After I came back from Barcelona, I started to feel a little tickle in my throat. That little tickle developed into a cold with a cough that I had for about a week, give or take. It didn’t exactly come as a surprise when you consider how many people we came into contact with to make the trip. We had to take two buses, two high-speed trains, two planes, and the metros in Barcelona and Paris. I also have to take into consideration that now is the time when the seasons are changing. As summer transitions into fall, the leaves start to change color, the breeze gets cooler, and the germs begin to spread. I wasn’t alone in my moment of illness — there were a handful of other students at GTE that felt the same way. I decided the best thing for me and my health was to stay in my apartment while my group of friends traveled to Berlin for the weekend.
I know what you’re all thinking. Yes of course there were a couple of moments where I felt like I was missing out. I missed out on bonding moments with friends, experiencing a new culture, and the sights Germany has to offer, but that is only if you think about what I gave up. If you think about what I gained, then it starts to look different. I thought the weekend was going to feel so painfully long since I was going to spend those days without any social interaction, but I actually enjoyed it. Some time to yourself is important every once in a while, especially in an environment like the one a Georgia Tech campus cultivates. So much time during the weekdays is devoted to attending classes, doing homework, and studying that any time you have leftover is spent cooking and cleaning. When the weekend arrives, you pack up your travel bag and hit the trains for whatever journey you are embarking on. As you can begin to see, life can get pretty fast-paced around here. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the routine that self-care, along with the status of your living space, can slip through the cracks of your tight schedule.
Sick days or days off for students are typically always something we enjoy. Personally, even if I was sick and had to stay home, under all that congestion and painful headaches would be my joy for not having to be at school and/or work. I can’t speak for everyone when I say that, but I think we can all agree on our appreciation for days off whether it is for holidays or assigned vacation days. However, under my current circumstances, breaks from traveling and the busy life of a student studying abroad in Europe are typically not by choice. Whether you stay in because of a cold, to save money, or another personal reason, remember that it can be a positive experience if you want it to be.
The BDE, or Bureau des Étudiants, is the student government at GTL who is responsible for organizing social events to get more students connected to French culture and bridge the gap between the American and international students. Throughout the Fall semester, the BDE hosted ten different events for students including tickets to the Moselle Open, an Eight-Ball Billiards Tournament, a Halloween Ice Skating Party, and a Swing Dance Night! The BDE is composed of five students who are elected at the start of the semester: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sports Coordinator.
The Pool Tournament: teams of two competed bracket style during the competition. Unfortunately, most teams got out because they scratched the cue ball…
Serving as the President this semester, First Year Biomedical Engineer Noah Pastula’s favorite event was the “Trivia Night and Crepes” event because he “always likes a little bit of friendly competition”. Teams of five competed against each other to correctly answer the most questions in categories such as “Marvel Movies”, “Geography”, and “Math”. The final question involved naming all the bus stops on Line A of the Le Met bus route. At the same time, other members of the BDE cooked homemade crepes filled with Nutella, brown sugar, and bananas. The Trivia Night was also my favorite event because my team of five won the entire competition! We beat over 10 other teams for the title!
Shoutout to the BDE for cooking over 50 crepes for Trivia participants. It took them three hours to make custom crepes for everyone.
Staying in the spirit of competition, another very popular event was the “Ping Pong Tournament” hosted in the middle of October. This semester, first year Civil Engineer Zachary Harrison serves as the Sports Coordinator on the BDE. As the Sports Coordinator, he is responsible for organizing any team-building events and physical activities. For example, every week, Zach hosts a soccer or ultimate frisbee game on a local sports field for any GTE student to join. In his role, he also helped plan both this Ping Pong Tournament and the Billiards Tournament. According to First Year Mechanical Engineer Sofia Mujica, the Ping Pong Tournament was her favorite event because “everyone was on the edge of their seat for every little point and there was so much camaraderie between all the students regardless of year!” The event was held bracket style with everyone competing solo. Even though the event lasted over three hours—it was originally predicted to last one hour—most students stayed the entire event to cheer on the final two.
The final two competing in the Ping Pong Tournament.
Just this past week, the BDE hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner and Talent Show for all the students. Three students showed off their talents on the guitar and piano while students munched on a catered meal of turkey and potatoes. It was an opportunity for international students to learn a bit about American culture and give homesick American students a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving before heading back to the States in mid-December.
Overall, the BDE has planned a ton of diverse events that have sparked the interest of all students at GTE. They have given the student body a chance to mingle as well as blow off steam from stressful classes and hectic traveling schedules. Personally, I have had an amazing time watching, participating, and winning the events! Merci BDE!
Studying abroad in Europe, we find ourselves in the center of so many important arts. GTL’s own backyard is home to Metz which is rich in history. A quick train ride away houses all of Europe’s art museums, public sculptures, art performances, and architecture. However, these opportunities are often overlooked by the students at GTL. To remedy this problem, the Leonardo Program was created. The goal of the Leonardo Program is simple: to interest hyper-focused engineering students in the arts. Professor Sonia Serafin, a French teacher at GTL, tackles this goal by shocking students with the beauty of the arts and the positive influences they can have on science and engineering. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci – one of the best examples of innovators blending art with STEM, Professor Serafin aims to interest students in the arts by organizing various events focused on art and history for them.
For example, a mere 20-minute walk from campus resides the Centre Pompidou Metz: a free-for-students museum of modern and contemporary art showcasing both temporary and permanent art installations. One of the exhibitions features Eva Aeppli, a Swiss painter and sculptor who focuses on human expression. Walking through her exhibit as part of the Leonardo Program was a unique experience. It included large crowds of hooded figures with fingers reaching out to touch those who passed by, sculpted pairs of scissors dangling from the ceiling, and a pin-drop silence which was cut by an eerie screech coming from a wooden wheel which raised and lowered a couch of mannequins from the ground. Eva’s art was profound and discomforting, which I believe was the desired effect. Starting on November 5th, a new art installation focusing on art in science fiction will open; I will be sure to visit given how much I enjoy the current exhibits.
The unsettling exhibit of Eva Aeppli
Another Leonardo Program event introduced us to the auditory arts: we were given reduced price tickets to see Madame Butterfly at the Metz Opera House. Madame Butterfly is an Italian Opera about unrequited love between a geisha and an American soldier in 20th century Japan. Throughout the three acts, we listened to the amazing soprano, Francesca Tiburzi, and tenor, Thomas Bettinger, belt out beautiful, narrative songs. I was amazed by their ability to sing for nearly three hours straight with minimal breaks.
Image courtesy of www.republicain-lorrain.fr
To cultivate our own art, a local artist is invited to the GTL campus once every week by the Leonardo Program to teach an art class focusing on sketching and drawing for all students. Additionally, the campus is home to a piano practice space for students to play in private. Communal events, such as a chess tournament, are planned to cultivate camaraderie between the FYSA, undergraduate, and graduate students.
A local Metz resident and chess teacher played the top 10 students from the chess tournament at the same time and won all 10 games.
Professor Serafin says one of her favorite things about this program is listening to the impact the arts had on each student. She loves hearing about a student’s first time at the Opera or about a student’s interaction with art over a weekend trip. She believes when students at GTL get in touch with their artistic side, they can allow creativity to influence their engineering side as well. When you mix STEM and art together, a broader variety of solutions to problems in both fields emerge. Professor Serafin says it best: “art touches you; I profoundly believe that life is richer with art”.
Seven weeks have come and gone in a flash. It feels like just yesterday I was trying to learn how to read the train boards in the Metz train station and attempting to locate the GTL shuttle. While many of my friends have studied at GTL before and I’d heard plenty about their experiences, several things have still surprised me during my time here thus far: how early one must rise to reach the train station on time, how heavy a full backpack can weigh on your back, and the rapid five-minute transfers between trains in a flurry with the dozens of others. Balancing classwork and travel has also been more difficult than I anticipated: I feel like I ask myself every week, “Will this be the week I don’t finish my system dynamics homework an hour before the due date?”
In addition to classwork, traveling comes with its own set of growing pains. It gets easier as you learn what to pack, when to leave, what to do, but you also learn more about how naïve you are. Safe travel is important at GTL, and my friends and I have had our share of close scrapes. Throughout the semester, I’ve set more boundaries for myself to avoid these situations. But with new boundaries comes the inevitable fear of missing out. “Should I leave a day early and spend the night in a train station so I can get four more hours in Switzerland? Is it worth it to spend an extra $400 to book plane tickets to Greece?”
Sometimes at GTL, it can feel like other students are experiencing so much more than you and traveling to more countries. For example, one place I knew I wanted to visit before coming to Europe was Switzerland. However, the weekend I visited was wet and rainy, and all other weekends since have been plagued with torrential downpours. I wish I could have traveled earlier and bypassed the rain and while I know hindsight is 20/20, I still sometimes find myself jealous of others who experienced better weather.
To overcome this fear, I remind myself of something that I heard during a talk at a conference: think of everyone like Venn Diagrams. You always want to assume that your circle is within another person’s circle, but in reality, we are intersecting circles. While they may have gone to Denmark, or Great Britain, or even Switzerland and you have not, you have been to Austria, Italy, and Ireland! It always feels like you are the one missing out, but in reality, there are so many experiences that are uniquely yours and yours alone, and I personally would not want to trade my memories of GTL with anyone else’s.
I have been able to travel to so many different countries and experience new surroundings and cultures, and I’ve met so many interesting people. On a train in Germany, the girl sitting next to me was visiting her Aunt in Frankfurt and showed me pictures of her Spanish home. In Amsterdam, I met an American who has been working virtually from abroad since 2020; he’s changed his location every two weeks while staying in hostels all around Europe. In Switzerland, I ran through the train station with a hundred others attempting to catch a train in a four minute transfer. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I ran amid the chaos, everyone’s bags flapping behind them. In the lounge of a hostel, my group successfully got over a dozen Europeans to dance the Cotton Eye Joe at midnight; we taught them the steps as we bounced to the song. It’s these situations that make every tight transfer, every midnight homework session, and every early morning train jaunt worth it. I love walking into the student lounge and seeing my friends huddled around a table, ready to go over this week’s homework in preparation for this week’s travels. We are all in this crazy situation together, and we all have each other’s backs no matter what happens or where we have visited— GTL’s community is unmatched!
One of the worst things that can happen to you while Georgia Tech Lorraine is get sick. The stress of Georgia Tech classes and traveling every weekend paired with France’s colder temperatures approaching easily leads to sickness. This past weekend, I traveled to the German and Austrian Alps, and the weather was not cooperating at all. The entire weekend brought icy rain and bone chilling wind— something I was not prepared for. The single rain jacket I brought with me was definitely not enough.
An Austrian Apfelstrudel from a Hutte: small hotels and restaurants located on the top of mountains. The only way to access it is to hike to it. It was super delicious, too bad the journey got me sick…
I got back to Metz with the sniffles, which slowly turned into a sneeze and a cough, which then turned into fever over the course of the week. The first thing I did was conduct a rapid test for COVID, and thankfully I was negative. However, since my room offers no temperature control and the only air circulation is provided by a single window being opened and closed, it was very hard to heal from a simple cold. If you got caught up in the same situation that I did, here are some recommendations to avoid becoming sick and how to get better:
Pharmacies: In France, you cannot purchase drugs at the supermarket. Instead, you have to go to devoted stores called Pharmacies to purchase these items. You can always recognize them via their green crosses. There is one in CORA, and the attendees are super nice and will have a high chance of speaking English! They have everything from ibuprofen and cough medicine to specialized cushioned shoes.
Pharmacie in CORA. Pharmacies always have the distinctive green cross, found all over Europe.
GTL Nurse: GTL has a nurse that visits the campus once a week for free consultation for all students. If you are unsure of the prescription that you would need at the pharmacies, make sure to talk to the nurse beforehand!
Masks: The only good thing to come out of COVID is that wearing face masks is more normalized. Help protect your fellow students by wearing face masks whenever you leave your room to go to the pharmacy.
Setting boundaries: One way to prevent getting sick is to set boundaries when traveling. Instead of leaving after class on Thursday and getting back to campus Monday morning before all of your classes start, give yourself time to recover before and after traveling. A lot of students will push themselves to maximize the amount of time traveling, but remember that train sleep is not the best type of sleep. The bumps and interesting temperature ranges trains can have make it very hard to sleep peacefully. By extension, overnight trains are not always the best solution especially if there are shorter ones during the day. Always give yourself at least 8 hours to sleep every day that is not on a train, and it will make you feel much better.
When you first arrive in Paris, at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, your first task is to locate the GTL shuttle. I highly recommend getting into contact with other GTL students prior to entering Paris in order to make this experience better, since finding the shuttle is very chaotic and hard to locate in the midst of being in a foreign country and finding your luggage. Thankfully, I was able to text other students in a GTL group chat to ask for more specific directions to the shuttle.
That afternoon and night offers students time to unpack their things and unwind from the day of traveling. Free pizza will be offered during a dorm building party for dinner. Some students will also take this time to shop for food and personal belongings. I would hold off on making large purchases during this time because students will get the opportunity to pick large items like trash cans and fans for free on Monday, when old GTL students dorm supplies are available to new GTL students.
2. CORA tour
The next morning, students have the option of signing up for a tour of CORA: the local supermarket, which is more like a superstore in Metz. During this tour, you will learn where everything is located, and some helpful hints to make your shopping experience better. For example, in order to use a shopping cart, you need to insert a coin into the cart to unlock it. You will get that coin back when you return the cart. You also need to plastic wrap all large backpacks (purses and handbags excluded) when you enter the store to prevent theft. CORA, like many other French grocery stores, has a large bakery and cheese section.
3. Downtown Metz Tour
That afternoon, we headed into downtown Metz on a GTL supplied bus. We got an audio tour of the city while riding a small train-like shuttle. Once that was over, the student assistants freed us to explore the town ourselves. During this time, I went with a group of students to get cellular data plans at Free Mobile. One student spoke French so we were able to rely on him to make sure we got the plans we needed.
View of Downtown Metz. Imagine living in one of those apartments that look out onto the waterfront!
Monday morning brings orientation! While there are no classes on Monday, students are required to attend orientation early that morning where we learn about building safety precautions, research abroad, and general GTL programs. Since there are no classes on Monday, this first week will have classes on Friday, so your first week’s travel plans will be impacted.
5. Campus Tour
On the Monday of your first week of classes, you will be given a tour of the GTL building as well as safety information about the building. Your class will be split into different tour groups to walk through the building at different times. While waiting for your group to start, you can rent a bike with Velomet for €15 who will visit GTL during that time. In order to rent a bike, you must bring a €200 deposit that you will receive when you turn your bike back in. Velomet only accepts cash deposits, so if you are in need of a bike, make sure to bring it to your orientation on Monday. GTL will also invite a local food truck that you can purchase lunch from.
6. Garage Sale
In the middle of your tour, you will have access to the Garage Sale, a room full of free items to grab from previous GTL students. Items include fans, brooms and mops, clothes bins and drying racks, trash cans, hangers, etc. Students have limited time and limited number of items that they can select during the garage sale in order to make it fair to all students; however, students in earlier tour groups will receive an advantage since they will choose their items first. Even though I was in the last group to choose items, I still was able to pick up a fan, cutting board, trash can, and clothes bin, so do not worry if you are in the same situation.
I was one of the last students that was able to go to the garage sale, and this is how much was still remaining
7. Grad Orientation
If you are a Masters or PHD student, you are required to attend a major specific orientation detailing your program at GTL. During this time, you learn about research and courses for your degree, and you can ask more grad school specific questions.
8. Dorm Tours
Students will also receive a tour of their dorm building after the tour of campus and learn about laundry facilities and trash separation. The washing machines in my building, Lafayette, include their own detergent. Fabric softeners and other scented products are not included.
9. Leonardo Program
During orientation, you will learn about the Leonardo Program: a program headed by French teacher Sonia Seravan to explore the arts. This program has events that are free for students such as drawing classes with a local artist and speed dating events to meet your fellow Georgia Tech travelers.
My initial trip to France was a whirlwind, and I was not sure that I was going to arrive on time and with all my things. I spent the summer interning in Seattle, Washington, but the day after my internship ended, I was on a plane headed to Newfoundland, Canada. I spent two weeks biking across the island with Georgia Tech’s Outdoor Recreation program. From there, I flew to Washington, D.C. where I met my dad who was waiting patiently with my luggage which I had prepacked and shipped from Seattle. I flew to Paris immediately, without even saying goodbye to my family. Afterwards, I dealt with TSA, customs, jetlag, and locating the GTL Shuttle. As I sat down in the Shuttle with all my belongings, I was relieved that all my travel plans were executed successfully, although it tiring to go through. Then, it started to dawn on me: I was finally in France!
The past three years have been building to this one moment. During my first year at Georgia Tech, I applied and was accepted to GTL for the summer. Unfortunately, it was canceled due to COVID-19. The next year, I planned to study abroad once more during the Fall semester, but I received a last-minute internship which I decided to take instead. Well, you know what they say: third time’s the charm! And for me, it was! After all the planning and purchasing of the Eurail passes and plane tickets, I started to get exhausted from stressing over all the disjunct pieces in my travel plans, wondering if it would all work out perfectly. I completely forgot to look around and just be thankful that I was here. Once I took that step back, I was full of pure happiness. While I know that busy travel days and exhausting weekdays await me, I am so excited to get out of my comfort zone and experience all that Europe has to offer me!
View outside my plane arriving into France. Even the farmlands are laid out differently. In the US, it’s a grid system, but here is more anarchy.
After a four-hour bus ride, the shuttle dropped us off at my Lafayette dorm room: a small room without air-conditioning located on the first floor. A pizza party was thrown for all the GTL students, and a couple of my newfound friends went out for €0.50 coffee from a vending machine and ice cream. My lack of French hit me as I stepped up to the dessert bar cashier. “Je voudrais une… chocolate ice cream… s’il vous plaît?” I attempted – butchering the words. Thankfully, the cashier understood my attempt and helped me with my pronunciation. Even though I was initially unsuccessful, I was over my fear of speaking French, and I look forward to the opportunity to redeem myself in the future.
A well-earned ice cream
In just this first week, I have been able to explore the cities of Metz and Luxembourg. On first impression, what struck out to me was the many cultural differences that I did not expect. I figured that Europe was more fashionable than the United States (hello– Paris fashion week), but I did not expect it in the airport and grocery stores. For Europeans, pants and red-tinted sunglasses are more favorable when compared to jeans, shorts, and black tinted sunglasses, in the U.S.. Other oddities which struck me as well: groceries and restaurants are much cheaper here than in the states; however, items such as batteries and gas are more expensive. The public bathroom (or WC) is not free, usually costing around 0,50 €- 1€. I was astounded when I was charged 4,50€ for a bottle of water at a restaurant in Luxembourg. It was more expensive than soft drinks and alcohol. When entering a grocery store, you must bag your backpacks in plastic to prevent theft of items. You also must scan self-checkout receipts to exit! While the differences are small, they add up.
Me in Paris at the Pont Neuf Bridge and my stylish gummy bear earrings. If this didn’t fit in with French couture, I don’t know what would.
Overall, France and Luxembourg have been amazing to explore these first few weeks. However, I am so excited to continue traveling and see as many sights as I can. I think the activity that I am most excited for is hiking along the ridge lines of the Alps in Switzerland. I cannot wait to continue to travel in weeks to come, so I can learn more about European culture outside of France!
At Georgia Tech, it is no surprise that mental health is a big topic among students facing stressful situations at university. Just like any other college, students are often met with heavy workloads, difficult courses, and little social time outside of classes. At GTL, it is a different type of challenge.
As a GTL student myself, I’ve had a smooth run the first few months of living in France. Besides the lack of usual Asian food that I eat, life has been good. My classes were going well; I was managing my workload while traveling extensively; I was having a lot of fun as a happy and healthy student. It wasn’t until late March when I began experiencing some health hiccups here and there. I had and am still going through a bad eczema flare up on my face after being prescribed a steroid cream for a previous rash by a French doctor. After using it, the rash spread across my face and currently, I’m still doing everything I can to keep it at bay. Then, after it had healed for a day, I got COVID. From there I was stuck in isolation for a week and the rash came back full force and still hasn’t subsided. This period has been very difficult for me. I had to skip out on so many social events just to stay stuck in my small dorm room. Right when I thought I was healed and ready to go for my long weekend vacation in Italy, I had to stay in COVID isolation for a week. It was truly very frustrating to deal with day after day and today almost marks one month of this struggle. Slowly but steadily, I am beginning my recovery.
GTL, however, has been excellent in reciprocating my needs. For all prospective students, the GTL urgent phone line is staffed 24/7 by GTL staff members who care about your health and wellbeing. They are willing to talk to you about your wants and needs whenever it is. I’ve heard about students calling for emergencies or even slight inconveniences, but for me GTL Urgent staff have been angels. When I had COVID, one of the staff members even drove me to the hospital personally so I could get treatment for my flare ups. They spent hours upon hours waiting with me at the hospital despite the massive line of patients. They even helped translate what I needed to say to the doctor in French and helped me get my prescription medicine during rush hour. With Easter right around the corner, many places were going to be closed for the long weekend, and they made sure I was able to get my treatment before that time. Other than that, during isolation, they also arranged a food delivery service that would drop fresh groceries from Cora right at my door.
Other than the GTL Urgent phone, GTL is also staffed with a school nurse, admins around the clock and professors who prioritize your health and needs. Thus, I am happy to say that no student will ever be alone if they are in need and are at GTL. They can arrange emergency services whether you are in Metz or abroad, and I am so thankful for that.
As a new student at GTL, you may wonder where the best places to get food around campus are. Without an official meal plan, it sometimes can get monotonous eating pizza or Carbonara pasta from Crous everyday, and cooking for yourself is also no easy task. Metz has a few notable and reasonable places to help you get adjusted to life in France. Here are my favorites.
This is the biggest market in Metz and its definitely one you can’t miss. Basically a Walmart and Target combined into a Costco sized warehouse, Cora is the place to find anything you ever need. There are huge selections of housewares, clothing, pastries, meats, and drinks of all sorts. While prices are not much cheaper than those back in Atlanta, it depends on the meats, fruits, and veggies you end up buying. Tropical fruits, such as strawberries, grapes, and mangos are very expensive, almost 1.5 the price than we usually see at home. Meat cuts include parts from all parts of cows, pigs, and chicken, but the one thing you want to keep in mind when selecting cheaper meat is the date of consumption. Many times, the meats must be eaten within the next 1-3 days, so if you’re traveling on the weekend, it’s best to buy the groceries after you return. Overall, Cora scores a 10/10 on the scale. It has almost everything I ever needed and while it’s a 30-minute walk from Lafayette, with the metro pass, you can get there in a matter of minutes.
Auchan is a smaller chain supermarket that is closer to Lafayette than Cora. It sells mostly the same things and brands, but overall, Auchan has higher quality pastries and good budget food items. While the veggies selection is not as diverse, it specializes in lot of bio or organic produce that are slightly cheaper than the ones at Cora. From my experience, it is best to go to Auchan earlier in the day when things have been stocked up and when the bakeries just restock on their fresh breads. It scores brownie points for its convenient location and accessibility to Lafayette. Finally, most French groceries stores are highly plastic conscious, so you’ll have to bring your own bags!
For new French pastry connoisseurs, Paul’s is the perfect place to start exploring. Located just 5 minutes away from GTL, Paul’s has a huge collection of coffees, breads, tarts, and ready-made food just for your convenience. For my first time at Paul’s, I tried their pain au chocolat, a classic French delicacy with chocolate folded into crispy, buttery goodness. Their tarts are amazing with fresh berries and a glaze that isn’t too sweet but also not too sour. Their freshly made baguettes in the morning are perfect for cheese and jam. Overall, the prices are comparable to those in Cora, so you might as well try out what they have and expand your horizons. There are also many tables set up inside for you to get your work done, in an ambient, cozy environment with your favorite pastries. While taste is good, the waiter experience was slightly awkward when we first visited there. If you do not know French, you might want to touch up on some of your basic French phrases before heading over.
Mamma Mia Pizza 9/10
Funny enough, Mamma Mia Pizza was my first meal I had in Metz when I arrived. It is located right next to Paul’s and it has a massive selection of specialty pizzas and pastas for a reasonable price. The maxi size is enough for two and they are often loaded with toppings. My recommendation would be the Pizzaiolo, which comes with ham, peppers, mushroom, and chorizo. It is the best bang for your buck and it quite filling as a pizza itself. Mamma Mia specializes in thin crust pizzas, which are a nice crunchy and light comparison to the traditional American pizzas. It is also open all 7 days a week, which comes in clutch when stores are closed on Sundays.
As the sunlight starts to filter through the curtains and the deep rumbles of construction pass back and forth outside my window at the Lafayette dorm, I crawl out of bed for my first class of the day. Usually, the cold air outside is crisp, so I need to layer up. Bundled in a hoodie and long jacket, I make my way to the GTL building, a good 10-minute walk away from my dorm. On some days, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a peak of sunlight or a patch of blue skies; but most of the time, it’s just layers of grey clouds.
The GTL Building requires a quick scan of your ISIC card to get through the initial gate and then another tap to open the main doors. The floors themselves are split into different sections, with labs and study rooms on the first floor, and the rest of the classrooms above. The classroom doors are color coded to match the color on the initial schedule you receive at the beginning at the year. Somehow, I usually start in the Blue room, where the CO2 alarm ends up going off every once in and while, so I need to remain bundled in my layers. This mechanism is simply a COVID regulation and nothing too much to worry about.
12:00 PM: Lunchtime.
After my initial class and knocking out some Physics and French homework, it’s time for lunch. Usually, I’m starving by this point. GTL offers meals in the Crous Cafet on the first floor for around three euros, which is usually a hefty plate of pasta. Although I have not gone to the cafeteria often, it seemed to have the same pasta options of pesto or carbonara and a sizzling slice of pizza. The meal itself is mostly carbs and does not come with fruits or vegetables depending on the restaurant you go to. The most inconvenient part is that if you go around lunch hours from 11-1, the lines for each stretch out of the door. As students from the neighboring Technopole schools also share this dining service, the number of people who frequent Crous Cafet is massive.
To maintain a balanced diet, I often head back to Lafayette and cook up my own pasta meal. Throwing together some mushrooms, green peppers, sausage, steak, and some spices, spaghetti chow mien is my go-to. Not only is it flavorful, but it is also easy to make, with the pasta taking the longest to boil. All the ingredients can be easily bought at CORA at your convenience.
3:00 PM: More class, study sesh, and coffee!
After a quick lunch, I head back to the study lounge at the GTL building to finish up more assignments and hang out with other GTL students. The best part about the lounge is that it’s equipped with a full coffee dispensing machine with a multitude of interesting flavors. For just 45 cents, you can get a small cup of caffeine bliss, or you can get a larger cup for just 80 cents. If you bring your own mug, it’s even cheaper. The lounge also has a ping pong table for quick study session break or a pool table if you want to get competitive. The only downside is that it can get a little noisy as people start to work on their group projects, play ping-pong or just chat in the main room. It might be wise to bring some headphones if you want to get some serious work done.
Other than that, there are also universal power outlets for your computer or any electronic device, so if you forget your power adapter, no worries! There are also plenty of computers to use if your laptop ends up not working.
If you’re there long enough, you can probably catch a glimpse of the sunset in the giant windowpanes that stretch across the room. Could be a good way to end your day.
5:00 PM: Dinner feast
Around 5 PM, I start packing up and heading back to Lafayette after a long day of class and work. The Crous Cafe is also open for dinner at your convenience. Restaurants and cafes nearby the roundabout on the way back to Lafayette also have options for delicious quiches, pastries or even pizza. Mamma Mia Pizza is a go-to for many GTL students. Their endless menu of 16-inch pizzas and reasonably priced pastas are enough to feed two people on a hungry day. The pizzas themselves are nice and thinly made, with the crust crispy and delicious. The Pizzaiolo is my favorite so far. It is topped with layers of cheese, ham, chorizos, and peppers, and the best part is that it comes at a light price of only 13 euros for a maxi. Pretty good deal compared to the other pizza restaurants in the area. If you’re in the fast food mood, you can definitely hit up the Burger King, McDonalds, or KFC for a hefty meal as well.
7:00 PM: Cora Run
After dinner on Mondays, I tend to take a trip to Cora for some groceries. If you’re in the fast-food mood, you might as well grab dinner down there before heading to the market. GTL provides a free shuttle back to the dorms from Cora on Mondays so it’ll make your life easier than lugging jugs of milk back a mile back to Lafayette.
Cora itself is a super store with rows of clothing, aisles of pastries, and huge sections designated to pasta, alcohol, and French snacks. It has everything you can think of, including rolls of pink toilet paper. The vegetables there are fresh and the seafood section is nice and clean. Not only does it boost an array of crabs, snails, and fish, the meat section is paired with a huge corner of fresh cheeses and sausages. During the first week, I spent hours in Cora just exploring the different kinds of cheese and meats.
9:00 PM: Laundry
The laundry in Lafayette is definitely something hard to get used to. The weekdays are usually the least busy as there are only 3 washers and 2 dryers in the entirety of Lafayette. You also have to pay at least five euros for a proper wash and dry. If you end up doing your laundry at night, you should try to allocate some time as the dryers here offer a special “European dry” that requires you to hang up your clothes even after drying. If you want them to be in wearable condition, you probably need to run the dryer twice, which would take about one and a half hours.
12 AM: Snooze
By the time midnight rolls around, I’m heading to bed after another long day at GTL. While everyday will be different for each student, I can allocate some time to take day trips on Tuesday or Thursdays when I don’t have class. But overall, the greatest challenge at GTL is managing school-life balance and workload. Make sure you work hard but also play hard as GTL is the best opportunity to have the travels of a lifetime.