Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice

Written by Lillian

October 23, 2022

What do “Game of Thrones”, “Interstellar”, and “The Dark Knight” Trilogy have in common? They all used the gorgeous, remote island of Iceland as their backdrop when filming! More recent movies, such as Will Ferrell’s “Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, have put Iceland at the center of their narratives. 

After seeing Iceland on the big screen, I felt so compelled–I had to see it in person. I flew to Iceland’s capital Reykjavík, and I rented a car to explore the famed Ring Road: a highway that circles the entire island. But first, I had to load up on Icelandic snacks including pastries, licorice, and pylsa (Icelandic hot dogs covered with raw onions, fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, and a remoulade sauce).

Icelandic pastries; I got the Kanilsnúða (cinnamon roll) and Vínarbrauð (Vienna bread: a puff pastry with a layer of fruit jam). 

Bragðarefur: an Icelandic blended ice cream similar to a Dairy Queen Blizzard. This was a size small, and the ice cream was literally too big for its container! I filled mine with chocolate and Icelandic licorice, a staple on the island.

After sampling the local cuisine, we took to the road! The first stops were the Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls located on the Southern portion of the island. Close by was Skógafoss, a 60m waterfall which marks the former coastline of Southern Iceland. These waterfalls were gorgeous, but so frigid. The air temperature was 2 degrees Celsius; that paired with the cold misty water made my bones shiver! It was all worth it for the amazing views of the tumbling, unpredictable water.

Some of the stunning waterfalls along the Southern Coast of Iceland!

Further down the Ring Road lies the Reynisfjara beach. The black sand is striking as it emerges from the sea, formed from the erosion of volcanic rock. It is framed by a cave formed from regular basalt columns, which are oddly geometric for a naturally occurring rock feature. Out in the sea loom two rock pillars which have been compared to trolls in folklore. The day was overcast when we made it out to the beach, and the environment reminded me of a scene from Game of Thrones. The beach actually was featured in the series as a beach near Eastwatch near the Wall, a fact we learned shortly after visiting.

The black beaches of Reynisfjara which was featured in Game of Thrones as part of the Wall. It is characterized by the black beaches and basalt column cliffs.

After a weekend of hiking, we decided to take a much needed Spa Day at Blue Lagoon: a man-made geothermal spa. One of the most striking qualities of the spa is the opaque powder blue of the water that stays at a constant 38˚C. The color is due to the mineral Silica, which is a chemical compound of Silicon and Oxygen known for its regenerative properties. At the spa, there are complimentary Silica mud masks and drinks.

Best way to relax from a semester of non-stop travel? A trip to a geothermal seawater spa in Iceland!

Finally, I attempted to watch the Northern Lights before I left Iceland as a swan song to the trip. Iceland’s proximity to the North Pole and its remoteness makes it an ideal location for seeing the Northern Lights. Only on one of the days that we were in Iceland were the clouds clear enough to see the Northern Lights. We drove an hour away from the city to a dark, remote parking lot near the side of the Ring Road and waited. While the Northern Lights sadly never appeared, the night was ideal for stargazing. I was able to see the Milky Way for the first time! I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars!

So far, my trip to Iceland has been my favorite GTL trip. I loved the landscape of Iceland; the snow-capped volcanoes and large glacier patches covered the horizon. Everywhere else was dominated by moss covered Volcanic rocks and steam rising from geothermal vents. It’s no surprise that so many movies and television shows have been set in this distinct other-worldly island. It was a weekend filled with views that took my breath away, and I’ll never forget it.

A Weekend Full of Adventure in Interlaken

 Written by Lillian

October 17, 2022

Since applying to GTL, the one country that I have been the most excited to explore was Switzerland. The beautiful alpine hikes, extreme adventures around every corner, and a close proximity to Metz makes Switzerland a great destination for weekend travels. After weekends of exploring historical downtown cities, I was excited to finally get out into the European outdoors! 

Right when we got into Switzerland, the first thing we did was hike to Harder Kulm, a 1,320-meter viewpoint of Interlaken. The weather was forecasted to rain later in the day, so we quickly hiked up the 800-meter (about 2,500 ft) trail to the viewpoint. By the time that we were hiking down, the sun set, the rain started, and we used our phones to navigate down the now dark slippery slopes. It was an adventure to say the least. 

View of Interlaken from the Harder Kulm hike. 

The next day, we went canyoneering near the Jungfrau Mountain. Canyoneering involves traveling through canyons by jumping off cliffs, swimming through gorges, and abseiling (or repelling) down the canyon walls. There was even a rope swing! My favorite part was the camaraderie that was built between the members of my group: we cheered each other on as we jumped off the rocks into the water and trudged through the swiftly moving water. 

Abseiling! The drop was 10m (about 30 feet)! 

To round out my trip to Switzerland, there was one activity at the top of my European bucket list: hiking the Mürren Via Ferrata. The Mürren Via Ferrata is a 2.2 km “via ferrata” which is Italian for “iron path.” On these types of hikes, you cling to cliff faces, using iron rungs cemented into the rocks for foot support. Additionally, you traverse over suspension bridges and hiking paths right on the edge of cliffs. This Via Ferrata takes you from the alpine village of Mürren to Gimmelwald. To get to Mürren, you must ride on a train, bus, and cable car from Interlaken. Even though the journey is long, it was worth being able to get a bird-eye view of the Alps and walk on iron rungs over a 1000 m (about 3,300 ft) drop. The days before my hike were filled with rain, so I am thankful that the weather cleared, and I got to do the Via Ferrata with almost no clouds in the sky! 

Left: One of the suspension bridges on the Mürren Via Ferrata; the town in the background is Stechelberg. Right: a view of the iron rungs and 1000-meter cliff face; part of the hike, called the ”Cliff Walk” involved walking on just these iron rungs with nothing underneath! 

Even though I had a great, adventure filled time in Interlaken, one of the biggest downfalls of Switzerland is the cost; the trip is notoriously expensive. Most other students spend, on average, 20-30 Euros on one meal alone! My group decided to move in a different direction where we attempted to save as much money on food as possible. We ate Kebab almost every meal that we had there which clocked in at 10 Euros a piece. Another money saving tip was that we cooked chicken rice bowls with vegetables one night that cost 2,11 Euros each. We used all the money we saved to do more of the more expensive one-of-a-kind activities. 

Overall, I loved my time in Switzerland, and the weekend was my most adventure-filled one yet! It was super nice to escape the city and head outdoors, even if it was just for a weekend. Interlaken itself was very touristy and expensive, but because of that, it has a ton of different activities to do in one central location. Even though I only participated in three, Interlaken also has parasailing, skydiving, and large canyon rope swings. It also has a ton of other hikes right outside its doorstep! 

The Leonardo Program 

Written by Lillian

October 13, 2022

Studying abroad in Europe, we find ourselves in the center of so many important arts. GTL’s own backyard is home to Metz which is rich in history. A quick train ride away houses all of Europe’s art museums, public sculptures, art performances, and architecture. However, these opportunities are often overlooked by the students at GTL. To remedy this problem, the Leonardo Program was created. The goal of the Leonardo Program is simple: to interest hyper-focused engineering students in the arts. Professor Sonia Serafin, a French teacher at GTL, tackles this goal by shocking students with the beauty of the arts and the positive influences they can have on science and engineering. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci – one of the best examples of innovators blending art with STEM, Professor Serafin aims to interest students in the arts by organizing various events focused on art and history for them. 

For example, a mere 20-minute walk from campus resides the Centre Pompidou Metz: a free-for-students museum of modern and contemporary art showcasing both temporary and permanent art installations. One of the exhibitions features Eva Aeppli, a Swiss painter and sculptor who focuses on human expression. Walking through her exhibit as part of the Leonardo Program was a unique experience. It included large crowds of hooded figures with fingers reaching out to touch those who passed by, sculpted pairs of scissors dangling from the ceiling, and a pin-drop silence which was cut by an eerie screech coming from a wooden wheel which raised and lowered a couch of mannequins from the ground. Eva’s art was profound and discomforting, which I believe was the desired effect. Starting on November 5th, a new art installation focusing on art in science fiction will open; I will be sure to visit given how much I enjoy the current exhibits. 

The unsettling exhibit of Eva Aeppli 

Another Leonardo Program event introduced us to the auditory arts: we were given reduced price tickets to see Madame Butterfly at the Metz Opera House. Madame Butterfly is an Italian Opera about unrequited love between a geisha and an American soldier in 20th century Japan. Throughout the three acts, we listened to the amazing soprano, Francesca Tiburzi, and tenor, Thomas Bettinger, belt out beautiful, narrative songs. I was amazed by their ability to sing for nearly three hours straight with minimal breaks. 

Image courtesy of www.republicain-lorrain.fr 

To cultivate our own art, a local artist is invited to the GTL campus once every week by the Leonardo Program to teach an art class focusing on sketching and drawing for all students. Additionally, the campus is home to a piano practice space for students to play in private. Communal events, such as a chess tournament, are planned to cultivate camaraderie between the FYSA, undergraduate, and graduate students.

A local Metz resident and chess teacher played the top 10 students from the chess tournament at the same time and won all 10 games.

Professor Serafin says one of her favorite things about this program is listening to the impact the arts had on each student. She loves hearing about a student’s first time at the Opera or about a student’s interaction with art over a weekend trip. She believes when students at GTL get in touch with their artistic side, they can allow creativity to influence their engineering side as well. When you mix STEM and art together, a broader variety of solutions to problems in both fields emerge. Professor Serafin says it best: “art touches you; I profoundly believe that life is richer with art”. 

Cephalopods in Southern France

Written by Lillian

October 10, 2022

Day 1:

I arrived in Marseille in the afternoon after a very lengthy train ride from Paris. I definitely recommend taking a train that is a straight shot to Marseille, to avoid unnecessary travel time. Once we got there, we headed to the city of Cassis to start our hike in Calanques National Park: an oceanside reserve with hiking trails that connect the many different coves which cut into the limestone mountains. It was simply gorgeous. As the trails passed by each cove, we found a trail that made its way to the small beaches. We swam in the Mediterranean and spotted an octopus clinging on the rocky walls. I never would have thought I would see one in real life, especially in France. It was the first cephalopod of the weekend!

The views during the hike- it was breathtaking.

Day 2:

Early the next morning, I got on a train headed to Nice. After spending the next two hours gawking at the Calanques mountains, we arrived at the Nice train station. We headed directly to the Mediterranean Sea, stopping to window shop at the stores that won our attention. Soon, we spotted the sea. The beach was covered with dark grey stones and smelled strongly of fish and salt. Snorkelers and waders dotted the ocean. We made our way into the Old City by this time looking to relieve our hunger. We stumbled upon a small restaurant near the Cathedrale Sainte Reparate. After being recommended it by a local, I tried the cuttlefish ink risotto with squid. The risotto was black and almost had no flavor except the faint trace of a salty umami flavor. That paired with the soft texture of the risotto and the chewiness of the squid made for an interesting combination. According to the local we met, it was a Nice delicacy! 

We spent the next couple of hours exploring the many different little thrift shops and bakeries that hid within the tight alleys. We stopped for ice cream at the world famous Fenocchio’s: an ice cream store known for its distinct, wide ranging flavors such as Avocado, Tomato Basil, and Coca Cola. I had to try the Olive flavor which tasted… exactly like olives. I mean what was I expecting? It was jarring at first because I would never consider olives as a suitable dessert, but I slowly got used to the milk + olive flavor combination after every lick. I highly recommend. 

We started up the steep incline to Castle Hill: a mountain with the remains of the Castle of Nice, a man-made waterfall, and a church with a cemetery. More famously, it allows visitors a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Nice. The rain that was predicted for the day started to come in, and we quickly made our way over to the MAMAC (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain) which was free with our international student identifications. I saw yet another Octopus, this time in the form of a wooden playground, and the modern art museum had an exhibition on the layers of squid from a biological and art perspective. 

The view of Nice, my ink risotto, the playground octopus, and my delicious olive ice cream- what a day!

Day 3:

On the last day in the French Riviera, we explored Marseille. We dodged seafood sellers, street performers with untuned instruments and an off kilter tempo, and stands advertising cruises and boat tours in favor of heading to the Mucem: an old fort. Ducking under the short archways and tunnels and climbing up the dizzying spiral staircases, we explored the history of the fort. Attached to the fort was a gantry way to the museum which had exhibits on the Mediterranean diet and the history of the groups that influenced modern day Marseille.  

We returned to the port after exhausting the museum. Since Marseille has influences from all over the Mediterranean- Italian, Greek, and North African, we decided to explore one of these roots and stopped by a Tunisian restaurant. I tried the North African Merguez sausages which were served on a bed of rice and French fries! The portion sizes were huge! Afterwards, we drifted through La Panier— Marseille’s old district— and assessed street art and small art vendors that filled the streets.

Finally, we walked up the even steeper route to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Unfortunately, the inside of the church was closed to visitors, but the outside terrace and the crypts underneath were open. This mountain top church also had a panoramic view of the city that stretched from the Calanques in the East to the islands in the South. We ended our final day going bakery hopping for pastries and desserts.

The three cities in the French Riviera that I was able to explore— Cassis, Nice, and Marseille— were all very different from one another. Cassis clung to the side of a mountain, the roads winded up and down the steep hills. Nice, which was definitely the most touristy of the three, stood out with its old city. The crowded streets bustled with activity and beautiful colors. Marseille was definitely the most untouched city from tourists between the three; the city is larger and more empty which made us more alert when walking down the streets and stopping for food. However, it was more cultural out of three three. The many different cultures blended on the streets of Marseille, and local artists were more prevalent. Overall, the French Riviera was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved exploring the diverse Mediterranean culture that surrounds the region. And according to the local we met in Nice, “there’s only one thing you must do in Nice— come back.”

A Weekend in Northern Italy

Written by Lillian

October 3, 2022

When I was younger, my mom took my sister and me on a trip to Italy to explore our Catholic heritage. One of the cities on our itineraries was Venice, Italy, the city of canals. However, our experience was anything but pleasant: we got most of our entire travel savings pick-pocketed on the Rialto Bridge! And so Venice was definitely not my favorite city after that incident. Now that I am a little older and wiser, I decided to revisit the city. My travel group woke up bright and early to catch the train to Luxembourg to board a plane to Venice on Friday morning. When we got into the city, we took the water taxi to travel to the island. 

After disembarking, I was on the hunt for tiramisu. Tiramisu is my all-time favorite dessert, so I was looking for the real deal, and fun fact, tiramisu was said to be invented about 20 miles from Venice in the city of Treviso! It was a lot easier than I expected as literally every restaurant was selling some. We zig-zagged around the labyrinth of thin alleys and large squares that filled the island. In Venice, the canals take precedent: the alleys funnel pedestrians across the few bridges that cross the canals. We decided to go sight-seeing in St. Mark’s Plaza as it started drizzling. Since the plaza is below sea level, elevated walkways were set up to allow pedestrians to avoid walking in a few centimeter-deep puddles. There were a couple of orchestras playing for local cafés that filled the square with classical music. That paired with the dozens of umbrellas, the misty haze, and peacefully empty plaza made for such a cinematic aesthetic: it felt like I was in a romance movie waiting for a cloaked figure to emerge from the heavy fog to sweep me off my feet.  

The canals of Venice from one of the bridges.  

It was pouring by the time we got back to our hostel, but we still needed to find dinner. We ended up walking around mainland Venice in search of pizza with sit down service. After finding our fourth location and when our shoes were completely soaked through, we finally stopped at a place that had whole personal pizzas for €6. I tried this interesting combination of kebab, lettuce, and tomatoes on a margarita pizza. 

The next day, we headed back out to the island. We stopped at a café for cappuccinos and pastries. After dining for a little bit, we headed to ride in a pair of gondolas. The gondola service in Venice is set at a standard price based on the time of day— €80 for daytime and €100 for nighttime— for a maximum of five people per every 30 minutes. The gondoliers are required to wear the iconic black, blue, or red stripes to denote that they are part of this service; all other gondoliers are private and may cost differently. We floated down the Grand Canal as our gondolier explained the sites and history of Venice. He also told us that he has served as a gondolier for the past 26 years! The biggest stand out were the rising water levels because of the rain. There was not a lot of height to go under the bridges, and oftentimes the water would spill over the pathways and plaza from the canals showing the impact of rising sea levels on the small canal city.  

We learned from our gondalier that the city of Venice is actually very green although you cannot see it when walking through the alleys. Most of the gardens are private for use only by the residential blocks. 

After our ride, we went sunset searching on the Western portion of the island. The sunset was gorgeous: the buildings were splashed with the orange glow of the sun as the sun slowly retreated below the horizon. Once the sun disappeared completely, the city changed: the alleyways became quiet and dark, only being lit by a handful of streetlights. The canals that were once a bustle of activity carried singular gondolas that slowly and calmly drifted through the water. We stopped for pizza at Birraria La Corte which was recommended by our gondolier— we even saw him dining there at dinner time. 

The next day, we trained to Milan for a quick layover as we headed back to Metz. I will admit, Milan was way different than what I was expecting. The city was becoming very modern with tons of construction happening around every corner to build large skyscrapers and office buildings. One of the only relics of its historic and medieval past is a castle at its heart where wild cats roam around in the dry moats. At the Sforzesco Castle there was a farmers’ market funded by the agricultural society. There were booths of farmers selling their cheeses, olive oils, and tomato sauces. Even better, the entire museum and festival was free! Afterwards, we got some gelato (I got tiramisu gelato of course), and it was some of the best that I have had in Europe! 

From the top left going clockwise: a mochaccino and croissant, tiramisu gelato in Milan, the real-deal Italian tiramisu, a wide selection of gelato flavors at a vendor ranging from Stracciatella (milk with chocolate shavings) to Nocciola (hazelnut), Pizza Capriccioso (prosciutto-mushroom-artichoke) from Birraria La Corte, and spaghetti carbonara. 

Overall, Venice surprised me. After getting pickpocketed there when I was younger, I always dismissed the city. The small pieces that I remember from my childhood were always looked down on with contempt. During this trip, I really focused on paying attention to my belongings and my surroundings: which were gorgeous! I did not remember Venice being so pretty and navigating through the maze of winding streets was an adventure as I stumbled upon empty narrow alleyways and ducked through some of the low entryways. When night fell on the city, the streetlights cast a romantic glow on the colorful worn buildings and made the canals shimmer.  

Meeting the Mayor of Metz

Written by Lillian

September 28, 2022

On Wednesday, the students of GTL were invited to meet the Mayor of Metz with the other technology schools in Metz at the Metz football stadium. We all piled into a bus to take us to the football stadium across town. There was so much traffic within Metz we had to take the highway around the town. Once we got back into Metz, it was bumper to bumper traffic, and I don’t think that our long Coach bus helped traffic that much. It was quite interesting to see Metz from that high since I was so used to gliding through the city on foot or using the carefully planned bus routes to go around town. I would never have expected that Metz would have gridlocked traffic during rush hour!  

When we got to the football stadium, we were greeted by the other technology schools across Metz. One of the first things that I noticed was that Georgia Tech Lorraine was much more diverse in terms of gender distribution when compared to the other technology universities which are much more male dominated. We were also greeted by the Metz mascot: Graoully. According to legends, Graoully was a dragon that frightened children in the Moselle region who was defeated by Saint Chément, the first bishop of the city of Metz.  

After watching a Metz city hype video, the Mayor of Metz, François Grosdidier, gave a speech to all of the technology students to thank us for helping make Metz a more technology driven city. The mayor and other presenters all spoke in French, so I wasn’t unable to understand most of it until we were helped by some of the teachers and French students there. He went on to discuss some of the accomplishments the city has had. He also told us that because the 2024 Olympics will be held in Paris, Metz has been chosen to host the volleyball teams’ training for the games!

After all the speeches, the catering staff brought out all tons of French Hors d’oeuvres. There were long slices of cured meats, giant blocks of hard and soft cheeses, mango dipping sauce and figs, and a potato-cheese salad. They also had hot dogs with a cheese sauce topped to the eater’s desire with pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, and pickled and fried onions. And of course, there had to be rolls and rolls of French bread. For dessert, there were frosted donuts and cranberry pound cake. All of the food was so decadent, and I wanted to try it all… I didn’t even realize you could have an entire meal of just little plates! For drinks, they had bottles of Lorraine Cola (a cola made by a local manufacturer with all its ingredients sourced from the Lorraine region) and apple juice. Luckily, GTL provided another shuttle back to the dorms after we all came out with food comas.  

It was really cool to see all the other engineering students from Metz gathered in one place, and compare and contrast our schools with theirs. This was a really unique experience, and the food really sent it to the next level!

Amsterdam: A Biker’s Paradise

Written by Lillian

September 23, 2022

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Amsterdam were the bikes. They were everywhere! Extensive bike storage racks dominated the landscape outside the central train station. Bike lanes lined every road— even the ones outside large industrial manufacturing plants and in the middle of nowhere. As you walk down the cobble streets, a chipper bell will sound and then a bike will whizz past you with its rider dressed in anything and everything from casual lounge wear to business suits and heels. It was jaw dropping. The biking culture here is unparalleled.

Strop-waffles, bikes, and colorful thin houses— what can be more Dutch?

To dip our feet into Dutch culture, my friends and I went on a free walking tour of Amsterdam. Many different cities offer free walking tours, but if you cannot find one, a company called GuruWalk offers tours with local guides. The stipulation is that guests will tip the guide 5-10€ each for their service. I thought that the free walking tour was a really nice way to see the sights of the city and learn about the history in a more interactive way when compared to museums. 

These flowered bikes can be found all over Amsterdam. They are created by the Flower Bike Man, Warren Gregory, to help his wife— who suffers from memory loss— locate her bike. Since then, he has decorated over 300 bikes to spread positive messages around the city to his fellow humans. You can sometimes find him riding equally colorful bikes around the city.

After learning about Dutch culture, we took the plunge: we rented bikes to fit in. However, instead of biking through the city, we headed over to the Zaanse Schans Windmills. The 45km (about 28 mi) round trip bike path took us to downtown Zaandam, through the Dutch countryside, and right to the windmills. At the windmills, we participated in some cheese tasting at a local shop, and I was able to taste cow, sheep, and goat cheeses of varying ages. They also had white coconut cheese, a bright green pesto cheese, and a blue lavender cheese. Safe to say that I have never seen a more diverse or colorful cheese collection anywhere else (however the cheese selection at CORA comes at a close second). I would highly recommend biking to the windmills. Biking in Amsterdam is iconic, but biking in the city can bring its own set of terrors as you dodge native bikers, tourists, and motor vehicles. This, paired with the new set of city biking rules, can lead to unnecessary stress for you and everyone around you. Biking along the quaint Dutch countryside, however, was much more relaxing, and you can explore much more of the Netherlands!

Bike in the Netherlands: check!

The next day, we headed out of Amsterdam to explore Utrecht, a small canal town with a tall belltower in the center. Walking around Utrecht gave me a different perspective of Dutch culture. Utrecht was certainly more calm than the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam’s busy canal lines streets and tourist filled plazas, and the streets were just as beautiful.

The picturesque Binnentuin Domkerk garden inside St. Martin’s Cathedral.

Looking back, I loved my time in the Netherlands. It was amazing to be able to eat such iconic Dutch food like waffles, pancakes, strop-waffles, and cheeses. My favorite activity was biking to the windmills. We made an entire day of slowly biking our way through the streets, stopping to take photos at every intersection and whenever we smelled something good wafting through the streets. The small rivers, pastures of happy cows, and thatched roof farms that lined the countryside were so pleasant to see, and all were only 30 minutes away from downtown Amsterdam!

International Astronautical Conference 2022

Written by Lillian

September 19th, 2022

I am an avid space enthusiast, so when I learned this year’s International Astronautical Conference was being held an hour train ride away in Paris, I applied to attend immediately! The IAC is an annual conference hosted by the International Astronautical Federation to gather space actors together to discuss the space industry, technical research, and networking opportunities. The conference’s theme was “Space for All”, with a focus on improving access to space in smaller, developing countries, minority groups including people with disabilities, and other fields of study and career disciplines outside of engineering. 

During the conference, I was able to network with a wide variety of different space agencies and companies. The conference had an entire room dedicated to technical exhibitions, featuring a huge array of experiments and projects from various space agencies. These agencies had booths explaining some of their key discoveries and technologies. One of the things which surprised me at this conference was learning almost every European country had a flourishing space agency. From larger countries such as Italy and Germany to smaller countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Poland, all attending European countries had booths. These countries are a part of the ESA (European Space Agency), which is the European equivalent of NASA. The ESA has helped develop spacecrafts such as the Orion Spacecraft Service Module and the Solar Orbiter. Many non-European countries were represented as well such as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, India, and China. Some countries were focused on hiring students and employees. In Belgium, for example, 25% of positions are open, and they are open to hiring students from NATO countries! 

The exhibition also included many different snacks and foods from each country. I loved going around trying all the different foods, from German pretzels to chocolates from New Zealand!

Several talks on novel technologies and research pertaining to the space industry were presented throughout the conference as well. One of my favorite sessions was about food and nutrition in space – the presenters hosted a chocolatier who is focusing on creating truffles for astronauts. He created truffles that include the same amount of caffeine as a Red Bull and another truffle with kumquat extract that contains all the necessary nutrients for a single day. These chocolates will hopefully be used in space as a source of vitamins that can stimulate the senses more than other foods!

We even got to try the chocolates! We listened to two different songs, one relaxing and one upbeat, while eating them to show the effect of music on food taste.

The conference also hosted some major players in the space industry including Bill Nelson, the Director of NASA; Lisa Campbell, the President of the Canadian Space Agency; Philippe Baptiste, the President of Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES)— the French space agency; and Josef Aschbacher, the Director General of the ESA. I also was able to meet one of my favorite science communicators…

Bill Nye the Science Guy! Bill! Bill! Bill!

Overall, the International Aeronautical Conference was a blast (off!) to attend. I enjoyed viewing all the different exhibits, listening to the keynote speakers, and networking with so many European professionals. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I hope I will have similar opportunities in the future while studying at GTL. For a future note to students, the 2024 IAC Conference will be hosted in Milan, Italy!

Ad Astra!

How to Deal with Getting Sick at GTL

Written by Lillian

Friday, September 16th 2022

One of the worst things that can happen to you while Georgia Tech Lorraine is get sick. The stress of Georgia Tech classes and traveling every weekend paired with France’s colder temperatures approaching easily leads to sickness. This past weekend, I traveled to the German and Austrian Alps, and the weather was not cooperating at all. The entire weekend brought icy rain and bone chilling wind— something I was not prepared for. The single rain jacket I brought with me was definitely not enough. 

An Austrian Apfelstrudel from a Hutte: small hotels and restaurants located on the top of mountains. The only way to access it is to hike to it. It was super delicious, too bad the journey got me sick…

I got back to Metz with the sniffles, which slowly turned into a sneeze and a cough, which then turned into fever over the course of the week. The first thing I did was conduct a rapid test for COVID, and thankfully I was negative. However, since my room offers no temperature control and the only air circulation is provided by a single window being opened and closed, it was very hard to heal from a simple cold. If you got caught up in the same situation that I did, here are some recommendations to avoid becoming sick and how to get better:

Pharmacies: In France, you cannot purchase drugs at the supermarket. Instead, you have to go to devoted stores called Pharmacies to purchase these items. You can always recognize them via their green crosses. There is one in CORA, and the attendees are super nice and will have a high chance of speaking English! They have everything from ibuprofen and cough medicine to specialized cushioned shoes.

Pharmacie in CORA. Pharmacies always have the distinctive green cross, found all over Europe.

GTL Nurse: GTL has a nurse that visits the campus once a week for free consultation for all students. If you are unsure of the prescription that you would need at the pharmacies, make sure to talk to the nurse beforehand!

Masks: The only good thing to come out of COVID is that wearing face masks is more normalized. Help protect your fellow students by wearing face masks whenever you leave your room to go to the pharmacy.

Setting boundaries: One way to prevent getting sick is to set boundaries when traveling. Instead of leaving after class on Thursday and getting back to campus Monday morning before all of your classes start, give yourself time to recover before and after traveling. A lot of students will push themselves to maximize the amount of time traveling, but remember that train sleep is not the best type of sleep. The bumps and interesting temperature ranges trains can have make it very hard to sleep peacefully. By extension, overnight trains are not always the best solution especially if there are shorter ones during the day. Always give yourself at least 8 hours to sleep every day that is not on a train, and it will make you feel much better.

What to Expect During Your First Week at GTL

September 12, 2022

Written by Lillian

1. GTL shuttle

When you first arrive in Paris, at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, your first task is to locate the GTL shuttle. I highly recommend getting into contact with other GTL students prior to entering Paris in order to make this experience better, since finding the shuttle is very chaotic and hard to locate in the midst of being in a foreign country and finding your luggage. Thankfully, I was able to text other students in a GTL group chat to ask for more specific directions to the shuttle.

That afternoon and night offers students time to unpack their things and unwind from the day of traveling. Free pizza will be offered during a dorm building party for dinner. Some students will also take this time to shop for food and personal belongings. I would hold off on making large purchases during this time because students will get the opportunity to pick large items like trash cans and fans for free on Monday, when old GTL students dorm supplies are available to new GTL students. 

2. CORA tour

The next morning, students have the option of signing up for a tour of CORA: the local supermarket, which is more like a superstore in Metz. During this tour, you will learn where everything is located, and some helpful hints to make your shopping experience better. For example, in order to use a shopping cart, you need to insert a coin into the cart to unlock it. You will get that coin back when you return the cart. You also need to plastic wrap all large backpacks (purses and handbags excluded) when you enter the store to prevent theft. CORA, like many other French grocery stores, has a large bakery and cheese section.

3. Downtown Metz Tour

That afternoon, we headed into downtown Metz on a GTL supplied bus. We got an audio tour of the city while riding a small train-like shuttle. Once that was over, the student assistants freed us to explore the town ourselves. During this time, I went with a group of students to get cellular data plans at Free Mobile. One student spoke French so we were able to rely on him to make sure we got the plans we needed.

View of Downtown Metz. Imagine living in one of those apartments that look out onto the waterfront!

4. Orientation

Monday morning brings orientation! While there are no classes on Monday, students are required to attend orientation early that morning where we learn about building safety precautions, research abroad, and general GTL programs. Since there are no classes on Monday, this first week will have classes on Friday, so your first week’s travel plans will be impacted.

5. Campus Tour

On the Monday of your first week of classes, you will be given a tour of the GTL building as well as safety information about the building. Your class will be split into different tour groups to walk through the building at different times. While waiting for your group to start, you can rent a bike with Velomet for €15 who will visit GTL during that time. In order to rent a bike, you must bring a €200 deposit that you will receive when you turn your bike back in. Velomet only accepts cash deposits, so if you are in need of a bike, make sure to bring it to your orientation on Monday. GTL will also invite a local food truck that you can purchase lunch from.

6. Garage Sale

In the middle of your tour, you will have access to the Garage Sale, a room full of free items to grab from previous GTL students. Items include fans, brooms and mops, clothes bins and drying racks, trash cans, hangers, etc. Students have limited time and limited number of items that they can select during the garage sale in order to make it fair to all students; however, students in earlier tour groups will receive an advantage since they will choose their items first. Even though I was in the last group to choose items, I still was able to pick up a fan, cutting board, trash can, and clothes bin, so do not worry if you are in the same situation.

I was one of the last students that was able to go to the garage sale, and this is how much was still remaining

7. Grad Orientation

If you are a Masters or PHD student, you are required to attend a major specific orientation detailing your program at GTL. During this time, you learn about research and courses for your degree, and you can ask more grad school specific questions.

8. Dorm Tours

Students will also receive a tour of their dorm building after the tour of campus and learn about laundry facilities and trash separation. The washing machines in my building, Lafayette, include their own detergent. Fabric softeners and other scented products are not included. 

9. Leonardo Program

During orientation, you will learn about the Leonardo Program: a program headed by French teacher Sonia Seravan to explore the arts. This program has events that are free for students such as drawing classes with a local artist and speed dating events to meet your fellow Georgia Tech travelers.