Enchantée! I’m Swati, a third year Computer Science student at Georgia Tech! Some quick words to describe me: storyteller. memory-collector. people-watcher. reader. stargazer. sunset enthusiast. I feel most at home in bookstores and art museums. I also love learning languages, drinking tea (and hot chocolate), writing, and exploring new places. My number one plan of business in anywhere I travel: find the local gems! Throughout my time in Europe I hope to catch some sunsets, visit museums and historical sites, and stumble into serendipitous adventures. I’m so excited to take you all along for the ride as I explore France and the nearby European countries for the first time! Join me as I fumble my way through multiple countries where I have an elementary proficiency of the languages, navigate my early twenties on a new continent, and try to soak up the opportunity of a lifetime! As the French say, Ce n’est pas la mer à boire (It’s not as if you have to drink the sea. Yes, I looked that up.)
Here’s to taking baby steps and starting now!
Indubitably the best things on planet Earth: freshly bloomed flowers, waterways, chocolate chip cookie dough, strawberries, ginger ale, dangly earrings, wool trench coats, citrus flavoring, the color lavender, keshi, the smell of bookstores, and a cup of hot tea in hand after a long day.
Paris, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Je t’aime de tout mon cour. I love you with all my heart. I love you not only for what you are but for what you’ve unlocked in me. I could tell you about every interaction I’ve had with a French person, or the relief I felt at finding a familiar face from Georgia Tech. But as I look back on my first week at Georgia Tech Europe, I can amount this experience thus far with a few of my internal thoughts: I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I’m doing it. I’ve always been a limit tester. How far can I push myself? How much can I grow? At any moment I’m always asking myself, “Am I getting too comfortable here?” Those were the questions that unlocked this adventure and even now I can’t believe I boarded a plane across the world all alone. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, made with microwaved water from European pipes, admittedly a bit odd tasting, but I realize that pieces of familiarity can be found anywhere. At this moment I feel invincible. I retell stories with a hint of humor to friends back in Atlanta, knowing that at the moment I felt so out of my element in a country I’ve grown more accustomed to. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Upon my arrival, I could only string together a simple: Bonjour, je m’appelle Swati, enchantee. But within hours of arriving, I was stringing together poorly formed sentences from words I caught on signage and eavesdropping at the airport. Pardon, ou est le baggage? I mumbled to an unsuspected border patrol agent who explained I’d have to get through border patrol first. Hm. Guess I’d conveniently forgotten about that one. Pushing down the embarrassment from that interaction, I wait patiently in line until I get a stamp on my passport and head over to grab my suitcase, pleased to find it waiting for me as I walk up to the carousel. The pieces are falling in place so smoothly, it’s a bit unnerving. For my life at least, it’s been a bit more tumultuous than most, entirely due to user error. Luckily I found a new friend by baggage claim, Hugh, who thankfully was able to navigate us over to the airport shuttle that took us to our respective hotels. I’ve never been so glad to show up a day early for something. Moments later I found a group of ten GTE students sitting in the lobby of the Ibis hotel. After locating 2 other students who had early check ins, we piled our suitcases in their rooms and set out for the heart of Paris. It still didn’t hit me. It didn’t hit me for hours. It didn’t hit me when I saw signage in front of stores all in French. It didn’t hit me at Notre Dame. It didn’t even hit me when I stutter out “Un pain au chocolat s’il vous plaît,” to a French bakery owner who responds in English, “Cash or card?”
Then suddenly we’re walking along the Seine and it hits me all at once. This is the city of love stories and songs, where youth flourishes and shines juxtaposed against the cloudy, rainy city in the winter. This is the city where I will spread my wings. And here I am. Standing with a group of strangers that might very well soon become my new best friends. Haphazardly snapping pictures, taking in the streets, the sights, the smells, the sounds, everything I can possibly cram into my brain. It’s in moments like these that I wish I had photographic memory. On our long wandering of the streets we look out at an overpass on the Seine as a piano accordion hums in the background. Nothing has ever felt so French, or quite so sweet. We see the green street stalls filled with art and books and trinkets that fold neatly into locked boxes overlooking the Seine and wander our way over to the Louvre. The Louvre. Filled with art from thousands of years ago, long acclaimed, long loved, long admired. The Winged Victory is mere feet away and I feel the same way she does. Sat in front of the glass pyramid, I feel triumphant. Victorious. The outside of the Louvre is almost as beautiful as I’m sure the pieces of art are inside. The smoky French air and traces of conversations in Italian and Korean and English remind me of how far this city’s influence reaches. In my wanderings, I swear to come back for the street berets and the list of art and history museums I’ve had saved for ages. For now, I’m pleased to take it all in through the looking glass. Next comes the rookie mistake. We trek the 3.5 kilometers, a little more than 2 miles, over to the Eiffel Tower, a journey that leaves me a little worse for wear. About halfway there my feet start throbbing, and there’s nothing I would like more than a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate, but nevertheless we persist. Upon reaching the great monument, I find it a bit lackluster, but only from the tiredness settling into my bones. I grab a dark, semi-sweet hot chocolate at a cart near the Eiffel Tower and it satisfies the #1 goal of my first day in Paris. After a successful bout of staying awake for a little more than 36 hours, we hop back on the metro headed for our hotels and some sweet, sweet sleep. And showers. We need those.
I’ll admit it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it’s neither of those two things. How is it possible that it rains almost everyday and I have yet to see a rainbow? Regardless, it’s cloudy and rainy, sleepy and romantic, cozy in its own way. Paris, and later Metz, remind me a lot of Seattle, cozy and calm, sleepy towns full of possibilities, that have each stolen away pieces of my heart. And to the greater European landmass: I accept the grand adventure that awaits me.
My initial trip to France was a whirlwind, and I was not sure that I was going to arrive on time and with all my things. I spent the summer interning in Seattle, Washington, but the day after my internship ended, I was on a plane headed to Newfoundland, Canada. I spent two weeks biking across the island with Georgia Tech’s Outdoor Recreation program. From there, I flew to Washington, D.C. where I met my dad who was waiting patiently with my luggage which I had prepacked and shipped from Seattle. I flew to Paris immediately, without even saying goodbye to my family. Afterwards, I dealt with TSA, customs, jetlag, and locating the GTL Shuttle. As I sat down in the Shuttle with all my belongings, I was relieved that all my travel plans were executed successfully, although it tiring to go through. Then, it started to dawn on me: I was finally in France!
The past three years have been building to this one moment. During my first year at Georgia Tech, I applied and was accepted to GTL for the summer. Unfortunately, it was canceled due to COVID-19. The next year, I planned to study abroad once more during the Fall semester, but I received a last-minute internship which I decided to take instead. Well, you know what they say: third time’s the charm! And for me, it was! After all the planning and purchasing of the Eurail passes and plane tickets, I started to get exhausted from stressing over all the disjunct pieces in my travel plans, wondering if it would all work out perfectly. I completely forgot to look around and just be thankful that I was here. Once I took that step back, I was full of pure happiness. While I know that busy travel days and exhausting weekdays await me, I am so excited to get out of my comfort zone and experience all that Europe has to offer me!
View outside my plane arriving into France. Even the farmlands are laid out differently. In the US, it’s a grid system, but here is more anarchy.
After a four-hour bus ride, the shuttle dropped us off at my Lafayette dorm room: a small room without air-conditioning located on the first floor. A pizza party was thrown for all the GTL students, and a couple of my newfound friends went out for €0.50 coffee from a vending machine and ice cream. My lack of French hit me as I stepped up to the dessert bar cashier. “Je voudrais une… chocolate ice cream… s’il vous plaît?” I attempted – butchering the words. Thankfully, the cashier understood my attempt and helped me with my pronunciation. Even though I was initially unsuccessful, I was over my fear of speaking French, and I look forward to the opportunity to redeem myself in the future.
A well-earned ice cream
In just this first week, I have been able to explore the cities of Metz and Luxembourg. On first impression, what struck out to me was the many cultural differences that I did not expect. I figured that Europe was more fashionable than the United States (hello– Paris fashion week), but I did not expect it in the airport and grocery stores. For Europeans, pants and red-tinted sunglasses are more favorable when compared to jeans, shorts, and black tinted sunglasses, in the U.S.. Other oddities which struck me as well: groceries and restaurants are much cheaper here than in the states; however, items such as batteries and gas are more expensive. The public bathroom (or WC) is not free, usually costing around 0,50 €- 1€. I was astounded when I was charged 4,50€ for a bottle of water at a restaurant in Luxembourg. It was more expensive than soft drinks and alcohol. When entering a grocery store, you must bag your backpacks in plastic to prevent theft of items. You also must scan self-checkout receipts to exit! While the differences are small, they add up.
Me in Paris at the Pont Neuf Bridge and my stylish gummy bear earrings. If this didn’t fit in with French couture, I don’t know what would.
Overall, France and Luxembourg have been amazing to explore these first few weeks. However, I am so excited to continue traveling and see as many sights as I can. I think the activity that I am most excited for is hiking along the ridge lines of the Alps in Switzerland. I cannot wait to continue to travel in weeks to come, so I can learn more about European culture outside of France!
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
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.
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.
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!
Packing for a semester abroad can be mildly stressful and usually ends with several rounds of packing and unpacking to squeeze everything in (yet something important always goes forgotten). If only there was someone to give you tips on how to successfully pack for your semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine… luckily for you Kaitlyn is here! Read her packing tips and tricks for successfully packing for your semester abroad on her latest blog post!
Thursday, March 4, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn
After being at GTL for about a month and a half and talking to others about their adjustment to life in France, I’ve compiled a list of things that are useful to bring with you to GTL, or anything that you might be better off leaving at home.
Buy the three month Global Eurail pass.
Personally, I spent a lot of time deliberating over whether or not to drop a large sum of cash on the three month Eurail pass, but in the end I believe I went with the right decision. The flexibility that the pass gives you is invaluable; plans change and emergencies happen. Additionally, Metz is situated in a location that can be awkward for plane travel, as the nearest major airports are either in Paris or Luxembourg (which you probably will have to travel to by, you guessed it, train). This makes train travel usually the most convenient way to get around. Many students also recommend getting the mobile pass rather than the physical pass, as it can be easy to lose the paper copy.
Bring waterproof clothes and shoes!
Metz can be very rainy, especially in the winter. It’s worth it to invest in shoes that double as rain boots and casual wear (so you don’t take up too much space in your luggage for a single-purpose item).
Research your favorite items that are difficult to get in Europe.
This could be anything that is something you simply can’t live without. For example, one of my friends is a huge fan of peanut butter, which she later discovered is rather unpopular in Europe. This led to a trip to the Costco in Paris, the only place where we could find large quantities of quality peanut butter. If you’re particular about your stationery, it’s worthwhile to note that notebooks in France are completely different from American ones. Additionally, some spices that you might like to put on your cooking might be hard to find in Europe.
Bring decorations or things that remind you of home.
While it may seem like GTL students are never in their dorms and constantly on the go, we actually still stay in our rooms for a decent amount of time during the week, especially now due to the pandemic. Since the dorms are pretty much barren, it’s nice to have a little something to put up on your walls that make it feel a little cozier.
Try to bring a contactless credit card.
It seems like contactless credit cards are a lot more commonplace in Europe than in America, and some places even only take these types of cards (most notably, Lafayette laundry).
Don’t bring bulky items that could easily be purchased at Cora or Auchan.
For example, don’t bother bringing hair products like shampoo and conditioner– these can all be bought very easily once you get to Metz. Along the same line, at the beginning of the semester you’ll have access to a donation pile of goods left by previous students, so save your shopping for larger items until after that.
A new semester brings a new Georgia Tech-Lorraine blogger! Meet Kaitlyn, the GTL blogger for this spring as she introduces herself and her anticipation to study abroad in Metz!
Friday, January 5, 2020 | Written by Kaitlyn
Bonjour à tous!
According to Google Translate, that means “hello everyone!” en Français. Unfortunately, my only experience with the French language is half a year of classes… from middle school. The irony in the fact I chose to study Spanish for four years, but am studying abroad in France, is not lost on me.
Anyways, hello! My name is Kaitlyn. I’m a second-year industrial engineering major, who like most of the other students enrolled at Georgia Tech-Lorriane this semester, has been looking forward to this opportunity for as long as I can remember. Since my older sister studied abroad in Italy two years ago, I’ve been dead set on studying abroad as well. When I was searching for colleges to apply to for my undergraduate degree, an outstanding study abroad program was a must. Luckily for me, Georgia Tech has exactly that.
Under normal circumstances, this upcoming semester would be remarkable. I feel that this year, with unusual circumstances, is going to be, although quite different, especially remarkable. This past semester, I chose to stay home and take my classes remotely. While I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the comforts of the at-home life (where I can attend classes in my pajamas), it has overall been… interesting. Plus, being at home all of the time has just made me that much more excited to have the opportunity to get out there and travel this semester.
When I was younger, my thoughts on France were very stereotypical; i.e, believing Paris was the only city and thinking that all France had to offer was baguettes and berets. This line of thinking was also perpetuated by an actual visit to Paris that my family took when I was 11 years old.
Being so young, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the places my parents took me to, and instead fixated on simple things like seeing pretty buildings and eating good food (not to say that I won’t still appreciate those things when I go there this time).
This time around, I am looking forward to discovering the places in France 11-year-old me didn’t know existed, particularly Metz. While I’m sure I will still be drawn to the “touristy” places, I am excited to spend my four months in Metz exploring and seeing all that the small city has to offer. I am a firm believer in taking the road less traveled, and I plan on implementing that belief during my time abroad.
Whether it be through making new friends, exploring an unknown city thousands of miles away from home, or attempting to communicate with locals, I am beyond excited to use this time to further my global perspective. I will be far away from the comforts of home, and it is only given that I will experience personal growth and make progress on discovering my niche in the world. It’s amazing to think that soon I’ll be somewhere so different from home. Until then, don’t worry — I’ll be practicing my French.
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.
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:
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 GEORGIA TECH-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 Georgia Tech-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.
QUICK TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MOVE TO GEORGIA TECH- 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 Georgia Tech-Lorraine has.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.