Eleven Days Down

With eleven days in Europe under her belt, Kaela recounts her experiences arriving in Paris and Metz. Read her blog as she details her first solo travel!

Monday, September 14, 2020 | Written by Kaela

Today, I came to the realization that I have been living in France for 11 days– in Metz, for a single week. In this brief time I have: met people from all different backgrounds, traveled to two countries, visited Cora excessively, and timidly inquired “Parlez-vous anglais?” more times than I can count.

Let me backtrack and lay out my experiences from the beginning of these hectic, but exhilarating 11 days. 

The view out my airplane window crossing the Atlantic.
The view out my airplane window crossing the Atlantic.

PREPARATION FOR DEPARTURE:

While rushing to finish packing the night before my flight, I attempted to wrap my head around a new realization: I would be apart from my family for the longest I have ever been. With everything that has happened this year, three months seems like an eon and simultaneously feels like a flash. Ready to see what lies ahead of me, I was eager to leave the next day. 

In an attempt to more quickly adjust to the seven hour time difference, I tried to get as much sleep on the plane as I could. I arrived at 10am CEST (3am to my CST acclimated body) and felt relieved that I had finally made it to Paris. With the ongoing pandemic, I had to present 5 additional documents in addition to my passport when going through customs, a moment I had been anticipating to go wrong in some way. While packing, I was expecting to be back the very next day having run into some kind of issue: my airline wouldn’t accept my Covid test, I would miss my flight, the french government would bar students from travel, I wouldn’t have the correct documents on hand. To my surprise, everything went as planned. I didn’t expect to make it from ATL to CDG, let alone for it to be so seamless. 

MY ARRIVAL IN PARIS:

La Basilique Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.
La Basilique Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.

I planned on staying in Paris alone for a couple of days before journeying to Metz for the start of the semester, so I could acclimate to France on my own. I arrived feeling exhausted, somewhat detached from reality, and anxious. My knowledge of the French language, the maze like airport, and the country overall was limited. On the ride to my hotel, I made an effort to observe the differences between the US and France: the landscape, the people, how they drive, etc. I was confused (and slightly concerned) why my driver was going 100 miles an hour, despite our slow pace, when I remembered the speedometer is in kilometers. My general first observations on Parisian traffic? Cars are much smaller. Motorcyclists are more daring. Everyone stops for bikers and pedestrians. 

Though short, my stay in Paris was very meaningful. It was my first solo trip, my first interaction with Europe, and the last vacation before classes began (although definitely not my last of the semester). I stayed just a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel tower, so after a nap, shower, and quick lunch, I headed over to the famed landmark. Overall, my stay in Paris was amazing, but a bit lonely. I FaceTimed my family and boyfriend when I could to show them everything I was experiencing. My timidness, in addition to the language barrier, kept me from connecting with locals. I kept to myself and did my best to visit as many places as possible; my goal was to see as much as possible in the short time I had. However, I enjoyed that traveling alone gave me the freedom to choose what my day looked like. I could change my plans on a whim, make detours, enter a museum spontaneously without having to worry about what anyone else wanted to do. Everything I did was up to me. 

PLACES IN PARIS I VISITED AND RECOMMEND:

Eiffel Tower, Palais du Chaillot, Louvre, Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Montmartre, La Basilique Sacré-Cœur, Pantheon, Luxembourg Garden, Les Invalides 

MY ARRIVAL TO GT-LORRAINE IN METZ:

With Covid-19, our arrival was slightly different from how a normal arrival might be for our safety. Our luggage was unloaded for us, we left the bus in groups of five, masks on all the time, hand sanitizer at every checkpoint, went straight to our rooms. It felt amazing to finally get to my dorm, unpack, and settle in. A large group of students went to Cora almost immediately. This first trip there was chaos. None of us spoke much French or had the data to translate it, the market is organized differently than ones back home, and not a single person knew what they needed to buy. Needless to say, we all returned multiple times the following days. They have countless options for every item you could ever want; I swear I saw 3 aisles with cheese! 

I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to study and travel at GT-Lorraine. Almost everyday I have a moment where I go, “Oh wow, I’m in FRANCE!” I still cannot believe I am here. I am excited to see where the rest of the semester takes me. Kaela in Paris!

QUICK TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MOVE TO GT-LORRAINE:

Soak your shower head and sink faucet in white vinegar and water. Don’t bring electrical items besides your devices (I almost set my hotel on fire trying to use an American steamer). Get a bike in Metz through the rental service GT-Lorraine has. 

Arrival, Orientation, and Excitement!

Check out the first blog from Karsten – the new Georgia Tech-Lorraine student blogger for the fall – on his thoughts and emotions as he traveled across the Atlantic for the first time!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 | Written by Karsten

Overview

Forty-eight hours have passed since I arrived in France, which means that seventy-two hours ago, I was asleep in my bed at home. Since Sunday morning, I have packed, flown solo for the first time, forgotten every bit of French I thought I knew, eaten six croissants and five pain au chocolat in a very short time frame, slept for a total of fifteen hours, and have frequented the Cora hypermarket more times than I care to admit.

Travel

Travelling without family or friends for the first time is definitely stressful, especially when going overseas. Even though I have traveled several times in my life, I second guessed myself and my flying experience. Thankfully, I flew out of Augusta Regional Airport, which only has six gates, and is therefore never crowded and would take a talented individual to get lost in. Once I connected in Charlotte, however, it was a different story. I needed to go from Terminal E to Terminal B, so I traveled all the way across the Charlotte Douglas International Airport only to find that the flight had been delayed and moved minutes before boarding should have started. Terminal D, all the way back by E, was my new destination. Once we boarded, the flight was uneventful and we landed on schedule. This was where I met up with other students going to Georgia Tech-Lorraine for the first time. There were ten people from GTL on my flight, so we went through customs and found our bags as a group. We somehow managed to find our meeting location for the shuttle without anyone speaking a word of French.

Arrival at Lafayette

The shuttle to Lafayette, where we are housed, took roughly three hours. When I stepped off of the shuttle, I was met with gorgeous weather. A dramatic drop in humidity and the shift from Atlanta’s ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit to Metz’s seventy-five was a welcome surprise. Long sleeves and hoodies are quite comfortable to wear outside. That night (Monday August 19, 2019), there was a pizza party encouraging us to meet new people. Everyone I talked to seemed excited to be here, despite the exhaustion from jet lag and general travel fatigue.

Orientation

Tuesday morning, everyone went to the building neighboring Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus and had coffee, juice, croissants, and pain au chocolat, which I had more than my fair share of. We then went into the auditorium and heard multiple presentations, covering the topics of safety, school, research projects, and more. It was a miracle that no one fell asleep. After, some faculty took us on tours, though it seemed unnecessary, besides which class rooms were where. After all of the introductions and orientation, we had one minute to collect what we wanted from a donation pile that previous students had left. This was the most nerve-racking thing that has happened so far, as we were supposed to grab stuff that we didn’t have but that we needed. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize what exactly I needed until after this event took place.

Thoughts

I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to study abroad and to get to see so many of the places and events that I could have only dreamed of seeing before, but I’m also sad that I won’t see my family and friends from Georgia Tech and from home for so long. However, thanks to modern conveniences such as FaceTime, calls, and texts, I’m only really a call (and spotty service) away. I’m looking forward to being immersed in French culture and being able to call France home for a semester, as well as making friends with people whom I probably would not have otherwise met.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go (Like Cora)

Meet Noa – the Georgia Tech-Lorraine student blogger for Spring 2019! She’s already settling in nicely, and is ready to take on the semester. Check out her first blog!

Written by Noa Margalit

Bonjour! Salut! Oh la la une baguette! Je m’appelle Noa Margalit and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to blog about my experience at GTL and provide some insight into the things I wish I knew even a day ago.

I wish I could have told myself yesterday or even this morning what my first evening at GTL would be like. After waking up at 3AM in Denver, having an 8 hour layover in Dallas, and finally making it to Paris, I honestly arrived feeling pretty detached. I’ve never left home before alone for such a long period of time, and I’m a transient student from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Having lived with my parents for this long, leaving was pretty emotional. While I’m sad to leave all the close people in my life behind for four months, it’s about time I got out of my parent’s basement. (Just kidding, I live in the backyard, which is a HUGE upgrade from the basement.) Luckily on my flight there were two other students who were from Georgia Tech, and while we weren’t able to sit together on the flight, it was nice to already have some familiar faces when we landed. I also am really glad that another student from CU-Boulder is on this trip, but I also quickly found out that some people don’t know anyone, and we all started meeting people pretty quickly.

I was on the shuttle which (WOAH) took 4 hours when the train only takes an hour and a half. Not gonna lie though, I really am glad I did because I took up two seats, fell asleep, and felt a whole lot better afterwards. Maybe don’t do this though because I’m currently up at a very late hour writing this blog post due to my inevitable jet lag and my lack of attempt in trying to stop it.

When we arrived to the dorms (I’m living in Aloes), we signed in, got our room keys and made our way to our rooms. I live in a suite with my own cute room and a shared bathroom. My suitemate, whom I met a few hours ago, is from Tunisia and doesn’t speak much English, which will honestly be great since I need to practice my French a lot. I tried as much as I could today to speak in French but it’s pretty nerve wracking, and I felt like a small child who couldn’t formulate coherent sentences. I know it’ll get better, and I am looking forward to being able to speak more confidently.

I spent about two hours getting my dorm looking nice, showering and getting comfortable. I am really happy I brought a tapestry because the walls here are pretty bare, and I also was glad that I brought my favorite toiletries from Target (which I can now justifiably pronounce that as Tarjay since I’m in France). It was nice to have those immediately after all that travelling and I made sure to underpack on clothes because I know myself, and know that I will convince myself to buy a lot more clothes than I need.

My cute room!

Afterwards we had some weird pizza, set up the internet which works well in ALOES, and then 3 other students on my floor and I decided to head to the supermarket. We went to Cora, which is like a massive Walmart where all of my dreams came true. It’s only about a 7 minute walk from the dorm which is super manageable, and I brought my backpack to use since they charge for bags, and it was easier to carry that way anyway.

The first thing I bought was sheets for my bed since I really didn’t like the ones provided by ALOES. They gave us two fitted sheets and I’m definitely a duvet cover kind of girl. I also got a power strip since there are three outlets in the room and you need to unplug the fridge to use the microwave or the desk lights?? Problem solved, thanks Cora. I also got a BAGUETTE! For .90 Euros! And CAMEMBERT. And some yogurt, cause yogurt here is good. I don’t know why, since I hate yogurt in the States, but the French do yogurt right. The people at the supermarket were super nice, even though we were slightly overwhelmed by the monstrosity that is Cora. My French penpal from high school was saying people in the Northern areas of France are nicer than other areas, and even though it’s only day one I am feeling good about that statement. While I wasn’t sure about going to Cora on the first night, I’m really glad I did since now I’m sitting in my bed with my new linens and feeling a little bit more familiar with the area and the people.

But you know what is most important? That I had some of my baguette. (Fine. A lot of my baguette.) This is going to be fun.

Living and Learning in France – and Loving It!

Maddie arrived early to pack in some extra travels with her family before the semester started, but now that’s she’s settled in soundly at GTL, she’s reflecting on her emotions and hopes for the semester. Check out her first blog post!

I can’t believe that I’ve already been in France for a week. I also can’t believe that I’ve only been in France for a week—the days have been so packed that it feels like much longer. I arrived early to spend some time with my family in Paris, so each day from Wednesday to Sunday was filled to the brim with tours, trains, restaurants, and wandering the streets of the City of Lights.

My family’s arrival to France was not without its obstacles. At the Minneapolis airport, a couple of hours before we were supposed to board, we discovered that my mom’s passport expired within three months and that she wouldn’t be able to take our flight; my brother and I would go alone, and she would attempt to get an expedited passport and arrive the following day. My mother is an airline pilot and is consequently a pretty experienced traveler and planner (this snafu is an anomaly for her, trust me) so entering France unexpectedly without her was a little intimidating, but also exciting. (Not that you aren’t exciting, Mom.) It felt sort of symbolic, in a way, reminding me of the fact that I’d be navigating unfamiliar countries throughout my semester abroad.

As our plane finally approached Paris after a long overnight flight, I eagerly took in the red rooftops and rolling fields of the countryside. When my brother and I walked through the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I listened, uncomprehending but fascinated, to the sounds of softly spoken French around me, and silently mouthed the words on every sign and ad I saw to practice my pronunciation. I started processing that yes, I really was here, in France—there were the kisses on the cheeks between family members as they were reunited. There were the Euro signs on the taxi driver’s dashboard as we sped on our way to the city. There was the Eiffel Tower in the distance as we neared Paris, and the shimmering Seine as we crossed one of the many bridges on our way to our hotel.

I soon found that the Eiffel Tower was even more beautiful when viewed at night from a boat on the Seine!

Throughout my travels with my family, I had to keep reminding myself that this was the country where I would be living not just for the next couple of days, but for the next four months. It didn’t seem possible, in the midst of many tours and stereotypical vacation destinations, that I would be remaining in such an amazing place. Now, though, I’ve gone through the whirlwind of arriving at Georgia Tech Lorraine! Taking the shuttle from the airport, unpacking, seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones, absorbing the info dump that was orientation, going to the grocery store twice, and starting to explore Metz doesn’t seem possible to fit into three days, and yet somehow it did. And that doesn’t even include going to classes! Now that I’m here at GTL, settled into my dorm at Lafayette, and experiencing the joys of Metz, I don’t need to remind myself anymore—I’m living and learning in France, and I’m loving it.

Maxime et la nouvelle année

It’s always great to travel to a foreign country, but it turns out that France isn’t so foreign to Robby – he took advantage of his semester at GTL to visit his foreign exchange family before the start of the semester!

In high school, I was a part of an exchange program where I hosted a French student for a week during my junior year, then I spent a week at his house my senior year. His name is Maxime, and we have remained in contact since this program began. He lives in a small town called Carling that is close to Metz. Because of this connection, I decided to leave for GTL early and spend a week with Maxime and his family.

Picture with my siblings at the airport in Atlanta.

I arrived at their house (after 2 planes, 2 trains, and a bus) at his house the afternoon of December 30th. He is in university at Nancy, but when he is home he lives with his mom (Sabine), his step-dad (Fred), and his step-sister (Manon). Maxime’s mom takes care of two children for her job, so they also live in the house. Their house is beautifully decorated and always very clean and proper. When we are in the house, there is usually music on in the background and we talk non-stop. We also eat dinner together, and I always get a small lesson on manners. Maxime is the only one that speaks a lot of English, so it is an amazing opportunity for me to practice my French. I have learned so many expressions (“Oh la vache” which literally means “oh the cow”, but is used in Lorraine to mean “oh my goodness”), and I am very thankful that they are not afraid to correct my grammar. Life in the house is pretty sweet, and it always surprises me how similar daily life is to that in the United States.

Maxime, my French exchange student, and I accidentally twinning.

For New Year’s Eve, Max and I went to his friend’s apartment in Strasbourg. (Strasbourg is so, so beautiful, but for this trip I didn’t even leave the apartment). We spent the night playing games (“jeux de la société”) like Limite Limite (the French equivalent of Cards Against Humanity), poker, and MarioKart. Limite Limite was difficult (and even more inappropriate than Cards Against Humanity) because I didn’t know a lot of the references, like one of their new anchors. However, I did win one round, and I was very proud of myself. Then at midnight, we crowded around the windows of the apartment to try to see whatever fireworks we could. People shouted across the street, “Bonne année !” then we went in a circle and said where we see ourselves in one year from now. After midnight, we played some more games, started messing around with a violin that only had two strings, and little by little people started to go to bed. It was really simple and exactly like a laid-back hangout with friends in the United States would have been.

One of the best things I got to do was visit Maxime’s grandmother. She was so similar to my own grandmother.  She loved sharing stories and explaining things to me. Then she took us to a room where she was going through some possessions and showed us a pile of books that she offered us. Maxime took about 5 cook books, and I got some French novels (including a beautiful hard-back copy of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables). After the books, she showed us drawings of her grandparents and the town where she grew up. Then, she sent us to run her errands, and when we came back, and she gave me a little jar of elderberry jam that she made herself and sent us on our way.

My first time eating snails!

The last night at Maxime’s house was bittersweet. I was very excited to get to Metz and start GTL, but I was sad to leave the family. We were already very close, and over the course of a week, they had really become a second family to me. However, they are only a 25-minute train ride away, so I am sure that I will be home soon. Dinner consisted of potato-balls and beef cheek, with snails (escargot) as an appetizer. (I ate two servings of the snails – they were delicious.) It was absolutely delicious, and only the company surpassed the meal. Maxime’s grandmother as well as two friends of Sabine’s came over, and the conversation was lively to say the least. There was not a moment without a story, and they were enthusiastic to include me in the conversation.

And now, for this week’s phrase: “Niquel.” Niquel is a slang word that means very cool or very fun. I learned this phrase when I asked Maxime what he thought of the New Year’s party. This word sums up not only this week, but my entire relationship with Maxime. I am so fortunate to have a partner who is as open, creative, and fun-loving as Max. Hopefully this first week is a sign of the weeks to come.

Great Expectations

Aria shares her strategic and often unexpected stories of her travel and first days at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

Written by Aria

Bonjour! Welcome to a travel blog brought to you by the Champion of the
Uninformed, bearing the wisdom of a week’s experience in international
travel.

I began precisely as planned, easily navigating through airports alone for the
first time. In an effort to sneak experiences in wherever I can, on as little a
budget as possible, I switched out my 6-hour layover in Chicago for a 23-
hour one. This meant I could stay with a friend from Tech, play in some
snow, and go to the Museum of Science and Industry in the morning. Instant
Chicago vacation, friend not included.

The Museum of Science and Industry’s Visualization of me trying to decide where to go this weekend.

With Part I of my 3-day travel to Metz completed, I settled in to wait for the
plane to Paris, when given the tantalizing offer of a $1,000 voucher to give
up my seat and take the next flight. While there are backup plans ready for
latecomers, I had a shuttle awaiting me, a dorm to check in to, and an overall
strictly programmed schedule to follow. In the end, desire for a real bed won
out.

My time here has been full of…surprises? The word doesn’t quite seem
right – too cliché. But in an almost comic trend, I seem to experience the
opposite of my expectation at every turn. For months, I dreamed of that first
sight of NotNorthAmerica, coming out of an endless ocean and basking me
in its snowy, foreign mystique. Instead, I got clouds so low that by the time
we cleared them, it seemed as though we were about to slam into the
runway, just like my hopes of a view of the French landscape. From there, I
connected with other GTL students, navigated an airport subtitled in
English, and managed to scam my way onto an earlier shuttle that included
reconnecting with my boyfriend. The scenery was gorgeous, but besides the
quaint buildings, it really felt quite American. With familiar faces, language,
and landscape, I wondered where the magic was.

My notable lack of view of the European landscape.

Yet now, every time I start thinking I’m getting the hang of living in France,
I’m struck by something so totally alien that I’m reminded of how out of my
element I really am. Immediately upon arriving at the dorm, our attempt to
get off the shuttle (the audacity, I know) was met by the police promptly
showing up to yell at us in urgent, incomprehensible French. It turned out to be an issue with where the bus driver had parked, but all we knew was that
the nice little trailer with all of our belongings was driving away, and
perhaps we had experienced our first European swindling.

These blunders never seem to end, yet they give me a sort of comfort in
knowing that there really is something utterly different about this place.
Living is France is at times absurd. There is a mysterious, ubiquitous mud
despite seeing no rain. I have purple toilet paper that brings me joy that
cannot be underestimated. Drivers, even at high speeds, stop for pedestrians
and expect you to start crossing before they give any indication of slowing.
The tap water tastes odd, leading to a series of heists as students smuggle
bottled and filtered water back to the dorms. I am unsure if I or my
microwave is not operating correctly. Students must take a designated path
to class under the threat of not getting insurance coverage if hit by a car.

My first week has yielded some knowledge of essential staples to the GTL
experience, listed below:

1. Crous Cafeteria: a treasured gift to my wallet and stomach

Cheap, delicious, close to class, and one of few motivators to eat non-
bread. One employee delights in teaching the Americans French words, exclaiming “très bien!” when we come back with more phrases
than last time.

2. Cora

Breads come in such forms as “pain long” and as Google translate
suggests, “pointy wand.” Fruit is surprisingly challenging to buy, so
stalk the indigenous inhabitants of the environment to observe their
behavior.

3. Paul

The Waffle House of Boulangeries (bakeries): found on every corner,
solid food, but you could do better (Aux Petits Choux, a block away). They have two options: to go (Vente a emporter) or eat there (Vente sur place). It’s cheaper and faster to take it to go, but if you don’t realize which line you are in and then go sit at a table, they will not be pleased.

Yours truly, with hood at the ready for any sign of snow.

 Ultimately, my advice is to stop
anticipating anything. Plan, yes,
and definitely budget, but your
constraints should not limit your
perception. I was only ever
disappointed whenever I had an
image in my head of what my
experience would be. When I
stopped trying so hard and just
started to let the country be what it
is, I could revel in the details of
this strange culture.

The Beginning: Nostalgia & Dreaming

Have you ever had a move-in day like this? A move-in day where you’re completely wiped from traveling for what feels like days and you’re not sure which way is up? A move-in day where despite the weariness your stomach is a bundle of excitement from the culture shock you’ve been anticipating for months now as you walk through the CDG (Charles de Gaulle, Paris’s main airport) terminals and see an explosion of French writing and ads? This could describe many international student’s experiences simply coming to Tech, yes, but arriving at GTL means Europe is now your oyster: this is something totally unique, and I’m so excited for others to experience this incredible opportunity! 

Coming back for my second round of GTL, I’ll admit, I wasn’t as pumped as the first time. With just a summer of office work in between 8 months of adventure, this lifestyle is my norm now. I know it won’t be this way past 2017, and I will be filled with remorse to see this chapter of my life end. However, the idea that this way of living is sustainable is just a fancy lie I like to tell myself: it’s absolutely exhausting. 

Some of you will be totally fine and take the whole continent head on, without stopping for breaks. Some of you will need some weekends in Metz to ground yourself and catch up on sleep/work. There’s no right way to do it: you do what’s best for you. I will say that I tend on the side of “no ragretz,” (translation: “no regrets”) constantly trying to push and see and experience as much as possible, but when I found myself with a stable cold for 2 months and an overdue need of a long night’s sleep, I had to slow down. Walking 10+ miles a day under those conditions is ill-advised. 

On this note, I will give some sage words of advice. Going out and clubbing can be an incredible time (I love dancing and so do Europeans). HOWEVER, if you can’t function the next day, you’re just doing a massive disservice to yourself. How are you going to explore the Churchill War Rooms if all you want to do is sleep? Granted, people come to Europe with different agendas and desires. I’m not judging them if that’s what they’re here for. But for the (I think) majority of us that truly want to experience the culture and see that museum or church we’ve always

How can you hike up 8 miles to see the entirety of Interlaken if you’re too lethargic to move??

been interested in, all I’m saying is be wise with your time as we have so little of it. 

Okay, enough mom stuff. One thing I absolutely love about GTL is that it’s kind of like the fall of freshman year, round two. Everyone is completely open to meeting each other, there’s no boundaries among friend groups yet, and the amount of times I hear “yeah I’m down, what’s your name again?” just makes me smile. 

You won’t believe how close you’ll get to your travel partners. You’ll quickly find out who takes charge, planning and navigating with an itinerary, and who likes to wander and stumble upon things as they go. Over time you’ll learn your friends’ most fundamental personality characteristics and in a variety of ways: sometimes through shouting matches over when you get lost and someone didn’t want to ask for directions (there’s always a dad), or simply ordering a meal through charades. I’m currently seriously missing my old travel group, and while I’m jealous that they’re all together back at Tech, I know I made the right choice to come back to Europe, and I’ll find a new group of my own that will be just as tight. 

 

And so on that note, GO HAVE FUN!!! WOOOO YOU’RE IN EUROPE YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!!! WITHIN THE LAWS OF PHYSICS!! 

A “Metz-y” Start

Georgia Tech-Lorraine is becoming a new home for our new blogger, Sam. He’s had lots of adventures – and steak and mushrooms – while figuring things out. What lessons has he learned along the way? Check out his new blog post.

Hi Everyone! It’s Sam again, this time writing to you from my cozy little dorm in Metz, France (which, as I learned in the very first orientation meeting, is actually pronounced “Mess,” hence the clever blog post title)! I flew into France on January eighth, and since then, have kind of figured out the bus system, learned how to say please, thank you, and various items of food in French, and I even went grocery shopping a couple of times! *Applause, applause*

20170109_095945

The shuttle! Note to self: next time you decide to ride in the back of a bus, take some motion sickness medication beforehand!

While I was waiting for the day to come when I would leave my comfortable, American dwelling, I got really nervous about the idea of living in a foreign country without a basic grip on the language or culture. Well, Christmas and New Year’s came and went, and it seemed like January eighth came rushing towards me at high speeds without so much as a warning. That day, I spent nine hours on a plane, four hours on a cramped shuttle, and I had the rest of the time to lie in my new bed and sleep off the jet lag. :’) I already knew two of the other GTL students, Adam and Lina, before this new adventure, and since our arrival, have become closer friends with them and some other students.

With that, here is a short recap of my first week living in France!

20170110_085959

A picture from the GTL orientation on Tuesday.

Monday was my first day of classes, and I was already looking forward to the courses I have this semester. I spent about half the day in classes, and the other half at home, unpacking and getting everything set up. The new student orientation for GTL was on Tuesday, and later that day some friends and I explored a little bit around campus. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at a huge grocery store that loosely resembled Walmart, which, if I’m being completely honest, made me feel a little more at home! Here’s a little pro tip for when you’re grocery shopping in France, or really anywhere: don’t buy a giant pack of steaks just because it is only five euros – THERE IS A REASON IT IS ONLY FIVE EUROS!

By Wednesday, I started to get the hang of things around campus. I had figured out where the cafeteria building is, and I didn’t get lost that day either! That day, my breakfast and dinner consisted of steak and mushrooms. So did Thursday, Friday, and Saturday’s meals.

Bed, sweet bed 🙂

On Thursday I became very aware of the fact  that I hadn’t actually ever taken a public transportation bus in my whole nineteen years of living. That, to say the least, was a bit of a nerve wracking realization, seeing as now I had to do everything for the first time in a language in which the only full sentence I had memorized was ‘the boys eat the apple’. Shout out to Duolingo for this incredibly useful information. I eventually got over my fear of buying the wrong bus pass and went over to the little ticket machine to find out that there is actually an English option! It was a blessing from God. Friday rolled around and I went to the store again to finally buy some spices so that I wasn’t just eating salted steak and mushrooms, but salted steak and mushrooms with garlic and onion and chili powder! I consider myself a seasoned chef these days.

Here’s the view from the door.

And finally, this weekend was spent catching up on sleep, finishing homework, and visiting an old high school friend who lives not too far away from campus. I went grocery shopping again, but this time, I bought reasonable amounts of food so that I wouldn’t be eating the same thing every day of the week. I also bought plenty of garbage bags and plastic wrap- two essential household items I highly recommend stocking up on!

 

And here’s a new segment I call ‘French Word Of The Week’ to leave you feeling a little smarter than you were five minutes ago:

Pain (noun): bread

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

Adam: “Hey, what did you have for breakfast this morning?”

Sam: “Pain.”
Until next time, have a wonderful week, and be sure to try some fresh ‘pain’ if ever you find yourself in Europe!

Planning With The Parents

It’s pretty common for parents to visit GTL and travel with their student, and as Harry shared a few weeks ago, his did too! Read for tips on things to communicate about and plan for whether you’re a GTL student, a parent of a GTL student or jsut someone who likes to travel.

Photo courtesy of Travel Trazee.

As a tangent to a blog post I had a couple weeks ago about doing fall break with my parents, I’ve decided to give an overview of coordination and planning to help assist those who might want to do trips with their parents while at Georgia Tech-Lorraine in the future!

 

Pre-Departure

Well first off, you and your parents have to pick a time to do the trip. Popular choices are usually before the semester starts, fall break (since it’s a week long), and after the semester ends. Some parents decide to just drop by for a weekend, and that’s not usually too tough to plan since it’s a couple of days.

Next, is the “where” of the trip. I’d say this is pretty important since this is a picking a place that both you and your parents want to go and visit. It’s also very important because from here, train or flight schedules need to be made to match. I offered to buy tickets for my whole family but my parents opted to buy them online. We simply decided around a certain time to leave cities and I let my parents book first. After they got their tickets, I cross referenced them with my Eurail app and proceeded to buy the matching ones. It was quite interesting, as some of the trains they bought weren’t on Eurail plan (ex. Italo in Italy is not part of the Eurail network) so I had to improvise and buy train tickets that were close to the same arrival and departure times.

Once that was settled, we needed places to stay for the night. I let my parents take the reins on this one, as they booked hotels for all three of us.

 

Arrival

“All roads lead to Rome” – and that is where we decided to meet. I took my overnight train from Munich to Rome, and they took a shuttle from the airport. I arrived two hours earlier than they did so I did some exploring before meeting up with them. We decided that in case the train station Wi-Fi wasn’t working, there would still be a rendezvous place. Notably, this was going to be the McDonald’s in the Roma Termini station. Luckily the Wi-Fi did work, but we still met at the McDonald’s since it was convenient.

 

During the Trip

Plan out some things that you would want to see and see what your parents want to do as well! Things should run pretty smoothly from here, since we’re basically all pros at traveling at this point and can point our parents in the right direction. Gotta keep in mind that they aren’t college kids and won’t do the typical “college” things that we’ve come to expect when traveling.

 

After

I don’t think there’s anything left to do but to give them goodbye hugs and wishes until you see each other again! Or if you’re traveling with them back to the United States, enjoy the trip back to the homeland.