both happened to be in NYC the exact same day, had called each other the night before and then found out and were able to meet up! This year, I randomly gave Christine a call, she mentioned she was in Italy (which I had no idea), and I had mentioned I’d be in Italy for exactly one day the next week since I’d found 20 euro round trip flights. Long story short, Christine was going to be in Milan that exact same day right before she was leaving back to the States and I got to see her!

It was perfect and fun. While I don’t like Milan as a city that much in all honesty (will explain in spring break blog), I had the best time with her and her friend. We went into the Duomo, I shopped (but of course), and we had the loveliest dinner where I ate Milanese Cotoletta and spent almost three hours talking and catching up. At the end of my one day in Milan, I actually cried a lot because it was difficult to see someone I love so much for such a short time and then have to go back to my crazy, different life in Metz. It made me miss home and my people a lot, but was exactly what I needed at the same time. Having stability and people that are consistently there for me is something I take for granted sometimes and I am thankful that I have those people that have treated me with respect and have kept a friendship throughout the years.

A Closer Look at the French Immersion Program

Thank you to our guest blogger Sommy Khalaj, who is a BS/MS student in Mechanical Engineering and ALIS studying at Georgia Tech-Lorraine this semester!

Students in the French – Sciences – Sustainability: French Immersion Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine have the opportunity to learn in a hands-on way about sustainable development in local French communities. They are encouraged to engage with local businesses and organizations in such a way that they may practice French conversation and begin to enjoy the nuances of French culture. For example, students recently visited a local organization in Metz known as Maison du Vélo, where volunteers share their love of biking by teaching others how to bike. The immersion program students may opt to help out by repairing bikes in the shop, purchase a bike for a very fair price, or even join Maison du Vélo members on biking trips.

Students also had the opportunity to visit a local LGBTQIA+/minority organization known as Couleurs Gaies. One of the longest-standing members of Couleurs Gaies spoke to the students for about an hour about the history of the LBGTQ and minority community in the area and how the organization came to be.

With regard to sustainable development, the students were exposed to one organization that contributed to the city’s environmental well-being at Maison du Vélo, while students learned about the city’s social well-being at Couleurs Gaies. Experiences like these where students interact with the local community often become the highlight of their study abroad experience.

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