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Category: 2019-Spring Page 1 of 3

One Last, Wholesome Blog

I am home!!! It feels so good to be home, and after about a week being back, I’ve had time to reflect, see my family, and eat every one of my favorite meals in a dangerously short amount of time.

It’s really difficult to summarize the experience I had abroad. I tried to do it through blogs, stories, phone calls, or simple conversations with friends, but I don’t think it’s possible to fully describe my semester. The strange emotions, the stresses, the calm, the people, the foods, or the quick cultural adjustments with visiting a different country almost every weekend. I’ve never felt more confident, but simultaneously more insecure in my entire life. I’ve never been more unplanned yet planned, more happy yet sad, or felt more like an imposter while also feeling like I one hundred percent belonged. This entire experience was one big juxtaposition but that is what I loved most about it.

If I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve always lived my life trying very hard not to regret anything because I genuinely believe there is no point. I think sometimes about the people I would’ve met, or the things I would’ve done had I made one simple decision differently. But I also make sure never to dwell on it, because every single moment made my experience (while sometimes challenging) really incredible.

I think the hardest thing about this time was the unknown, but when I think about it, that is always the most difficult thing for me to deal with in life itself. If anything, this experience taught me to be more open to the unknown and try to let things go because I genuinely am not in control of everything. Things happen, and how I adjust to them and grow as an individual is way more important than the little blip that they may cause. That being said, I am still not sure about a lot of things, and that is completely okay. I wasn’t expecting this trip to be some religious awakening, but I did want to learn some things about myself, and I feel like I most definitely did.

The number one thing I learned about myself, is that I don’t need to be stressed. I am quite a stress ball and always have been but I learned pretty quickly that I can still do a lot without feeling stressed. I also learned and would recommend this to anyone travelling with lots of people: it is most important to do what you want to do, because otherwise there is no point in going abroad in the first place.

Quick side note – this blog is definitely a lot more wholesome than my other blogs, but I kind of grew tired about summarizing my trips near the end here. I did go to Spain and Nice during my last two weeks before finals (which went well for those who were concerned, considering it appeared as if I never was in school). I basically just ate a lot and laid in the sun for hours on end.

Anyway, the last most important part of my time abroad was that I gained really good relationships with people back home. I know you must be thinking, “wow you weirdo, shouldn’t you have made friends abroad?” And I definitely did make some friends who I hope to see again in the future. But I think that most importantly I learned who in my life is there for me and how important it is to stay in touch with those you love. I probably called someone back home every single day and while I was worried before I left that I would lose those connections, most of them grew way stronger. I am so incredibly thankful for all these people that stayed in touch, whether it be a single photo sent or the fact that they just read my blog. It is so easy to be kind, and it is also so very necessary. I appreciate people’s kindness more than anything, and I believe that moments of kindness were what made my time abroad the most memorable.

To sum it all up, I genuinely am really happy that I went to GTL. A year ago when I started considering going abroad, it really seemed impossible. The price tag alone made me laugh, the idea of leaving this comfortable life was downright stupid, yet for some reason I knew that I could and should do it.

I’m happy. I’m exhausted. It doesn’t even feel real. But I am thankful and feel blessed.

Thank you for reading.

Love,

Noa

To Dublin We Go!

Hello all-

I’d like to first ease all of your concerns and mention that the past few weeks I have spent as far away as possible from German saunas and instead spent some time in Ireland and London.

At the beginning of the month, I visited Ireland, where my friend Elle (the one from CU with whom I spent time with in Portugal) is studying abroad. I wasn’t really feeling like staying at a hostel, and they were weirdly expensive so I found a quaint Airbnb at this grandpa’s house. Initially, when I told my mom I was staying with an old Irish man in some random neighborhood she was not super impressed with my decision making, but he had excellent reviews which made me a little less worried. Most decisions I’ve made are definitely motivated by cheap prices, but a most have also been well researched. I’ve already made it obvious in past blogs which situations were not… which usually resulted in some sort of hike, an unnecessary amount of money spent, and sometimes nudity.

Luckily when I arrived to this kind old man’s house in Dublin none of the above occurred. I took a bus about an hour from the airport and after a delayed flight it was a nice surprise when Gearoid met me at the bus stop even while it was pouring rain. He walked me home and told me he felt bad about the weather being so crummy so he prepared me dinner! It was so sweet. I immediately told Elle that I would have to just see her the next morning since I was too busy watching BBC news with my old Irish friend and chatting about our lives over eggs, tomatoes and hot tea.

It wasn’t too bad that I couldn’t see Elle that night because I had arrived so late, and she was able to spend that evening with her brother, who was also in town. The week before I was supposed to come, Elle and I texted a lot to try to decide where to visit other than Dublin, but we weren’t really coming to a concrete decision so I texted her that we should finalize the plans since I land around 5pm and she replied, “you’re coming next weekend right?” After some back and forth we realized that Elle had accidentally planned for her brother and I to come on the same weekend. I wasn’t even phased by this sudden mix up, having experienced way stranger situations this semester. And it all worked out since Elle was still able to see me on the next day of my trip and I even got to meet her brother and his girlfriend during the evening.

That morning Elle and I met up in Dundrum where she lives and took the light rail to downtown where we had some yummy chai tea latte’s and caught up on everything. The whole day we both felt so incredibly lucky to get to see each other twice this semester.We walked all around Dublin, sat at some nice parks and even had burritos for lunch. Sidebar – I find it strange how many Mexican restaurants there are in Ireland? But I also am not questioning it. Afterwards I got boba, (obviously I’ve decided that I am doing a world tasting tour) and then we went to a small pub where Elle ordered us a Guinness. Thankfully her brother and his girlfriend as well as Elle’s friend showed up and actually drank the Guinness since she really bought it for me for the “true Ireland experience,” and we didn’t really drink it. We all had a very fun dinner together and then they drove me home, which made for a perfect first day!

The next morning I woke up early and took a bus to downtown, where I was going to be picked up by a tour bus to go visit the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. This was my last day in Dublin, and I spent it alone since Elle and her family went on a camping trip. It’s been my dream since high school to visit the Cliffs. I honestly had a wonderful experience even while being alone. Bussing through the Irish countryside was surreal and it felt like somewhere I would love to end up one day. When we got to the Cliffs, it was breathtaking, and I cried happy tears pretty much the entire two hours. After everyone finished hiking all around, we bussed to an interesting town for lunch, stopped at another mini cliff, and then made it to Galway. It was a very special, lively town, and while I only spent an hour there it is definitely a goal of mine to come back.  I didn’t expect to like the tour bus experience but I actually would recommend it since I learned so much about the history of Ireland and liked not having to worry about any of the details of the trip. I would love to visit Ireland again and try to do a road trip all around the country – although driving on the other side of the road absolutely terrifies me, so if anyone wants to come with, let me know.

Ireland was something straight out of a movie. The people were incredibly friendly, the places I visited were unique and colorful, and I felt really really happy. The only other place that made me feel this content was probably London.

Stay tuned!

Love,

Noa

A Reflection on the French SLS Program

As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently taking a class, French 3011, which allows me to be a part of the French Sciences and Sustainability program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. This has been such an incredible experience for me that I thought it would be best to devote an entire blog post to it! Initially when coming to GTL, I wasn’t anticipating taking any French classes since I haven’t taken French since junior year of high school. I was a little bit nervous at first, even just coming to France, that my French might not be at the same level that it used to be. However, after talking to Professor Ippolito, he mentioned that my level of French will probably be just fine for the class, and I felt much more confident coming in to the program.

The primary focus of French 3011 is to learn about France today, and understand the environmental, political, and societal circumstances in France today, as well as in Metz. Our class consists of in class presentations, two essays, and a final project of our choice about topics that we’ve focused on. While it is taught in French, I definitely do feel that it is at a good level for me, and if anything my French has improved exponentially being immersed and in this class. Another important aspect of this class, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is that we are able to go downtown to visit and volunteer with different associations in Metz about once a week. The nice part of this, is that other students from other classes, such as FREN 3813 or FREN 3500 (also taught by Ippolito) also can come downtown and be given the opportunity to volunteer as well. It really has made me feel more welcome at GTL, because I have been able to get to know a lot more students on our downtown visits. It also has improved my confidence in French, and visiting downtown, because I understand a lot more about the history of Metz itself.

Our downtown visits usually begin with us meeting at Place St. Jacques, and then Professor Ippolito shows us around giving us information about different histories about the architecture or how Metz came to be. Afterwards we head over to one of the associations he has selected for that day. The associations we have visited include:

  • Metz a Velo, an organization that helps people in Metz familiarize themselves with biking and fixes their bikes as well.
  • Couleurs Gaies, who provide a safe, educational space for LGBTQIA people.
  • Carrefour, who provide living and support for students as well as refugees
  • the Institut Européen d’Ecologie, who educate and promote the importance of ecology and the environment in Metz as well as hold a yearly film festival for this purpose
  • BLIIIDA, a space for upcoming startups, designers, and inventors

The fact that we are given the opportunity to get to know Metz beyond just visiting downtown or being a student at GTL is extremely rewarding and has given me a sense of community and confidence during my time abroad. I would recommend this program to anyone coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and I truly think that it sets the program apart from many study abroad programs because of the fact that you can fully immerse yourselves with local people.

Meet Sanhita: Grad Student Extraordinaire

I completely have not accepted that I will be back in the States in about a week. With all of my most recent travelling and gearing up for finals, time has flown by even faster than before. I’ve spent the last few days in Barcelona, which has been absolutely magical, but before I left I got the chance to talk to one more graduate student! Her name is Sanhita and she is completing her master’s degree at GTL in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Originally from India, Sanhita completed her undergraduate there and then decided to apply at Georgia Tech Lorraine because it is a “great school with a very high ranking and an opportunity to do two semesters in France and two in the United States, which is unheard of.” After this semester, like the other graduate students, Sanhita is doing a six month internship starting pretty immediately after this spring term ends. She hasn’t decided if she wants to work elsewhere or continue to research with the company she is planning on working with this summer. The company is an oil fields company where she will be working mostly in controls based engineering. Things like how the oil is drilled, the pressure, etc. It is definitely something that she is interested in working in the future and is also something that aligns with her past work which is why she thinks she will be a good fit for the company. When I asked about which classes she is taking, she listed autonomous robotics, network securities, non linear controls. (She let me know that “this is a really hard semester, by the way.”) Her favorite this semester has been network securities, which has been interesting for her and different than the rest. Since this semester has been rather hectic, Sanhita has had less time to travel, but mentioned that last semester she visited Switzerland and Germany which was really fun. I had a really nice time talking to Sanhita. She hasn’t been to the States before, so she’s looking forward to going to Atlanta, and I wish her all the best!

 

Meet Robert: Applying Mechanical Engineering to Medical Devices

As the semester is nearing its end, I was very thankful that I met another grad student, Robert, before I leave Metz. Robert is from Kentucky, where he completed his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and is now living in Metz where he is getting his graduate degree, also in Mechanical Engineering. Unlike some of the other grad students I’ve met, particularly the ones from France, Robert is not going back to Atlanta to study, but is rather doing a year at Georgia Tech-Lorraine (this is his second semester), and then going to a partner French school in Paris to finish off his degree as a dual masters student next semester. While he doesn’t speak much French, he is working on it and is excited to be spending his time in France. Initially he didn’t know much about Georgia Tech-Lorraine since he isn’t a Georgia Tech student, but after applying to go to Georgia Tech  as a master’s student, he learned about the feasibility and affordability of Georgia Tech Lorraine.

He felt it was “too good to be true” and didn’t want to let up such a great opportunity. I asked what his favorite class is at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and similarly to some other student’s I’ve talked to, it’s acoustics. He wasn’t anticipating it being very “applicable,” but it ended up having a lot to do with his interests in the biomedical field. Robert mentioned that he does see himself using the knowledge he is learning in this class, among others, in the future, especially because he hopes to work on medical device design. When I asked if he wants to stay in France or the States he said that staying in France would be a “cool experience,” but it really depends on what the job offers are later on. In the past, he has worked in this field at Ethicon Endo surgery in Cincinnati, where he worked on endoscopic device design. He mentions that “ever since then I’ve known that’s what I want to do and it was really enjoyable.”

For fun, Robert’s best experience has actually been at the music room at ALOES. He met some French students, formed a band with them where he plays the drums, and actually performed at a gala for a graduation. He’s also traveled quite a bit, and for spring break he visited Italy, where he went to Cinque Terre and said it was the most “beautiful scenery possible” with sensory overload. Since this is his second semester here, he’s traveled a little bit less, but this way is able to spend some weekends in Metz as well as save some money since travelling every weekend is pretty intense.

I had a wonderful time getting to know Robert and I wish him all the best with his plans for the future! I hope to meet a few more graduate students before I leave Metz, and am thankful for all of those I have met during my time here.

Shed Those Layers… It’s Warm Outside!

I genuinely believe that some places are completely different based on the weather, and Metz is most definitely one of those places. Part of the reason I think I was really adamant about traveling every weekend is because when it’s cold and rainy in Metz, there isn’t much reason to go outside and explore. No one really is out, and walking through the downtown doesn’t feel the same as when the sun is shining. Luckily, it’s starting to warm up here, which is not only making me like Metz a lot more, but also is making me realize that my days here are very quickly coming to an end. It’s unbelievable that I have a month left here and I am hoping to enjoy every last second before I have to go home.

This last week, Danny visited me and we spent every day doing things in downtown Metz, and we traveled a bit on the weekend as well. The first day he got here, I went early in the morning to grab some groceries at Cora, and usually while I’m pretty disappointed by the food there, I learned a huge lesson. It’s a little late to learn this, but if I go really early in the morning, that is when Cora has the fresh food out. I always would go in between classes or in the afternoon, and that is when all the good stuff is gone. I found fresh bread, and they finally had arugula, so I now I know what to do if I don’t want to trek to a different grocery store downtown. Afterwards I ran to class and then I took Danny to Burger Kebab for a true Metz experience. The next morning we visited Fox Coffee Shop so he could see what all the hype was about, and then I had to go with my French class downtown.

My French class visited a really interesting association in Metz called Bliida which is a center for different start ups and people with small businesses to have a place to work. It’s an old bus depot where each startup can rent out a bus parking spot and build their offices and work there. I loved to see all of the different graphic designers and opportunities that Bliida gives these companies. While they are currently closed to the public, they are planning on making it a tech/art center for all of Metz to enjoy and visit.

The rest of the week in Metz, Danny and I spent time exploring around downtown. We finally watched a movie, Dumbo, at the Klub Cinema and even took a bus to the outskirts of Metz, where we went bowling at a really cool arena. It was so fun, and even more perfect because of the nice weather.

On Friday, I scheduled us Flixbus tickets to visit Strasbourg which I am so glad I was able to go to! It was a lovely city, and we visited the Notre Dame there (which was fun after we had learned about it when visiting Metz’s cathedral). We ate a really yummy breakfast and then randomly decided to go into the Zoology museum. I wasn’t anticipating liking it that much, but it we ended up spending quite some time there! Of course I would rather see the animals alive, but it was incredible to see all these exotic creatures and where they came from. I kind of forgot how interesting all of that is to me. We only ended up doing a day trip but it was the perfect amount of time to spend in Strasbourg. I think I liked it a lot more than Metz just because it was a lot bigger of a city and we had more to do.

The next morning, we took a different bus to Saarbrucken to spend the day there. The reason we decided to go there is because whenever I used to train through Saarbrucken, I always saw this really cool looking indoor water park and thought it would be fun to go. Danny was all in, and when we first arrived we had to kill some time before the place opened so we walked downtown and got breakfast. Everyone was really nice and it was delicious so we were in a great mood when we got to the water park, called Calypso. Initially it was a little stressful because everything was in German and the woman we bought tickets from was not very friendly. The place was huge and I was a little worried on maneuvering it but once we saw the slides and pool area we were pretty excited. We had decided to also get sauna access and so when headed to see the sauna we realized there was a restaurant you had to walk through so we first went back to grab our towels since we didn’t want to walk into the restaurant area with just our swimsuits on. Little did we realize that that wasn’t a problem at all. In fact the saunas one rule was that you couldn’t wear clothes at all. I almost had an aneurysm. We realized this rule almost instantly and I think the only fair way to describe this situation is as such:

Imagine walking into a room where everyone speaks very minimal English and the first thing you see is sweaty, fat, old German men who are naked and tell you that you must also be nude as it is the rule. A literal nightmare no?

I only cried twice and Danny handled it all a lot better than me! Turns out (after Googling and inquiring with my French friends) that this is a German thing and I probably should’ve done a little bit of research before, but that’s just how my life goes! Regardless, the slides in the not-nude area were really fun, and the sauna experience was well…an experience.

Our last day together in Metz, we spent doing homework at the Fox and trying to forget what we saw in Saarbrucken. It was yet another beautiful day and I was so thankful that we were able to spend a week together!

While saying goodbye is quite possibly one of the most difficult things, I know it means that I am even closer to being back home, which at this point is very bittersweet.

No “Go, Go, Go” Mindset

Hello –

So you must be thinking: you travel a lot! We get the abroad part, but are you actually studying? What goes on during the week?

That in all honesty is a fair question. While I’m usually out of town Thursday night through Sunday, I do actually spend some time in downtown Metz and stay on top of my school work. Since everyone here is in this “go, go, go” mindset of seeing everything Europe has to offer, I think that the teachers have eased up a bit here in comparison to studying in the States. I also believe that part of the lack of stress on the school front here is because aside from classes, I don’t really have the same commitments I did back in school. In Boulder I was working several jobs, a part of multiple extracurriculars, and tried to balance a way heavier class load which my classes here don’t really compare to. Don’t get me wrong, my classes are still intellectually challenging, and I have coursework and projects to complete, but I am a lot less stressed than I am when I am back home. Another nice part is that each class is only twice a week, which gives me time to do all of the other things I’ve described in past blogs.

This past week I decided it was probably in my best interest to travel less. I’ve been pretty exhausted – and so is my bank account, especially after planning and reserving everything for the month of April. Also this past week I had a fairly large portion of my CS project due, and so I spent most of Friday and Saturday working on my code. Saturday morning I was planning on taking a Flixbus to Paris but when I woke up at 6am and saw that there was a train later at night for cheap, I canceled my bus and spent the rest of the day doing homework. It was really nice because my friend Taylor stayed back in Metz most of the weekend too, so we got dinner downtown before my train left. We ate at this burrito place which was actually pretty good… nothing compared to burritos back in the States, but a good temporary replacement. The reason I went to Paris that evening was because my boyfriend Danny is on his spring break, and I was going to meet him Sunday afternoon, so I thought I’d make a little day trip out of it. I stayed in a hostel that was fairly nice, but I have never in my life experienced that much noise from other people at night. The man underneath me was snoring so loudly I thought he might die, and the girl in the bed that was connected to mine kept moving so intensely that all the beds collectively shook. It was quite challenging to stay asleep. Especially when the entire 8 person room all woke at the same time at approximately 4am and started packing up their stuff, “quietly” whispering to each other, and stomping out. I tried to sleep in since check out was at 12pm, but woke up to the cleaning ladies stripping the beds at 9am. It was a truly bizarre experience, but I hopped out of bed and made my way to a breakfast place.

After my açai bowl experience in Lisbon last week I kind of had to relive it. But the açai bowl I had in Paris was nowhere near the fresh taste or cheap price that I had had in Lisbon. Regardless, it was pretty yummy, and I headed to a nice park where I finished my book I’ve been reading and then bought some new jeans at a mall nearby. I promised myself I would finish the book before buying a new one so after some lunch (I had a burger of course, at Steak-n-shake, which I found out they have in Paris) I headed to Shakespeare and Company to buy another book. I ended up getting the book Boomerang by Michael Lewis, which is the same author as the book I had read before (Flash Boys, would recommend). Once I bought the book I grabbed some boba next door and headed to the train station where I met Danny, and we trained back home to Metz.

It was finally nice to have a laid back weekend, especially because the month of April will be very travel-heavy for me.

Love, Noa

A Day in Metz

Metz is honestly a great place to be. Everyday I go downtown I discover another nook or little cafe that makes me wish I had a little bit more time here.

While I wish I had known more in the past, I think it is important that I share with you all what I do know in case you find yourselves in Metz.

The first place I would recommend to go in Metz, and somewhere I visit quite often, is a coffee shop called Fox. It’s situated about a 5 minute walk from the train station, with little lights hung around the door and hip decor throughout the entire two rooms that it takes up. When I walk in, I usually first find a chair to sit (by an outlet if I know I’ll be doing work for a while) and then maneuver my way to order a drink. The coffee shop is usually busy at almost all times of the day, which makes me wonder sometimes how the French have time for this. I usually order a Black Chai Latte Glace, which is an iced chai with a shot of espresso, and then sometimes I treat myself to one of the infinite pastries they have to offer. The best thing I ever had to eat there was a bagel with brie, spinach, and balsamic which looked and sounded not necessarily incredible, but it was so delicious. They’ve only had it one time even though I go there so often and I’m hoping they have it again before I leave. After spending an hour or so at Fox, whether you are chatting with a friend or doing some work, you can walk to the main area of downtown, or where I sometimes take the bus (to the République bus stop).

Once you’re downtown you’ll find yourself on a main stretch of shops, with every store you can think of. If you’re trying to fit in to France and find yourself wearing more dresses than usual, then Calzedonia is a chain store where you can find all of the tights and leggings you may need to accompany your newly found outfit. After continuing on that street you’ll eventually arrive to Place St Jacques, where you can see a lot of restaurants, bars, or coffee shops to visit. You’ll also see the Klub, which is the local movie theater of Metz. I’ve yet to see a movie there, but it was recently remodeled and seems to be a great place to catch a movie.

If you walk a little bit past that you will run into the most beautiful cathedral that takes my breath away every time I walk up to it. Recently I actually went inside and visited the crypt and the treasury. It’s only two euros for students and is really fascinating actually. They have information to read about the history of the cathedral and about all the different stories of all the cathedrals in France. I didn’t realize how many replicas of different cathedrals there were in France, and we even had a nice guide explain to us the influences behind certain statues and show us the impact that Germans had on the church as well, since Metz was occupied by Germany for quite some time.

You could honestly spend a long time in the cathedral, but when you’re ready to leave, there is a great indoor market right next  door that while it smells strongly of fish it is still fun to see all the different fresh food vendors in Metz. Nearby you can walk alongside a beautiful river, and even catch a ballet at the Opera. I was able to see an opera/ballet through GTL, and while it wasn’t my favorite, it was definitely a good experience.

If you want a more modern side of Metz, you can definitely visit the mall Muse, which has a lot more dining options, but overall I really like the older, downtown side of Metz. While I spend so much time out of town, I also do enjoy my time spent in town, and I would definitely recommend someone to come visit Metz because I  have grown to love it.

Meet Thomas: Making the Most of Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s Master’s Program

In the midst of a very busy time for many graduate students who are preparing for exams and working on projects, I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas, a French graduate student studying Mechanical Engineering. I met with Thomas in the student lounge, found him working with Sommy, another graduate student I’ve met, and stole him away for a few minutes to hear about his experience at GTL!

Thomas comes from a small city south of Paris, and before GTL he studied Mechanical Engineering at a French engineering school called UT in Troyes. This school partners with GTL so that he can do the dual-degree program similar to many other grad students I have met. Thomas explained that while this is his first semester at GTL, he will do an internship in the summer/fall and move to Atlanta in the Spring of 2020, where he plans to graduate.

After college he isn’t quite sure what field he wants to work in, but he did say he has worked in the automotive industry in past internships. This internship was done with French automotive company Renault, and while he said it was very interesting, he said that the field he works in all depends on where he ends up initially after he graduates. Thomas has been to California when he was young, but he said he would be willing to try to find work in the States or another country if it works out. Later on though, he does see himself coming back to France.

Currently he is taking linear elasticity, acoustics, a mathematics class, as well as another mechanical engineering class at GTL. His favorite is linear elasticity, because “it’s used with many things that I’ve worked in at my years at UTT.” The other thing that Thomas mentioned he really likes about being at GTL is that it’s nice to have to be in an environment where everyone speaks English. While I asked him if it’s challenging, he said it’s not too bad – that it’s just the right amount of difficulty. I am honestly always so impressed by the French graduate students because taking a technical class in a completely different language sounds so challenging but they do it without no complaints.

For fun, Thomas likes to spend time with the rest of the graduate friends and tries to organize things to do with them. Last weekend, they went to Strasbourg, which was really nice, and he has gone to Paris with some other friends. He mentioned that “for me, it’s new to have the weekend start on a Thursday, so it’s nice to organize many things to do on the weekends with the other graduate students.” It’s definitely great to see that graduate students are also able to partake in the similar experiences that us undergraduates have, such as travelling and being a part of GTL-sanctioned events.

Meeting Thomas was really nice, and I hope I get to meet a few more graduate students before this semester ends. Their experiences really makes me consider graduate school myself and inspires me a ton!

Spunky, Sassy, and Portuguese

It’s time to set the mood. Set your record player to play So Danco Samba by Antônio Carlos Jobim on a low volume, crank up the heat in your room to about 70 degrees, spray the Febreeze scent “ocean”, and let a cool breeze make its way through the window. Welcome to Lisbon, Portugal.

If you haven’t been to Portugal… go. I decided I was going to go quite a while ago when I saw round trip flights from Luxembourg for about 35 euros, and when checking the weather map of Europe, it was the warmest destination. Quickly after buying the flight I found a decently priced hotel and reserved it, knowing it wouldn’t be too difficult to find someone to go with me. The first person I called, was one of my best friends, Elle from CU Boulder. She’s studying Mechanical Engineering abroad in Ireland this semester, and we had talked a lot about how we need to see each other at least once (and I actually will be visiting her in April in Ireland as well!). It wasn’t hard to convince Elle, and it was lovely when I landed late at night in Portugal and made my way to the hotel that she greeted me with a big hug and a Big Mac in hand.

That night, we didn’t mean to, but ended up staying up until about 4am, catching up on everything and convincing ourselves that we would eventually go to sleep. We woke up pretty late the next morning so we took an Uber to the breakfast place that I had seen during my intense food research of Portugal. Most places don’t have Uber at all, and usually I prefer to walk, but I was pretty hangry, needed to get there FAST, and it was also unusually cheap. Normally I don’t do much research, if any, about a place (if you haven’t noticed) but this was my number one trip destination so I wanted to make sure we were well fed. And boy, were we well fed. The first brunch place we went to was called Nicolau and was right in the middle of downtown. I ordered Eggs Benedict with a Matcha tea latte, and Elle got a burger with a red bun. Not only was it the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had (I came back my last day and got it again), but it was so well-priced. That’s when we realized that Portugal is in fact one of the cheapest countries of western Europe. It wasn’t even that it was absurdly cheap, it was that it was just very very reasonable.

After brunch we adventured around and every building was noticeably more beautiful than the next. Each wall was lined with unique tile in the most vibrant colors that contrasted so well with everything else whether it was the flowers on the trees or the ocean in the distance. Elle and I repeatedly mentioned how happy we felt just walking and talking in this dream of a city. We visited Castelo de São Jorge which gave us an amazing view of Lisbon from the top of the hill and got to see a lot of peacocks parading about. After walking more throughout downtown we grabbed a cappuccino and an egg tart (a classic Portuguese treat) and then headed to get dinner at another place I had read about called Frangasqueira Nacional. This place is a hole-in-the-wall chicken joint, run by a spunky, sassy Portuguese woman who doesn’t have a care in the world. We met this man who has traveled and lived all over who gave us some reassurance that waiting for 35 minutes for our chicken was just what was going to have to happen, and it was worth it. I’m fairly certain that our chicken was ready after 5 minutes but the woman placed it on the side, helped 5 other customers before us, and kept making sarcastic jokes that were confusing but we laughed since she was what stood between us and our chicken. Either way it was probably the best chicken with garlic rice I have ever had. We ended up taking it back to the hotel and even though we ordered an enormous amount of food we ate it all immediately and it was only 11$ for an entire chicken and a large side of rice. So that was something else.

The next morning we woke up a bit earlier and walked to another brunch place called Fauna & Flora where we split an açai bowl, and I got an iced coffee with avocado toast and poached egg. The Portuguese win at brunch, I just will put it like that. The restaurant was near the beach, so for about 2 hours afterwards we laid in the sun and listened to a band play jazz music (bossa nova specifically). If you know me well, you know that this is genuinely one of my favorite and most listened to genres of music, so Elle got to see me feel so much joy that I knew every song they would play and could sing along.

Post-beach, we walked more around downtown and eventually had dinner at an indoor food market (similar to the one I went to in Amsterdam) where I had a burger (she’s back!!) and met some other girls studying abroad in Spain. Afterwards we sat at a nice bar and listened to more jazz music and then went home.

Elle left early the next morning back home, and while I was quite sad that she wasn’t with me anymore, I got my butt out of bed and headed towards a flea market. It was amazing! There were so many cool antiques and artists that were selling their work. I bought a scarf since my other one disappeared on my ‘night hike’ in Austria and wished that my mom was with me the whole time because it was right up her alley. Afterwards I headed back to Nicolau nearby to grab some breakfast and an açai smoothie before making my way back to the airport.

My whole trip to Portugal felt meant to be. Every single person was kind, the weather was absolutely perfect, the food unbelievable, and I got to experience it all with my best friend.

Excited to keep you all updated on everything! Time is going by so quickly and I am appreciative of every minute and every person who reads my blog.

Ciao,

Noa

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