Leaving Our Mark on the Community

Georgia Tech-Lorraine students did not just go to classes and travel this semester. They also gave back to the community through a service project at Fort Queuleu, a former internment camp, just a 20 minute walk from Georgia Tech-Lorraine.

Posted by Julie

That last week has been the best Metz I’ve ever seen – a balmy 60° underneath blue skies and gold-tinted sunbeams. Personally, I think it was the universe getting excited about our volunteering event at Fort Queuleu.

Students have asked for an opportunity to volunteer, and while there are too many hoops to jump through for volunteering genres such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters, we found this early on and have been working to make it happen for a while.

You may remember that one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my International Affairs trip, which included Fort Queuleu, a former internment camp just a 20 minute walk from Georgia Tech-Lorraine. The tour was particularly impactful – from the storytelling of our guide to the creative, connecting visuals. I was amazed that so much history was hidden in the hills so near us, so I was incredibly excited about this opportunity.

We joined a group of maybe ten other dedicated volunteers who convene twice a month to clean up and preserve the history of the region. Many spoke little English, so it was a great way for the group to brush up on their French, or even learn a little for some. We still had conversations and laughs with the others, despite the language barriers.

While some cut back bushes and undergrowth, we were assigned to work with a few people on the refurbishment of the entry gate. For my group, the morning crew, we brushed off the moss and rust with metal brushes and painted on a first coat of protective glaze, after which the afternoon group painted on several more.

With the weather as perfect as it was, and the people so nice, I don’t think I have enjoyed a BDE event more. Of course, there are several lined up soon – so that title may be tested!

My favorite part? As I was walking out of the park area in which Fort Queuleu is situated, another French woman was leaving as well. She started up a conversation, and I explained why our students were there. She was very happy and impressed that we wanted to help the community as much as we did. I found that this was also her first time volunteering, as she had recently found out that her mother was a part of the underground movement to overthrow Nazi rule during occupation during World War II – which is when Fort Queuleu was used as an internment camp for French resistance.

It was so nice to be a part of something bigger than me; something that has such a personal connection to the people that live here. It’s nice to say that I didn’t just visit Metz, but I lived in and contributed to the community.


Grad Student Profile: Meet Emanuele Testa!

Think all graduate students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine are from either France or the U.S.? Guess again! Emanuele Testa, a graduate student in ECE, hails from Italy and is working on a dual-degree through our partner institution, the University of Brescia.

Name: Emanuele Testa

Major/Field of Study: MS ECE

Year in grad school: 1st semester

Partner Institution: University of Brescia

Home Country: Italy

Favorite quote: “(He) who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly. …”  
from, “Die Slowly” – Martha Medeiros

Favorite Song: “Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd


If you don’t know Emanuele, you’re missing out. And I’m not just saying that because he’s in my group for the CS 4261 app.

Emanuele, unlike many graduate students, hails from Italy, and surprisingly, that comes up more often than you’d think. People tend to think that here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine there are two types of students: French and American – and no deviation. Even I started with this frame of mind, as I introduced myself to him, asking where he was from, and it wasn’t Paris, Lyon, or another French city. We had a presentation in class that narrowed the entire scope of logging into the app based on whether the student was American or French – and I couldn’t help but see if he responded to the exclusion. He’s very gracious about it; it’s not mean spirited – people just don’t know!

At the beginning of our shared computer science class, we had to share our interests to the class to be more comfortable with each other’s interests and skill sets, and I remember even then Emanuele describing his interest in robotics. So then, it’s no surprise that his dream job lies in designing robotic medical machines for tasks like surgery or rehabilitation. It’s also not a surprise that his favorite class is ME 6407 (a.k.a. robotics).

Like I’ve often seen in Europe, a Master’s degree is not seen as optional in some fields – and Emanuele agrees, citing the need to specialize in something. He chose Georgia Tech-Lorraine specifically, though, because we have a dual-degree program with his home university, the University of Brescia. He seems to like his decision, though; when asked for his best recommendation for other graduate students, he recommended attending, describing Georgia Tech-Lorraine as “an amazing opportunity.” As he says, “An American degree definitely makes a difference in your future employment opportunities, [whether] you want to work in Europe or in any other part of the world. It’s a multicultural and creative environment and a great opportunity to improve your English!” His favorite part of Georgia Tech-Lorraine, though? The people, as the “students are very friendly and the staff here is very helpful.”

When he’s not studying or hanging with friends, Emanuele is probably playing the piano, watching the latest awesome movie, or traveling (not such a surprise hobby at Georgia Tech-Lorraine.) His dream destination? Bali, Indonesia.

The Belgian Waffle

Blogger, Ije, visited Brussels the weekend before the Brussels attacks, and shares these mouth-watering words on Belgium’s most famous sweet treat.

Note: Blogger, Ije, visited Brussels the weekend before the Brussels attacks. Students have been advised to avoid traveling to Belgium at this time.

I traveled to Brussels, Belgium several weekends ago and tried none other than their famous Belgian Waffles…and boy were they delicious.


If you crave a crispy, sweet, and sugary treat that’ll melt your taste buds, then the Belgian Waffle is for you. Belgian waffles are made in a hot cast iron machine and leavened with yeast or baking powder. In Belgium, this waffle is often bought on the street and eaten with your hands, but it can also be served in more formal settings. Contrary to American waffle-eating custom, the Belgian Waffle is never served with maple syrup. Yes, it tastes just that good on its own.

So what is the history behind the Belgian waffle?

Belgian waffles were originally showcased in 1958 at the Brussel’s World Fair, and later introduced to the United States by a man named Walter Cleyman. They were further popularized in 1964, when Maurice Vermersh introduced his recipe at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. (Fun fact: Belgian waffles were originally called Brussels waffles. However, many Americans did not know Brussels was the capital of Belgium, and Vermersch changed the name for this very reason).

Topping choices for the Belgian Waffle are endless, varying from powdered sugar and strawberries to vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate syrup (Yummm!). And even better than the endless topping choices are the prices. Belgian waffles are sold as cheap as 1 euro, and they are worth every cent.

So, if you ever find yourself in Brussels, and want a taste of pure happiness, make sure to bless your taste buds with a waffle!…or two…or three…

My first of many Belgian waffles!


Brussels in the Heart of Georgia Tech-Lorraine

GTL’s chief blogger, Julie, writes movingly about recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and beyond and reminds us all that, “The best thing to do is to love above all – and to prepare and be vigilant.”

Posted by Julie

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the recent events: a terror attack carried out by ISIL agents struck Brussels in its airport and a metro station near the hub of the European Union. All across our screen, new channels flash images of smoking airport terminals, people running haphazardly in the streets, and first responders caring for victims wrapped in shiny security blankets. As of tonight, 31 dead and 271 wounded.

And even before that, but much more quietly, innocent civilians on a beach in the Ivory Coast on the 14th of March. 22 dead and 33 wounded.

Image courtesy of USA Today.

Tuesday morning would have been just like any other for Georgia Tech-Lorraine students shaking off the sleep with coffee and class, but just after 8am, our classmate posted in our GroupMe. We all watched closely – whether via Reddit threads or CNN feeds or elsewhere for details. Many of us have visited Brussels, and some of us were even in Brussels this weekend, in the very spots where the horrifying events took place. Many have friends and family living, working, visiting. All of us had settled back into our routines at our “home base,” but watching the events unfold was still heartbreaking.

Terror attacks both move and paralyze humanity. They prey on the fear of the unknown, causing chaos and suffering as the world stops to watch. However, every single one of them has hit the core of humanity – from Paris to Syria to Thailand to Egypt to Nigeria, and now the Ivory Coast and Brussels. The thing is, though, they are a worldwide endeavor of radical organizations – even in the United States, such as in San Bernardino or Chattanooga. It’s a reality, and a grotesque one assuredly. It shouldn’t exist, but it does, and it can happen anywhere. The best thing to do is to love above all – and to prepare and be vigilant.

Unpredictability is a hard enemy to fight, but to all parents: everyone at Georgia Tech-Lorraine is doing everything in their power to keep your child safe while studying abroad. Even things that I cannot describe for our own safety! Parents, if you’re curious, ask your student. From the moment we are waiting at the airport to leave, people in both Atlanta and France are prepared, watching, ready to help if anything goes wrong – I specifically remember Mme. Bass saying that they stay up to make sure that students arrive safely – to touching back down in the United States.

Due to constant vigilance, there is constant improvement. More safety measures have been put into place even since last November; there are meetings about our safety – even one already drawn together to discuss the attacks in Brussels – and how to best respond and protect. Weekly updates, as well as emergency ones, inform us on the state of affairs and important events and advise how best to avoid problem areas.

Information is one of the greatest powers garnered by travel and wielded by Georgia Tech-Lorraine to promote the well-being and security of staff and students. Some channels remain voluntary, such as notifying Georgia Tech-Lorraine staff as to where one travels during the weekends for emergency purposes (though I highly recommend it, as I was told it was a great help to confirm the security of all students after the Paris attacks). However, most aspects are integrated into life at Georgia Tech-Lorraine to maintain the success and safety of the program.

Scroll back through the previous posts of this blog, and you’ll find it celebrates the absolute opportunities attainable at Georgia Tech-Lorraine – and in some cases, no other place. You see so much good going on here, and there is so much done to protect it. This experience has changed my life beyond my words to describe, and I am a big fan of words – which is part of why I love writing. And by extension, I love the words said by others people (a.k.a. quotes). I could throw the cliché ones at you (FDR’s “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” anyone?), but here’s by far my favorite quote about fear:

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

There is an undeniable amount of uncertainty to any facet of life. At any given moment, another person’s path may come careening into ours, intentionally or unintentionally, crashing and smashing the plans we had so neatly laid out. We get in our cars, risking accidents; we climb the mountain, risking injury. Never before has this proved a reason to cower and hide, and it shouldn’t be now. Fear is the tool of these attacks, and we cannot let it manipulate us into not living on our own terms. There is too much good in the world to stop seeking it, though not without reason and sense.

Image courtesy of PBS.org.

And so, we here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine mourn the people we lost in Brussels and Cote d’Ivoire. Remembering their lives in peace rather than anger, we look to tomorrow and pursue a better world.

5 Cures for Boredom on a Cross-Country Train Ride

Sleep. Play cards. Have a discussion. Write. Do nothing. Repeat. Are we there yet?

Posted by Ije

1. Sleep.

gty_man_sleeping_on_train_thg_111208_wmainWhat better time to catch up on some Z’s? Especially on those 13 hour cross-country trips. Train seats may be a bit uncomfortable, but plug your ears up to some peaceful tunes, lean against a window or head rest, and you’ll dose off in no time.

2.  Play Cards.playing-cards

The amount you can do with one deck of cards is endless. Play a series of fun, competitive games with friends. Your trip will fly by in no time. A handful of exciting card games include Spades, Go Fish, Tunk, Thirteen, and Speed.


3.  Write.

Write journal entries on past weekend trips. Reflect on your time at GTL. Use this extended amount of time to write down your thoughts and look back in retrospect. You’ll thank yourself months from now back home.

4. Have a discussion. Now_Were_Talking2

Take time to get to know your friends and fellow classmates. Talk about politics. Relationships. Life Events. Discussions can spark a lot of thought, and are great way to share your opinions while learning from others.

dsc_16195.  Do Nothing.

Rest. Look out of the train window. Observe beautiful scenery, and take in everything around you. Moments like these will be some of your best while abroad.

Meet Katia, Queen of GTL Student Events

Katia Ménard Pons loves helping pave the way for students to have smooth roads ahead while navigating life at GTL.

Name: Katia Ménard Pons

Position: Academic Office & Campus Life

Favorite Part of Position: Working with open-minded students. Helping students settling down in Metz and leave the school with great memories at GTL besides classes!

One Thing to Tell Students: Living in a foreign country teaches you so much not only culturally, but also personally.

Phrase That Best Describes GTL: Cultural exchange

Favorite Color: Depends…  Everything should match to the situation, so I won’t have the same answer if it is to decorate my house or to dress as I think everything has to fit with its environment! So it can be red, yellow, or blue!

Favorite Food: Is the quiche Lorraine a good answer? You should try and judge by yourself ! J

Interests/Hobbies: Spend time with my children and watch a good movie at the cinema with friends.

Katia is in the top row, second from the right.

Katia is one of the names that most GTLers are most likely to recognize. Whether due to direct contact or mentioned in passing, her name is on a great many things that we see on campus: our distance learning and field trip classes, BDE event support and scheduling, Portes Ouvertes (a.k.a. Open House), health insurance for Master’s students from outside of France.

I, myself, as a member of the BDE have had the pleasure of working closely with her for some time now. Try to imagine seven American college students sitting in a classroom scheming about events for the student body – from paintball to a banquet – and Katia’s sitting there right alongside us, steering us away from havoc.

Working with students is her favorite part of the job, though, so maybe it’s not as crazy as it seems. She particularly loves speaking with 20% of students who are eagerly pursuing learning and speaking French – so don’t be afraid to test out your language skills with her! She supports GTL as a new experience, and that’s what she wants you to know: it expands horizons not only culturally, but personally, as a “challenging situation which gives you the opportunity to open your mind to a new environment and a different way of living.”

There’s a lot to learn when living abroad, and there’s also a lot to learn about Katia! Her favorite food? Quiche Lorraine (and she recommends trying it). Her favorite pastime is spending time with her children, or going to see a particularly great film at the theater with friends. And don’t ask her what her favorite color is, as that all depends on what the subject matter is. She won’t have the same answer depending on whether it’s for the house, clothes, or otherwise (but she listed red, yellow, and blue, so if you’re getting her a birthday card, shoot for those).

Mastering Living Abroad: Meet Sarah Malak

Graduate student Sarah Malak is fully immersed in French culture at Georgia Tech-Lorraine while pursuing a dual-degree with French partner school ENSAM(Arts et Métiers Paris Tech).


Posted by Julie

Name: Sarah Malak

Major/Field of Study: Masters (soon to be PhD) in Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 3rd semester

Undergraduate Institution: The University of Akron

What do you want to do with this field? Become a professor.

Why did you choose GTL? It allowed me to attend my favorite university while staying in France.

What research are you pursuing? I am currently doing a project about composites; I will be starting a PhD soon, possibly studying shape memory alloys.

Favorite part of GTL: Having a taste of home here in France.

Best recommendation for other graduate students: Go abroad! Every person should have the experience of living in a country where they don’t speak a word of the language.

Dream destination: To live, the south of France; to visit, Angkor, Cambodia or Bali, Indonesia.

Interests/Hobbies: music (piano, balalaika, Irish fiddle, darbuka, and flute) and dance


Moving to France is apparently very, very difficult for non-European Union citizens, but that wasn’t going to stop Sarah Malak, a graduate student here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. Technically, she’s working at an internship this semester, but she’s still nearby and on campus occasionally – and still living her dream.

Her dream was to not just visit, but live in France, and she stands by her choice, thus supporting her reason why graduate students should study abroad: it is invaluable experience to move to a place where you don’t know a single word, and you have to make that learning curve of learning the basics like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” All the simple things like buying groceries and ordering fast food become abnormally difficult, but the learning to adapt is the lesson, and one that will be cherished. For her, GTL was a prime choice, as you get a helping hand in coming to Europe with the basics like housing, but you’re “free to learn and grow on your own.”

In fact, she’s learned a lot: she moved here four years ago, and so between living in France and having a French-speaking husband, is basically fluent (you go girl!). Currently, she’s doing the internship segment of her dual-degree with Georgia Tech-Lorraine and ENSAM here in Metz, where she’s studying composites, but when she returns, she’ll finish her Master’s degree, then pursue a PhD studying shape memory alloys. France was a dream destination for Sarah – and still it remains, as she wants to settle in the south of France.

Outside of school, Sarah maintains her extraordinary lifestyle, as a dancer as well as a musician of multiple instruments, the long list including the piano, balalaika, Irish fiddle, darbuka, and flute. Maybe she lost her flute a while back, but some things you just don’t forget.

March Madness Begins!

March Madness, Metz style. — The odds for having a good time participating in March Madness are high, but the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808!

It’s March Madness Season! And the BDE is hosting our very own March Madness Bracket Challenge!How-to-unblock-and-watch-NCAA-March-Madness-2015-outside-US-Smart-DNS-Proxy-or-VPN“What is March Madness exactly?”

Posted by Ije

March Madness, formally known as The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, is a tournament played each spring in the United States. The tournament features 68 college basketball teams, who play in fast-paced, intense rounds of single-elimination games. Yep, that’s right. Once you lose a game you’re out, and the last team standing standing wins it all. The tournament was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and has had an extremely huge influence on American sports culture ever since. In fact, alongside the Super Bowl, it is arguably one of the most famous annual sporting events in the United States.


March Madness wouldn’t be March Madness without its famous Bracket Challenge. Each year millions of Americans fill out brackets in the hopes of winning that $100 bet against a family member, or even better, submitting a perfect bracket online and hitting the jackpot. The American Gaming Association projects that 40 million Americans will fill out more than 70 million brackets this year (that’s a lot of brackets.). But choosing the outcome of the tournament isn’t as easy as it seems. To have a perfect bracket, one must correctly choose the winner of every. single. round. of games in the tournament. And each year, without fail, a buzzer beater or underdog team ruins everyone’s chances of getting it right. For those of us who know nothing about basketball, the odds of randomly filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (that’s quintillion). If you have some prior knowledge about the famous American sport, and make conscious choices in your bracket, you have a much better chance of…wait for it..1 in 772 billion! (lol.)


The GTL student with the most accurate bracket (or who knows, the first perfect bracket ever) will win a sports jersey of their choice, and the runner up will win a sports cap.

Stay tuned for when we announce our first and second place winners in April! May the odds be ever in your favor!!

Faculty Profile: Meet Dr. Peter McKeon!

One quick visit to Atlanta was all it took to convince Dr. Peter McKeon to pursue his graduate studies at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. He liked it so much that he never left! Read more about what makes this popular professor tick, and his advice for students coming to GTL.

Posted by Ije

Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have built relationships with fellow classmates and neighbors, but how well do we know our faculty? Last week I sat down with Dr. Peter McKeon, a professor here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. This semester, he teaches ME 3017 (Systems Dynamics) and COE 2001 (Statics).

Dr. McKeon

Dr. Mckeon received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and his Masters and PhD through Georgia Tech-Lorraine (Fun fact #1: Dr. McKeon did his undergraduate degree with Dr. Layton, who also teaches classes at GTL.) He wrote his thesis in collaboration with the Insitut de Soudure, which involved a numerical and experimental study on developing a structural health monitoring system for high pressure gas reservoirs.

How did Dr. McKeon end up at Georgia Tech-Lorraine? It all started with a visit to Atlanta. There, he met Dr. Declercq, who convinced him to come to France for a research assistant job. (Fun fact #2: Dr. McKeon did his Masters and PhD entirely at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. He has only been to the Atlanta campus once).

Let’s go back even further. As a child, Dr. McKeon first aspired to be a zookeeper. His career dreams transformed as he grew older, and in high school he found he enjoyed physics. He liked that physics could predict what was going to happen in the world. By knowing some fundamental qualities of objects, he could predict a variety of outcomes, from their speed to their motion/trajectory. In college, Dr. McKeon enjoyed his music theory classes, and described these years as a time when he first became a mature musician. (Fun fact #3: Dr. McKeon played bass, guitar, and viola when he was little, as well as a little bit of a piano. He also took voice lessons). He studied the theory and mathematics behind music, and found there were many similarities between his two sets of interests.

Dr. McKeon enjoys many aspects of teaching. However, his favorite part is getting to interact with excited and curious students. He loves to see students engaged and eager to learn, already thinking ahead about how they can use the information he’s taught them and apply them to the real world. He described this as the beginning of a creative process, that he loves to be a part of.  I asked Dr. McKeon what his favorite subject is to teach, to which he responded without hesitation: Systems Dynamics. It was his own favorite engineering class, and the first time he truly felt like an engineer. Systems dynamics draws information from a variety of courses (differential equations, calculus, statics, electronic circuits, fluid mechanics, you name it) and makes something cohesive. In Dr. McKeon’s words, the class is “one culmination of understanding of math and science.” It was what first got him interested in acoustics (ironic, because he’s a musician) as a physics discipline. (Fun Fact #4: His PhD is in System Dynamics, Acoustics and Controls. He does work with structural acoustics, which are mechanical vibrations through material).

Dr. McKeon is involved in several hobbies outside the classroom. He plays mandolin and guitar in a band, and plays gigs on different nights here in Metz. He also manages one of Metz’s baseball teams. (Fun Fact #5: His favorite band is the Avett Brothers, and his favorite baseball team is the Pittsburgh Pirates).

Dr. McKeon and his mother at Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)

I asked Dr. McKeon what the best phrase was to describe Georgia Tech-Lorraine, to which he answered, “Georgia Tech’s foothold and portal to Europe.” Surely, many students would agree that this is a spot on description of our current experiences. Metz holds a very special place in Dr. McKeon’s heart. In fact, he described it as one of the prettiest French towns he’s ever been too. “Downtown is gorgeous, and very appealing aesthetically. The people of Metz are very friendly for the most part. There’s a lot of history here and people have not forgotten it. There are a lot of American cemeteries around this region. The older generation has gratitude toward Americans for the role that we played in their liberation. So it’s special for us to be here in this north east region of France.” Dr. McKeon also loves Metz’s central location. “With one bus ride, I can be at the Luxembourg airport. There’s a one hour train ride to Germany. And I can take the TGV for a day trip to Paris.”

One piece of advice for Georgia Tech-Lorraine students? Dr. McKeon has plenty. “ I think that students are in general too hard on themselves. I think they often expect a lot of themselves, and this experience in general is a very cool experience, but not an easy one.  Many students travel every weekend, and it’s a lot to take in. Allow yourself time to breathe while you’re here. Schedule in a few days of rest. Realize you’re not super humans. Prioritize and budget your time to be effective.

But wait, there’s more! “Students should also realize the advantages that Georgia Tech-Lorraine has, and try to leverage and take advantage of them as much as possible. For example, lectures here are tiny classes with a lot of almost one-on-one attention. These same classes would be huge lectures in Atlanta. Use this opportunity to participate in class and get the extra help you need.”

One last piece of advice from Dr. McKeon: “In general, realize that education can be a group activity. We should be striving to learn together and not try to do everything on our own. Students should try to help each other learn as much as possible. It’s better for everybody if everyone can learn the material together.”

Look out for Dr. McKeon in the halls of Georgia Tech-Lorraine! And stay tuned for more Faculty Profiles to come!


Brussels and Perspective on the European Union

International Affairs 2221 takes learning about the European Union from the textbooks to the streets of Brussels.

Posted by Julie

I would consider myself a travel buff. Weekend mornings, my parents watched travel shows while sipping teas, and I actually have some of those DVD’s with me. The main use for my Pinterest? Travel planning. (And cool free font-searching!) If I’m on Buzzfeed, it’s a travel destination list (the last one I looked at was the most beautiful libraries around the world).

Travel is this grand adventure, but it requires some thought and planning before takeoff. Everyone has that list of dream destinations and a repertoire of details and facts about places they have been or will go, right? Well, I do, too.

And to be honest? Before this weekend all I knew about Belgium was chocolate, waffles, the Atomium, and Stromae. (Embarrassing, I know. Not Stromae, – he’s the bomb.com – but my limited perspective.)

The International Affairs 2221 class headed by the renowned Mme. Serafin and Dr. Birchfield ventured across the French-Belgian border to experience Brussels, the capital of Belgium. The class, which studies the politics of the European Union, toured the Parlamentarium, which is the hub of the European Parliament. Sure, they have their monthly meetings in Strasbourg, but most of the work and committee meetings happen here.

The giant museum situated in part of the complex housed so much history, I couldn’t get past the second floor before we had to go! (And there are three. I didn’t get to sit in the comfortable armchairs and watch videos, either.) Needless to say, I know quite a bit more about the European Union – its three main facets (the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council), how these facets interact and cooperate (or not sometimes), and the struggles faced by and currently facing the European Union.

Afterwards, though, we had a tour from a Brussels businessman and guide. The guided tour by a native was a fantastic opportunity to discuss his thoughts on his city – past and present – as well as get a first-person perspective on current events surrounding Brussels as well as the significant sights and opportunities.

We stopped by the Atomium – which I seriously considered to be the symbol of Brussels. Don’t be fooled, though; you can’t stop to see that one structure and have seen all of the city. We walked from downtown to uptown, passing through Le Sablon – where all of the prestigious chocolatiers reside – and past the Royal Palace; many of the national embassies to both Belgium and the European Union were in close proximity to the work palace of the King and all of the ministers of Belgium.

Just walking around made me happy – solely because of the architecture and art. I was practically drooling from the moment our bus was driving up toward the Parlamentarium, when I saw what remains my favorite building I saw in Brussels, even after walking through the city for several hours. I don’t even know what it is – but someone thank the architect for me. The city itself was apparently leveled by the French in 1695 during the Bombardment of Brussels, making way for a wide mix of architectural styles.

Brussels was an unexpected pleasure – one previously not on my list, but now I want to go back!