Why going to GTL changed my life

Photo by Sara Schmitt

What do seven people, twelve weeks, and two eight-hour plane rides have in common? One thing — Georgia Tech Lorraine.

Back in the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to go to Georgia Tech Lorraine with a group of seven guys that are now some of my best friends. After spending hundreds of hours on trains, exploring 15 different cities across Europe and spending time with such an awesome group of people, I can without a doubt say that going to GTL was one of the best decisions I made in my college career.

Back when I applied to go to GTL, I did not have any plans for going with a group or with anyone in particular. After one of the pre-trip meetings, I found out that one of my friends was going and that he was getting a group of people together who were also going. I saw an opportunity and joined up with the group.

The only person I knew in the group was my friend — I did not know any of the other six people. For me, I am usually most comfortable when I am around people that I know and have spent time with. The thought of traveling all summer across a part of the world that I have never been to with a brand new group of people put me very far outside of my comfort zone.

Fast forward a few months and we are all at GTL in the first week of class. For our first weekend, we decided to go to Brussels. It was not too far away from Metz (only about five hours by train) and there was a lot to see — a nice intro into our summer. Between getting lost (my fault) getting from the train station to the hotel, doing a walking tour of the city, exploring the downtown nightlife, and eating more than a few gaufres from the plethora of vendors (waffles from a van never tasted so good!) we were all exhausted! It was a very fun-packed first weekend and I knew if our first weekend was this packed, I had a lot more excitement ahead of me.

As it turned out, I was absolutely correct. I clicked with the group pretty quickly and we started planning the weekends ahead. The rest of the summer was filled with trips throughout Europe — Paris, Barcelona, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Geneva, and Marseilles just to
name a few.

Each weekend was more fun than the last — more walking tours, seeing the sights, eating delicious food, exploring new places and having a great time on adventures with an even greater group of friends. Breaking my foot three weeks in (protip: do not lose a war with the trenches of Verdun like my foot did) could not stop me, and my friends made sure of it. They were right by my side every step of the way helping me out, even if I did slow them down a tad here and there, and for that I am forever in their debt.

Studying abroad is an amazing experience and everyone should take the time to do it if they possibly can. While mine was a bit atypical with the injury and all, I still managed to enjoy every second of it and would not have spent my summer any other way.

This is the time in your life where you have the freedom and independence to go to a new place and a new group of people to see new things and have an amazing time. Being able to hop on a train and go to any number of places at your leisure is a
feeling that is unlike any other out there.

You are in complete control of where you are going, how you get there, and what you do in a new place with so much to see and do. Being able to get class credit (and for some people, reduced tuition) while you’re over there is just icing on the cake!

You will be hard pressed later in life to be able to say “I’m hungry. Do you want to go to Luxembourg for dinner?” and then hop on a train and be there 45 minutes later. The adventures to be had and the freedom to feel are unmatched. Studying abroad is one experience that every college student should absolutely take advantage of.