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Category: 2018-Fall Page 1 of 4

Looking Back on the Se-Metz-ter

How could I end my time at Georgia Tech Lorraine with anything other than a bad pun? I can’t believe that the semester is already over, it seems to have flown by so quickly. Now that I’m back at home in the USA, it practically feels like I never even left—I’d almost believe that GTL was one long, crazy, wonderful dream if I didn’t have the pictures that proved otherwise! Thankfully, it wasn’t a dream, and I’m so thankful for the friends I’ve made, the memories I have, and the growth I’ve experienced that I know will last.

At Mont-Saint-Michel on my very first weekend trip!

This semester, I rode on a total of 64 trains and 4 flights, visited 10 countries (8 of which I’d never been to before), took 5 classes and 16 exams, and consumed more baguettes than I’m comfortable counting, all over the course of 17 weeks. It was definitely a whirlwind! More important than the numbers, though, is the quality of the incredible experiences I had. There were the big, exciting events, like visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, climbing a mountain, or spending a day in the Lego House. Then there were also the more everyday things, like the food eaten, games played, conversations had, and the many, many jokes laughed at. There were the hours spent in the library and in the student lounge at GTL, and the interesting things learned—from delving into society’s relationship with technology, to calculating that yes, wearing a tin foil hat actually would shield you from certain electromagnetic wave frequencies. All these things together—the highs and the lows, the big things and the small—helped to make my abroad experience as great as it was!

Sarah and I, halfway up the Schilthorn summit in Switzerland!

Laughing at dinner in Portugal over the long break 🙂

As to what I would have done differently, in general, I wish that I had taken more opportunities to push my own limits. Many of the experiences that I’m most grateful for or where I feel like I learned the most are where I was outside of my comfort zone: experiences like practicing my French “in the field,” or speaking to strangers and learning about their country and culture. (Not to mention hiking up a mountain; that was several thousand feet above my comfort zone!) I can think of many instances where I painstakingly composed sentences in French, about to pose a question or try my hand (tongue?) at a conversation, but chickening out at the last second. It may have saved me a couple of trips to Auchan, as well as given me a huge confidence boost, if I had only plucked up the courage to ask a stranger, “Excuse me, do you know where the bouillon cubes are?” Similarly, striking up conversations with people I didn’t know, while intimidating, usually resulted in an interesting conversation where I learned something new about the country or culture I was visiting. The funny thing is, every time I did go for it in these scenarios, I never regretted it. The worst thing that can happen is that someone won’t understand you or they won’t respond, which, although awkward, otherwise has no negative impact on you whatsoever. Bottom line: with things like these, if it scares you, you should probably go for it!

My blue octopus creation at the LEGO House in Denmark!

Although I regret never taking a solo trip to explore a new place on my own, I’m glad that I took a couple of weekends in Metz just for me when I needed to slow down and relax. GTL is filled with lots of fun and excitement, but all that activity gets pretty tiring, so I would recommend setting aside enough time to recuperate. Plus, Metz is such a beautiful city anyway that it’s a wonderful place to spend your time! Studying at Fox Café, walking along the Moselle, and taking in the Metz Cathedral are just a few of the activities you can do that are both fun and a relaxing break from the frequently fast pace of weekend travels.

I can’t even count how many great experiences that I’m grateful I had over the course of this semester. I’m really glad that I visited such a variety of countries that I’d never seen before, and that I had the chance to experience and learn about a wide breadth of cultures. On a more everyday note, I’m also happy that I branched out in the cooking department and tried lots of new recipes—my favorite dish that I made was Thai coconut chicken soup! I do wish that I had gotten to know more people better; there are tons of amazing people at GTL that I wish I had the chance to spend more time with. At the same time, though, I’m really glad that I got to know the people that I did spend lots of time with so well. (And that I’ve accumulated so many funny pictures of them sleeping on trains!)

 I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to come to GTL and experience how amazing it is. I know I’ll treasure these memories for life. Thanks so much for following along with me on this journey, and best of luck to any future GTL students reading—I hope you’re ready to have the experience of a lifetime!

My GTL Experience

The first week in Metz!

When I stepped off the plane and landed in France for the first time, I had no idea of what to expect. Immediately that first day, I was in a shock: I was surrounded by people speaking French, rushing through border control to get my luggage, and arriving at the Lafayette dorms exhausted from traveling. Little did I know, that first day would be the beginning of an important moment in my life, one that I will never forget. Since the beginning of Georgia Tech Lorraine, I had the opportunity to grow as an engineering student, a young woman, and as a traveler.

My dream trip to Paris!

 

Ever since I was younger, I dreamed of doing something exciting with my life, inventing things as an engineer, and traveling the world. Originally being from a small town in Louisiana, I always wanted to get out and see what the world had to offer. My acceptance into Georgia Tech was my first ticket to seeing more of just that. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that Georgia Tech would not just give me one ticket, but two: attending Georgia Tech Lorraine. This semester I was able to accomplish one of my greatest goals of traveling to Europe. While studying abroad in France, I was able to travel to 10 countries and over 20 cities. Through my travels, I was able to gain a better understanding of people from different cultures, develop a better perspective of the world, learn about and experience different traditions, make memories of a lifetime, and learn more about the countries I traveled to. Since starting the program, I became more adaptable and flexible to change as well; I no longer feel I need to know everything or plan every step to feel secure or have a great time while traveling.

Kayaked for the first time in my life. My smile does not show how much my arms were sore from paddling.

London!

I sprinted to catch trains, took tours around cities, slid down a mountain in a metal slide, kayaked in one of the biggest lakes in Switzerland, danced around Spain, and stood in front of the Anne Frank House. Some of my favorite memories from studying abroad were my trip to Switzerland, getting to see the Berlin Wall, climbing up the Eiffel Tower, standing in a crowd of people to see changing of the guards in London, and eating the most delicious fries and waffles in Belgium. The memories I made abroad will be some of the greatest ones of my twenty-somethings.

Coming to GTL, I knew I was going to have some great opportunities to travel, however, I was not expecting to grow as much as an engineer. I would say that this semester has been one of my most challenging ones yet. Throughout my time at GTL, I took courses in Deformable Bodies, Fluid Mechanics, System Dynamics, and Statistics and Probability. I was challenged, I was corrected, and I became a better future engineer because of it. Even though my classes were challenging, they were exciting because most of them were explicitly for my major and all the content from the preliminary courses I had taken were combining together to make more conceptual sense.

Where the Berlin Wall used to stand. One of my historical-rich and heart-touching trips!

There are some things I wish I would have done differently at the beginning of my semester at GTL. First things first, remember why you are at GTL; most people would say they are there for travel and school. However, at the beginning of the semester, the school part does not seem as important because you are in a new exciting place in Europe and are making travel plans to visit other countries, which is great! Something I wish I would have done differently was studying more before my weekend travels, do work on the train rides, and learn my teacher’s testing strategies earlier on. Another piece of advice that is important and rarely discussed

Fall break in Spain and Portugal!

is being flexible with the people you travel with. I can honestly say in the beginning, I was more focused on who I was traveling with than where I wanted to go. Do not be afraid to travel with another trustworthy group or person who may not be your best friend, because trust me, others will carry on with their plans, and you may miss out on a weekend of travels.

The most important part about traveling around Europe are the destinations, and you may even become friends with other people with being more flexible with your travel group! Also when traveling in Europe, I highly recommend getting a Eurail pass if you plan on traveling almost every weekend or want to catch trains often. It really paid off to have one for convenience and was a large cost saving on transportation. Another piece of advice for studying abroad would be to set a hard budget before getting to France; for every trip, you should calculate a projected cost of that trip and extras such as groceries and shopping. Trust me when I say the cost of living in France and traveling will add up quickly if you do not watch your spending. My last piece of advice is the most crucial: have the time of your life! Ask yourself, how many times will you be in Europe in your twenties with no commitments besides to pass a few classes? Remember that this experience is supposed to be fun and challenging, so make sure every day you find the good in the experience and to enjoy yourself.

Thanks for tuning into my study abroad journey!

During this program, I have made memories of a lifetime, grown as a person and student, and have been challenged beyond measures I never thought I would be. Coming to GTL, I would have never expected to be able to travel to as many countries as I did, or grow as much as I have. Studying abroad is truly a life-changing experience; from being abroad I have learned how to budget better, be stronger emotionally, be quicker to react to certain situations, make the most out of every moment, and have the time of my life. Thank you for keeping up with my study abroad adventures this semester. With this being my last blog post of the semester, I must best wishes and au revoir!

‘Tis the Season for Christmas in Metz

The iconic ferris wheel near the Cathedral.

We have reached that time in the semester of the season that keeps on giving, and Metz surely knows how to give to its locals the Christmas spirit. Everywhere you walk in Metz in places like coffee shops, grocery stores, and the city itself is decked out in decorations and Christmas cheer is spreading. I have heard from faculty and even some friends of mine that have been to France before that some of the best Christmas markets and festivities from around the world are located in France, one of those happens to be in Metz! I experienced first hand some of the Christmas festivities that Metz has to offer.

The decorations around the Christmas Markets were darling!

I went to the Christmas markets in downtown Metz near the Metz Cathedral. The night air was chilly in the alleyways as other GTL students and I walked along the streets of Metz to the Christmas markets with glee. Once we reached the markets, I was immediately hit with a mixture of wonderful scents filling the air such as apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Walking through the markets I could see couples walking around arm in arm comforting each other for warmth, kids running around getting on amusement rides, and people ice skating holding onto rails to keep themselves from falling on the slippery ice. I felt as if I was in one of those cliché Hallmark Christmas movies! As I continued walking through the market, I decided to try some of the traditional Christmas pastries and drinks. I was able to try a hollow cone-like pastry covered in sugar, and one of the many traditional drinks served warm and ladled from big pots containing the drinks. After all the GTL students and myself got our food and drinks, we ended up trying some of each other’s pastries and enjoying the festivities.

Metz Cathedral in the Night

In the Christmas markets, there are many pastry and food vendors selling a whole variety of food like crepes, beignets, the sugary cone I mentioned, dried fruit, roasted chestnuts, fondue, fish and chips, and cheesy potatoes. Also in the market were little vendors sprinkled throughout selling Santa Claus hats, kids toys, scarves, and handmade gifts for family and friends. This was my first time experiencing a traditional Christmas market, and I really enjoyed it! Some of the other activities that are available in Metz during the Christmas time is the Saint Nicholas Parade, the trail of lanterns, a large Ferris wheel ride which is one of the largest Ferris wheels in Europe, the gourmet market, and the traditions market on Place Saint-Louis.

Being a person that absolutely loves Christmas, I start counting down before Thanksgiving, watch at least one Christmas movie each day during the weekends, and love spreading Christmas cheer – so I thoroughly enjoyed the festivities. Being able to experience the Christmas markets were like a small dream come true because I feel like I finally made it to a Hallmark movie. While GTL is challenging at times with school, travels, and feeling a little homesick during the holiday times, the small community we have formed among ourselves and things such as the Christmas markets help you to feel a bit more at home. As my time at GTL is comes to a close, I hope to experience a Christmas market in another French city – or even when I return back to the United States.

Learning to Cook in Lafayette

Friendos with cinnamon apples, a chocolate mug cake, and vanilla ice cream!

I am always very excited about my mug cakes.

One aspect of Georgia Tech-Lorraine that has been both fun and difficult is cooking my own meals. On the one hand, it’s fun to try to learn new recipes and make and eat new things; on the other hand, the lack of an oven as well as the difficulty of buying a reasonable number of ingredients somewhat limits what one can reasonably make. The thing about cooking is, it’s pretty difficult to make anything substantial just for yourself without resigning to eat only that thing for the rest of the week. Especially because, given the busy travelling schedule of GTL students, we’re usually only in our dorm for three or four nights out of the week anyway, so we have to make sure we eat all our leftovers so they don’t go bad while we’re traveling over the weekend.

Sarah made amazing fajitas, which we had with many yummy toppings!

The solution to this problem that my friends and I have been utilizing lately is to have little mini dinner parties in our dorm rooms! One person will offer to cook for one night of the week and will have a couple of people over to eat whatever they make. This way, everyone gets fed, everyone gets to try a variety of meals, and everyone gets to try their hand at making something new! Sometimes people will contribute different things—one person will make the main course, but others will bring side dishes, little appetizers, desserts, or the ubiquitous and always yummy baguette. All this combined with good conversation or a card or board game makes for a night full of fun and deliciousness!

One of my favorite things to contribute to dinners are microwave mug desserts. Upon arriving at GTL, I knew that the lack of an oven meant I would be utilizing the microwave a lot, so I bought a cookbook that has a bunch of recipes just for mugs in microwaves! There’s one recipe for a melty chocolate mug cake that I’ve made several times—it only takes five minutes and it tastes amazing served with vanilla ice cream.

Itzel had already taken a bite when I asked for a photo to prove to my mom that I’ve actually been cooking.

Unfortunately, we can’t use this system every night. We’re still GTL students, so many evenings, we don’t have enough time to spend cooking big meals because we’re working on homework or labs. On these nights, the leftovers problem becomes a convenience instead. I’ll often eat leftovers of a big meal or pasta on busy nights like this, or I’ll make a sandwich out of a baguette. One of my favorites to make is a light sandwich with tomatoes, brie, pesto, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Sometimes, after a long day at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I won’t feel like cooking at all, so I’ll walk down the street past Paul to the little sandwich shop by the car wash. They make incredible sandwiches right in front of you, and on a fall day a warm sandwich straight from the oven is often just what I need. On the whole, GTL is a great place to get out of your comfort zone and try cooking new things, but after all, this is France—you can find amazing food easily if you look!

What Drives You—An Interview with Timothée Despruniee

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Timothée Despruniee about his time as a graduate student at Georgia Tech Lorraine! This is his first semester at GTL, and he’s studying mechanical engineering. He is also getting a dual degree with one of GT-Lorraine’s partner institutions ENSAM, which stands for Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers.

Tim is on the front right, and his little brother (who is also studying mechanical engineering) is to the left.

At Georgia Tech-Lorraine, Tim is taking three courses on campus and one that is online with a teacher at Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus. He has a bit more additional work due to his double degree with ENSAM, the equivalent of maybe two or three added courses. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s manageable for Tim because he, like some other French students, was in the classes prépas system prior to this. This classes prépas system required 45 hours of presence in class per week, with midterms every Saturday for different courses for at least four hours—this adds up to almost 70-75 hours a week of work! About GT-Lorraine, he says, “It’s a bit difficult, but not too much because there are not so many hours of courses, you just have to work a bit when you’re home. It’s very good, but it’s not as tough for those of us who did classes prépas. We are quite comfortable here, and the teachers are very nice, so that’s pretty cool.”

     I asked him which classes he was taking at Georgia Tech-Lorraine and ENSAM, and he mentioned acoustics and continuum mechanics as some courses he was taking. About the differences between ENSAM and GTL, he said, “At ENSAM, it’s more permeable, I would say. It’s not, ‘this class is about only this and you don’t do anything else,’ it’s a bit broad. I’ve been at ENSAM for two years now and it’s always been like this: a lot of presence in class, but very broad topics. It’s not the same, but it feels refreshing to have courses here since it’s very different from what we’re used to having. It’s less volume in hours and a bit more work at home, but it’s always in the idea of mechanical engineering to conceive, to think.”

When I asked Tim what he’d like to do after he finishes his degree, he talked about “I would want to be in the automobile industry. I’m very passionate about that. Since Georgia Tech is very well known for its mechanical engineering degree, I would want to use it to be able to go to interesting firms like Ford, Tesla, stuff like that. I’m really excited about the fact that the degree is well known, that it’s recognized and that I feel it gives me a lot of tools to be able to be a better engineer in the future.” He also told me about his passion for working on cars: he has a small red car that he’s made some alterations to, and it doesn’t look it, but it can go really fast!

It was great to talk with Tim and to hear about his passion for both mechanical engineering and the automobile industry—best of luck as he finishes the rest of his time at GT-Lorraine!

Some Fun-don in London

In mid-October, we decided to go across the pond and spend the weekend in lovely London! (I’m not sure if “across the pond” can be used for going across any large body of water, but I like the phrase so just bear with me.)

Our trip began with us taking the Eurostar train LITERALLY UNDER THE OCEAN! I still can’t get over how marvelous modern engineering is that somehow, we as a species managed to run a high-speed train under the sea. The Chunnel links France and England under the Strait of Dover, sitting at 250 ft below the sea bed at its lowest point, and with its undersea portion stretching a total of 23.5 miles (37.9 km), the longest of any tunnel in the world. Actually going through the tunnel was pretty underwhelming because, you know, it’s just darkness like any other train tunnel, but thinking about the sheer amount of water that was sitting above us made it more exciting.

The fish and chips to go was a nice idea in theory—in practice it was messy and difficult, but still delicious!

Upon disembarking at St. Pancras station, we were quite hungry, so we decided to walk to a restaurant serving a quintessentially British food: fish & chips. We got our orders to go, but fish & chips proved very difficult to eat without forks and while walking, so we sat down on a deserted curb to have our delicious feast, then took the Tube to our AirBNB.

On Saturday, we had a leisurely morning and ate lunch at the ubiquitous Pret a Manger. (I found it ironic that the classic London fast food chain has a French name.) Then, we went to go see the British Museum. Even without the incredible exhibits it houses, the sheer size of the building was impressive—the center of the museum is a huge open expanse of white marble, with sunlight streaming in through the roof and a massive stone pillar of rooms rising out from the center of the cavernous space. Highlights of our visit included the Rosetta Stone, giant Egyptian statues, and an interactive exhibit about a man mummified thousands of years ago.

Soren showed us the Royal Courts of Justice building in London. The pointed arches and circular window are reminiscent of Gothic cathedrals, which we’ve been studying extensively in HTS 2084 at Georgia Tech Lorraine!

At the museum, we met up with one of my best friends from high school, Soren, who’s currently studying abroad at the London School of Economics! After we were done wandering around the exhibits, he showed us around his campus. We saw his dorms, a couple of lecture halls, and the giant LSE library, among other places. He’s studying there for a year, but he’s only been there for three weeks so far, so it’s a very different feeling for him than for us, who already have two months at GTL under our belt. Seeing how he’s just starting his study abroad experience really made it hit home that we were already halfway done with ours.

Lastly, we decided to go to the famous Brick Lane for dinner to get Indian food! The whole street was filled with different Indian restaurants, with people outside each one trying to entice customers to choose theirs. We chose one based off of reviews we had read beforehand and chose several dishes to share between us, including butter chicken, chana masala, vegetable biryani, and naan, of course.

Hannah and Sarah with our delicious Brick Lane meal!

Overall, we had a marvelous time in London with good friends and good food, and I would love to visit again someday to see more of the bustling but beautiful city!

Never Settle: Meet Michelle George

Michelle George is taking advantage of all Georgia Tech has to offer! As a graduate student at Georgia Tech Lorraine pursuing her Masters in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in systems and controls, also completed her Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. Originally from Massachusetts, when Michelle went to Georgia Tech for her undergraduate degree, it was her first time ever being in the south – and therefore the state of Georgia.

Even though her time at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and being abroad while pursuing her Masters has been fun, she hopes to live in the northeast when she begins working full-time in automation controls. With this being Michelle’s first semester at GTL, it was nice to hear her comparison of going to Georgia Tech in Atlanta and in Metz, France, since she has been exposed to both as an undergraduate and graduate student. She says, “At Georgia Tech in Atlanta, the community is huge in comparison to that of GTL. Here there are much fewer students, and even fewer graduate students so I have been able to get tight with a lot of them. It’s also a really different atmosphere than the campus in Atlanta because it’s more personable, and I get to know all the administrators and teachers more personally. It’s really nice.” She emphasized how much more comfortable she is going to office hours to speak with professors. We both shared how before at the campus in Atlanta, how we would usually not go to office hours, while at GTL it feels much more comfortable to do so. We both agreed that since GTL really has a strong community aspect, class feels less impersonal and we feel more connected with our peers as students.

While at GTL, Michelle has had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places, knocking Cologne, Colmar, Brussels, Zurich, and London off of her travel bucket list! Since traveling around France and Europe, she says that it has helped build more confidence in herself and she has become more comfortable with traveling to different places. Before traveling around France, she would be worried about doing something wrong, not knowing the language, or unintentionally disrespecting others cultures. As she has traveled more, she has overcome those fears and now believes that as long as you try your best and get out of your comfort zone, that’s what truly matters. Michelle has become much more confident than when she first came here – even taking a couple solo trips – and remains determined to travel as much as possible.

Michelle enjoying all that London has to offer!

Something really cool that I learned about Michelle is her interest and appreciation of theatre and the arts. When Michelle is in Atlanta, she usually would volunteer her time at theatres in Atlanta. Since Europe is such a rich place to experience and learn about the arts, Michelle has really tried to take advantage of seeing what it has to offer in Europe and in Metz! When she was in Brussels, she went saw the Belgium National Orchestra. “It was incredible,” she sais. “They had this one soloist that’s insanely good, and he played my favorite piece I never heard before live, and it blew my mind!” It was nice to hear that even though she is studying engineering, which isn’t strongly associated with the arts, she tries to enjoy the theatre and arts when she can.

Michelle George is a fun, hard working young woman that truly goes for it, and doesn’t try to take the easy way out of things. She is passionate about what she likes and what she wants, and will not let anyone stop her. When she isn’t practicing her French, watching operas, traveling, or studying, she is working on staying true to what she wants for her future and not settling.

The Unspoken Challenges of Studying Abroad

The glamorous side of studying abroad that most people see.

Let’s get real for a minute. Studying abroad is amazing, and the glamorous pictures shared with family and friends and on social media may make it seem like a breeze. However, there is a side of studying abroad that many people do not talk about much, and others don’t know about. The cramming in the days before the test after a weekend of travel, grinding out homeworks quickly or even not turning it in on time, and stress of planning trips and staying focused in school all at the same time. The balance is what makes studying abroad challenging at times.

I’m definitely a coffee drinker so sometimes the caffeine helps with the long study days!

Since being at Georgia Tech Lorraine, I have had my fair share of highs and lows when it comes to my school work. However, I was able to quickly learn from my mistakes, and understand what I was personally capable of being able to handle when it came to traveling and school. The purpose of studying abroad is to enjoy being abroad and make the most out of those opportunities – and to be successful in your studies. One of the biggest challenges about studying abroad is being equally committed to both throughout the semester. By being organized, keeping a schedule, working hard, and remembering to do the best I can throughout my studies I have been able to decently handle this challenge, and would like to share some things I did to do so.

A good example of what a typical Thursday night before travels looks like for me: Netflix, dinner, and homework!

When I did have some low points in semester, I realized it was because I was straying away from what works best for me when it came to studying, and was not focusing on understanding the material. During the beginning of the semester I had the mentality that as long as I finished my homeworks each week, I would be perfectly fine. However, after the first round of tests I saw where I could improve: focusing on understanding the material throughout the week, and then letting my homeworks be a way to practice. Something I would highly recommended to save you stress while cramming for a test is to understand the material as much as you can while it is being taught.

Day trips with friends means being able to study more during the weekend.

Some other things that helped me stay on track with my studies was sticking to my old study methods; I tried changing them and regretted it. Personally what works for me is writing on whiteboards my notes and problems, but I know that doesn’t help everyone. Always make sure to do things that work for you! That is key. When other people may go back to the dorms to study, eat, and nap, you may need to be in a more structured environment to study or vice versa, and know that’s perfectly okay. Some other things I recommend doing is eating healthy and decent meals, keeping a checklist or weekly plan of all the things you need to get done, and getting all homeworks and important studying completed before leaving for weekend travels.

I believe balancing school and travel while being abroad is important to have a conversation about. The challenge is a real one, and I feel often isn’t discussed among our peers either out of embarrassment or self regret. It is also important to stay in close contact with family and friends while studying abroad, not only so can discuss your travels, but also to maintain your support system. Regardless of the distance, the people you are closest to will always be there to encourage you and may even help pinpoint ways to help you do better. I know it can be easy to get sucked into the whirlwind while studying abroad, however, I realized that’s where I find my greatest comfort and motivation at times. Also, remember that others studying abroad are going through similar things; you are not alone. While you are studying and grinding out those homeworks, don’t forget to check up on your fellow classmates as well because at the end of the day that’s all we have while abroad –  each other.

A Very French Lunch

At the very last minute, I was able to join the group from GTL going to the Very French Lunch. I was excited to join as I wanted to try some top-notch, classic French dishes. The purpose of the lunch was to give students at a waitress and culinary school the opportunity to get evaluated for their class. As our herd of GTL students walked into the university banquet area, we were greeted by the waitressing students and their directors. Walking past them, you could see the excitement and nerves as this would be a big moment for them: getting their waitressing certification.

Once everyone sat down at the tables, bread, still water, and sparkling water was served. At my table, we all looked around as if the water and bread was untouchable; we weren’t sure if we could eat start eating or not. Being the hungry college students that we are, we decided the latter and began eating; the bread was gone within a span of 5 minutes. One of the waitressing students was going back and forth through the kitchen so much, that they began to run out of bread and told us to slow down on the bread eating as we wouldn’t have enough for our meals.

The first dish with the perfect egg.

The first dish that came out was a perfect egg with a pea purée, mashed potatoes, bread, and a small slice of bacon. The dish looked lovely; however, not being a fan of unscrambled or unfried eggs, I gave my egg away to another student. Next on the list for the course was the main (entrée in France means the appetizer!): grilled chicken with risotto, vegetables, and a corn fritter. I think this was my favorite part of the meal as the chicken was cooked to perfection, and the risotto was very savory.

After our entrée, many of us were feeling very satisfied with the food, and then suddenly we were given a warning that the next dish we should not touch with our fingers. We all exchanged curious looks as we were all given varieties of cheeses with strong odors.

Being carried by the students sauntered in the last dish, dessert! Beautifully drizzled with a fruit sauce on top was a sweet, crunchy nougat glacé. The very French lunch was very good and very French. After lunch, the GTL students and I went back to our classes with grinning faces and full stomachs.

Nougat glacé

Before coming abroad, I always took a great interest in others cultures. However, since being abroad, I have gained a new level of respect for people’s cultures and lifestyles. In France, waitressing is not seen as a lower level occupation like often times in the United States, and I think that is awesome. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what someone chooses to do with their career, as long as they are happy and enjoying life. In conclusion, it was really nice to share with the French waitressing students a monumental moment in their career goals , seeing the relief on their faces at the end of the lunch, and getting to eat a very yummy lunch!

This Is What “Peak” Performance Looks Like

This was the trip that is undoubtedly the high point (literally) of my European travels: Interlaken, Switzerland. Not only was it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, but I climbed my first mountain there, something that I’ve always dreamed of accomplishing!

I could barely take my eyes off of the beautiful, grassy hills and the spectacular mountains, which was somewhat problematic for my stubbed toes.

Interlaken is a lovely town situated between two lakes (hence the name), which looked stunning with a beautiful mountain backdrop as we rode the train into the city. Walking down the main boulevard, we saw many quintessentially Swiss things, from watch stores to chocolatiers to a fondue restaurant, all the while marveling at the soaring mountains that framed the sky. One of the most exciting parts of this walk was seeing hang gliders and paragliders soaring and swooping through the sky! They floated down from the mountains and we sat and watched, fascinated, as they all landed on a huge green lawn in the center of the city.

We stopped to take scenic pictures and have a nutritious lunch of brioche, Nutella, bananas, nuts, and other snacks.

The next day, we were ready to hike! The woman at the tourism office recommended that we walk through the valley of waterfalls, as it was very beautiful and suitable for beginners. We decided not to follow her advice, however—we wanted to see the sights from high up, so we decided to attempt a hike to the summit of the Schilthorn from a little mountain town called Mürren.

After stocking up on food and taking two trains and a gondola from Interlaken to reach Mürren, we were ready to begin. It was 11 am when we started, so our goal was to get as far as we could by 3 pm and then turn around to allow us enough time to catch the trains back to Interlaken. The beginning of the hike took us through rolling hills and many pastures, punctuated by the constant clinking of cowbells and the occasional moo. Sadly, the cows did not really want to be pet.

I found a nice branch early on the hike that I used for a walking stick the rest of the way up. It proved very helpful, especially in the slippery snow!

As the hours passed and we continued to ascend, the trail turned from sharp, steep switchbacks up grassy hills to a flatter, rocky path towards the final summit, and then to no path at all as we approached the most difficult part of the journey. At this point we had truly transitioned from hiking to climbing: we carefully pulled ourselves up rocky ledges, following spray painted arrows through the otherwise confusing landscape, and we gingerly made our way up steep, snowy inclines, testing our weight with every step and hoping that the powder wouldn’t give way

On the way down, I was often prone to sprinting down the mountainside, both because it was fun but also because the steep slope made it hard to stop, so you can see my traveling buddies in the distance behind me along with the foggy mountain peak.

beneath our feet. Near the top, thankfully, there were ropes to pull ourselves up the more treacherous inclines, and railings to hold as we crossed narrow rock bridges towards our goal.

With our tired lungs and aching legs, we finally reached the peak of the mountain—at precisely 3:00 pm! I can’t describe the feeling I had when I reached the top; after 4 hours and after scaling 4,366 feet of vertical elevation, I was so exhilarated, so full of endorphins from the strenuous hike up, and so proud of our achievement that all I could think was “When can I do this again?” I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain at some point in my life, and after actually doing it that desire has only gotten stronger. This amazing trip really opened my eyes to the wonders of hiking and climbing, and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to test my limits and scale taller summits!

On the way down the mountainside, after the rain had stopped, we were treated with an absolutely gorgeous double rainbow!!

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