Friday, March 4, 2022 | Written by Claire
After two months of living in France and studying at GTL, I’ve developed many new perceptions on how I’ve spent my time here. From being a student Monday through Wednesday and a full-time traveler throughout the weekend, it is difficult to imagine life as it was back when I was simply studying at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The rigorous and mundane routine of wake, eat, work, eat, sleep has swamped my college experience since 2019, and many times I’ve always wondered if stressing and working nonstop was the peak of life. And it definitely isn’t.
At GTL, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take time to travel across Europe, a place I never really considered to traverse before. I am grateful to have the time, energy, and resources to travel the way I have been and if I could have told my younger self one thing, it would be to embrace exploration in Europe. From large cities such as Paris, Berlin, and Madrid to small towns like Hallstatt and Como, I’ve seen a range of European lifestyles and utilized a handful of different languages just to get around. Every town is different, and the people have such different qualities region by region. It is mind boggling to see the development of cultural differentiation throughout history and how minute social cues or local habits change ever so slightly. The thing that amazes me the most is the ease that comes with traveling within the EU. Hop on a train, and voila, you’re in a completely different world. The places I see, the dishes I eat, the people I hear- these are all the things I will cherish for a lifetime. Being able to hop across a border, whether it’s on foot or on train, is something I can only say I’ve had the chance to do thanks to GTL.
However, while spending hours upon hours on trains, I find myself more and more exhausted every weekend. The further I go, the more stress I must bear trying to catch trains and praying connections don’t get cancelled. Many times, when I’m tired and cold to the bone sitting in the freezing Frankfurt train station I have unsettling emotions about why I’m stuck in that situation. On several weekends, I have been traveling just because it seemed like a waste of time not to. I travel sometimes because I feel obligated to take advantage of my Eurail pass and see random new things along the way. Many times, weekend plans are formed on the whim and many places I have went, I don’t have any real desire or excitement to go to. While it’s the dream traveling with my friends and experiencing all the weird things that comes with being in random places at 2 AM, I can get easily irritated by the noise and the chaos around me.
When I get into this state of mind, I always remind myself that health comes first. Tiring myself out just to get places I don’t really want to go to does no good. I think back to those moments at GT in Atlanta when I’ve just taken random walks at night just to go stare at the stars, longing to be elsewhere, yearning for a release of all my academic stress. Yet here I am. When I call my friends back at home, they always ask me about my travels and the new places I’ve seen on my trips. They’re envious of the lifestyle I’m living right now even as a student. Same with my parents. I often think of things I get to share with them every weekend, or perhaps a small souvenir special to the place just to bring back a small piece of my experience for them to try. I make vlogs and edit photos to remind myself of all the beautiful things I’ve seen on my trips so far, and the best part is that I get to share it with those I love back at home. So even when traveler’s weariness starts to hit, I know I should never take this semester for granted. It’s by far the most exciting, chaotic, stressful, and tiring period of my life, but all for the best reason. And I wouldn’t want to imagine my GTL experience in any other way.