Life in Grenoble

Life in Grenoble

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What won't Zoe miss about France?

I am very sad to have to leave France so soon. It has been an amazing experience. If I could, I would stay in France much longer. The culture here is very different in comparison to the culture in the United States. I find it to be much more relaxed here than in the US, people take time to enjoy the small things in life and they just seem less stressed. 
Also the public transportation is wonderful, I am going to miss being able to just hop on the tram to go somewhere- it’s nice not having to worry about driving every time you want to go somewhere. However, honestly I think I will miss the food the most, especially the bread and cheese. It’s just not the same as the US. The baguettes are to die for, and the cheese here has a quality that can’t be found in the US. Not to mention if you try to buy French cheese in the US, it costs an arm and a leg compared to what it is here in France.

It has been a truly life changing experience here, I have met so many different people, had so many experiences than what I am used to in the US, some which brought me out of my comfort zone in a good way, and I learned so much about the French culture while improving my French. Living with a host family honestly made my experience much better than I think it would have been in a residence. I had the best host mom ever. She had my friends over and made big dinners all the time, and she helped me with French. Also it was nice knowing that she was there for me if I ever needed anything. 
 There isn’t one thing that I can say I am going to miss about France because I know I am going to miss it all. I’m not ready to leave but I know I have to. However I have plans to come back and stay for longer once I am done with school. That is something I would have never even considered before studying here in France. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me and something I will never forget. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Zoe describes the life of a Grenoblois

Ok, so I’ve spent a bit of time here in Grenoble now… I’m getting to know life here and I’ve been integrating into French culture and what goes on in daily French life.

Obviously, there are regional differences when it comes to France – Grenoble is no different. You’ll find that no two French regions are quite the same – each city has its own culture and lifestyle. Grenoble, being right at the foot of the Alps (they don’t call it the Capital of the Alps for nothing) has a distinct way of life that is almost exclusive from its location and neighbors.

The city isn’t without its charms and quirks, so here’s the lowdown on some of the things that get to you over time.

So, without further ado… You know you’re living in Grenoble when:

You know to pack a raincoat… even when it’s scorching – Sadly, wearing shorts just because the day started off at 65 degrees is not going to cut it. Believe me, when you least expect it, the heavens will open and you’ll get caught out. The rain can arrive suddenly off the mountains and for the first few weeks it will catch you out. No matter, because after a while you’ll have learnt to pack that raincoat or umbrella just in case.

You remember that a coffee is just an espresso – For a little time, you will forget this. You’ll ask for a coffee and you get a little thimble. No, I really didn’t pay nearly 2 euros for something that you could drink in one shot. Eventually, you’ll learn that you need to ask for an ‘allongĂ©’ to get anything larger than something fit for a small rodent.

This is common all over France but especially true of Grenoble, where in the winter months all you want is a nice large coffee to warm you up…

You know the difference between Gratin Dauphinois and Tartiflette – Grenoble locals will almost be offended if you confuse the two. Everyone round here obviously knows that the latter has got bacon in it and it comes from the local area. Tartiflette is a local specialty and is almost a regional pride kind of thing. Speaking of which….

You understand that Chartreuse is to be consumed carefully – The first time someone offers it, you love the idea of having one of them – it’s like tequila, right? Nope. Next thing you know, you wake up in the morning with a colossal headache wondering why this is happening to you.

Chartreuse is to be enjoyed sparingly – the odd error of ‘one too many’ will serve as a very timely reminder to you.

You know every tram and bus stop within a three mile radius including their schedules– At first it confuses you no end… I mean, the wide range of options to get from A to B is baffling and the way you pay looks all strange. However, once you get yourself a pass and you begin to understand where all the stops are, everything else becomes really easy. You’ll even be able to imitate the female announcer’s voice for each stop on the tram.

The walk up the Bastille ‘isn’t that bad’ – Once you’ve been up the first time, you realize it isn’t so bad. Honest.

You get annoyed by all the skiers clogging up the trams in the skiing season – You wouldn’t think there could be so many skiers on planet earth, could you? Nope, you’re wrong. They ALL descend on the city for their skiing breaks and they make life impossible for the average resident.

You can be sunburnt and frostbitten all in the space of a week – I’m ridiculously pale. You get the idea.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Alessa's weekend in Marseille

This past weekend I went on a last trip while studying abroad in France to Marseille, a beautiful, historical city in the French Riviera.

My friend, Sam, and I decided to go there because we wanted to experience the south of France one more time and spend some relaxing time in the beach. And Marseille did not let us down. On our first day we explored the town and its monuments and history by taking a walking tour of the old city center. We also enjoyed some amazing food and wine.

The next day we made plans to visit the Calanques and enjoy some of Marseille's natural beauty. The day turned out to be more adventurous than expected since we had to go in an hour-long hike before arriving by the water and we were underprepared sporting flip-flops. But we made it work, and it was worth it in the end.

On our final day we found a comfortable patch of sand on an amazing beach to lay and tan for most of the day.

All in all, my trip to Marseille was one if the best and definitely an experience I will never forget.


Zoe discovers Nice

Recently I went to Nice with our program. Since it is in the south of France, it is a lot different than being here in Grenoble surrounded by the mountains. It had been a while since I’ve been to a beach and I forgot how much I missed it! However these beaches were a little different than what I am used to considering all the beaches I’ve been to are sandy. Instead, these beaches have rocks on them, and I’m not talking about small pebbles, these were rocks the size of a fist! This made it impossible to walk barefoot and very difficult to lay out and tan which is what everyone there wanted to do considering we were at a beach!

It was a very bright and colorful city. There is a definite Mediterranean influence in the architecture; all the buildings were pretty colors like pink and blue. When walking around the old part of Nice, there are lots of gelato places and restaurants with the local type of cuisine which is mainly seafood. It was a beautiful city. All the people in Nice are really nice, they definitely defy the French stereotype of being rude. Even being American I had no issues!

It was a great weekend full of walking around the beautiful city, eating gelato, and napping on the beach, even though it was essentially on a bed of rocks.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How France opened my eyes

The final days of the semester are approaching, and I can't help but think back to when I first studied abroad, and how I felt about returning to the states after several months spent abroad.

I turned 20 during my semester abroad in Avignon, France, and while I was thrilled to have the chance to live in a foreign country, it was not always easy. Adjusting to life with a French family and struggling with a language that hardly resembled what I learned in school was exasperating at times, but also incredibly rewarding. In the span of a few short months I grew to appreciate a different way of life than what I knew back in the states, and I also learned that just because I'm used to a certain way of doing things, does not mean it's the only way. Now, after spending over two years in France, I can say that no country does everything perfectly, and that the best way to improve is to look elsewhere and take note of how other people do things. Open your eyes and observe, and you just may discover something worth trying.

One of the biggest differences that has impacted me while living abroad is the level of materialism in different countries. Western European countries resemble the U.S. in a lot of ways, but they are less controlled by material goods. Take children for example : an American child has an entire room overflowing with shiny plastic toys, while a French child has a small chest of toys and books. This is also reflected by the fact that in France, every store closes its doors on Sunday, whereas it's rare to find stores in the U.S. that shut their doors for an entire day during the week.

That said, I tend to wait till the last minute to do many things, including buying flowers for my Mom on Mother's Day. There are some days where I (and my mom as well) am very grateful for America's devotion to consumerism.
Not bad for last minute flowers!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Natalie says goodbye to Grenoble, and hello to OU

The semester at the CUEF is officially done! Each exam has been handed in and awaits being graded, and with the end of the semester comes a whole slew of goodbyes. Goodbyes to teachers, acquaintances, and friends, all difficult to do knowing we may never see one another again (although I admit I’m a pretty sentimental person anyway, which doesn’t help). 

However, I’m so thankful to have been able to meet all the people I have – when else will I be studying French with students from all around the world? Some of my best memories here involve hanging out with other international students – most recently eating at a restaurant with five friends from school. Of the six of us, not a one had the same nationality. Our whole evening was conducted in French, and we got to spend some time eating some delicious food and reveling in the fact of being finished with exams.

It has just been a really amazing experience studying just French for a whole semester with these students. Not only do we share a desire to learn French for whatever reason, whether it be just a hobby or for a future career, but each of us, too, is able to bring our own life and cultural experiences with us to share. What’s more, this aspect of student life in France has helped me develop a greater understanding how important embracing the diversity at OU is! Although I’ve been involved in the Conversation Partners Program in the past, I feel really encouraged to get more involved with our international students at OU upon the start of the fall semester.  


Sunday, May 11, 2014

What annoys Alessa in France?

I thought it would be fun to write about 10 annoying little things that are bound to happen if you live in France as a foreign student. 

1. Saying "oui" when someone asks you a question and then having them ask if you understood what they said and having to say "non"

2. Becoming dependent on coffee and then not having a way to whiten your teeth (their products here don't work very well)

3. Hurting the roof of your mouth on day-old baguettes

4. Missing your tram/metro by a fraction of a second

5. Not understanding most cultural references and not knowing celebrities or artists in magazine covers

6. Messing up on your pronunciation and saying something you didn't mean to at all like a profanity or something vulgar

7. Having old men/ugly men approach/catcall you in the street

8. Being asked what Americans think of France and not knowing what to say (how often do we think about them, really?)

9. Having difficulties with which side to go first for the "bisous"

10. Not knowing how to tell an intricate story while trying to be funny and interesting