To say I had an amazing time while studying abroad in France is an understatement - I had the best time of my life over this past summer! I had always planned to go to Georgia Tech-Europe, ever since my first semester at Tech. It fit perfectly with my academic plan, and I knew it would be the opportunity of a lifetime.  

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I began my “year at home,” and my connection to school felt far away. I spent a long year in New Jersey, looking forward to my time ahead in Europe. I never lost hope that my semester abroad would happen. I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and my dream of spending a few months in Europe would become a reality.

Departure day finally arrived! I got a covid test 72 hours before departure, and I had already received both doses of the vaccine before leaving. Once I arrived in Metz, I had to quarantine for 7 days, and then I got my first covid test in Europe, alongside everyone else who was at GTE for the summer. After that, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the summer. 

Staff and faculty at GTE did everything possible to keep us safe. During the week, we had the same seat in each of our classes for the entire semester and were socially distanced from the students surrounding us. Masks were always mandatory in the GTE building. Common spaces like the lounge were still accessible, and a wonderful place to get work done and meet with other students! Classes had the same feel as in Atlanta, but to me were just a bit more special since I was in France.  

During my weekly planning for weekend travels, it was a part of my routine to look up the covid precautions of each new place I would be visiting. For example, my first weekend was spent in Belgium. Their covid precautions, at the time, were to get a covid test, and fill out a covid tracking form. After doing that, traveling anywhere within Belgium was easy. As the summer went on, traveling to different countries required fewer steps as vaccination became the main requirement. Then, all I needed was my vaccination card, and hopping on and off flights was truly a straightforward process.  

The silver lining of this entire experience was being able to see Europe without big crowds of tourists, and being able to absorb everything for as long as I desired, without 700 other people wanting to absorb it at that exact moment as well! Everything I did felt so special and personal. Going to the Louvre and being able to stand in front of the Mona Lisa for as many minutes as I wanted without feeling any pressure to move on, was simply amazing. The pictures of me outside the Louvre without a single person in the background is something few people can say they have.  

Streets were emptier, places were more accessible, and being able to absorb more authentic culture came easier. I did not meet one single American while traveling, other than the people who were at GTE. I met dozens of people from all over Europe, however, on train rides, at parks, in the middle of huge cities, and that is something I hold special in my heart.  

When I was not traveling, being in Metz was truly a delight. I would often go for walks downtown, and do my coursework at cafes, and felt like I was really getting into the French culture. Sometimes, I would eat out at one of the restaurants downtown, and other times, I would cook some dinner with my best friend, who lived next door to me. Most days I'd find myself relaxing in one of the gardens around town. At GTE, relaxing and being able to spend my days doing whatever I wanted came more often than in Atlanta. School abroad gave us the opportunity to do activities other than school, which is the opposite from life on the main Atlanta campus.  

What an exciting time to study at Georgia Tech-Europe! 

By Jessica Pepe, Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate