Monday, July 13, 2009

GTL Essays

So as a part of my GTL 2000 class, we have had to write two essays about our summer in Europe. The first essay was an evaluation of the GTL program, and the second essay was a description of what we valued about our time here. I figured I would post the essays because they give some pretty decent insight to my thoughts about my summer abroad as a whole. Well, here you go...

Essay 1

I have been quite pleased with my experience at GTL thus far this summer. I’ve gotten much more out of the program than I was expecting both academically and socially. In my opinion, what GTL offers students can be adequately broken down into those two categories, both of which offer much to be appreciated. I’ll discuss why I have come to truly treasure GTL for both its academic and social offerings. I’ve come to view GTL has a small college version of Georgia Tech’s campus in Atlanta. This observation leads to many reasons behind the appeal GTL has for me.

In terms of academics, GTL has many things going for it that make a summer experience here quite worthwhile. I’m so glad I chose to go to Georgia Tech, but I realize I do miss out on certain things due to its size. GTL has given me a more diverse and broader college experience because it offers the academic advantages that come with a smaller college. Classes here are much smaller, and professors are much friendlier and interactive with their students. I really enjoy being able to be an active participant within the classroom. The teachers here at GTL are outstanding and fun to learn from. I feel that I’m well respected as a student by both the faculty and staff and that means a lot to me. I feel like I’m part of a community of not only students but also academic professionals. At Georgia Tech, this union of students and faculty and stuff does not exist. Instead, I feel very distant from those I’m supposed to be doing all of my learning from. This usually leads to me having to learn the material on my own for the most part. This is not the case at GTL, and I feel like it’s actually worth my time to go to class and learn. So far, the course curriculum has been quite fair. I think my classes are being conducted at a good pace and the workload is decent. Of course, I’d always hope for less but that cannot truly be expected with the reputation that comes with a Georgia Tech education. I am really thankful that schoolwork is limited to the weekdays, freeing up the weekend for students to focus on our travels. One of the main purposes of studying abroad is enjoying the abroad experience by exploring different cultures, people, ways of living, etc. GTL recognizes this and gives students the freedom to do so.

As I said, I believe my experience here at GTL can be broken down into two categories. I’ve already addressed the academic side of things, so now I want to turn to the social side of GTL. First, I’m having a lot of fun being here. I live in La Fayette, and I love it. I like living here better than I do at Georgia Tech. The sense of community is fantastic. People are always hanging out during their free time or working together on schoolwork. The graduate students here are great as well. I play soccer every week and love getting to know the French students better. Everybody seems to be interested in everybody else. I’m definitely going to go back to Georgia Tech with a lot more friend than I had at the beginning of the summer. I’m so thankful I chose to study abroad at GTL.

Essay 2

I think the primary reason I came to Georgia Tech Lorraine for the summer was to experience Europe. I wanted to travel around the continent and see all the notorious European cities. I also was curious to experience what it would be like to live in a different country. In essence, I wanted to open my eyes to life beyond the United States of America. I have definitely accomplished this goal, but I have also gained much more from my experience abroad. I’ve learned many lessons about life, independence, and myself that I never would have expected to gain from a semester studying abroad.

The “studying” part of study abroad was never my main focus but just a means to get here. In a sense, Georgia Tech Lorraine made getting to Europe easier. I have done a decent job balancing schoolwork and travel, but school was never supposed to be a priority. I do appreciate all that Georgia Tech Lorraine has offered me in terms of academic and cultural education. I could not have received such knowledge on my own or from anywhere else.

As I have already said, I feel quite accomplished in my goal to travel Europe. I’ve come to realize that it’s impossible to see all of Europe in the time we’ve been give, but I know that I will come home content, knowing that I made the most of my time here. I’ve traveled throughout much of Western Europe and have made a few trips to Eastern Europe. I’ve traveled to Barcelona, Paris, the French Riviera, Venice, the Italian Riviera, Bologna, Munich, Prague, Salzburg, and various other smaller cities. I’ve had a great time in each and every city, and I know I made the right decision to go to each one. At the same time, I do wish I had made it to Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, and more Eastern European countries. That just means I’ll have to come back to Europe at some point! I would not come back for a study abroad trip but not for any reason in particular. Now that I’ve studied abroad, I do not feel the need to do it again. I would come back to Europe on a personal trip with friends. All the travel skills I have picked up over the course of the summer would surely prove useful though! One difficulty that arises with the combination of traveling and studying abroad lies in the fact that we must return to Metz every weekend. At times this is beneficial because it allows us a few days to rest and recuperate for our next week. However, it also means sacrificing vital time in other cities to allow for traveling back to Georgia Tech Lorraine. Obviously, I could see much more of Europe in less time had I chosen to travel on my own. Nevertheless, as I mentioned before, I’ve come to appreciate aspects of Georgia Tech Lorraine that I did not initially hope to gain from my summer here. Such aspects include: community, new friendships, independent living, and academic diversity. Each of these ideas contribute so much to the overall well-rounded summer I have come to value more than I could have ever expected. I easily have a much broader college experience than I would ever have had had I not chosen to study abroad and, more specifically, chosen to study abroad through the Georgia Tech Lorraine program.

Clearly, I’ve gained so much from Georgia Tech Lorraine through the travel experiences I have accumulated over this summer. I’ve learned so much about European history and ancient cultures. I have seen countless monuments and works of architecture that are famous worldwide. I have had the pleasure to look upon works of art heralded as some of humanity’s greatest masterpieces. I have been able to develop relationships and experience life with people who grew up on the other side of the world from me. I have tried new kinds of food that I could never find in grocery stores back home. I could go on and on about all the wonderful things I have gone through due to my traveling experiences. However, I also mentioned I have come to appreciate numerous other experiences that are inherently apart of spending a summer living on my own in a foreign country.

The most significant and immediately apparent outcome of my summer is a consequence of living on my own in a single person apartment and being responsible for all aspects of day-to-day life. This along with traveling around Europe on my own has imbued me with a new and strong sense of independence. I truly feel capable of being on my own now. I can cook and clean for myself. I have managed to last this long without getting sick from my cooking! I can also get around a foreign city, find a place to stay, and feed myself without even having to speak the same language. I will no longer have any difficulties in America. After having to take care of myself all summer, I’ll no longer pay for a meal plan at Georgia Tech. Also, we have quite a bit of free time during the week, which has forced me to learn how to find enjoyment in doing nothing. It has been really nice to have a break from the fast-paced life of back home. I really have come to enjoy doing nothing. I have also learned much more about friendship and how something as simple as spending time with a friend can lead to great things. I never expected to learn such lessons from a study abroad program, but I am so thankful for them now that I have. I think that is a side of studying abroad that not many people know about coming into the program but will definitely go away with a new appreciation for such things.

All in all, my summer studying abroad has been a decidedly positive experience that I will forever be glad I chose to partake in. I am very thankful for the lessons I have come to learn because of it and in turn I am thankful to Georgia Tech Lorraine for providing me with this opportunity. I firmly know that this summer will have a tremendous impact not only on my immediate future but also on the rest of my life. I eagerly look forward to my return home so that I may experience life through the news lens that I have adopted as a result of the aforementioned lessons and experiences I have come to know. It will be interesting to pay witness to the intermingling of these new lifestyle changes I have come to know through Europe with my past way of life back in America. Without a doubt, studying abroad was a great decision and I will forever be different because of it but in a good way of course.

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