YOLO… Let’s Go Solo!

Written by Andre Grossberg

While GTE fosters amazing friendships and wonderful group trips, I’m writing this blog to you from the Vienna Airport, solo. I’m just back from a trip I planned the night before I left. This loosely put-together journey impacted me much more than I expected. So, let’s talk about solo travel for those thinking about hitting the road alone.

First off, solo travel wasn’t my original plan. My weekend plans got canceled due to poor weather, making the hiking trails dangerous. Not wanting to waste a weekend, I decided to seize the moment and travel to places I hadn’t planned before. Wednesday night, I pulled out my laptop and found an extremely cheap one-way flight back from Vienna. The new plan was to figure out how to get to Vienna and fly back Sunday night.

Now, having arrived at the airport, I’ve spent a night in Colmar, France, an afternoon in Zurich, Switzerland, and two days visiting Salzburg, Melk, and Vienna, Austria. I climbed a mountain, attended the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and listened to Mozart while overlooking his grave. While these experiences were incredible, what really struck me was how different it was to do it alone.

To be completely honest, there were many moments on this trip when I would have loved to have a companion or two. I even felt lonely at times. However, this solo journey allowed me to learn so much about myself. Without anyone to share meals with or discuss views or art, I experienced everything in silence. Solo travel reveals what YOU truly find amazing. You have the freedom to do anything you want, at any pace and time. I danced alone at a concert, sat alone at the top of Mount Untersberg, and wandered the streets of many cities solo. It gives you the chance to reflect on your enjoyments, dislikes, thoughts, and limits.

Andre chilling on Mount Untersberg, on the border between Germany and Austria

I’m not saying solo travel is a must. It’s important to exercise strong caution while abroad, and growing close to others through travel is one of the most valuable experiences you can have. However, if solo travel is something you’re considering, for whatever reason, it’s worth it. You can create lifelong memories and have wonderful experiences by yourself. Some even say it’s hard to go back to group travel after experiencing solo adventures!

To wrap things up I wanted to give some tips for the solo traveler! Hostels are amazing. Many nights were only $30, and making friends with your roommates is fun! Bring a lock. Most hostels have places where you can lock your things for the day so you don’t have to lug them around. Ask around. It’s okay to ask locals for help or for things to do, usually they are more than excited to share. Finally, plan… but no need to stay on schedule. This is your trip and you can do whatever you want so explore! 

Happy Travels,

Andre Grossberg

Andre looking confused at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna, Austria
Andre listening to classical music with Mozart, Beethoven, and Franz Schubert
Andre fighting the urge to jump in the river in Colmar, France

Travel Trips

Written by Andre Grossberg

While a lot has happened over the past month, this week I’d like to focus on the nitty-gritty of traveling in hopes of sharing a little more understanding of how to travel in Europe. 

For those who aren’t familiar, the program has recently added the Eurail Pass to the program expenses*. This pass allows you to travel on trains owned by Eurail that connect to 33 countries! It is an amazing resource, but there are a few things I’d like to touch on. We were provided with a second-class pass. You are also given the option to upgrade to first class for a fee. I am not too sure about the specifics, but definitely consider the option as in many cases it gives you priority for booking trains, Wi-Fi, and electrical outlets that may not be available in second class. With both options, many trains are free; however, please be warned that you still may have to pay and book in advance! For example, my friend and I are planning to go to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, but since so many people are going, most of the trains were booked! We now are going to fly through Barcelona, which adds some more difficulty to our travels. 

That brings me to my next tip: consider flying to places. There is a great airline called Ryanair, where you can get very cheap flights to many destinations. Actually, as I’m writing this blog, I’m in Edinburgh, which by plane was just 44 euros! Be careful to check in at least 2 hours before your flight to avoid incurring a hefty fee like I did. Flights are great because you can spend a lot more time wherever you are than traveling. Overnight trains aren’t very common in Europe, which means you will mostly have to travel during the day by train. That can be difficult to do when balancing classes. There are overnight buses, but those can be expensive and take a lot longer. So please always consider the option of flying; it might even save you money!! 

Finally, don’t be afraid to be spontaneous! I think one of the best memories I’ve had so far was when some other GTE students invited my friends and me to go cliff jumping while in Cinque Terre, Italy. Not being in the plans, we were not sure but decided to go for it anyway at a famous spot near the beach. Climbing up the steep rocks and cheering each other on to overcome our fear of heights was a nerve-wracking yet extremely rewarding experience. The locals were there to count down your jump while many spectators watched and even took videos of you! I don’t think my time there would have been the same if we hadn’t gotten out of our comfort zone and tried something new. So, if you see an opportunity, go for it! 

That’s all for me this week, and I look forward to talking with y’all soon! 

Happy Travels,  

Andre Grossberg 

*Subject to change by semester. Please check GTE website for most up to date information. 

Searching for Green in the City

Written by Cate McCoy

This past weekend in Amsterdam, my friend and I were sitting outside a restaurant in Vondelpark when we heard a strange birdcall. I quickly pulled out my phone and used an app to identify the bird—I was confused when a species of parakeet popped up. A quick Google search later and we discovered that the park is known for its wild parakeets! We scanned the sky and trees surrounding us, and sure enough, we spotted the bright green birds sitting on the branches, their colorful tail feathers fanned out behind them. We finished our food and began to walk around the park to see what else we could find. Within the span of fifteen minutes, we watched parakeets fly right over our heads, got within five feet of a gray heron standing by a pond, and saw a family of Egyptian geese. Experiencing so much diverse and uncommon wildlife right in the middle of the city was bizarre and incredible, making Vondelpark one of the most memorable parts of my time in Amsterdam.

I think the reason why my experience in the park was so special to me was that it reconnected me with nature. While plans for hiking in the Alps are in the works, I’ve yet to go on any big outdoor adventures since I’ve been in Europe. My weekend trips so far have been to big cities, like Paris and Amsterdam, where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the noise and busy lifestyle. I’ve found myself missing the peace I feel when I’m surrounded by the outdoors. Luckily, European cities tend to have lots of green space, and I’ve learned some tricks to find those little spots of nature amongst the concrete sidewalks and towering buildings.

While there are plenty of parks to choose from while you’re traveling in Europe (though I can’t guarantee they all have wild parakeets), most major cities also have botanical gardens. On our last day in Paris, my travel group decided to visit the Jardin des Plantes to kill some time before catching our train. We explored the main sights of the garden, walked under the dense canopy leading to a gazebo, admired the neat rows of flowers in the main gardens, and even saw some kangaroos in the zoo area. Afterwards, we sat in the shade and relaxed, exhausted from our busy weekend. The gardens were the perfect setting for me to find the peace I’d been needing.

If you find yourself in a city without major green spaces like parks and botanical gardens, you might have to look more closely to find bits of nature, but I promise it’s there. Go to a farmer’s market and you’ll find it in the fresh, locally grown produce and flowers. Have a picnic by the river and you’ll see it in the calm water. Visit the art museum and look at paintings of landscapes. Download identification apps and figure out what type of flower is growing out of that crack in the concrete. Watch the sunset. There are millions of ways to immerse yourself in nature, even if they seem small and insignificant—there’s something to be said for appreciating things that most of us might not even notice.

First Experiences and Impressions

Written by Andre Grossberg

When I arrived in Paris, one of my biggest concerns was the threat of pickpockets. I’d been warned to keep a close eye on my belongings, especially in crowded places. My adventure took me to Montmartre and the stunning Sacré-Cœur Cathedral. Unfortunately, I was on my own as my dear friend Kingston from Atlanta was recuperating from a night out at a Taylor Swift concert and refused to budge from bed.

A bit nervously, I went around the sights and gawked at all the beautiful scenery. This led me to a famous staircase where as I was walking down, I noticed a guy standing near the stairs. Attempting to be polite, I asked if he wanted to go first to which he replied “No. Please go, go down the stairs.” Thinking that was an odd response, I walked down slowly checking my back when a young woman approached me and began speaking in French. I quickly explained that I didn’t understand French, and she switched to English asking for directions to a place I didn’t know. I continued to get more worried that this situation was going to go wrong. 

Then all of a sudden… she began to sing in full opera to me. She was an incredible singer, and I was completely taken aback. Shortly after, a cello player came to join her, then a clarinet player. As I stood there looking like a complete doofus, a crowd began to draw as they watched these three musicians play for this strange American tourist. As they concluded their impromptu concert, they excitedly revealed that they were musicians who enjoyed playing for strangers. They even asked if they could feature me on their Instagram. We then chatted for a bit where I learned more about them and we went our separate ways. 

Andre with local musicians in Paris

While I could go on and on about tips for those considering GTE (for example, please go to the events where you can get items that past students have left – it can save so much money), I actually want to save that for later blogs and first start a talk about mindset. I still warn you to exercise caution as you travel abroad, but reflecting on my first two weeks, I have already been amazed by the friendliness and kindness you can experience meeting people you don’t know.

Inspired by my surprise concert, I decided that I would begin to get out of my comfort zone and make an effort to meet others. With this changed mindset, I was lucky to meet many wonderful people at GTE with just as interesting backgrounds and interests. This has led me to two weekends where I spent time in Metz, Brussels, and Luxembourg with people I did not know before I came here. I paddle-boated across rivers, experienced my first hostel, and even found a new gym partner who will finally make me do leg day.

Along with students in the program, I decided to try to meet people in each country we went to. On the bus ride to Brussels, there were some rowdy Spanish men on the bus with a bunch of Red Bull merch. I built up the courage to talk with them and it turned out to be the European surfing champion, a finance specialist living in Luxembourg, and an influencer from Spain who were all doing a Red Bull challenge to travel through Europe with no money. We chatted the whole ride there and now I am following their journey online. In Luxembourg, I saw a skatepark and because I used to skate I asked if I could join some local skaters during their session. It turned out one was a student originally from Ireland, and we got to share our love for skating with each other and experience people asking us to do kickflips (though they ask in French in Luxembourg). 

While these are all neat experiences, what I really wanted to say is that I think one of the coolest things about traveling to other places is the people. Everywhere you will find kind, interesting, and happy people who are a pleasure to meet. While you should no doubt explore Europe with and cherish your current friends, I would like to urge those reading to consider talking to that stranger stuck on a long train ride with you, that student who happens to have the same hobby that you do, or even that person sitting right next to you, struggling to complete the math problem that you are also stuck on in your classes at GTE. You never know… you might find yourself struggling to find waffles in Brussels with them and making an awesome friend.

Happy Travels,

Andre Grossberg

Andre with Guillermo Robelo, Professional Surfer, and Gonzalo Montoya,
Spanish Digital Creator, on a train to Brussels Belgium

Mamie M’a Dit to try French Food

Written by Serena

Mamie M’a Dit was nothing short of the true French dining experience. From the moment I stepped foot into this quaint restaurant in downtown Metz, I was consumed by the excitement of indulging in a feast of gastronomic authenticity.

The walls were painted red, adorned with black and white photos. The space was decorated with wooden furniture and illuminated with dimmed, soft lights, giving the restaurant a warm, comforting glow. As I sat down, a sense of sleepiness loomed over me due to the cozy ambiance, but that had to be ignored when I was handed the menu. First, I glossed over it, a bit overwhelmed that everything was in French (of course). I attempted to make out certain words that I recognized, like ‘escargot,’ ‘crème brûlée,’ and ‘poulet.’ Not many others stuck out to me unfortunately. The attempt ran short before I humbly requested the English version.

My knowledge of French dinner foods was limited, but I did know a staple of the cuisine was escargot so my decision for the entree was immediate. Given that this was a classy dinner with a 40-euro budget per person, my good friend and I decided to merge our funds. This strategy allowed us to share our two entrees and enjoy a single dessert together, optimizing our dining experience. For her entree, she chose the salmon tartare. As we waited for the server to take our orders, we pondered over what we wanted for our mains and dessert.

Almost everything on the menu looked delectable, but the two items that stuck out to me were the veal and duck breast with Mirabelle plums. Since we made the executive decision to combine funds, I ordered the veal while my friend asked for the duck, each of us agreeing to try each other’s meals so that we wouldn’t miss out. We finally placed our orders after what seemed like forever, our hunger escalating as the evening progressed. Good thing there was unlimited bread!

As the wait for our meals stretched longer, our hunger transformed from mere anticipation to a gnawing sensation. Finally, the entrees arrived and the warm aroma immediately flooded my nostrils. I was eager to devour the food swiftly, but I stopped myself, as I wanted to enjoy every bite and analyze the flavors of this delicacy I had been anticipating for so long. The dish looked elegant; the escargot was enrobed in a lush, white creamy sauce. The history of escargot is a fascinating journey. Initially, escargot was consumed by the lower classes and regarded as an easily accessible protein source. Over time, it transformed into a symbol of sophistication and wealth, especially in French cuisine, where its preparation and presentation became a true art form.

I picked up a spoonful, examining the looks of it before taking the first bite. The dish overall reminded me of clam chowder but without the oyster crackers. It offered a texture that was satisfyingly chewy and flavor rich of garlic, marrying the comforting, bountiful flavors of the sauce with the snail’s unique tenderness. My friend had previously tried escargot in Paris, and I asked her to compare her thoughts on the two. She deemed that her time trying it in Paris offered a more genuine experience because it was served in the actual shells instead of in a sauce. It was still delicious to her; however she appreciated the authenticity of extracting the meat herself, which made me envious of this phenomenon. After the first taste, I could not stop myself from scarfing the rest of the dish down.

Next, came the salmon tartare. It came accompanied by four pieces of bread, an element that enhanced the dish’s appeal with a crispy texture that contrasted with the softness of the salmon. The pairing of the bread and salmon evoked a sense of home and nostalgia; it echoed the popular combination of a bagel and salmon lox. Though it was a delightful reminder of my usual breakfast at home, it lacked the flavorful sensation that I initially anticipated. The freshness of the salmon was undeniably present yet demanded a zestful enhancement, perhaps a twinge of lemon juice, to elevate its mild, but agreeable taste.

The meal starters most definitely did not disappoint, leaving me satisfied but only for a fleeting moment. My stomach shortly beckoned for more food. After an almost fulfilling first course, each passing moment of waiting for the main dishes seemed to heighten our expectations further. The immense apprehension of the forthcoming meal was not just the usual wait for food that I am used to, but an awaited event that promised relief and satisfaction. The desire to feast intensified as the wait went on, and my hunger continued to deepen making my stomach growl ever more fiercely. As my friend and I shared our escalating hunger and the joyful bliss of tasting our dinners, we got lost in deep conversation in order to distract ourselves. Around us, the restaurant’s atmosphere gave us a cozy haven of friendly chatter and laughter amongst us and our fellow classmates. The soft lighting cast a warm glow over the tables, enriching the ambiance with a golden hue as the evening went on, transforming our dinner into an intimate experience.

Alas, the main courses made their way towards us, and we reveled in the excitement of finally indulging in the long-awaited cuisine. In my dish, the veal was submerged in a sauce of Muenster cheese that promised richness but delivered an aroma that unfortunately clashed with my expectations. The scent was aggressively pungent and evoked the unpleasant image of decay, specifically bringing to my mind the idea of rotting mushrooms. My friend was curious about my dish and tasted the veal. She found the smell less daunting than I did. Though she enjoyed it more than I did, she avoided ordering it for ethical purposes regarding the preparation of veal. Veal is often prepared from young calves not raised to maturity, resulting in tender meat. The controversy surrounding veal lies in the methods of rearing these calves, which many argue are restrictive and unethical. The discord between the veal’s savory taste and its off-putting smell created a sensory clash, making it ever so difficult to appreciate the dish to its fullest. The cheese’s potent fragrance lingered, overshadowing the veal’s innate qualities, and making each attempt to enjoy the meal a struggle against my senses.

In contrast, my friend’s duck was a symphony of delectable sensations. The meat was not just tender but juicy, each bite releasing flavors that carried the mouthwatering aroma of a well-crafted meal. This delightful scent and taste were entirely captivating and completely different from the almost offensive notes that blemished my dish. The duck was paired with the sweet tartness of Mirabelle plums, mainly cultivated in the Lorraine region of France, which offered a flavorful harmony that elevated the dish to a different level. The plums’ subtle acidity and natural sweetness intertwined with the duck’s richness enhanced its flavor, leaving me with a sense of envy. I wrestled with my veal as the duck stood as a taunting reminder of what could have been, a flavorful heaven, deepening my regret over my choice and my discomfort over the uneaten, wasted portion sitting in front of me.

It was time to close our course with one final touch: crème brûlée. As our crème brûlée was served, the anticipation for its classic sweetness was evident among my friend and me. The expectation of its timeless flavors is nuanced with its rich history. This traditional dessert originates back to 17th century France and is known for its strong custard base that contrasts with its caramelized sugar top. It has delighted the palates of many people over centuries, symbolizing culinary elegance. Its flavor has depth yet carries simplicity, and it is a dessert enjoyed by many across the world. After my battle with dinner, I needed the taste of something familiar yet delicious. However, the initial bite brought forth a surprising citrus note, different from its traditional flavor, that sparked a blend of both curiosity and disappointment in me. My friend, initially intrigued by the twist, ultimately shared my thoughts in feeling that the dessert strayed from its usual, appreciated simplicity. This unexpected flavor prompted a reflection that resulted in us leaning toward a preference for the iconic taste of crème brûlée we’ve come to love.

As the evening concluded, I reflected on my experience of the French essence. There was a high of beautiful, delectable flavors combined with a low of unexpected tastes and aromas. After my indulgence, I felt a mixture of satisfaction intertwined with curiosity.

This establishment is one that highlights the beauty and mastery of the renowned French chefs. Each dish tells a story from the pungent Muenster cheese that originates from the Alsace region of France to the rich history of escargot. To me, Mamie M’a dit is the epitome of French cuisine. To anyone who wants a sophisticated, elegant dining experience that immerses them into a whirlwind of fanciful, French flavors, Mamie M’a Dit is definitely the place.

I Went to Munich… Twice!

Written by Serena Khan

Before coming to GTE, I got all sorts of advice and warnings about coming to Europe. The most echoed warning was the vigilance required for personal belongings due to the rife pickpocketing. My response was often a dismissive ‘duh,’ confidently assuring myself of my ability to safeguard my essentials. After all, while traveling throughout Paris, Lisbon, Luxembourg, and Metz, all my valuables — phone, wallet, and passport too — had remained secured. My confidence in my vigilance was rock solid… until Munich happened.

I made so many good memories in Munich. From exploring the city with my friends to seeing the BMW museum, everything was going so smoothly. I thought Munich was such a cool city, and my trip was filled with so much joy and laughter, the kind of laughter where you can’t even breathe and you’re growing an instant 6-pack. The vibes were so positive. On our last day, we decided to explore the city at night. As we walked through Munich, the old, German-style architecture was illuminated by street lights, casting a warm glow on the cobblestone streets. Passing by lively restaurants and bars, the vibrant energy of the city was evident.

We were all enamored by the vivacity of the place when we suddenly came across an explosion of strobe lights and loud singing. The allure of the atmosphere from inside was irresistible, drawing us in. As we approached the source of the commotion, the energy of the night seemed to concentrate at this one spot. It was a karaoke disco. The atmosphere was electric inside with a vibrant mix of melodies, laughter, and joyous singing. The music was a blend of familiar hits and local beats that resonated with us. It created a sense of connection despite the language barriers. With all the singing and and endless laughter, it was easy to lose track of time, and even easier to overlook the safety of our belongings. The night was promising, and we were all too eager to dive in, completely captivated by the vibrancy that had originally drawn us in. This moment that was so full of life and energy, would later deflate like a balloon to the realization of my lost phone — a humbling reminder of my carelessness.

The journey back to Munich was filled with dread and faint hope. Losing my phone was a wake-up call from the euphoria I had been experiencing. Despite the warnings about pickpockets in Europe, I was so confident in my ability to keep my things safe, but I was wrong. The thought of losing my phone, with all its precious memories and important information, was devastating. My confidence and excitement from the trip were replaced by a sinking feeling of regret. I always thought I was vigilant enough to at least keep my phone safe… yet here I was, facing the consequences of a momentary lapse in attention.

The process of trying to retrieve my phone felt like a long shot. Filling out the lost and found form on the disco’s website felt like grasping at straws. It just felt like a formality that I doubted would even be helpful. The stress of useless waiting and managing my daily routine without my phone was overwhelming. Every task, from waking up on time for class to communicating with friends and family, became a hurdle. The constant worry about explaining the situation to my parents loomed over me. However one day, an unexpected email notification informing me that my phone had been found was a moment of sheer relief. Yet, the realization that getting my phone back would require a seven-hour train journey to Munich, with a narrow window of opportunity, added a new layer of anxiety. The fear of traveling alone coupled with the logistical challenges of missing classes weighed heavily on me. I somehow convinced one of my friends to accompany me on this journey, and I am eternally grateful to her because without her, I would have never even considered going to Munich to get my phone alone.

The frantic race against time to reach the karaoke disco before my chance closed and the relief of finally holding my phone again was a rollercoaster of emotions. This experience of losing and finding my phone was a lesson in humility and the unpredictability of life. As I reflect on this adventure, I am reminded of the value of staying grounded and re-evaluating my sense of responsibility. To my parents, who are learning of this ordeal for the first time through this blog post, I am so
sorry!

London Called and We Answered 

Written by Valerie

It is so satisfying when things come perfectly into place. My friends and I have been wanting to visit cities in Europe that are adorned with Christmas decorations and have Christmas markets scattered around. We searched the internet and discovered that London was starting to have their Christmas markets the weekend of November 17th. Coincidentally, one of my GTE friend’s birthday was that same weekend. We put two and two together and decided on plans for the weekend. London, here we come! 

In no time, we began to get everyone together and solidify the plans for our London trip. The hostel was booked along with all the flights and trains. London became one of the cities I was looking forward to visiting the most on my study abroad journey since I started learning more about the modern dynamic of the area. I saw how much diversity there was. Its influence could be seen in the food and music scene of London. Granted, I love hearing different languages and their accents, but it was so enjoyable to be able to be in an English-speaking country. 

Once we arrived, we soon realized that during this season in the United Kingdom, the sun sets at four in the afternoon. Even though the time difference between Metz and London is only one hour, we were thrown off by how early it got dark outside. Our minds were struggling to fight the feeling of it being nighttime against the reality of the time of day. We found ourselves eating lunch at a chicken shop, a London staple, as the sun was descending. However, our waiter was kind enough to offer to make us an itinerary so we could visit all the must-see attractions in the short time we would be in town. My travel buddy and I finished up and headed for the Tube, the underground metro lines in London, to meet up with the rest of our friends at the hostel. 

Now that we were all settled in, it was time to go out and explore. I don’t know if we were just seeing things or if there was an actual resemblance, but we were surprised at how much it looked like Atlanta at night. Many European cities have laws around how tall buildings can be, so it is rare to see skyscrapers and other high-rise buildings. This gave London a very different look to the other cities we have visited up until now. Even though parts of the city looked very modern, other parts put into perspective how old the city truly is. This was another experience where my old history books came to life. Seeing Westminster Abbey, a church with nearly a thousand years of history that hosted royal coronations and weddings, along with a red double-decker bus all while standing next to a pub with a red telephone booth outside had to be the most British corner in town. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to London even though there was not nearly enough time to see everything the city had to offer. Traveling with my friends meant endless laughter, even in moments like the time when we made a mistake and accidentally ended up an hour outside the city. London, I thank you for all the good memories and expect to be back soon to make some more. 

The Capital of the European Union 

Written by Valerie

I visited Brussels, the capital of Belgium, with three of my closest friends at GTE. Luckily for all the Georgia Tech-Europe students, Brussels is only a little under four hours by train away from Metz. The ride is beautifully scenic as you travel northeast into the country, but we could definitely notice the drop in temperature compared to France once we arrived.  I would have to say that my trip to Belgium was one of my favorites. Belgium may often be overlooked as a travel destination, but it has a plethora of things to offer travelers. 

One of the most unique things about Belgium is that it is considered the “Capital of the EU” and therefore holds a great deal of importance worldwide. It is one of three places where the Parliament works as decided by the European Council in 1992. As you walk along the streets of Brussels, you will stumble upon a variety of notable government buildings, such as the Europa building which houses the seat of the European Council and the Council of the European Union.  

Not only will you encounter buildings significant to the entirety of the European Union, but you will also see buildings discernable to Belgium itself. Structures like the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Town Hall of the City of Brussels will transport you through time. The City Hall was constructed in the Middle Ages with a beautiful façade representing Gothic architecture. Groundbreaking began in the 9th century for the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral which often hosted important events like royal weddings and funerals. 

On top of all the historically and politically significant buildings, Brussels has many other enchantments. The gastronomy in the city is a foodie’s dream. I was not expecting to go there and find such an amazing and diverse selection of food to choose from. Food halls like The Wolf offered a wide range of cuisines ranging from Syrian to Vietnamese all conveniently under one roof, promoting a sense of community and unity. We ate Belgian waffles a total of three times during the entirety of the trip, and that was still not enough. What goes perfectly with waffles? Fries in a cone of course. What a great feeling it is to hold a warm cone of perfectly crispy fries drizzled in your sauce of choice while the cold gusts of wind brush you on the street.  

This may be controversial, but I think that the cafes in Brussels are unmatched — no offense to France. However, the coffee and pastries there were some of the best I have ever had, but don’t take my word for it. You too can weigh in on the heavy debate about who has the fluffiest croissant if you spend a semester at GTE! 

La Bella Vita

Written by Valerie

Not long ago, I came back from Milan, Italy. I came to Georgia Tech-Europe with a friend that I made at the beginning of my freshman year back in Atlanta. I may have mentioned her before, but we have nearly gone on all of our weekend trips together. The trip to Milan was no different but this time we went with three new friends. Switching it up and going on trips with different people from the program can be very fun and provide a different experience. 

Thankfully we flew out of the airport in Luxembourg, which is closer than any airport in Paris and ten times less high maintenance than flying out of France. Our flight was delayed by an hour, which was a little unfortunate because we were only spending part of Friday and all of Saturday in Milan since we were flying back at six in the morning on Sunday. Another unfortunate fact is that I have a pretty bad fear of flying. I know what you are thinking; studying abroad is probably one of the worst things to do for someone who does not like to fly. I was pretty nervous during the build-up to boarding and through the initial parts of the flight. I kept reminding myself that it was going to be a short flight of about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

There was a point in the flight where all of that fear escaped my body and mind. I lifted my head from looking down at my phone which was distracting me from my surroundings and turned my head to the right. Through the tiny airplane window, I saw the most astonishing view. We were flying right over the Swiss Alps. I had never seen snow-capped mountains like that in my life. 

Seeing them from that angle made the experience a million times more impactful. It felt like we were so close to them. It was unreal. I probably spent about twenty minutes trying to capture the essence of what I was seeing with my eyes so I could replicate it in a photo. Now every time I view that photo, I can relive that riveting experience once more. Since I was in the middle seat, I am sure I made the poor man sitting to my right very uncomfortable as I was trying to get a good photo of the window next to him, but it had to be done. 

Once we landed, we rushed to the hostel to change and headed out to explore the town. Our trip to Italy was a perfect blend of picturesque mountain-side scenery in Lake Como and the stylish yet regal feeling of Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world. The unbelievable views combined with pasta and gelato made my trip to Italy one of my favorites. 

The Cliffside at Les Calanques

Written by Valerie

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This better be worth the effort because it would be really tragic to fall off the side of this cliff?” Likely you haven’t, but I, on the other hand, couldn’t get that thought out of my head as I was hiking Les Calanques de Cassis in the 9th arrondissement of Marseille.

You may have heard this area been called by its more popular name, the French Riviera, or as it’s known in French, the Côte d’Azur. My friend group and I wanted to go to the beach in the south of France. However, the way to see some of the most breathtaking views and picturesque beaches is to hike the cliff sides of the coast.

We stayed at a nice apartment that was less than ten minutes on foot from the train station, which made getting to and leaving the city much easier. Once we arrived in Marseille, we planned our activities for the next two days. Our Airbnb host was kind enough to leave a binder full of useful information about everything ranging from transportation to the local specialties, and even the best ways to reach the beaches. We looked into one of the beaches our host wrote about in the binder and bought train tickets to it for the next morning.

All ten of us made it out of the apartment primed and ready to spend a day in the sun. If we wanted to have a successful day, we had to adequately prepare for what lay ahead. So, once we got to Cassis, we stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on snacks in case we got hungry on the hike. Luckily, there was a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop next to the grocery store where we stopped to have breakfast. Once we were energized and fed, we began the walk toward the hiking trail. There was an endless bounty of hills before we arrived at the trail where we would be walking on an incline for about 40 minutes or so, which is not too long. However, the terrain was rather unfavorable for the shoes I had on. The only shoes I took on that trip were a pair of white sneakers and flip-flops to wear around the apartment. The trail was very slippery in most parts whether it was because of smooth boulders or tiny rocks that slid under your feet. This is where I feared for my life on the side of a cliff, but once I lifted my gaze, everything changed. We were at the peak. The mesmerizing dance of the reflection of the sun coming from the ocean, which was mixed with tones of blue and green, was unlike anything I had seen. The world from that angle was simply pure and beautiful.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was face-to-face with the most enchanting beach I had ever been to. It was like a symphony, the laughs of the people and the soft sound of the movement of the water were harmonious. Combine that with a kiss from the sun and a hug from the water and it’s nothing but blissful.

It feels really good to be in a moment of happiness like that one, where you’re enjoying everything around you. I wish those moments for everyone. Having experienced it though, I don’t think you need to be somewhere as extravagant as the French Riviera. Those moments can be found anywhere, or better yet, they can be created anywhere. I encourage you to go out and seek your blissful moment too, no matter where you are in the world.