Tuesday, June 30, 2009

CHECK IT OUT!!!

I'm on the cover of the new GT Viewbook!

http://www.admission.gatech.edu/viewbook/

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I remember Amsterdam :P

This last weekend was my last one in Europe with Anna. She flew back home Monday morning. I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with Anna in Europe. I had an amazing traveling across the continent with her. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to travel around with her. I am very blessed!

...but about my weekend!!!

I left Metz on Thursday, and it couldn't have come fast enough. I was really not feeling school at all last week. I'm not really sure why; maybe it was because I had a great weekend ahead of me but whatever. I was so happy to leave class and walk to the train station Thursday afternoon. My plan for the weekend was to hang out with Anna in Amsterdam on Friday and maybe go to Brussels on Saturday before meeting my family in Paris on Sunday. Anna and I ended up just staying in Amsterdam for both days because we liked it so much. I ended up taking a roundabout route to Amsterdam because August Burns Red, a favorite band of mine, was playing in Strasbourg Thursday night. I took a train from Metz to Strasbourg Thursday afternoon, went to the show, and then train hopped my way through Germany overnight. I'm really glad I decided to go see the band play. It was a great experience and really interesting to compare it with going to a show back home. The venue was tiny and the band came out and talked with the crowd before and after, although I was one of the few people who spoke English. The French crowd was a bit different from what I'm used to back at the Masquerade, but I still had fun. It was also nice just to go to a show in general since it's been forever since I've been to one.

The trip from Strasbourg was a bit rough, especially after getting sweaty at the concert and not being able to clean up. I found a fountain outside of the train station and washed up a little at least before getting on my train into Germany. I also had a lovely conversation with some random guy in front of the train station. We spoke in French, English, and Spanish. It was probably the most random thing ever, but I was quite amused. I had to transfer quite a few times on my way to Amsterdam. The most stressful time was when I only had 2 minutes to get from one train to another before it departed! I made it but let's just say I was a little worried about making it.

Either way, I met up with Anna in Amsterdam without any trouble. I will admit that I REALLY liked Amsterdam. It's extremely unique, and I think it's unfortunate that it has the reputation it does. The city is quite beautiful with tons of fun things to do. It's also great to hang out, walk around the city, and enjoy the wonderful parks. Highlights of what we did in Amsterdam are: Anne Frank Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Biblical Museum (lots of museums in Amsterdam :P), Thai food takeout for dinner, staying in a 3-star hotel (fancy fancy...although they did put is in the basement...haha), and splurging on a nice dinner and not how much or if to tip at all. It's been fun to do pretty much anything with Anna in Europe. We enjoy each other's company so much that we don't reallly have to do much to pass the time. We have become quite good at walking around cities and sitting together in parks, chatting away the whole time of course :)

All in all, I had a great time in Amsterdam and was really surprised with all that the city had to offer. Also, the city probably has the greatest number of different forms of transportation available for public use. There are the usual ways of getting around like roads, sidewalks, and metros. However, there is also a tram system, a huge network of bike lanes (every road consists of a lane for cars, a lane for bikes, and then the sidewalk), and the canals...crazy I know.

I took a high speed train from Amsterdam to Paris Sunday morning after my "see you later" with Anna.

Meeting up with my family in Paris was an awesome way to end the weekend and mark the halfway point of my summer abroad. It was also Father's Day, so what a great way to celebrate! I met up with them outside of a cathedral near Gare du Nord, and we went all around Paris for the day. Sunday was also the first day of summer, which is celebrated in France with free music festivals and concerts EVERYWHERE! Like I said, it really was the perfect day to be in Paris. The best music was at night when we went to the Sacre Coeur for sunset. There were DJs all around the area putting out techno music, while the Parisians danced in streets. I hope I get to go back sometime and experience it all over again! We spent our day exploring the Louvre and the Latin Quarter before grabbing a nice family dinner together. I got to meet a lot of the group they're traveling with too! It was fun sharing stories back and forth and laughing about stupid things that have happened (most of which happened to me of course :P). For the night, we went to see the Moulin Rouge (just the building...maybe I'll see the show some other time) and the Sacre Coeur. Like I said, the Sacre Coeur was awesome and is probably even my favorite area in Paris. It was definitely a great time with too many stories to share!

All in all, it was another successful weekend. I had a great time with Anna (no surprise there!) and was really glad to see my family. I'm definitely even more super excited about the rest of my summer here after last weekend. I have some great weekends still ahead of me: Prague, Salzborg, Barcelona, and Croatia!

...halfway done

Just wanted to point out that I am past the halfway point for my study abroad experience.

Monday, June 22, 2009

maybe a little bragging

I want to take a moment just to brag about everything I've done today...

I started off today in Paris. I woke up around 5:30 AM to get ready, say goodbye to my family, and head across the city to the train station. I took the 7:00 AM train back to Metz and got back to my room around 9:15 AM. I got unpacked and then headed to my first class. After class, I came to my room to clean up some more and then went to lunch. After lunch, I went to my second class of the day and went to be in the group photo of everybody at GTL. Next, I went shopping for the week and got some great fruit. I decided to splurge a little this week. Once I got back, I gave Brian a haircut, and then he trimmed me up as well. Then I cooked dinner, which was a bacon, egg, and cheese baguette. I must say it was pretty delicious. I just got done with finishing up with cleaning my room which included: washing dishes, taking out the trash (recycling too!), sweeping the floors, and mopping!

I would say I've been pretty productive today :D

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My weekend in Deutschland

I LOVE GERMANY!!!
It's the best country in Europe. I want to come back to Europe and just tour around Germany. There's still so many parts of it that I haven't been to. I went to Munich last weekend and feel like I need another week to go back and see/do everything. I had a great time in Munich. Everything was perfect. The weather was great; the food was delicious; and the company was good (...another weekend with Anna, Joe, and Katie!).

My train left for Munich around midnight on Friday (...late Thursday night to be specific but I guess that would technically be midnight on Friday right?). I decided to hang out in Metz for the night until my train left, so I walked to and around the city for a few hours. I was hoping to go into the cathedral because I haven't yet, but it was already closed. I'll go eventually! I ended up running into a few friends downtown, who were also waiting for the train to Munich. They were on their way to a karaoke bar, and I decided to tag along and hang out until it was time to head to the station. The karaoke bar was a blast! The French are so funny when it comes to karaoke. They're not as crazy about it as Americans are. They definitely take it quite seriously, though. Every French person that sang had a great voice! We were definitely the worst singers in there...hahaha. I had my first couchette experience on the train ride to Munich. It went quite well despite the fact that everybody in the room with me was already asleep when I get on, and I accidentally woke the person below me up in the process of setting up my bed. I couldn't get the bed locked in, and it took many tries, lots of help, and grunts of frustration from the guy below me to get it all set up. I was pretty embarrassed as I went to sleep but whatever. I slept well and enjoyed the couchette experience!

I got to Munich early in the morning on Friday and had the full day to myself since Anna, Joe, and Katie weren't coming in until later in the afternoon. I decided to explore Munich for a while before heading out to the German country to visit a small town called Landshut. Munich is an incredible mix of an old German village with a cosmopolitan city center. There are so many beautiful parks, statues, and buildings to walk around and see, but there was also awesome shopping! There were 4 H&M's in a row in the Marienplatz area. All of them had different themes/styles too! There's too much about Munich that I loved to desribe it all. I walked through the Frauenkirche (largest brick cathedral in Europe) and roamed around the market place in the city. The market was an organic dieter's dream come true. Once I was satisified with getting my bearings straight in Munich, I headed back to the train station to catch a regional train to Landshut, which is about 2 hours from Munich by train.

I am so happy I chose to go to Landshut! It was fun to go off on my own and explore the Germany countryside. I felt like quite the world traveler. Landshut is a beautiful, quaint German town. Two large, cobblestone streets lined with shops and cafes run through the center of town. There is also a large brick cathedral and a castle that overlooks the town from a nearby hillside. I spent my time exploring the city on foot and hiking up to the castle. I hung around the city for the majority of the afternoon before taking a train back to Munich to meet up with Anna, Joe, and Katie. Hanging out in Landshut made me want to travel throughout the rest of Germany visiting small, off-the-beaten-path villiages.

My reunion with the group didn't go exactly as planned. Anna and Katie got of the train, but Joe was no where to be found. It turns out they had to sprint from their train in Stuttgart to get on the transfer to Munich. They all got split up, and Joe got left behind in the process. We went back to the train station later to see if he was able to get on the next train from Stuttgart. It turns out he did, so there was nothing to worry about.

We spent the night exploring the city of Munich. Anna and I went off on our own for dinner and had a great time enjoying the old city area and good German food. Friday was definitely a great start to the weekend.

We took a trip to the Dachau concentration camp on Saturday, which was quite the experience. I have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, but it was quite overwhelming to stand on the same ground where so many prisoners of the camp lived and died. Probably the most erie moments of the visit were entering through the same gate that was there during the camp's operation and standing in the gas chambers and crematorium. I'm really glad we chose to visit, and I think it was good that we paid our respects to the past and learned more about the evils of WWII. I'm not sure if I would ever go back, but I might want to visit Auschwitz one day.


We spent the rest of Saturday hanging out in the old city center of Munich. We went shopping and found all sorts of neat things. I had my fair share of fruit from the market and German eis. Munich is the perfect "let's just hang out" city. I had the best time just walking around and talking. There were all sorts of fun things going on in the streets. There were tons of street performers to watch, markets to explore, and cafes/parks to relax at. One of my favorite street encounters was a man on a horse giving out free pretzels! Before going out to dinner, we had to find a place to stay for the night, which was a bit of a challenge since Depeche Mode had a concert that night in Munich. We ended up fitting all 4 of us into a double in a 3-star hotel near the train station. I haven't talked much about my hotel/hostel experiences, but let me just say that staying in a 3-star was something I hadn't done up until then because the more stars, the more exensive the hotel is. I'm pretty much a 1-star kind of guy. We got a good rate though and splitting the room 4 ways made it a good deal. We decided to have dinner that night at the renowned Hofbrauhaus; it was definitely a worthwhile experience and maybe even a little overwhelming with all the people that were there.

Sunday was a packed full day of Munich. We walked all around the city visiting churches, parks, markets, and famous buildings. There was also a huge festival going on in the city with tons of cool things for sale. We spent a few hours just walking around and looking at stuff. It was like being at a German version of the Dogwood Festival! The highlight of the day for me was going to the Allianz Arena (soccer stadium for Bayern Munich). I'm still waiting for them to call me about signing a contract with them :P

....but yeahhh there's a lot more to say about the weekend. However, I don't really have time because I'm leaving for my next one soon! I'm super excited about this weekend because tonight I'm going to an August Burns Red (one of my favorite bands) show in Strasbourg before training up to Amsterdam. It should be quite the experience; I have no clue what to expect from a show in Europe!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things I miss about home...

Ok...so I'm not really super homesick at the moment, although I was pretty homesick for the first few weeks, but the weather outside is completely AWFUL! It's got me thinking about some things I miss about being back home. So here's a list of things I miss, starting with the weather of course!

1. Atlanta weather - I'm tired of how much it rains here in Metz. It's almost a daily thing. It will be sunny in the morning, rainy in the afternoon, and then sunny again. It's not very fun, especially when it's raining at the moment and I have nothing to eat but my only form of transportation is walking. Weather was great last weekend in Munich though!
2. Free water - It seems nobody in Europe keeps hydrated. There's no water fountains and not all restaurants have tap water (free) available. Some only have hot water, so you have to buy bottled water. Paris and Cinque Terre had occasional public water fountains that were like spigots in the ground.
3. Free bathrooms - It's probably because of #2 that there isn't really a need for public restrooms in Europe, but, either way, it's not cool.
4. GT internet - The internet in my apartment isn't horrible. I'm just spoiled because of Georgia Tech.
5. Cheap laundry - It costs about 6 euros to do a small load of laundry here with a not so good washer and dryer. I would love to wash all of my clothes in the ones at my house.

Clearly, it's not a very long or intense list. I truly LOVE Europe, but I figured I would do a little venting, while showing some appreciation for what I have back home. I'm not sure if I would ever live in Europe. Both places have advantages and disadvantages, and I could make my home in either place. Right now, my friends and family are in the States, so that is where home is. I definitely miss being with them and hanging out in Atlanta! However, I could learn to make Europe home as well. I hope America develops a more European culture and way of life as time goes on. Just small things here and there would make a huge impact. I would like to see that happen.

I'm definitely quite spoiled here and back in the States, so I really don't have anything to complain about. I'm learning a lot about subsistence living here, mostly because of my budget but also because I've made it a goal to live efficiently this summer. My life style back home will see some significant changes due to this summer. I'll make a list of things that I'll miss about Europe later!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

HAIRCUT!!!

So now that I'm in Europe I've ironically decided to do away with my European hair style....well almost. There was a bit of snag during the haircut, and we had to do a little improvising to make it look alright. You'll see what I mean in the pictures....thanks Brian :P hahaha

...oh well it's something fun I can only do on a study abroad trip in Europe!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Weekend in Paris

Despite a few set backs, I had another good weekend touring through Europe. I took a train to Paris Friday afternoon and spent the night with Anna, Joe, and Katie eating dinner in our hotel and going to see the Eiffel Tower at night. Apparently, we missed seeing Michelle Obama at the Eiffel Tower by just a couple of hours...quite unfortunate right?

The Eiffel Tower was quite a sight, especially at night with its light display. I really liked it, but at the same time I thought it was really bizarre and random. There was a ton of people there that night as well for some sort of movie showing that was going on. I guess you could say it was Paris's version of "screen on the green." The girls wanted to head back to the hotel a bit early, but Joe and I really wanted to check out the night life of Paris, especially the Latin Quarter. So, we took care of Anna and Katie and then went out to explore the streets of Paris at night. We ended up running into a large group of people in their mid-20's on the metro. The group was quite loud and obnoxious, especially due to a rather intoxicated Scottish male, and we couldn't help but to start up a conversation. They ended up convincing us to go to a bar with them, instead of going to the Latin Quarter, which apparently is a more girl friendly hang out (...something to do with waiters only wearing boxers...something Joe and I probably wouldn't find that interesting). Either way, Joe and I decided to tag along. The group was so much fun to hang out with and talk to. Apparently, they were a hodgepodge group of friends that met through studying and traveling abroad. Some of them were Scottish, British, and others were French. We talked about all sorts of things on the way to the metro. Unfortunately, we never made it into the bar because the bouncers refused to give our group entry when the Scottish guy smashed a wine bottle on the ground right outside of the bar's entrance. At that point, Joe and I decided it was best to get out of the area and head back to the hotel. We didn't want the group to blame us for ruining their night...oh well! Joe and I had a great time, and it turned out to be a fun story to share with the girls when we got back. Joe even hit the wrong button when we were exiting the metro and accidentally called the police instead of opening the gate.

We spent all of Saturday in Versailles where we met up with a group of French girls Joe, Katie, and Anna had met in Barcelona. We hung out at the mall for a little while because Katie and Anna were freezing and wanted to buy jeans to change into because they were wearing dresses. In fact, the weather was pretty awful the entire weekend. It was wet and cold...very sad. They didn't find any shorts, but we grabbed lunch there anyways and then headed to the Ch√Ęteau de Versailles. Entrance into many historical attractions in Europe is free for EU citizens of a certain age, but I was able to get myself in for free as well by showing my international student ID card and claiming German nationality, which is somewhat true. The palace was beautiful and filled with gorgeous artwork, architecture, and gardens.

We were supposed to take an overnight train from Paris to Nice Saturday night, but that plan turned out to be a fail when we missed our train by less than a minute. So, after working with a very helpful ticket person at the train station, I was able to get Joe, Katie, and Anna on a train to Nice Monday night, which meant we would stay in Paris for the rest of the weekend, and a refund for my tickets. Unfortunately, we had no place to stay that night, but we went back to the hotel we stayed at previously and were able to get a room that night for free and Sunday night for the same reduced price we had it for on Friday. It was too good to be true. We decided to go out and enjoy the night life of Paris that night, which we paid for by sleeping in pretty much all day on Sunday. We definitely got our money's worth for our room. We used Sunday as a day of rest and just enjoyed each others company in our small hotel room. Unfortunately, I lost my cell phone sometime during our late night adventures. It's either in the taxi we took back to the hotel or somewhere in that room. I'm upset at myself for losing it because of all the money I had on it, but at the same time I'm not really surprised. I'm pretty good at losing things. Just ask my mom :P

I ended up sleeping in again Monday morning, so I got on a later train to Metz than I planned on. I at least got to spend some extra time with Anna and got to see more of Paris and didn't have to do the "wake up at 5:45 AM in order to get to class on time" thing that I did last week. But...overall it was a good weekend despite the mix of ups and downs. Either way, I had a great time and wouldn't have changed a thing about it. Good life experiences are always worthwhile.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

...just a quick update

So, I decided to take a quick study break to update my blog. I have my first test of the summer today. It's for thermodynamics, but I don't think it'll be too bad. Either way, I'll be studying for it until 3 PM.

After 6 days without school, it feels weird being back at GTL. School has turned into a way of passing the time until my weekend travel adventures. It's fun here in the week though. It's a great community, and I really enjoy spending time with the people here. I FINALLY played soccer for the first time yesterday. We lost the first few games, but after that my team went on a huge win streak and dominated the field for a good hour and a half.

My trip to Italy with Anna was indescribably amazing. We had a fantastic time touring through Venice, Bologna, and Cinque Terre. I'll go through all the details later! I need to get back to studying. It's off to Paris and Nice this weekend.

Wish me luck on my test!