Food You Can’t Get In America But Quite Frankly Should Be Able To

Blanca has been munching away on her favorite European snacks. Now, she’s chomping at the bit to list some of her favorites you can’t find in the United States in this delectable blog post.

*Disclaimer: Blanca was not paid to endorse any products mentioned in this article, nor does Georgia Tech endorse any of these products.*

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | Written by Blanca

One of the things which excited me most about studying abroad was the chance to be fully immersed in an entirely novel culture, whether that specifically meant French culture or the broader category of European culture in general.  In any event, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to experience the nuances of life in a different place, the small details that truly define what it’s like living somewhere else. To be sure, there have been quite a number of these small details. To name a few, smoking cigarettes is much less frowned upon, for instance, and some forms of public transportation, primarily articulated busses (those busses with the accordion-like connections) and trains, require boarding passengers to tap a green button on a specific set of doors in order for them to open. (This is something which I learned the hard way by patiently standing in front of the doors of a bus and staring, dumbfounded, after it as it drove away without so much as cracking its doors open an inch.)

That being said, the particular objects of my attention today are certain food items sold abroad that aren’t offered back home in the States.  America is no stranger to processed foods, but despite the fact that European snacks share many of the same familiar brands, their repertoires are vastly different. I’m fascinated by the different versions of snacks which I’ve encountered here—tasting them has been such a fun experience in itself—and I’m here to enlighten the rest of the unsuspecting world (or Americans, at least) about them.  And seeing as I’ve spent many a late night study-session in the GTL Student Lounge with nothing but the vending machine to sustain myself, I can’t think of anyone with more ethos with which to do so.

Kinder Bueno

An image of a Kinder Bueno bar. The name ‘Kinder Bueno’ was inspired by the Spanish ‘bueno,’ which means ‘tasty’ or ‘good,’ and it’s a particularly apt description.
The name ‘Kinder Bueno’ was inspired by the Spanish ‘bueno,’ which means ‘tasty’ or ‘good,’ and it’s a particularly apt description.

Upon a quick Google search, it has now come to my attention that Kinder Bueno bars are actually now available in the US.  I, however, have never seen them, and I suspect this may be the case for many, so I consider it my duty to break the news.  Crispy wafer encloses hazelnut cream and is enveloped by a layer of chocolate (they come in milk chocolate and white chocolate, with white chocolate being my favorite).  What better combination to take the edge off of poring over electricity & magnetism problems at ungodly hours of the night?

Paprika Pringles

A can of Paprika Pringles. Paprika Pringles are the best traveling companion.
Paprika Pringles are the best traveling companion.

First introduced to paprika-flavored Pringles on one of many interconnected train rides while en route to Brussels, I now consider them to be one of the many unhealthy (but oh-so savory!) snack cravings I’ve picked up.  Subtly spiced, the Paprika Pringle initially tasted little different than the iconic original Pringle, but after a few bites, the balance of salty and savory won me over, and I just might need to buy a few (a lot) of cans to bring back home with me.

Crunch Snack

Have you ever wanted a Crunch bar, but in the even-crunchier form of a wafer? 

A crunch bar. The crispy, chocolatey, (wafer-y?), late-night fuel of champions.
The crispy, chocolatey,( wafer-y?), late-night fuel of champions.

Perhaps this is instead something that you, dear reader, much like myself, didn’t know you needed.  Take it from me—a combination of milk chocolate, wafers, and crunchy rice cereals is an unexpectedly perfect way to both satiate your newfound sugar craving (from all the Nutella you’ve been eating, since the French seem to favor Nutella quite) and refuel yourself during a long night of writing your ECE lab report.

A (Not So) Lonesome Traveler

After many weekends in a row of traversing Europe, Blanca is ready for a more calm weekend. In this blog, read about her tranquil trips around Metz and Luxembourg City as she details her enchanting experiences of traveling solo.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Written by Blanca

As much as it is part of the allure of a semester abroad, traveling week after week (or rather, weekend after weekend) can get tiring.  While destinations like Venice and Barcelona certainly are glamorous, sleepless nights spent sitting on airport floors, shivering while waiting for the late night bus, and dashing across train platforms to catch your connecting train are decidedly less so.  To compound matters for the worse, while scurrying about during my travels in weeks prior, lack of sleep and unfavorable weather contributed to a slight but persistent sniffle that simply would not go away.

So, while my friends had planned an eventful weekend excursion to Munich and the surrounding areas of Germany, I elected to stay back in Metz for some rest, relaxation, and work catch-up this past weekend.  During this time, I also embarked on two day trips of my own, first exploring the twists and turns of the historic cobblestone streets of downtown Metz, and then, on the next day, the equally-cobbled streets of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.

 

Bread lamps
Bread lamps

Each time, I was able to fully observe the nooks and crannies of the cities in question.  In Metz, I wandered around the Ancienne Ville, strolling past artisan craftsman shops and ducking in and out of uniquely stocked concept stores. During a visit to boutique called POPWHITE CONCEPT STORE (82 En Fournirue), which was handsomely outfitted with twinkling string lights, vibrant faux flowers, luxurious homewares, and lavish charcuterie, I saw some uncannily realistic bread-shaped lamps, which I am now seriously considering purchasing and bringing back with me to the states for dorm décor.  Downtown Metz has quite the smattering of home goods shops, and as these are some of my favorite places to visit while I pine for the days I might own a property of my own and furnish it top to bottom, they make day trips into Metz the interior design lover’s dream.

 

The next day, after a good night’s sleep and a morning trip to Cora (which is, by the way, the time of day when you get the best pick of produce and of pastries), I hopped on one of the many trains between Metz and Luxembourg.  A quick 50-minute train ride and an even shorter bus trip to the city’s center later, I found myself, once again, in Luxembourg City. In a previous blog post, I detailed the events of my day trip with a large traveling group, but this time, I was visiting solo.

A charming, tucked-away street in Luxembourg City
A charming, tucked-away street in Luxembourg City

I have to say, traveling alone makes for an even more intimate experience in getting to know a place.  While doing so obviously requires a heightened sense of caution, as you now lack the safety in numbers, I realized in Luxembourg that you truly get to explore on your own terms.  Making and following my own itinerary gave me the freedom to wander as far as I pleased or to stand in the same spot for as long as I wanted, staring at the same artifact in a history museum.  Alone in an otherwise bustling city, no architectural detail goes unnoticed, and no side street is too humdrum, too lacking in interest. Each avenue warrants a visit, even if it’s a quick stroll-through, and when traveling solo, the quaint shops and cafes that beckon do so just for you.  Though I might’ve been unaccompanied by other people, in the welcoming embrace of a city abuzz with life and character, I definitely wasn’t alone.

A Night at the Opera

Bravo, bravo! Encore, encore! Blanca is taking the stage once again, join her as she recounts her experience seeing La Traviata at the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole!

Monday, February 10, 2020 | Written by Blanca

Fabulous Parisian fêtes.  The infamously dire consumption.  Dramatic displays of love, affection, and despair.  Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata is the most frequently performed of all operas, for a good reason, and last Tuesday night, I got to experience La Traviata in all its glory at the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole.

A little over a week earlier, on a relatively mundane and unsuspecting Monday morning, I received an email regarding student tickets for an upcoming production of La Traviata at the Metz Opera, causing me to gasp in an otherwise silent classroom.  And for five euros? I nearly jumped out of my seat. The score to La Traviata is among my favorites of all time (I highly recommend adding the 1977 La Travita album , as performed by Plácido Domingo, Ileana Cotrubaș, Sherrill Milnes, and the Bavarian State Orchestra under the conducting of Carlos Kleiber to your Spotify playlists with this link, as I have), so as soon as class concluded, I rushed down to the GTL academic office to purchase my ticket.

As the day of the opera rolled around, I was slightly miffed by the fact that I had two exams the next day for which I needed to study that night, but no matter!  I came to Europe with the intention of experiencing European culture as fully as I could, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than by seeing my favorite opera in France’s oldest opera house.  Studying could wait until after Verdi’s compositions filled my ears.

A view from the outside of the Opera: The Metz Opera is stunning during the day but even more stately at night
The Metz Opera is stunning during the day but even more stately at night

In addition to being the oldest working opera house in France, the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, or the Metz Opera, is also among the oldest in Europe.  Located on the Petit-Saulcy island in downtown Metz, the Neoclassical opera house, lit up in the chilly night, was literally the star of its own show. Its cobbled drive welcomed us and the rest of the night’s patrons inside, where we were ushered across red-carpeted floors and up a winding wooden staircase to the third-floor balcony.  From there, we had a perfect vantage point for viewing the onstage escapades. The set was nothing short of sublime: a semi-opaque screen backdrop provided a set while simultaneously allowing us to see the silhouettes of lithe dancers, mysterious figures illuminated by glowing lights, behind it; the forced perspective floor made the ballroom scenes seem grander and more vast than the stage on which they were held.

La Traviata, as I later learned, was first performed in 1853 at Venice’s La Fenice opera house (by which, I realized giddily, I had passed several times only a few days earlier on my trip to Venice), but despite being over 150 years old, it hasn’t lost any of its beauty.  The plot is one of lavish glitz and glamor, reflecting the prosperous social lives of the bourgeoisie, but it is also an observation of, if not a commentary on, a society which staunchly values morality but is steeped in hypocrisy, in which a woman navigates her diminished role in an environment that is decidedly male-dominated.  La Traviata also wouldn’t be an opera without a pinch of lament, so at its conclusion, we saw Violetta, the protagonist, undeservedly meet her tragic end.  Set to an Italian libretto, this all goes down entirely in Italian; fortunately, there was a screen above the stage displaying a current translation of what is being sung, but unfortunately, this translation was in French, a language which I can neither speak nor read.  For this reason, it’s highly recommended that opera-goers familiarize themselves with the opera beforehand (or, in my case, while in line for the bathroom during the intermission).

I couldn’t sign off on this blog post without mentioning the music, which exceeded my admittedly already-high expectations.  The recordings to which I’ve listened were already stellar, but nothing beats the in-person, immersive experience of hearing it all live.  Tuuli Takala’s performance as Violetta was superb, her adroit soprano piercing through the performance hall, but I could also honestly wax lyrical (pun not intended) about the rest of the cast.  I also have an immense appreciation for chamber orchestras, having played in one myself in high school, so hearing the score I’ve so ardently admired being played by a live orchestra was the highlight of my night.  The National Orchestra of Metz couldn’t be more deserving of applause.

The Metz Opera performance hall
The Metz Opera performance hall

After a good couple of minutes, the clapping eventually died down and the performance hall’s massive chandelier came back on.  As the audience began filing out of their velvet-upholstered seats into the equally sumptuous, palm frond-littered lobby, my opera buddy, Mai, and I glanced at each other.  Proclaiming, “that was so good,” her words voiced my very thoughts.  La Traviata at the Metz Opera made for a truly magnificent night.

 

Europe: Through the Looking Glass

At Georgia Tech Lorraine, new experiences are never-ending, and sometimes show up in unexpected places! In her latest post, take a look through Blanca’s eyes as she details her observations of daily life in Europe!

Friday, January 31, 2020 | Written by Blanca

Being at GTL for the semester makes for an incredibly auspicious location from which you can conveniently traverse much of the entire continent of Europe (a perk of which I have taken advantage multiple times already).  But, while it would bring me no greater joy than to inundate everyone with my tales recounting weekends gallivanting cobblestone streets and misty mornings among Flemish architecture, each façade with more character than the last, I think that the most insightful portrayals of European life actually emerge from the little details.  Sure, I’d anticipated that studying, eating, and traveling might be entirely different experiences in places with so much culture and history (and they are!), but nobody informed me about more mundane aspects of life, like that grocery stores here stock milk in six-packs and that a lactose intolerant person like myself can simply puncture the six-pack and remove a single bottle instead of having to buy an entire six-liter package of milk.  (On a side note, scenarios like this one are ones in which it becomes especially useful to employ a hawkish eye in observing the local residents and their grocery store behaviors.)

Experiencing the nuances of life in a new place are, dare I say it, perhaps even more fascinating than sightseeing, picture-taking, and general tourist-ing.  While I’ll still be doing plenty of the latter, I thought I’d share some of the quirks and unique details I’ve noticed about being abroad as well. Behold! Europe: Through the Looking Glass*.

(*actually through my glasses, which always seem to be smudged and are, at this point, a years-old, outdated prescription because my favorite frames seem to be perpetually out of stock—but rest assured that this takes away nothing from the Authentic European Experience™)

  • Everything in France seems to be smaller: chairs, elevators, cars—and by extension, the width of roadway lanes.  Public transportation (i.e. busses) are also widespread, and for the bus lines that don’t drive along designated bus lanes, I’ve been left to marvel at how their drivers are able to maneuver the large, cumbersome busses through such narrow and meandering roads.
  • While there are definitely still traffic lights scattered at intersections, European cities increasingly employ roundabouts/traffic circles instead of traditional four-way junctions.  Perhaps they’re on to something: studies have shown that roundabouts significantly reduce injury crashes at intersections.
  • On the topic of transportation, it seems that the vast majority of cars driven in Europe are hatchbacks.  I haven’t the slightest idea why this is so.

    The fruit stalls at Marche Couvert in Downtown Metz
    The fruit stalls at Marche Couvert in Downtown Metz
  • Fresh produce in even the most generic of European supermarkets is, put quite plainly, on another level.  The carrots? Simply sublime. And, despite avoiding grape tomatoes like the plague in America because they always seem to be so watery (and not much else), I’m pleasantly surprised to announce that I’ve yet to encounter a European grape tomato that I didn’t like.
  • Many restrooms, commonly referred to as water closets, in public spaces require a payment to use, usually a Euro or less.  Beware of those which ask for a specific amount of change, like €0.50, though. If you instead insert a €1 coin, assuming that you’re essentially paying double for entry, prepare to be left bewildered when the coin collection slot simply eats up your Euro and then defiantly refuses to budge.

    A classic cone of frites from a Belgium friterie—a must-try
    A classic cone of frites from a Belgium friterie—a must-try
  • Many Europeans are multilingual, especially those that live in areas where there are a multitude of languages spoken, and even more so, I’ve noticed, if they are young.  Maybe this is out of necessity, but as someone who speaks, reads, and writes only English fluently, I am equal parts impressed, grateful, and feeling slightly under-accomplished.  Perhaps it’s time to brush up on my Duolingo lessons after all.
  • The best ‘French’ fries I’ve had since arriving have been in Belgium.  Go figure.

Lots of food, all of which I ate.

Are you hungry? If you aren’t now, you will be after reading Blanca’s next blog! Check it out for mouthwateringly delicious looking pictures and the details of her first week food adventures!

Thursday, January 23, 2020 | Written by Blanca

 

After wrapping up my first full week in Metz, I think it’s high time to address a topic about which I’m sure everyone back in the States is wondering:

What is the food like in Europe?

As the GTL blogger for the semester, I feel that it’s my duty to showcase all the aspects of life abroad, and foreign fare is no exception.  This is a duty not to be taken lightly, so in order to adequately address the above inquiry, I made a point to try as many foods as possible, and as wide of a range of foods as possible, before and during my first full week in Europe—for the sake of furthering everyone’s collective knowledge, you know?  

Aux Petits Choux, 207 Avenue de Strasbourg, 57070 Metz

 

A low-quality image of a high-quality sandwich
A low-quality image of a high-quality meal

Only a ten-minute walk from the GTL building, and an even closer walk from the Lafayette residence where many GTL students reside, this bakery offers a selection of baguettes, viennoiseries (baked goods), and the best sandwiches at affordable prices.  I ordered the Toscan sandwich (€4.10), which encased cured ham and piquant tomatoes, not unlike sun-dried tomatoes, in a near foot-long baguette.  Enjoy the blurry eating-while-walking photo of it to the right!

 

McDonald’s, 43160 Rue du Palais, 57000 Metz

 

The good ol’ Golden Arches-- lots of mcDonalds!
The good ol’ Golden Arches

To conclude our first week in France, a few friends and I made a 10PM trip to McDonald’s—because what better cuisine to eat in a country heralded for its culinary eminence?  Nevertheless, the trip yielded some interesting insights: McDonald’s portion sizes are noticeably smaller than those in America and are significantly more expensive. That being said, the offerings in France are much lighter and healthier than those back home, and some menu items are unique to France, so it may be worth checking out for those interested in the differences.

 

Burger Kebab, 5 Rue du Palais, 57000 Metz

 

Burger Kebab’s Kebab Burger—say that 10 times, fast
Burger Kebab’s Kebab Burger—say that 10 times, fast

Disillusioned with American fast food chains after my trip to McDonald’s, that weekend, I instead went to Burger Kebab, a French joint serving a range of menu items from tacos to kebab wraps and burgers.  It seemed fitting to order the kebab burger, which did not disappoint; in addition to being more affordable than Americanized fast food, the burger also featured more complex flavor notes from its combination of kebab meat, fresh vegetables, and a house burger sauce.

 

Technopôle University Restaurant, CROUS, 4 Boulevard Dominique François Arago, 57070 Metz

A convenient lunch spot frequented by many a GTL student, the Crous Cafeteria is a practical choice due to its proximity to GTL and its competitive student pricing, so I decided to try it for myself.  For a mere €3.30, students are able to grab a baguette roll, a side salad, an entrée (check the menu for each week’s offering), a serving of cheese/dairy, and a dessert. If you’re looking for a quick and easy-on-the-wallet bite to eat on a weekday, the Crous Cafeteria is hard to beat.

Di Clara, 3 Rue Dupont des Loges, 57000 Metz

Last Thursday night, and incidentally also the night of the last day of the first full week of class (a cause for celebration, for sure), a group of friends and I traveled to downtown Metz in search of sustenance that we would not need to prepare ourselves.  We decided on pasta, and after inputting a few vague phrases into Google Maps, we meandered the streets of Metz, where we were found, fifteen minutes later and completely off-route, by a group of local French residents. Fortunately, they spoke English, and after a short chat with us fired off a list of Italian restaurants in the area.  Ultimately, we found ourselves in front of Di Clara, an ambiently-lit restaurant boasting a diverse menu of pastas, risottos, and pizzas in red and white sauces, and despite not having a reservation for our party of six, we were ushered in.

 

The best—the best—risotto
The best—the best—risotto

I ordered the asparagus risotto (risotto di asparagi), a creamy and perfectly-balanced risotto with green asparagus, fresh tomatoes, leeks, and Italian cheese.  Other orders at the table included shrimp scampi tagliatelle, tortellini in gorgonzola sauce, and Tuscan rigatoni, and after stealing a bite from many other plates, I can say without a doubt that this was one of the best meals I’ve had in France so far.  Though on the pricier side—this is no Crous Cafeteria—like the locals, I definitely recommend paying Di Clara a visit if you’re in Metz!

 

Metropolitan, 35 Rue du Fort Elisabeth, 1463 Luxembourg

 

A Metropolitan meal in a metropolitan city
A Metropolitan meal in a metropolitan city

After an early start to the day and an hour-long bus ride to Luxembourg City, my Luxembourg travel companions and I dropped into Metropolitan for brunch.  Bordering a bustling square, Metropolitan’s contemporary, glowing lighting and cozy seating were invitingly warm, much like its menu. I ordered Oscar’s Classic Burger, which comprised a juicy burger patty, crispy bacon, buttery melted cheese, and fresh vegetables on a toasted bun, all served with a side of thick, golden fries.

 

If burgers aren’t for you, there are a variety of other menu items to try!  Other orders at the table included fragrant Moroccan lamb chops, a savory Mexican-style breakfast, raspberry cheesecake, steak and potatoes, and the classic brunch staples of pancakes and eggs on toast.

A Whirlwind First Week

Blanca has finally arrived in Metz! After a long flight and experiencing the wonders of Cora, Blanca recaps her first taste of life in France. Check out her blog post to hear her describe one of the many amazing adventures ahead of her!

Monday, January 13th | Written by Blanca

Bonjour à tous!  Je m’appelle Blanca Zhang.  Puis-je avoir une table pour trois s’il vous plaît? 

Hello, everyone!  My name is Blanca Zhang, and while I don’t actually need a table for three at the moment, I’m thrilled to be posting again!  (These are the only three sentences in French that I currently know.)

This time, I’m writing to you not from my desk in the North Avenue Apartments, but from my (substantially more spacious) desk in Crous Lorraine, Campus Technopôle.  Since my arrival, I’ve already seen more sights, experienced more cultural nuances, and eaten more bread than I could have hoped. But wait—*record scratch* *freeze frame*—you’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.  For that, we’ll have to turn back the clock a week.

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 6:00AM EST: I am rudely awakened by my alarm, a cacophonous sound which evokes in me more rage than empty staplers, comma splices, and drivers-who-don’t-use-their-turn-signals-until-they’re-actually-turning combined.  Cursing the past three weeks spent waking up at noon and ruining any modicum of a sleep schedule that remained after the fall semester, I blearily finish packing (yes, I am that person, and no, I don’t recommend it) and am soon on my way to Queens, New York.  

Fun fact!  The boroughs of New York City are where I spent the first few years of my life, but this time, instead of going home, I’m heading far, far from it.

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 3:00PM EST:  Maybe my roots in Queens are stronger than I thought, because I cannot seem to leave.  My flight has been delayed for the umpteenth time, and I count the flight departure update messages I have received from American Airlines since that morning; there are eleven. I am sure to miss my connection in Philadelphia.  I consider my options: 1) cry, or 2) frantically message my much more knowledgeable friends in hopes that one might know what to do. I choose the latter and decide to revert to option 1 if it isn’t successful—luckily, it is, and I’m given a crash course on how to ask for a flight change.  Here are the steps if you ever find yourself in such a situation: 

  1. Find a different flight with your airline that shares your current location and intended destination.
  2. Explain to the airline representative at your gate that, due to the delays with your flight departure, you are going to miss your connection at a different airport.
  3. Request to be reassigned to a flight that will arrive at your destination.  If you must arrive before a specific time to, say, catch a shuttle to campus, as I did, be sure to emphasize so.

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 5:45PM EST:  I board my new plane and settle in for a six-hour flight.  Already, most of the passengers around me are speaking French—this comes as little surprise, since we’re heading to Paris.  I recall that I, however, do not speak French, so I try to draw upon my Duolingo French expertise but remember that I quit halfway through the first lesson.  Should I reinstall the app on my phone and practice during the flight there? I try, but a flight attendant asks that I switch my phone to airplane mode, and I am left without WiFi.  Such is a modern tragedy of our day.

Monday, January 6, 2020, 4:00PM CET:  My flight touches down at the Paris-CDG airport at half past 7:00AM, and after boarding the GTL shuttle and falling asleep almost immediately, I wake up to foggier skies, the incandescent glow of street lamps, and yellow stone façades with wrought-iron terraces.  We’ve made it to downtown Metz!  

Charming downtown Metz
Charming downtown Metz

Soon, however, the neo-Romanesque structures begin to fade, and cobblestone gives way to paved roads.  As the shuttle rounds the bend of a pristine lake, I’m greeted, after a long day of travelling through unfamiliar sights, by one I know very well: a glass building that reads ‘Georgia Tech.’

Monday, January 6, 2020, 6:00PM CET:  A couple other GTL students and I have decided that we are not tired enough yet, so we’ve made the 15-minute trek from Crous to Cora, a walk that was well worth it.  While I’d been aware that Cora is dubbed the ‘French Walmart,’ nothing could prepare me for its sheer magnitude. I’m a lover of grocery stores, bakeries, furniture/homewares stores, and garden centers, so you can imagine my awe at a single store that combines all those and more.  

An image of lots, and lots of beautiful sweets!
The Cora bakery section, also known as “what dreams are made of”

Armed with my list of room essentials, I wander around Cora without a single idea where anything is located but not caring one bit—this is objectively the most amazing supermarket I’ve ever visited.  Not knowing French poses a slight inconvenience when you find yourself on a wild goose chase around Cora in the hopes of finding Brita pitchers and can’t read any of the aisle signs (but hey, at least you can get your steps in)!  I’ve always heard that European culture involves much more bread-eating and walking than in America (among many other things, of course), and Cora is, unexpectedly, a place where you can do both!  

Present Day:  The past week has been exciting, exhausting, eye-opening, exhilarating, plus a bunch of other adjectives that start with ‘e’—and it’s only been a week!  I’m looking forward to many more of them, and since I plan to write all about it, I hope you are, too.

One Final Update

The end of the semester is coming to a close, and Karsten is trying to fit in as much travel and family time with his end-of-semester obligations! Check out his latest blog to see how he’s balancing it all.

Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Written by Karsten

With classes nearing an end and the semester coming to a close in a couple of weeks, I figured I should give everyone an update on what’s happening in my classes, as well as what I have planned for the final two and a half weeks. 

In this upcoming week, I have two classes with the final assignment due. In my HTS class, we have to give our final presentation about the Motor Valley Region in Northern Italy on Tuesday. After that, we have one more class on the following Tuesday. In my circuits lab, I have my final exam on Wednesday. It’s worth 35% of my grade, so I need to do well on it. In thermodynamics, we have three more classes with three more evaluation periods and then a final exam slot, which is essentially three evaluation periods put together. I was hoping to not need to come to the final to get an A, but it’s looking more and more likely that I will need to go. In my probability and statistics class, we have a couple of classes left, one homework assignment, and then the final exam, which is also 35% of my grade, so it’s a similar scenario to circuits. In French, we have a couple of review classes and then a final exam. 

Outside of classes, I have a few plans, but most of what I do will be spontaneous. This Tuesday, we have a Thanksgiving dinner potluck, since we do not get a Thanksgiving break. This weekend and next weekend, I’m traveling with my family.

On Saturday, my family flew in to Stuttgart, Germany, and I took the train to meet them there. Stuttgart is the home to both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, and since my family loves cars, they decided this would be the perfect place to start their Thanksgiving break. Since traveling by train is quick, I was able to leave Metz the morning of and arrive at roughly the same time as them. Today, we did the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums and then tomorrow morning, we will do the Porsche factory.

After, I’ll head back to GTL and present in HTS, take my circuits final, and do two thermodynamics evaluations and then head to Strasbourg to meet back up with my family. My mom is extremely excited to see the Strasbourg Christmas market, which is one of the best in Europe. After Strasbourg, they’re gonna come see my home base in Metz, and then on Saturday, they’re heading back to Augusta. Once they leave, I’m gonna prepare for my final two days of classes and then start studying for finals. Unfortunately, my exams are very spread out, so I won’t be able to take any more extravagant trips and will have to instead likely settle for a day trip to another Christmas market. FC Metz plays a home game on the Wednesday before finals start, and Metz also has a Christmasmarket, so I’m excited to see both of those. Lastly, there’s a Ferris wheel by the Cathedral as well as an ice-skating rink that I’m sure I can find some people to tag along with me to.

Soccer. . . Er, Futbol

Many Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have a passion for soccer – or futbol, as they call it in Europe – and end up both playing pickup and going to see professional games!

Thursday, October 3, 2019 | Written by Karsten

Europe’s most popular sport is futbol, or what we call soccer. I have never played soccer in my life—unless of course, you count Upward soccer when I was five as real soccer. I began enjoying soccer around 2013 by playing FIFA 14 on the Xbox. Through this, I learned the rules of a sport that I now love. I’ve played countless hours on every FIFA video game released since then (except this year’s release, FIFA 20, as I do not have a way to play it). After I began playing FIFA, I could also watch soccer and appreciate it. Not long after, my dad also began watching it and so on Saturday mornings, that’s what we would do if we weren’t busy—watch the Premier League and eat breakfast.

My freshmen year at Georgia Tech, I actually played soccer for the first time. Though intramurals are not organized, this was my first taste of eleven versus eleven soccer. Cru made a team—called the Crushers—and we were pretty successful. It was a co-rec team, meaning there had to be even numbers of guys and girls in the field, excluding the goalkeeper. We managed to make it to the school championship that year, which we lost on a cold, rainy night. Last year, we made another team and made it to the playoffs but subsequently lost in penalties. However, playing real soccer made me realize how much fun it is to play.

There are tons of people that are in the GTL program that have played soccer. Within a week, there was a group message in GroupMe solely for watching and playing soccer. A couple times each week, we’ve gone out to the high school that’s very close to the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus and played on their turf field. If we couldn’t play there, there are lots of other possible options. It’s always a great time to go play pickup, and I’ve been able to make quite a few friends that way.

Coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I knew I wanted to go see a few professional games. Being in France, PSG is the easiest choice of teams to go see, with Paris being only a couple of hours away. In the first week of being in France, I was able to go see them, so that’s one checked off. Since FC Metz got promoted last year into Ligue 1, I would like to see them, but I’m not sure I’ll be in Metz on a weekend that they play at home. I would also love to see a Premier League game, but it’s not looking too likely. Lastly, being a Real Madrid fan, I have to see a game at Santiago Bernabeu. I believe that I’ll be able to see them over fall break, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

 

 

Coffee in Metz

Coffee is a staple for Georgia Tech students, and whether instant or gourmet, students find a way to get their coffee in Metz and across Europe! Check our Karsten’s feature on coffee.

Saturday, September 14, 2019 | Written by Karsten

I am a big fan of coffee. No, I don’t drink it black, and no, I’m not a coffee connoisseur, but I do very much enjoy a nice, sweetened cup of coffee. I also generally have multiple of these sweetened cups of coffee every day. I was a little worried as to how I was going to get my daily caffeine over here, but very early on, my friend Jake showed me the world of instant coffee and cappuccinos. These are what I’ve had each and every day that I’ve started in Metz. Jake got an electric kettle during the item swap, so that’s been extremely convenient. I just fill it with water, put a spoonful of instant coffee and a spoonful of instant cappuccino in a mug, pour the hot water in, and mix it up (and then add a little milk because I’m weak). Though I drink quite a bit of coffee, I do drink it because I enjoy the taste, and not because I need the caffeine entirely (though I definitely need some of it). Perhaps I should drink more decaf just to be safe. 

Anyway, when I’ve travelled, I’ve also had quite a bit of coffee. In Paris, I had an iced coffee with milk with my caramel crepes. The Airbnb we booked there also had a Nespresso machine, which makes espresso. Espresso alone is extremely strong for me, but I had a couple anyway—one each day. In Belgium, with my dad, the hotel breakfast that was included had an awesome cappuccino and coffee machine. Accidentally, about half of the cups I had were decaf, as I didn’t put together how similar “deca” and “decaf” are. In Interlaken, the hostel also had a breakfast with a nice coffee and cappuccino machine, and I had many cups over two days, as sleep was not a priority. 

I had a couple of friends in Cru study abroad here in the spring, and I got some coffee shop recommendations from them. I hadn’t had any coffee from a café in Metz until today. I really wanted to try out some of the places they recommended, and since I was staying in Metz this weekend, I decided today was a good day to start on that list. A couple of people were leaving for a day trip to Luxembourg, so I asked if they wanted to tag along since the first place, Fox, was right by the train station. They did, so we walked the two miles to the coffee shop. I ordered a vanilla latte and a yogurt with granola and fruit. The two who recommended it, Rose and Brendon, were absolutely right to—it was amazing. The latte was sweet (no complaints here) and the yogurt bowl was refreshing. Everyone else also enjoyed their breakfasts and then they went on their way to Luxembourg and I came back to my room to write this. I can’t wait to continue to try all the places they have recommended. 

A Reflection on the French SLS Program

Noa provided a quick reflection on the brand new French Immersion program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and all that it meant during her time abroad. Check out all the cool things that the program participants got to do!

As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently taking a class, French 3011, which allows me to be a part of the French Sciences and Sustainability program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. This has been such an incredible experience for me that I thought it would be best to devote an entire blog post to it! Initially when coming to GTL, I wasn’t anticipating taking any French classes since I haven’t taken French since junior year of high school. I was a little bit nervous at first, even just coming to France, that my French might not be at the same level that it used to be. However, after talking to Professor Ippolito, he mentioned that my level of French will probably be just fine for the class, and I felt much more confident coming in to the program.

The primary focus of French 3011 is to learn about France today, and understand the environmental, political, and societal circumstances in France today, as well as in Metz. Our class consists of in class presentations, two essays, and a final project of our choice about topics that we’ve focused on. While it is taught in French, I definitely do feel that it is at a good level for me, and if anything my French has improved exponentially being immersed and in this class. Another important aspect of this class, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is that we are able to go downtown to visit and volunteer with different associations in Metz about once a week. The nice part of this, is that other students from other classes, such as FREN 3813 or FREN 3500 (also taught by Ippolito) also can come downtown and be given the opportunity to volunteer as well. It really has made me feel more welcome at GTL, because I have been able to get to know a lot more students on our downtown visits. It also has improved my confidence in French, and visiting downtown, because I understand a lot more about the history of Metz itself.

Our downtown visits usually begin with us meeting at Place St. Jacques, and then Professor Ippolito shows us around giving us information about different histories about the architecture or how Metz came to be. Afterwards we head over to one of the associations he has selected for that day. The associations we have visited include:

  • Metz a Velo, an organization that helps people in Metz familiarize themselves with biking and fixes their bikes as well.
  • Couleurs Gaies, who provide a safe, educational space for LGBTQIA people.
  • Carrefour, who provide living and support for students as well as refugees
  • the Institut Européen d’Ecologie, who educate and promote the importance of ecology and the environment in Metz as well as hold a yearly film festival for this purpose
  • BLIIIDA, a space for upcoming startups, designers, and inventors

The fact that we are given the opportunity to get to know Metz beyond just visiting downtown or being a student at GTL is extremely rewarding and has given me a sense of community and confidence during my time abroad. I would recommend this program to anyone coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and I truly think that it sets the program apart from many study abroad programs because of the fact that you can fully immerse yourselves with local people.