How I Spent My Long Weekend

Tuesday, November 16, 2021 | Written by Mira

At GTL we follow the French holiday schedule. So, while we don’t have Thanksgiving off from classes, we got Armistice Day (November 11) off. A lot of people took this four-day weekend to travel a little farther than we would be able to on a normal three-day weekend. The freshmen even got to travel this weekend on their own. I, on the other hand, always have four-day weekends based on my course schedule, so this “long” weekend was a normal weekend for me. I had already planned on not traveling this weekend because I knew I would be exhausted from the week-long adventure to Eastern Europe. 

 Thursday

On Armistice Day, most businesses are closed, and the buses run on a Sunday schedule (limited). I woke up around 9:30am and searched for an open grocery store on google maps – Carrefour Express was open near the train station. I hopped on the first available bus to downtown and popped into the grocery store to grab a few essentials. The next bus back to Lafayette wasn’t for another two hours, so I walked across the street to Fox Coffee Shop to do some schoolwork while I waited for the bus. I also made a quick stop at the train station to purchase seat reservations for my Paris trip next weekend!

 Flowers were placed in from of a memorial at the train station for Armistice Day.

 The main task of the day: Statistics project. I had procrastinated this assignment during fall break because I was too busy traveling and too exhausted to work on it, but now the countdown began. I had 24 hours to complete the problem set. At 1:30pm, two classmates came to my apartment, and we started to grind it out. It took more than 12 hours, and I won’t disclose exactly what time I went to bed, but it was late enough that I learned not to procrastinate on the next project. 

 Friday

I woke up just before noon, starting my not-so-productive weekend. I walked to Auchan to do actual grocery shopping and did my laundry. I spent the rest of my Friday trying (and failing) to be productive.

 My walk to Auchan was such an autumn aesthetic!

That night, I had dinner with a family in downtown Metz. They had recently traveled to New York and brought back a toy yellow school bus for their kids. They asked me if these school buses were also in Atlanta (yes), and if other cars on the road really stopped for the school buses (also, yes). In France, there aren’t buses dedicated to bringing children to and from school. Instead, kids use public transportation. I had gotten on a bus early one morning to go to the train station, and I walked on to see it packed full of middle schoolers!

Saturday

I spent my Saturday completing a few tasks here and there, but mostly catching up on some reality TV. It was super relaxing to sleep in and slow down a bit. If I would have been traveling this weekend, it would be a series of early mornings and overexertion, so being able to stay in bed all day was a nice change of pace. (It’s totally okay to slow down and take a break – you’ll thank yourself later!)

 Sunday

My Sunday transpired very similarly to the previous two days. The gloomy, cold weather didn’t do much to help my productivity either, but I did manage to work on a physics lab. My sleep schedule had been a little bit messed up from that late night working on statistics, so I treated myself to a nap before completing my physics lab while watching a movie. I was also able to catch up with some friends from Atlanta and my parents (remember to call your parents!).

 In Atlanta, I would usually have another monitor to watch a movie on while doing work, but since I don’t have it here, I had to adapt.

I may not have had the most productive or exciting weekend, but it’s okay to slow down and recharge, especially with finals rapidly approaching! It is important to find a balance between *study* abroad and study *abroad*. 

Studying Abroad with a Disability

When coming to GTL, one question on my mind was “can I study abroad with a disability?” In my search for a study abroad experience, I constantly came across “requirements” such as “Climbing stairs (elevators are not always available overseas)” or “Walking over very long distances” or “Carrying packed suitcases and other personal belongings with no help.” A common sentiment in the disabled community is that having a disability is not the issue, inaccessibility is.

In my first post, I casually mentioned that I am a part-time wheelchair user and that I cannot literally run around the world, but other than that, I’ve put on a façade of being pretty much non-disabled, and that changes right now. 

Allow me to reintroduce myself: My name is Mira, I am a third-year biomedical engineering student, I have a disability and sometimes use a wheelchair. Even though I spent my whole summer working abroad, I was nervous to study abroad, being away from my medical comfort zone for such a long period of time. In Atlanta, I have housing accommodations and my wheelchair stays in my dorm room (instead of at my parents’ house) in case I need it urgently. I flip-flopped between deciding to leave my wheelchair at home or to take it abroad with me. I had never travelled alone with my wheelchair – how would I maneuver my suitcases through the airport? How would I get my bags at baggage claim in France? How would my wheelchair fit on the shuttle to GTL? I’d first like to debunk the “carrying packed suitcases with no help” requirement. There will be people to help you, and it’s okay to ask for help.

I worked with the Office of Disability Services to figure out how to transfer my accommodations to GTL (what would accessible housing look like?), and luckily the administration at GTL is incredibly welcoming and more than happy to help. I was able to secure a room designed for wheelchairs in the Lafayette Residence, access to the elevators at GTL, and peace of mind that my chair would make it between the airport and Metz. As an ambulatory wheelchair user, it was easy for me to transfer to the bus and keep my chair tucked underneath. If you aren’t ambulatory, it may take more planning, but I’m confident it won’t be an issue!

The next question I intended to tackle was “can I travel with a disability?” The short answer: yes. The long answer: yes with intense planning. The major form of transportation for GTL students are trains. When I bought the Eurail pass, I contemplated getting the 1st class ticket because some wheelchair travel blogs said it was 100% necessary, but others said it is perfectly fine to get the 2nd class ticket. After experiencing trains first-hand, I can say I definitely made the right decision to save money and buy the 2nd class ticket. There are wheelchair accessible 2nd class compartments, so don’t waste your money. The complicated thing about traveling via train is that depending on what country you’re in or going to, the mobility assistance procedure changes. The Eurail website has a great resource for all the train companies in one place, which can help you figure out how far in advance you have to let the train company know that you’re coming. Also, in almost every major train station I’ve been in, there has been a mobility assistance kiosk or room to help with any issues that may arise. Trains have specific sections that are wheelchair accessible and train station workers are there to help you with the technology to get on and off the train with a wheelchair. I have not yet done a weekend trip in my chair, but it’s nice to know it’s an option. 

Sidewalk between Lafayette and GTL that includes curb cuts and tactile information.

Metz and disability? Every public bus I’ve been on has been wheelchair accessible. Curb cuts are pretty standard. Metz is fairly flat – you don’t have to worry about pushing yourself up too many hills. Tactile information is present, but the amount of it depends on what part of Metz you’re in. For example, GTL has a lot of tactile information outside the building, but the sidewalks leading to GTL have less.

Lots of stores in downtown Metz are up a step, but there are accessibility buttons that you can press to either activate a ramp or call an employee to bring a ramp.

The call button alerts the business of the need for physical access.

Accessibility is also incredibly abundant around Europe, but again, the quality and quantity depends on the country and city. For example, Amsterdam has a lot of tactile information around the main train station, but hardly any once you actually cross the street. Sidewalk quality varies around Europe and cobblestone can be tricky to navigate. Hilly places like Porto have stairs spread out around the city, but there are also cable car options to help get up the hills. Tourist attractions, such as castles and cathedrals generally have a miniature replica with braille information. I saw a lot of that in Krakow!

A miniature of the Budapest Parliament building with braille.

 TL;DR It *IS* possible to study abroad with a disability, but it does take a little extra planning. GTL is a great place to study abroad because the administration is so welcoming and willing to help transfer accommodations from Atlanta to Metz. My study abroad experience with an exchange program might not have been as seamless  if it was not with GTL or another GT faculty-led study abroad experience. 

Coffeeshops in Metz

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | Written by Mira

I love coffee and coffee shops. I made it my mission to spend my Tuesdays exploring Metz, and that includes trying new coffeeshops to do homework in. Some have been more conducive to telework than others. I have searched for other blog posts to help me find ones that are computer friendly (I found one in French: http://adoptemetz.com/gourmandises/cafe-metz-brunch-teletravail/).

  1. Fox Coffee Shop Metz (6 Rue Gambetta, 57000 Metz): Location? Amazing. Coffee? Delicious. Ambiance? Immaculate. Fox Coffee Shop Metz is a GTL fan favorite for obvious reasons. Fox Coffee Shop is my happy place, no ifs, ands, or buts. It is definitely computer friendly with very speedy free Wi-Fi, although you can only connect one device at a time with a given email. You can sit outside or inside, both of which provide a unique coffee shop experience. Inside, they have beautiful, ornate, furniture and decorations, and they even have a piano! The music is *chef’s kiss* a vibe – I spent one day Shazaming many of the songs I heard and made an Apple Music playlist for your (and my) enjoyment. You can also find them on Spotify. Outside, they have plenty of tables that spread out along the sidewalk and into the square. Each table has a unique set of stickers, adding to the quirkiness of the place.

    A glimpse inside this magical little shop
  2. Ô Sœur Saveurs (19 Rue Taison, 57000 Metz): A self-proclaimed, woman-run business, this coffeeshop is in the heart of downtown. They don’t open until 11am (and I recommend not going right when they open like I did), but it’s definitely worth a visit. When I went, I accidentally ordered a “lait froid” thinking I was ordering an iced latte… much to my dismay, the server brought out a glass of milk with ice in it. Not what I wanted, but it was what I ordered apparently. After I finished my sad glass of iced milk, it took me a good hour to work up the courage to ask for the menu again. The second time, I ordered a cappuccino and a crumble poivron, tomate, et feta (a pepper, tomato, and feta crumble), and it was delicious! I sat in an outdoor area in the center of the café, which made for a unique atmosphere, even if it drizzled a little bit.

    My cute cappuccino
  3. Columbus Café and Co. (33 Pl. Saint-Jacques, 57000 Metz): In the heart of downtown Metz, Columbus Café and Co provides both indoor and outdoor, upstairs and downstairs seating and a sweet spread of food and drinks. I would describe this as a Starbucks with more personality. If you’re hungry, I’d recommend getting the menu étudiant (student menu) which is a sandwich, a baked good, and an iced tea or soft drink for only 6 euros! My cappuccino classique was a whole 4.50 euros. They have free (and good quality) Wi-fi and plenty of outlets inside. I spent all day studying for my plethora of exams during my exam week here and will definitely be coming back.
  4. Paul (219B Av. de Strasbourg, 57070 Metz): A GTL staple. Located between the Lafayette Residence and the GTL building, Paul is a very popular and convenient stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I usually grab a sandwich to go (à emporter) on Mondays between my class ending at 5:45pm and my class starting at 7pm. I have also had breakfast there (sur place). It wasn’t anything special, but convenient enough to make it worth it.

    A small selection of the many items they offer throughout the day at Paul
  5.  Chalon de Thé (6 Rue de la Petite Boucherie, 57000 Metz): This café is purrfect (pun intended) if you like (1) coffee/tea and (2) cats.You don’t need to pay to get in – you just pay for what you order! If you need productive café vibes, this is probably not the place for you. While they do provide free Wi-Fi, the cats are pretty distracting. I found myself taking pictures of the cats more than I did homework. The cats also have no problem walking all over the keyboard (“zxt6yt5v   5nm” and “./;……•••••••••••••••••••7[‘puy[p-9” were two such instances. How one of them typed bullet points? I’m not sure. Very talented kitty.)

    I could be distracted by this sweet kitty forever

Bonus! Honorable Mention

Look at the colored-windows!

Konrad Café & Bar (7 Rue du N, 2229 Luxembourg): While not in Metz, this café was too cute not to mention. Located in the older part of the city, Konrad café is a prime telework spot. I knew I’d love it when as soon as I walked in, the music was only Frank Sinatra. The staff is so kind (and English speaking), the Wi-Fi is fast, the ambiance is impeccable. You can sit inside or outside, but it was pretty chilly when I came so they had blankets outside for customers. On a Tuesday, I decided to take a solo day trip to Luxembourg to take advantage of my day off from classes, and I definitely don’t regret it! I can highly recommend coming here on a day off or even an afternoon – Luxembourg is only 47 minutes from Metz!

A Rainy Fall Tuesday in Metz

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | Written by Mira

 

A colorful flower stand while walking around town.

Tuesdays have quickly become one of my most relaxing days of the week. Nestled between two heavy class days, my Tuesdays are a chance for me to get out and explore Metz before traveling somewhere else on the weekends. I had been hunting for a bookstore with English books, so I took this Tuesday to see if my google-mapping was correct.

It was a crisp, rainy fall day. So, just after lunch, I hopped on a bus for downtown, equipped with my backpack, umbrella, and scarf. The bus couldn’t take me all the way to the bookstore, but I enjoyed a nice leisurely walk through downtown. I got to see parts of Metz I hadn’t seen before, and I even saw a cute flower stand!

 I found the Atoutlire Bookshop (2 Rue de la Basse Seille, 57000 Metz), the “foreign” bookstore, and while a majority of the books are in English, there was quite a variety of languages. It was a small but cozy bookstore, and I even got to practice my French with the shop owner!

The rooftops of Metz.

The bookstore is located right next to a public garden/park on a hill: Jardin des Tanneurs de Metz. There was a small amphitheater, and if the weather was nicer, it would have been the perfect place to relax with a book. As I kept climbing up the park, I realized it overlooked the city of Metz. The view from the top was simply incredible! I hadn’t known there was a good look-out point for the city, but here it was, at the garden next to the foreign bookstore.

One of the many cats at Chalon de Thé.

 I walked down the street to a cat café that one of my friends recommended to me. Chalon de Thé (6 Rue de la Petite Boucherie, 57000 Metz) is such a cute café, with even cuter kittens. My favorite was a little guy named Salem, who proceeded to walk all over my laptop keyboard. I could probably have spent all day sitting in this café, but I needed to get home and change before my evening plans: the Opera!

The day before, my French professor told us about 5-euro tickets to the Opera, secured by the Leonardo Program. I jumped at the chance to have a unique cultural experience (I had never been to an Opera before, even in English). After I got back to my apartment and changed, a group of friends and I headed out for dinner. We scoured google maps for a cheap dinner spot with vegetarian-friendly options that opened early enough near the Opera house.. We ended up finding a burger place called Boogie Burger (1 Rue du Pont des Morts, 57000 Metz), and it was *chef’s kiss* so good. There weren’t any seats, so we ate overlooking the river as the sun set. I would have been content if my day ended there, but there was still more to do!

The definition of an American in France.
 Only at GTL can you spontaneously get 5-euro opera tickets.

The Opéra-Théâtr de Metz is this beautiful building on a small island surrounded by the Moselle River. The show for the night was called “Le comte Ory,” a comedic French opera from 1828, written by Gioachino Rossini. We looked up the synopsis beforehand just so we could have somewhat of an idea of what was happening, and boy is it a jam-packed plot. Luckily, when the performance started the lyrics were displayed above the stage, so I was able to follow along a lot more than I expected. I wish I could see the performance again, honestly, because there was just so much to look at: the live orchestra, the actors, and the text- it was truly an experience. 

 From bookstores to cats to operas, the day had it all… and it’s only Tuesday!

Living Alone and Doing Chores

Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Written by Mira

I’ve never lived alone before this semester. The closest I have gotten to that is spending last winter break by myself in a 6-person on-campus apartment, but that was only two weeks in total. As a self-aware introvert, I was very excited by the idea of having my own space. While most GTL students live in the same apartment complexes, we each get a studio apartment, with our own kitchenette and bathroom. After spending a little more than a month here, I have finally settled into a housekeeping/chores schedule.

  1.  Laundry: The entire Lafayette residence (GTL students and other college students in the area) share one laundry room which includes exactly three washers and three dryers. I learned on campus in Atlanta that the best way to avoid laundry frustrations is to get it done at unusual times, like Monday mornings. The Monday morning laundry schedule still applies here, thankfully, but please don’t share my secret! My first class starts at 11am, so that’s the perfect amount of time to wake up, throw my clothes in the washer (for three euros and 28 minutes), make and enjoy my French-pressed coffee, go back to the laundry room to grab my clothes, and spread everything out around my room to dry. The “European dry” dryers here, are not worth the one euro and forty minutes that have your clothes go from wet to slightly less wet. After I spread my clothes around my room to dry, hanging them off the desk, nightstands, and chairs, it is still early enough in the morning to go grocery shopping.

    Proof that no one does laundry on Monday mornings (time stamp: 8:33am)
  2. Grocery Shopping: The Lafayette residence is close to two grocery stores: Auchan and Cora. On Monday evenings, GTL sponsors a shuttle back from Cora, but I have class during this time, so I usually end up going to Auchan on Monday mornings. After doing my laundry, I grab some tote bags, throw on my headphones, and turn on a podcast. The roundtrip (to Auchan, shopping, and back) usually lasts the whole podcast, and I have just enough time to unpack my purchases before heading to GTL for class.

    Monday morning walk to Auchan.

3. Cleaning Dishes: One thing I enjoy about living alone is that you don’t have to worry about others leaving dishes in the sink. One thing I dislike about living alone is that there’s no pressure to do the dishes right away. I try my best, but I must admit I keep myself accountable only half the time. I’m trying to get better about doing my dishes as soon as I get them dirty, but as I sit here writing about my dish-washing routine, last night’s dishes are piled in the sink… but I’ll get to them later, when I need to make dinner tonight.

4. The Junk Drawer: I love memorabilia. At my parents’ house, I have boxes full of movie tickets, airplane tickets, museum maps, etc. My personality studying abroad is no different. Why do I need to save my Paris metro train tickets? My Frankfurt Botanical Gardens ticket? The map of my canal cruise in Amsterdam? For the memories. The memorabilia had been piling up on my desk for a while, but with my first physics test came my first tabletop declutter… which meant finding a drawer to put everything in. At least now my things aren’t visible, but the junk drawer is an ever-growing beast.

Good luck to December me who will have to sift through this mess.

5. General Cleaning: Whenever I would leave my room at my parents’ house for extended periods of time, I always try to clean it to the best of my abilities which involves making my bed, clearing surfaces, and vacuuming the floor, as best I can. (Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this and my room at home is currently a mess… I’m sorry.) I did all this so that when I returned, I would walk in my room exhausted from whatever I was coming back from (a summer internship or a semester at Tech), and see my bed made, room clean and be able to thank past me for not making current me make my bed. I’ve tried to continue this tradition here, so before I leave for a weekend adventure, I make sure to clean the floors, do whatever lingering dishes are left in the sink, clean the bathroom, make my bed, put away any clothes that were left out from drying.

A Midterm Week in My Life at GTL

With all of the travel that happens in a semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, it can be easy to forget that it is still school and with that comes the occasional midterm week, and in Mira’s case midterm day. Read more about Mira’s experience relaxing in Metz and studying for her midterms in her latest blog post!

Friday, October 1, 2021 | Written by Mira

My color-coded google calendar for midterm day might have been too colorful for one Wednesday…

The best thing about having class only on Mondays and Wednesdays is  having class only two days a week. The worst thing is having assessments only two days a week. And naturally, this week, they all decided to test my knowledge on the same Wednesday. 

My upcoming midterm week (day) meant that I would spend the weekend in Metz. It is more than okay to take a weekend to slow down. There’s so much travel involved in studying abroad, especially at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, that you might feel like you’re missing out by staying home. I mean, I definitely felt like that. As I sat at home, studying all weekend, I saw on social media other students hiking in Switzerland, eating amazing food in Berlin, paragliding in Annecy… FOMO is real at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, but the semester ebbs and flows for everyone. While my midterm week was this week, a lot of people (the same people I saw on social media) have their midterm week next week, which means while they’re staying in Metz, I get to travel to Barcelona.

Coffee shops, like the Columbus Cafe featured here, are my favorite study spaces!

As I mentioned, I stayed in Metz this weekend. I had a very relaxing weekend… minus being stressed for midterms. Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early and went to my happy place, Fox Coffee (6 Rue Gambetta, 57000 Metz), to study. This was my third time this week here, and my goal is to become a regular. Saturday night, I finished a book! I actually get to read for pleasure here, and my younger self is very proud of my current self. I’m not quite sure yet whether it’s because I have more downtime or better time management, but being able to prioritize leisure activities (like reading) has been a welcomed surprise. 

Monday morning, I stopped by Paul (a chain bakery in Metz) on my way to class to get some non-apartment-made coffee. The rest of my Monday was full of lectures preparing me for my assessments on Wednesday.

Tuesday, I searched for a coffee shop that wasn’t Fox to study. I found a café in the center of downtown that was perfect (official coffeeshop review coming soon), and spent the afternoon working on an international business presentation, making a formula sheet for statistics, doing practice problems for both statistics and physics. One of my friends had met me there, and afterwards we went to Auchan for some grocery shopping. 

Wednesday arrived, and so did my midterm day. I walked to the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus early to practice the international business presentation in front of the beautiful glass building on a crisp fall day.

Practicing a presentation with this beautiful backdrop.

After the presentation, I studied for a French vocabulary quiz, and did some last-minute review of statistics. After the statistics assessment, I went directly to Paul to grab a cheap dinner to-go so I could eat before the physics exam. Physics at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is distance learning from Atlanta, so our exam is done in our own room through Gradescope and Microsoft TEAMS proctoring, which also means I had to clean my desk. My desk was piled with metro tickets, train tickets, postcards, and other memorabilia from my travels so far, so I had to find a home for these things while I ate dinner and studied the last bit for the physics exam. The exam was over by 9:00pm, and so was my midterm day! I finally breathed a sigh of relief because, on the bright side, my stressful week was over and my weekend was just beginning – Barcelona, here I come! One of the amazing things about Georgia Tech-Lorraine is that so much happens in a week, and you get to celebrate the end of a stressful week with a new adventure.

A Guide to Buses in Metz

The fastest way to get around Metz is definitely by bus. Mira breaks down her knowledge on the bus system in Metz in this must read for any student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 | Written by Mira

The 45-minute walk into downtown Metz is anything but ideal. Yes, it’s picturesque, but it’s not quick. I’ve used the bus system extensively in the month that I’ve been here, so let me break it down and share some tips.

Bus tickets come in 1-trip, 2-trips, 10-trips, or monthly pass. If you get to Metz at the end of the month (ex: August 20th), I’d recommend holding off on the monthly pass. It expires at the end of the month, so a 10-trip pass should suffice until the beginning of the next month. To get the student discount on the monthly pass, you go to the Le Met office in République square.

The Metz Buses go all over the city, which makes it really convenient to get around!

There’s a bus stop right outside Lafayette for a bus (C12) that takes you directly to the train station and downtown Metz. It’s about a 20-minute bus ride to Republique square, and buses run about every 30 minutes, from 5am to about 8:30pm. If you’re downtown after 8:30pm, such as for dinner or coming back from the train station, you can take the M4a or M4b to the station nearest Lafayette and walk 13 minutes. 

To use your bus pass, you tap it on one of the screens on the bus. Always remember to pay, because you never know when metro workers will come around and check that you paid. If you see someone official walking down the bus with a little device, don’t panic! Watch what other bus patrons do and tap your card to the device. If you paid, you’re all good! If not, you could get fined.

To get off the bus, pay attention for your stop. Right before your stop, you should hit the “Stop” buttons that are spread out around the bus. Usually they’re red, but you can also click the small metal ones to indicate that you would like to get off at the upcoming stop. Once you press the button or if someone else already has, “Arret Demande” lights up in red near the front of the bus.

I highly recommend downloading the Moovit app. Moovit helps you navigate all sorts of public transportation pretty much in any city. I used it over the summer in Tel Aviv (in a big city), and it works in Metz (a smaller city). You type in a destination, and it’ll give you options of routes you could take and the duration of the routes. It also tells you how much you need to walk before and/or after the bus or train. Always check which side of the road you should be on, because sometimes it’s not clear on the map.  Moovit has the bus schedule loaded in, but sometimes the buses are late or early. Sometimes, it will show you an ETA, how far away the bus is from a certain stop in minutes. Once you select a route, you can hit the start button, and it will follow you on your journey. For example, once you get on the bus, it will update you on how many stops it is before you should get off. You can also set it to give you notifications when you are 2 stops away. 

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I’ve only used the C12 and M4 lines due to their proximity to Lafayette, but there are a few other lines that can take you elsewhere around Metz. The C12 can also bring you to and from Cora, the hypermarché near Lafayette (about a 25-minute walk). But, Georgia Tech-Lorraine provides a free shuttle back from Cora on a specific evening of the week (for us, Mondays at 7:30pm).

The buses in Metz are a great way to get around and to help downtown seem not quite so far away.

The Leonardo Program

In the spirit of the renaissance man the program is named after, the Leonardo Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, run by Prof. Sonia Serafin, provides students with a broad array of cultural experiences in Metz. Read more about Mira’s experiences with the Leonardo program in her latest blog as in just one week she goes produce-picking at la Cueillette de Peltre and sees a performance by Orchestre National de Metz!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 | Written by Mira

The Leonardo Program is a true hidden gem of Georgia Tech-Lorraine. I didn’t know about this until our welcome orientation. Professor Sonia Serafin created the Leonardo Program to give students a chance to have cultural experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. With a focus on cultural immersion and the arts, the Leonardo Program offers various activities and events throughout the semester.

An image of strawberries growing from a planter. One red strawberry is in the center of the image behind it are several whitish-green strawberries that are yet to ripen.
The rows and rows and rows of strawberries!

On Tuesday afternoon, we went fruit, vegetable, and flower picking at a local farm, Cueillette de Peltre (http://cueillettedepeltre.fr/)! Georgia Tech-Lorraine provided a shuttle to and from the farm so for an hour and half we could pick whatever we wanted. The main attraction? Strawberries. 

After getting instructions of logistics, we made a beeline for the “fraises”. There were rows and rows and rows of strawberries! They were some of, if not, the best, freshest strawberries I’ve ever eaten! Not a fan of strawberries? No worries. This farm was massive, and they grew everything you could want: tomatoes, apples, peppers, all sorts of herbs, carrots, cauliflowers, different kinds of lettuce, flowers, eggplants… The best thing about Cueillette? The prices. As college students without a meal plan, the low prices were a major win. Someone bought a whole bag, full of produce, for 10 euros! 

An image of the concert programs in front of the seats in the concert hall. The text reads "Concert d'ouverature de saison" which translates to the opening concert of the season.
The opening concert of the season!

On Friday evening, the Leonardo Program provided tickets to the Orchestre National de Metz’s first concert of the season. I don’t know much about orchestra concerts; in fact, the only orchestra concerts I’ve ever been to have been high school orchestras. I was definitely looking forward to whatever this experience would bring. The first piece was quite startling, fittingly named “Apocalypsis.” With a mixture of French, Latin, and English lyrics, the chorus resonated around the venue in ominous echoes. My favorite thing was watching one of the musicians play seven different instruments in two ways each to create some of the most dynamic and interesting sounds to accompany the chorus and string orchestra.

After being thoroughly confused for the first twenty minutes (the length of the piece), there was a long, ebbing and flowing round of applause. I lost track of how long the applause lasted, but it seemed like a solid ten minutes of clapping.

An image of the concert hall with rows of people sitting down.
This concert hall was gorgeous!

The other three pieces were more what I was expecting an orchestra concert to entail. Lots of piano and strings. The third piece highlighted the piano played by Louis Schwizgebel, a Swiss pianist who has played all over the world at just 33 years old (https://www.louisschwizgebel.com). The audience loved the piano piece so much (and rightfully so), that the resounding applause shifted to a rhythmic applause with a steady beat. Having not been briefed in orchestra concert etiquette, the shift in applause was a little unsettling; however, Professor Serafin later told us that this rhythmic applause is a sign to the musicians that the audience wants an encore. And that’s exactly what happened. I’ve only ever experienced planned encores at the end of a concert but this was in the middle of the show, unplanned! 

At the end of the show, an audience member yelled “Bravo!” before the concert hall erupted in applause. Professor Serafin knows one of the flautists, and we got to meet her very briefly outside the venue. I am so grateful for the immersive experiences I’ve had this week, and I am only more excited for the semester to come. Professor Serafin even teased a fun “name that tune” event with some of the members of the orchestra coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine (pandemic-permitting of course). To anyone interested in Georgia Tech-Lorraine, take advantage of these events because I guarantee you, you’ll never have such a combination of unique experiences.

Bienvenue à Metz and Settling in to Life in France

Since making her decision to get her undergrad degree at Georgia Tech, Mira knew that she wanted to spend a semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine— and after 3 years, Mira has finally made it to Metz! Read her latest blog post to find out more about Mira’s love of travel and her first experiences in France.

Friday, September 10, 2021 | Written by Mira

View of a city from a tall apartment building. Three tall buildings rise above a collection of smaller buildings. Clear balcony walls are in the foreground. Fluffy clouds are spread out across the blue sky.
The view from my apartment in Tel Aviv this summer.

Bonjour, Je m’appelle Mira!  I am a third year at Georgia Tech, majoring in biomedical (BMED) engineering, minoring in health and medical sciences (HMED), and pursuing the International Plan (IP). I just spent an incredible summer living and working in Tel Aviv, and I am so excited to take my sense of adventure to Europe!

This study abroad experience has been years in the making— studying at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is one of the reasons I chose to go to school at Tech in the first place. I had to hold off on going until my third year, constructing my academic plan carefully, and I can’t believe I have finally made it to Metz. 

Wooden table with a light brown latte in a white mug on a white plate. The latte art is 3 white hearts in a vertical line. To the left of the mug is the corner of a silver laptop keyboard with a half peeled off sticker of Eurasia and Africa.
My phone is full of aesthetic coffee photos and I am excited to add to my collection.

This semester, I only have class on Mondays and Wednesdays, which means I get the day in between to explore Metz (pronounced: “mess”). I know as the semester rolls on I will be spending my Tuesdays in quaint coffee shops doing schoolwork while sipping a latte and munching on pastries. Coffee shops have always been my primary study spot and I can’t wait to experience the French café scene, so stay tuned for a detailed review of coffee shops in Metz! Also, while all Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have no classes on Friday, I am lucky enough to not have Thursday classes either (yay for four-day weekends). 

My deep love of traveling (and to be honest, of reality TV) came from watching the Amazing Race with my brother. I would fantasize about where we would go if we were on the show together. As contestants would we be scrubbing trolleys in Moscow, playing table tennis in Shanghai, or leading  llamas to a pasture in Cuzco?  While as a part-time wheelchair user competing in the Amazing Race is somewhat unrealistic for me (literally running around the world would not be the safest thing for me), my dream is still to experience as many cultures and sites as possible. I know throughout this semester I may face accessibility challenges as I travel, but I am interested to see what “accessibility” looks like in other areas of the world.  

The preparations for coming to France involved a lot of paperwork. The visa application process was a little stressful, but if you stay organized and work on the process as early as permissible, it should be smooth sailing. The week leading up to my departure from America, I talked to as many Georgia Tech-Lorraine alumni as possible, getting restaurant recommendations in Metz, beach recommendations in Nice, tips and tricks for study abroad, and everything in between. My excitement was bubbling over by the time the Thursday of my flight arrived.

That Thursday and Friday are a blur; upon arriving in Paris CDG, there were  shuttles to take us from the airport to the Lafayette Residences in Metz. I tried my best to fight the jetlag, but I ended up falling asleep. The four hour journey to Metz went by in a snap. We arrived at Lafayette around 4:00 pm, and I quickly went to bed, letting jetlag do its work.

Road lined with pale colored buildings with red brick roofs. In the median of the road are purple flowers. The sky is a pale blue with no clouds.
A picturesque walk through Metz!

The following morning, it was Saturday in Metz. My first “official” day in France! In the Georgia Tech-Lorraine GroupMe, someone suggested going into downtown around noon to get SIM cards and lunch, and I jumped at the chance to meet other Georgia Tech-Lorraine students. A small group of us meandered down the streets, taking in a 45-minute walk to downtown that was incredibly picturesque (a descriptor I’ll probably be using a lot). We went to Free Mobile, one of a few SIM card options in Metz, another being Orange. After using my beginners’ French, the employee’s beginners’ English, and Google translate, I got my SIM card, and instructions on how to cancel the monthly plan at the end of the semester.

We walked down the street a little bit to Café de la Presse (3 En Chaplerue, 57000 Metz), where we strung together six or seven tables to have a late lunch and meet other students. I struggled a little to order an iced coffee. Coffee culture varies wildly across different countries and apparently “café glacé” was not the correct way to ask for an iced coffee and ordering a “café froid” did not come with ice.

After a leisurely lunch, two other students and I walked around downtown, making note of some restaurants and shops we might want to try. There’s a vegetarian breakfast and lunch restaurant that I’ll definitely be coming back to! We also found a cute bookstore, adding to the charm and romanticism of Metz.

On Monday, we had an orientation in small groups of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building. Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s campus is one building containing four-stories full of study spaces, classrooms, faculty offices, and laboratories. At the end of our tour, we got to go through donations of  items left by previous students. I highly recommend grabbing one of the MANY fans and a trash can. I also grabbed a mug and a French press, to fuel my coffee dependency. 

On Tuesday, we had a virtual academic orientation, welcoming us to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, where we got to learn about all that Georgia Tech-Lorraine has to offer including the Bureau Des Étudiants (BDE, the student government) and the Leonardo Program (cultural excursions organized by Mme. Serafin). After the orientation, I had a deeper appreciation and excitement for the semester to come. Being in France still feels like a dream, and I can’t wait to take you on this adventure with me! À bientôt!

A Paddle Down the Moselle

With its location on the confluence of the Moselle and Seille, rivers are as entwined in the history and culture of Metz as they are with the buildings downtown. Join Kaitlyn as she explores the heart of Metz in a way she hasn’t before — afloat. Read more in her latest blog post!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

What better way is there to spend a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon devoid (with the exception of the ECE homework I was avoiding) of responsibilities than on a trip downtown in Metz?

Since the French lockdown began, my friends and I have been looking for places to explore while staying within the allowed 10km of our dorms. Luckily, downtown Metz is within this radius, so when we discovered that a boat rental place downtown we set a plan in motion for an afternoon on the river. 

An image of kaitlyn and her friends reserving a boat at la flottille in metz. It is a small green shed on a dock.
Speak to the worker at the green shed to rent a boat!

The rental company is called La Flottille, and is only a few minutes walk from Republique Square, the center of Metz. La Flottile has all sorts of boats, but since there were four of us, we decided on renting a four-person paddle boat.  The worker brought us onto the dock and handed us each a bright orange life jacket. There’s no doubt in the world that we looked extremely goofy with the giant life jackets swallowing us, but of course, safety first. 

An image of Kaitlyn and another friend sitting in a bright yellow paddle boat on the river. Their backs are to the camera and they are looking to the right at the Temple Neuf from the water.
A brand new perspective of a familiar sight.

A few seconds later, and we were seated in the boat and already pedaling our way down the river towards Temple Neuf. It was really neat to see Metz from this perspective; we’d seen the city from our many walking tours, but never from the water! 

An image of three white ducks to the left of the yellow paddle boat on the river.
Don’t mess with the Metz ducks!

A brave family of three very large ducks came extremely close to our boat. It seemed like we were about to run them over, so we had to frantically change direction. Luckily, the ducks escaped unharmed and continued on their merry way to pester other boaters for food.

An image of a canal with a triangular bridge connecting two buildings.
Shh… the Venice canal system is actually in France.

Cruising our way down the river, we saw a small gap in between the buildings that we could enter via a narrow canal. We floated underneath a footbridge to check out the space; it felt like a quiet courtyard, but one filled with water rather than grass. I’ve never been, but the area gave me strong Venice vibes. Swap the fluorescent yellow paddle boat for a gondola and we would basically be on a canal in Venice, right? Due to the tight nature of the space we were in, it was just a little bit complicated to get out of there. We played bumper cars with the walls for a couple minutes in our attempt to exit the canal. 

We continued down the river, as far as we could go. The rest of our boat ride took us underneath three different bridges, one of which was so short that I was able to reach up and touch the underside of the bridge.

We had this view all to ourselves on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

There’s a lot more to discover; we didn’t have a chance to go in the opposite direction toward the Plan D’Eau, so we’ll probably be back soon after our legs recover from the slightly strenuous pedaling!