I Went to Munich… Twice!

Written by Serena Khan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Friends

Written by Serena Khan

Diving into Georgia Tech-Europe was like stepping onto a rollercoaster blindfolded with not a single clue who’d be riding with me. I began my journey of finding my people by joining a GroupMe chat ahead of time, trying to see if I could make some connections before actually getting to Metz. Nonetheless, it still felt like I would be walking into a party where everyone’s already paired off into their cliques. I assumed everyone had already found their people which was nerve-racking to say the least.

In a last-minute “what have I got to lose” moment, I started DMing girls on GroupMe who seemed like they’d be down to earth. When I got to the airport to catch the shuttle to Metz, catching sight of other students made me realize most of us were going through the same thing — all of us bound for the same adventure. Bonding happened in the blink of an eye with a couple of girls on our way to Metz, making me feel like maybe I wasn’t in this totally solo. It was just the start, but that spark of hope felt really good.

These past few weeks in Metz have been nothing short of a blast. I now have myself an amazing group of friends that’s all about those uncontrollable laughs and making memories that’ll stick around way longer than any souvenir. This journey without them wouldn’t be the same. The time with them is flying by way too fast, and I’m here trying to live it up as much as I can.

To anyone even half-thinking about studying abroad: just dive in. Once you land, throw yourself into every single event GTE throws your way. Welcome bash, art classes, you name it—each one is a golden ticket to stepping out of that comfort zone and really soaking in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while you’re not spending your weekends traveling.

Feeling jittery about finding your people? I get it. But, surprise, surprise—it turns out connecting with others in a new setting isn’t as tough as it seems. Keeping an open mind and saying ‘yes’ a lot can make a world of difference. Before you know it, the globe feels just a tad smaller, and you’ve found a new family. As my own chapter here is already flying by, I’m just super thankful for the friendships and bonds I have already created. They’ve turned every day and every memory into something monumental.

First Blog of the Semester!!

Written by Serena Khan

It has been a season of new beginnings for me, and little did I know, another one would be just around the corner.

This semester marked a significant new beginning for me as I had just transferred to Georgia Tech. It was a challenge adjusting to a new school, new faces, and a different academic landscape after two years at another college, but it was also an opportunity to grow and adapt. However, another new chapter awaited me in France.

I’ve always romanticized studying abroad and everything about Europe, but I was quickly met with a reality check. My first few weeks in Metz were not without their challenges.

The extreme weather in Metz was definitely unforeseen. I’m usually accustomed to Georgia’s bipolar weather that bounces back and forth between temperatures of all four seasons in just the short span of one week. I found myself in a constant state of the coldest weather I had ever experienced during my first two weeks here. This unanticipated cold, combined with a sense of overwhelming nerves and homesickness, led me to miss orientation, and it was just a mere one-minute Uber ride away, which I hadn’t realized. The gray, depressing atmosphere of the area around our dorm and campus initially dampened my spirits, and I just wanted to be in the comfort of my room back home.

Although the start of this trip abroad was intimidating and honestly anxiety-ridden, I began making friends and exploring beyond the campus. Things started to look up. Even though I knew my study abroad would eventually turn out to be everything I imagined and more, I needed a sign of hope that would erase the negative feelings. My first night exploring Metz with a group of people I had just met turned out to be that sign. It was the first time it actually hit me that I was in Europe. Taking in all the intricacies of the architecture, the lively streets, and just navigating through a new city without any familiarities was a surreal feeling. For the first time, I am managing all aspects of travel planning without my parents, who always organized every detail of our family trips. This independence is both new and intimidating, but it’s a challenge I’m learning to embrace.

Now, here’s the pièce de résistance: I have an extra-special reason to be excited to be here. My 14-year-old brother, a budding soccer star, is on the path to making his dreams come true, as he takes his first steps towards greatness playing for the Ja Drancy soccer club in France. From January to June, you’ll find me cheering on the sidelines, with all the enthusiasm of a proud sibling. It’s more than just a soccer game; it’s a testament to diligence, hard work, and chasing after your dreams.

The main factor that influenced my decision to study in Metz is the proximity to my dad and brother living in Drancy. Having the chance to be there for my brother’s soccer journey is something that fills me with so much joy and pride.

But what I’m anticipating the most is traveling across Europe with my newfound friends. As I travel from country to country via train, I welcome every hurdle and obstacle with open arms. Italy, Spain, Prague, and more await me, each with its own unique charm and stories to be uncovered. These trips will broaden my lens on the world, offering me fresh perspectives and a chance to create unforgettable memories.

So, here’s to embracing the adventure, to campus life in Metz, to experiencing the true essence of France, to cheering on my little brother as he chases his dreams, and to welcoming these new beginnings with open arms. Together, we’ll explore the heart of Europe, one train ride at a time, and create a unique blend of stories and experiences to cherish forever.

Meet Serena!

Written by Serena Khan, Spring 2024 GTE Blogger

Hey there! My name is Serena Khan. I am a recent transfer student from Georgia State University. My major is Business Administration with a concentration in IT management at the Scheller College of Business. I am currently navigating my academic journey while also attempting to pursue my passions!

Fashion is my playground! I thoroughly enjoy curating outfits and love to play around and change up my style whenever I get the chance. When I’m not doing schoolwork, you’ll also find me immersed in various types of cinema, ranging from classics to the latest releases. Recently, my brother and I have been bonding over the animated gems of Studio Ghibli, including Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

As I make my way to France, I eagerly anticipate watching my younger brother, (my favorite person ever), showcase his soccer skills in Drancy, France. This adventure also opens up the opportunity to delve into the rich fashion culture of France as well as other fashion capitals like Milan, Italy. Another destination I can’t wait to travel to is Amsterdam. As a nightlife enthusiast, it’ll be exciting to see what Amsterdam has to offer.

Join me as I share my adventures, from soccer matches in Drancy to fashion explorations in Italy, and the electric nightlife of Amsterdam!

Closing Words

Written by Valerie Rosas

As I reflect on my semester abroad from the comfort of my own home, I think back to where I started. Everything has a beginning, and, as you know, mine began with a postcard. I hope to have inspired someone just as much, if not more, than that postcard inspired me. If a spark was not created through my words, then it may have been through my photographs.  

It has been an honor to be this semester’s Georgia Tech-Europe blogger. I was gifted with the ability to influence a diverse community, whether it be a second-year mechanical engineering major or a young girl in high school eagerly hoping and dreaming to be able to call herself a Yellow Jacket one day. It has truly been a privilege to be in this position and share my story on this platform. Even though my “story” in question only consists of the last four months of my life, it encompasses so much more than that. Under the surface, you can hear the voice of a grandfather telling his granddaughter that she has now seen and done more than any other member of their family or watch the tears roll down an immigrant mother’s face as she reassures her sacrifice was not done in vain. A low-income, first-generation Latina made it to France and back. This blog is her testimony. 

Since I have been back home, so many people have asked me how my experience was. I find myself struggling to find an answer every time. How does one answer such a grand question with a simple response about a four-month-long roller coaster of an experience? The answer is you can’t. I always end up going on a tangent whether I choose to focus on what my greatest takeaway was or what my favorite city was. However, the best way for me to properly portray how I feel about the experience is through the depiction of light.  

Light has many symbolic meanings dating back to ancient times. It has been thought to symbolize life, understanding, intelligence, etc. “Light is one of the oldest and most meaningful symbols, found in cultures and religions worldwide…… in Hinduism, light has a special significance, especially during Diwali or the ‘Festival of Lights’ when the triumph of light over darkness is celebrated,” according to The National Gallery in London. On the other hand, darkness is thought to symbolize things like emptiness, ignorance, sorrow, and death. As my time at Georgia Tech-Europe went along, it was like the brightness scale on my life went up. I saw things more clearly, in technicolor, and brighter. The personal growth I experienced in my life is being portrayed by light. The symbolic representation of the gradual increase in light and color slowly reveals how I have developed as an individual. 

I can’t stress enough how rich in value this experience was. I discovered what truly makes me happy, what I cherish the most as a constant in my life. Similarly, I noticed what I took for granted and the size of the void it would create. I learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Living abroad forced me to be more independent than I had ever been before, but it also taught me the importance of balance. Living alone showed me how to be self-sufficient and care for myself and my needs without being able to rely on others like my parents. On the contrary, being in that kind of vulnerable state requires that you also recognize when it’s time to seek help. Whether it was through highs or lows, we were rewarded with many fruitful lessons. There is merit in overcoming setbacks such as the fortification of resilience and strength. It took me what felt like an eternity to get acclimated to my new lifestyle abroad. Everyone around me looked so happy to be there when inside I felt like I couldn’t adjust to it. However, this showed me the value of intrinsic motivation and the power of a positive mentality that led me to believe I could face the unknown with a newfound confidence. Sometimes in life, the most intimidating opportunities can be the most rewarding and a leap of faith could take you there. 

The Photograph

Written by Valerie

As the GTE blogger for this semester, I have been able to take my love for photography and give it a new purpose. After a couple of years of photography lessons, I was able to work on my skills and begin doing photoshoots for people’s special events. Being able to see the looks on people’s faces when they saw themselves captured in the way they imagined it is one of the most satisfying things I have been able to do for others. However, knowing that my blogs with my photos mixed within could help or even inspire a single soul is even more fulfilling. I gained my love for the art of photography when my dad gifted me my first digital camera for Christmas at the age of fifteen. I would like to share my thoughts and admiration for the craft. 

Everything has to have a beginning. Just like the camera had its beginning and evolution, so do people. The camera and its functions capture that evolution. “The magic of the camera, the enchantment of photographic technology may precisely lie in its believed capacity to capture the spirit of a place [and] create copies imbued with the power of the original place visited,” as stated in The Framed World by authors Robinson, Mike, and Picard. For tourists and people alike, taking a photograph is an event in itself that turns into an everlasting story. “It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with our words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it,” as mentioned in Ways of Seeing by Berger, John, and Dibb. When sharing travel photography, there is always a level of enchantment to it. It starts with the feeling you had when you first spotted the frame of the photo, the sensation when you took it, and then there is the joy you get from sharing that experience with someone, which could manifest an interest in them to pursue similar knowledge or experiences.  

“A photograph captured every detail and was considered more truthful than a manually made picture,” as stated in From Snapshots to Social Media by Sarvas, Risto, and Frohlich. Prior to recent advancements in technology, people believed that a photograph was the most unbiased and authentic form of communication. However, with all the new technological innovations this may not be as true. Despite all, since the creation of the camera, it has been a beloved art among all. 

Everyone has different talents and interests, but I hope that everyone who views these blogs can enjoy them half as much as I enjoyed creating them. A single photograph has the power to influence the world, but I only aspire to influence those who visit the Georgia Tech-Europe blog page in hopes of learning more.

 

The Semester For You 

Written by Valerie

If you are considering studying at Georgia Tech-Europe or any other study abroad program, picking the right semester for yourself is important. There are many things to evaluate, such as your classes, extracurriculars, career opportunities, etc. I am a little biased toward the fall semester as the ideal semester to go abroad to GTE, but I would like to discuss all the options. 

The summer semester is the most popular semester for students attending GTE according to my program director. The lack of conflict with the traditional fall and spring semesters is very appealing. Additionally, you only have to be enrolled in a minimum of 10 credit hours which means you have a smaller workload to balance as you travel. The summer semester is also shorter than any of the other semesters, meaning it’s a shorter time commitment if you don’t want to be away from home that long. Separate from school, the weather is always warm and sunny during that season, which is perfect for the amount of time you will be spending outside. 

In the spring semester, you get to start with winter and then end with the spring season, which could be a nice transition and an incredible way to start the new year. All the flowers will begin to bloom, and it will be warm and colorful all around as May approaches. In terms of academics, a different set of courses could be offered in the spring that are specific to that semester, but course offerings can vary every year. To be able to enjoy a semester filled with schoolwork and travel then go back home to enjoy summer vacation would be a great way to reset. 

Lastly, there is the fall semester — the best semester in my opinion. You have plenty of time to prepare for the start of the semester since you are coming in from summer vacation. The weather is nice and warm but not too hot since the months of intense heat have already come and gone. You get to enjoy traveling without the huge crowds of tourists visiting Europe, which often make the prices of accommodations and flights very expensive. You can see what Europe is like at the very end of the summer, the entirety of fall, and just a little of what the beginning of the winter season looks like. I am a huge fan of the holidays, and Europe is riddled with heavily decorated streets and holiday markets. There is a vast selection of picturesque destinations that will make you feel like you are in a Christmas Hallmark movie, such as a ski resort in Switzerland or a chimney cake stand at a Christmas market in Budapest. 

Regardless of the semester you choose, you will have the time of your life. Enjoy the moment and do what is best for you and your journey. 

London Called and We Answered 

Written by Valerie

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is Forever 

Written by Valerie

In my blogs, I have gone on and on about how this experience has turned me into a new person in the few months I have been at GTE. Even though I have talked about it plenty in the past, I could still keep sharing about it. However, this blog is provided on behalf of an exceptional educational institution for the brilliant minds that attend it. So, I would like to address a variety of applications a study abroad experience could have for your future. 

Perhaps the most obvious one would be that it could go on your resume. The Georgia Tech Career website has a detailed resume writing guide that I relied on heavily when making my first resume. Recently as I geared up for this season of applying for internships for the upcoming summer, I noticed their template had an optional location for any study abroad experience. Additionally, during the resume-building unit in my GT 1000 class freshman year, two of our team leaders explained the benefits of having that information on a resume through their own personal experiences. Their international study programs also created endless conversation topics between them and their interviewers. Overall, it puts some amazing attributes on display. 

In an internship or job as well as in daily life, you will be able to apply an enhanced set of skills. A broadened perspective and diverse cultural understanding will resonate when you are placed in a situation where you have to collaborate with any group of people. Whether it is in a classroom, in an office, or even in a grocery store, fostering respect and understanding with the people you are working alongside allows for successful synergy. Taking this concept a step further, I highly recommend everyone take part in the ICEBERG Intercultural Learning Series hosted by the Office of International Education. I participated in it during the fall of my freshman year, and I loved it! Not even knowing it at the time, I enhanced my mindset for the international experience I would soon embark on at GTE. As stated on the Georgia Tech website, “this program addresses various topics, including improving communication abilities, developing intercultural skills, and navigating cultural differences.” For the cherry on top, once you pass the program, you earn a blockchain credential that you can display on your LinkedIn profile! 

Lastly, the problem-solving and adaptability skills you will have fortified by the time you return from GTE will prepare you to confidently tackle any challenges you may face in your life. Like many wise people before me have said, material things can come and go, but your knowledge will stay with you forever. 

The Garden

Written by Valerie

From my window, I have a clear view of the garden behind the Lafayette Residences. There are a few picnic tables where anyone can sit and enjoy some time outside. While the weather was still warm, I would often go outside, sit at one of those picnic tables, and do some schoolwork. It quickly became my favorite study spot. Now that my nose gets runny from the cold every time that I spend more than ten minutes outside, I can no longer enjoy that study spot as I did before. 

One day when I was studying outside at that spot, I decided to take a brief break and walk around the garden. Everything ranging from vegetables to colorful flowers grows in there. As I was inspecting the flora, I stumbled upon an interesting sight. There lay a small green tomato atop a dainty purple flower. The flower almost looked like a pillar holding the tomato up in the air. It was hands down one of the funniest coincidences I have seen in nature, so of course I had to take a picture of it. 

Even though it’s no Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or other sight that has people flocking to snap a picture, there is beauty in it. As students studying abroad, we see some of the greatest wonders the world has to offer. Historical landmarks, religious architecture, and unique geological formations are among some of the weekly sights we encounter. The bar for what we deem ‘impressive’ may be raised continuously as we go through our semester abroad. 

Every time I look, or even think, about the image of the tomato placed perfectly on top of the flower, I am reminded not to forget to admire the beauty and wonder in the little things. It doesn’t always have to be something like a 1,083 ft. tall tower that sparks our interest. Just like the saying goes, “There is beauty in everything around us,” it is only a matter of recognizing it. 

While everything we have seen on our journey here has left a lasting impression on all of us, we will be back home soon. We will have to continue life and live the parts of it where we will be surrounded by different environments. Those constantly changing environments will provide us with another multitude of things to admire. The real privilege is in being able to stop and have these moments. Taking some time to gaze at the stars seems mundane and common since we could, in theory, do it every night. However, you wouldn’t want to be in a regretful situation where you look up and can’t see them.