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 ‘allongé’ 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


Sunday, April 27, 2014

The end draws near

Classes are officially over here in Grenoble and with exams starting next week, there’s definitely a sense that the end of our time studying in France is drawing near. There’s something really bittersweet when semesters end, and that feeling is amplified here. Knowing that there are people you’ve gotten to know in or outside of class that you may never see again is really sobering, but I’m so grateful to have been able to share this experience with students not only from the States, but China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Nigeria, and even Iceland.

Hearing our professors wish us well after a semester of hard work and lots of learning helped me once again recognize what an amazing opportunity it is to be here to study.

For our final language class, our professor organized a cultural/hiking excursion to Le Sappey, a small town right next to Grenoble. We were able to split up into groups to discover a bit of the town’s history (and admire the views) before reconvening at lunchtime to enjoy a picnic together. Each of us having brought something to share with the rest of the class, we were able to enjoy the sunshine and each other’s company for the last time before exams.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

An afternoon at Château de Vizille

This week I took a quick trip to this little town called Vizille to visit an old castle turned museum and picnic in its park area.

The castle was built by François de Bonne, duke of Lediguières from 1604-1619 to demonstrate his importance in the French Court. It was later sold to a businessman who turned it into a textile factory. Finally, it was sold to the government, and now it serves at the French Revolution Museum of Vizille.

While the castle is beautiful, just as impressive is its surrounding park which houses birds, ducks, swans, geese, deer, peacocks, and ponies one can feed bread and admire. There is also a running stream that runs through the park that is beautiful and a surrounding landscape that takes your breath away.

We spend several hours eating and strolling around the park and it was a great and relaxing experience.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Natalie's encounters with the good, the bad, and the funny of French

That there is only about a month left for me here in France is really just unbelievable. I have a hard time trying to put into words how great it has been so far. Having real conversations in French, the food, the traveling, it’s all been unforgettable. But I think part of what makes this semester so great is actually the things that have been difficult to deal with. The miscommunications, the culture shock, the homesickness, all these things (and more) have ultimately made a huge impact on my time here… for the good.

I don’t want to exaggerate the times that have been rough, but there’s no denying that there have been plenty of times where I’ve thought, “What am I doing here again?” Like, for example, the time early in the semester when I thought my host parents asked me to pick up my host sister from school, but apparently they didn’t, and consequently thought she might have been kidnapped and were about to call the police. Yeah. Or smaller things, like eating at restaurants from time to time trying to order food without “parler petit-nègre,” speaking using incorrect and oversimplified language and gestures to get my point across. The fact that people can tell you’re American without even hearing you speak. And then getting stared at.

So where is the good in all this? Well, for one thing, they make great stories that I can laugh at now. But honestly, there’s this feeling that comes from suddenly realizing that I no longer need a pre-food-ordering pep talk, or knowing that if there’s a miscommunication, I can just explain myself… even if it takes a little more work to get the point across. Mistakes? Who cares? We’re in France! We’re learning! We’re living! And that’s what it’s about.  

This picture corresponds to how I feel my experience in France has been. After three hours of hiking (half of which was extremely steep and felt never-ending), sweating a ton, falling/sliding on my butt, there we were at the top! And what a view it was.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Alessa's favorite escapes

We have made it into to April and I can't believe our time in Grenoble is coming to an end! For our last month here I want to spend most of it enjoying the city itself and doing the things I still haven't gotten around to. But for this blog, I want to talk about my favorite places and experiences. 

First, my favorite place is the Musée de Grenoble. It's a fine arts museum that features works dating to the 15th Century all the way to contemporary art. Some of the works displayed include artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Kees Van Dongen, Modigliani, Gromaire and Andy Warhol. The museum also holds temporary exhibits from time to time. Although the museum is small, I really enjoy the atmosphere and the paintings. The size of the museum is not overwhelming like some can be in Europe, and most of it can be seen in a day. I enjoy going for an afternoon when it's empty and just walk around, sit, and enjoy art. Very calming!

Second, the mountains! Being as we are surrounded by them, they are hard to miss. Although I have not visited all of the three ranges, my favorite is by far Vercors. During one of my first weeks in Grenoble, I went snowshoeing there, and it was by far the most amazing experience. It was a beautiful, breathtaking day and the mountain was covered with snow. It was just so beautiful. The Chartreuse, however gives the beat view of the city. And a quick trip up to the Bastille, is a great workout!

Finally, my favorite thing to see and do is walk by the Isère river. It's really close to my house, and in a nice day there's nothing more relaxing than taking a stroll along the river. 

These will be only a few of Grenoble's aspects I will tenderly miss. 


Independent Marjorie

Studying abroad has made me realize how independent I actually am. I’ve found out that I absolutely love traveling by myself and that I’m completely self sufficient when it comes down to it, and I don’t need anyone’s help. Being here has brought up a new desire to study abroad again, but someplace different in the world. This experience has made me want to work harder so I can study abroad again and continue traveling so I can reach my goals in life. You find out a lot about yourself when you’re alone in a different country, and I like what I’ve been finding out about myself.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Alessa on friendships whilst abroad

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

Being abroad brings all kinds of benefits such as learning a new culture, great food, better language skills, and maturity. But it also blossoms great new friendships. 

Since being here, not only have I met amazing people from all over the world (China, Mexico, Australia, Spain, Chile, Brazil, etc.), I have also made great friends from my own program. Most of us come from different corners of the U.S. but we've acquired a certain solidarity being abroad. When we first arrived in Paris, the fear and excitement of being in a foreign country was palpable and we had no choice but stick together. Now, that the need is no longer there —since we've gotten hold of our bearings— we still choose to hang out together because we want to. 

I can honestly say I've made some lifetime friends being here who have helped me grow as person and who have made my experience in Grenoble only better. We've been through the struggling of adapting to a new country, gotten lost together, been through extremely embarrassing moments, cried, laughed, and cried again. These girls have become my support in a foreign land and no one else will be able to understand our experience studying abroad like them. 

I'm excited to keep in contact with them after our semester is finished and to have places I can crash in future trips!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Zoë finds her rhythm

Being three months into the program, I feel I’ve finally found my rhythm here. I’ve made really good friends and I’m used to my schedule which consists of classes and always eating dinner at the same time (this was a change compared to college) and I finally know my way around town, it all just feels right now!

Monday through Thursday I have classes, and then on the weekends I can relax, hang out with my friends, and explore Grenoble and the surrounding cities. It’s crazy how natural this routine has started to feel to me! If I have a day off of classes then my whole schedule feels messed up. Although it’s rough having a schedule where classes take up the majority of my day, it’s nice because I get to see my friends in class, and I know that I am doing something productive with my time. If I didn’t spend so much time in class, I would like to think that I would get out into to town and hopefully explore the area a little more, but I would also probably sleep a lot like usual, and I would hate to sleep this experience away!

It’s nice having 3 day weekends where I can still do some exploring. Now that I have a routine down, it really feels like home. Whenever I go other places around France and Europe, even if it’s just for the weekend, I always miss Grenoble and can’t wait to return. I don’t know if it’s my friends here, my wonderful host mom, or just the town in general but there is just something about it here that is comforting and feels like home. It’s hard to believe that I only have two months left, but I’m going to make the most of it!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Marjorie travels throughout history

I’ve been traveling a lot these past few months. For our spring break, I traveled to Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, and Krakow. A lot of my friends went to Barcelona or Greece for their vacation, but I based my vacation around history. In Amsterdam, I visited Anne Frank’s house. I’ve dreamed about going there since I first read her diary. Amsterdam offers a lot of different museums as well. I went to the Jewish Historical Museum, and exhibition on the Titanic, a Torture Museum, and I went to the Red Light District and went to a prostitute museum… it was very informational.
In Munich, I visited Dachau Concentration Camp- the first camp set in place by the Nazi’s, and, Munich was the birthplace of Nazism. In Berlin, I went on many tours. I visited the Berlin Wall, Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, a bunch of memorials for the victims of World War Two, and Hitler’s bunker. I went to Krakow for one reason only- Auschwitz. I’ve been dreaming of going there since I was little. History has always been a passion of mine and to actually be at Auschwitz Extermination Camp was beyond incredible. Not many young people can say they’ve been there. It was such a heartbreaking experience but I’m so happy I was able to go.


Natalie's new sisters

In the past month, I’ve been so grateful to see a real sense of closeness developing with the other members of my host family. I was so excited to have been placed with a host family with two young daughters (Alice is 9 and Eva is 12), and bonding with them has been great, not only for more opportunities to practice speaking French, but also because I’ve never experienced life with younger siblings!

A couple nights a week, I give really informal English lessons to Eva, the twelve year old, who studies it at school. We’ve read books together, played Bananagrams (sort of like Scrabble), where she formed words in English while I formed them in French. The other night we watched YouTube videos of French and English songs and then helped each other derive their meaning. Lately, all three of us have been playing card games in the evening as well.

When they watch TV in the afternoon after getting home from school, if I’m there I usually try to join them, even though they often watch Disney Channel shows that have been dubbed in French. For a while, Eva was particularly fond of watching reruns of ER.

Having the chance to babysit them every now and then and just spend more time with my host family has been a big factor in feeling more at ease here in Grenoble, and I look forward to the times we will spend together before the end of my time here!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's the point...

...of studying abroad? It may seem like a question with obvious answers, but what really is the point of studying, and even living, abroad ? Wouldn't it be easier to make a quick tour around a few countries, and retreat back to the comfort of your home after a week or two? More often than not, living abroad entails a moderate amount of discomfort and homesickness, so there must be significant reasons why students continue to put themselves through these ordeals. After my time spent in France, these are the answers I've come up with:

How I looked in front of anything Hungarian.
You gain a new appreciation for home. I once read that the best part of traveling is the moment when you set foot back in your home territory, because you rediscover the comfort of the known. Sure, every student looks forward to the moment when they step off the plane into America and they can buy a giant mocha-java-latte-ya ya—let's just say Starbucks coffee—and can greet their fellow countrymen left and right. But the beautiful part of studying abroad is that you experience this in foreign cities, when coming back to your home base after travels abroad. I recently was in Budapest, Hungary, with fellow Ohioan Zoe, and after five days spent attempting to decipher the enigma that is the Hungarian language, we were ecstatic to return to France where we could actually understand what kind of sandwich we were buying before choosing it. Sure, France isn't our real homebut we feel a sense of belonging.

At least they're honest about not working.

You learn that your way of doing things is not the only, or the best way. Now I know that us Americans love to express our pride in everything from sea to shining sea, but oftentimes that's because we haven't experienced life beyond our own waters. These don't have to be earth-shattering discoveries ; for example many Americans grumble about the French closing shops and restaurants on Sundays, since in our American universe everything is available, all the time. Come to France, and if it's after noon on a Sunday you make do with what you have in the fridge, since shops are already closed and the workers are home with their families. Sure, there are pros and cons to both lifestyles, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other. They're just différent.

Maybe that special dish is easier to reproduce than you thought..
You become independent. Well partly at least, since most students are only able to go abroad thanks to the bounty of their parents (thanks again Mom and Dad!). When students face the reality of living on a different continent than their parents, it can be a discomforting thought. What happens if you get lost or sick, or are desperately craving Mom's famous meatloaf? You survive, and gain a new appreciation of your mom's culinary skills. Whatever the situation, you learn that you are capable of facing it on your own, and you'll learn to embrace the autonomy of adulthood. After living abroad, being independent in your own country will be a piece of cake.


Natalie meets Brittany, France

It is hard to believe that the halfway mark of the semester has come and passed so quickly. Although last time I talked about the first half of our “winter vacation,” I’d really like to discuss the time spent in the Brittany region of France during the second half of the week. Although I love being in Grenoble, it was a great experience to travel from the southeast corner all the way up to the northwest and see more of France.

On the train ride from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel, there were definitely some areas that reminded me a bit of Ohio! Bretagne is known for its galettes, or its special savory crêpes made with buckwheat flour. We also discovered the “kouing-amann,” a flaky Breton “cake”. We’ll just say that the amount of butter in the latter is equal to the amount of happiness I derived from eating it. Needless to say, we definitely took advantage of the food.

Up-close and personal with a kouing-amann

Although it took a lot of effort on the planning end of things, making it to le Mont Saint-Michel was by far the highlight of vacation for me. The beautiful island monastery offers a history dating as far as Roman times, and we were able to visit it on multiple occasions. The weather, despite the Breton stereotype of nothing but rain, was beautiful and mostly sunny, although the first day it hailed, rained, produced huge gusts of winds, and then was sunny as though nothing had happened in a matter of less than an hour.
Mont Saint-Michel at sunrise

This vacation was full of relaxation after working diligently for two months, and was just what I needed to help push through to the end of the semester. Overall, I’d put a check in the “success” column for this one.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Travels and Adventures with Alessa

The thing about being in Europe is that many amazing vacation destinations are just a hop and a skip away, so traveling is a must. Since I've been here I've been to Paris, Geneva, Venice and Barcelona. And I still have many trips ahead of me planned (so exciting). But anyways, for my spring break, I decided to go to Barcelona with two friends and my sister, who flew in from the states. 

Let me tell you a bit about Barcelona, it's amazing! We stayed for six days at the best hostel (Sant Jordi Alberg) that was located right in town. The people that ran the hostel were so helpful and friendly and the price was a steal! Being in a hostel while you travel in Europe is really interesting because you meet people from all corners of the world. And sure, getting a good night's sleep is impossible but that's okay since most people on spring break aren't there for the sleep (you can do that at home). 

The city itself is extremely beautiful and full of history, but we did not have the easiest time navigating and nothing we planned for the day, sightseeing-wise, ever worked out. But we found cool things nevertheless. Another hardship was juggling all the languages since the week prior we were in Italy, I often confused myself between Italian, Spanish, English, French and Portuguese. ¡Ay caramba!

My favorite part was the art, the people I met and spending quality time with my friends and sister. For my first time in Spain, I would definitely qualify it as a SUCCESS.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Zoe gets her hands dirty in the vineyards

Through API, we had a wonderful volunteer opportunity, which was called “tirer le bois”. We went to a vineyard in Savoie where we helped clear the vines from the past season. It was a relatively simple task, but there were rows among rows to work on! It was a lot of doing the same thing, but it was with other students studying here in Grenoble, some of whom I didn’t know yet, so it was a lot of fun getting to work together!

 It was a long day, we arrived around 9 am and didn’t leave until about 5 pm. However we had a wonderful picnic on the middle of the day, so it broke up the work. We had sandwiches and the people from the vineyard gave us different wines to taste! Considering we were in Savioe, they were all white wines and they were all so good. There was a really interesting wine that is frozen in the snow and then when it’s unfrozen it’s more concentrated and much sweeter than normal white wines. So it’s something that you would only drink on occasion and with dessert, but I am really glad that I got to try it. The vineyard we worked at said that they actually had a patent on it. They also had grape juice that was just as good as the wine. When we were working, the rows were so muddy, so we all left tired and caked in mud, but it was a wonderful experience! In the end we actually ended up raising over 1,000 Euros to help handicap children in a neighboring town.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Natalie discovers a new way to tackle French

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Grenoble for a little over a month now. Although sometimes I feel like there’s still so much yet to learn, after spending a lot of time in discussion with my host family, meeting and talking with French and international students, watching TV and listening to the radio, I can already see a huge improvement in my oral comprehension. It’s really satisfying to not have to ask someone to repeat themselves every five seconds, and it really helps keep the conversations fluid.

Classes so far have been sufficiently challenging. In our language courses we’re being trained to take the DELF and/or DUEF (I always confuse the two), which is similar (I think) to the TOEFL test in the United States in order to start taking courses in English at the university level. I definitely have a greater understanding and respect for the international students who are preparing for the TOEFL exam at OU. Although it was daunting at first, it’s really great to see how reading a tricky newspaper article or responding to questions that go beyond just a simple “yes” or “no” answer is already much easier than it was a month ago. It helps that our professors are really cool and definitely do their best to help us succeed. 

That being said, they are much more direct than professors in the U.S, and thus have no qualms discussing your weak points on an assignment being handed back in front of the rest of the class. Sometimes thick skin is required. But again, you really can tell they want us to do our best.

One of the elective courses that I’m taking is essentially an acting class. I really didn’t know if I wanted to take this class since I’m generally pretty shy, but I must say I’m really glad I did. I’m the only native English speaker in there so I have to speak in French with the other students, and we all have a good laugh playing silly improvisational theater games while unconsciously improving our pronunciation, intonation, and just our general ability to produce intelligible thoughts.

My career path definitely won’t be taking a turn toward theater work any time soon, but between language classes and electives, the rest of the semester is sure to be progress-filled!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Dressing like a Grenoblois: Alessa's advice

Coming here, my program director gave us ample warning on what to wear. She described it as a sporty and casual city and advised against too revealing of outfits. 

She was pretty much right. 

Because Grenoble is located in a valley surrounded by three massive mountains, the city itself doesn't see much snow (thank goodness, I've heard horror stories from back home), and the temperature does not drop that low (we've pretty much fluctuated between 20-50 degrees Fahrenheit). This weather is perfect for the very popular American outfit which consists of: sweatshirt, yoga pants/sweatpants, and comfortable shoes. But in case you didn't know already, that outfit is pretty much a no-no in France. Girls here look extremely stylish just going to class, which is nice because I myself like to look decent and have fun with fashion. Most girls sport jeans with adorable tops and usually boots (even with small heels). 

Also, black is a VERY popular color here, which I also thoroughly enjoy since it's my favorite color. I've taken all this to mean that I should permanently live in France, of course (just kidding, Mom). But my favorite part is how the men dress! French men have amazing style. They always look sharp in nice fitted-pants and and sweaters and real shirts. My favorite guy trend is the scarf. They totally pull it off without batting an eyelash (ahem, ahem). 

Anyways, I'm having a really good time perusing the shops here in Grenoble and pulling inspiration from what the Grenoblois wear, and I'll make sure to bring some goodies back!

(I still refuse to give up my leggings and yoga pants)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Keeping up with Marjorie's host parents

My host family is the most amazing family I’ve ever met, besides my own, of course. My host dad, Xavier is extremely athletic. He goes running at 6am before work every morning. Every weekend, he’s always doing something active. This past weekend, he went skiing at Vercors. He’s very social; every week he has a designated night to play Bridge with his friends and comes home very late- such a party animal. 

My host mom, Caroline, is a precious little housewife. She works part time from home, but she still gets up every morning at 7:30 to get her day started. She cleans the apartment every morning and runs errands every day. I don’t know what kind of errands she runs, but she leaves the house for a good amount of time every day.

Both my “parents” are extremely social. They often take weekend trips to Lyon to go to the theater, meet up with friends, eat dinner, etc. Today, Caroline had a couple friends over for lunch, which is nothing new at our apartment. Every time there is company here, Caroline is eager to put on a show and please everyone- she’s such a cute woman.

My host parents are very encouraging of me to travel. This past weekend I went to Geneva, and Xavier and Caroline were just as excited for me as I was to go. Traveling around Europe is so easy with the train, there’s no reason to not travel. Geneva was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to continue traveling around Europe.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Zoë learned during a day in Geneva

A few weekends ago I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, with a group of friends. We took a train that left Grenoble at 5 am and arrived in Geneva around 7:30 am. It’s amazing that you can just hop on a train here and go to another country for the day! It was quite an adventurous day and I learned a lot. The first thing I learned was to consider what time things open when you go someplace. We got into Geneva at 7:30 and that was great, but we didn’t have anything to do because nothing was open yet! So we just went to a café and got some coffee and croissants. 

That is where I learned my second lesson, which is to research the country you are going to. It turns out that Switzerland uses Swiss Francs, but we didn’t know that when we first got there and they wouldn’t let us pay with Euros, luckily I had my credit card that I could use. Then we decided to go the tourism office to find out what we could get a map and plan our day! We ended up doing a lot of just walking around, but it was such a pretty city I had no issues with that! We did end up at the natural history museum, and that was really cool and it was free! My favorite thing there was a two headed turtle. We also saw the jet d’eau which is a water fountain in a lake which sprays water almost 500 feet in the air, it was really neat! 

After that, we got soft pretzels because that’s what they are known for, and it was delicious. Auntie Annes will never be the same! The last thing we did was decide to go on what we thought was a boat tour, but it wasn’t. That’s the third lesson I learned: read the signs! This so called “boat thing” was really cheap so we figured why not, and then we discovered that it was really a water taxi and not a boat tour! Not what we were expecting, but it makes a funny story. After that we decided to head home because it had been a long day and we left at 5am! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Natalie finds herself in the Alps

Nice view, but not quite like the Alps
I'm convinced being surrounded by mountains on all sides does something to a person's sense of adventure. This has certainly been true for me in the last couple weeks here in Grenoble. Having the opportunity to go hiking here is something I was really looking forward to, but now that I'm here I realize just how much there is to explore and discover. With mountainous paths starting sometimes just minutes from certain tram stops, it's easy to get away from the noise of the city and enjoy the quiet of the Alps. 

On what started as a rainy and gloomy Thursday, a friend and I hiked up to the Bastille, a former fortress and popular tourist site. We took a break and ate our packed lunches while taking a good look at the city. The sun started to make an appearance, so we continued past the Bastille, where we saw the Grottes Mandrins, caves that have some strange and apparently false stories associated with them. Buried treasure? Maybe not, but they were fun to explore nonetheless. 

We eventually made our way over muddy, rocky, and sometimes steep trails to a large area dedicated to a monument honoring soldiers who had fought and died. The vantage point from there was even clearer, and the sun finally fought its out from the clouds, so we went a bit further before turning back.

After hiking for a total of four hours, we consulted our map to see how far we'd gone. Despite our amateur hiker's confidence, we had only made it a fraction of the way into the Chartreuse regional park that lies north of Grenoble. I think it's safe to say that there is more than enough exploration left to fill a semester's worth of time, and I can't wait to see how much more beautiful everything is when springtime finally arrives.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Marjorie on hiking, moldy cheese and men

It’s the second week here in Grenoble and everyday I find something new that gives me more reason not to return back to the United States. In my last blog post I said that my family goes hiking at least once a week- guess what I did yesterday? Hiking. This town is so much different than my hometown because everyone here is so active and athletic. You always see people running, especially up to the Bastille, which I cant even imagine doing, and the majority of the people here are fit.
I love cheese as much as the next person, but there’s only so much moldy cheese a girl can eat before she wants to throw up. Some of the cheese here is really good, I’m just not a fan of the moldy cheese, or duck liver, or bunnies. Not my thing. But I still try everything that’s put in front of me, because I’m always surprised at what I do like.

Another thing I’ve noticed here that’s different from back home, is that the guys are a lot more… ballsy, if you will. They aren’t afraid to go up to a girl and tell her she’s pretty, which is a nice self esteem booster don’t get me wrong. I’ve volunteered to work at the American Corner which is a resource center that provides information about the United States, how to move there, etc. Today, I’m also going to sign up to take a trip to Venice. That’s one thing I love about being in Europe; taking a weekend trip to Italy or Switzerland is the equivalent of taking a weekend trip to Philadelphia, but not as cool, because it’s a different state, not a different country. 


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alessa's thoughts on the Battle of the Boys

Alessa sipping coffee and pondering the enigmatic world of men

It's kind of a challenge to describe French men. I mean, one can easily resort to the stereotype that French guys are forward and huge flirts, but that's not the case, really. Of course, you see the type from time to time. I personally have experienced a few catcalls and have been approached by strange (bordering on creepy) French guys at the tram stops and at cafés and bars. But if you kindly reject or ignore them, and they leave you alone. And of course the guys that have the courage to approach you in that manner are never the young and attractive guys...

Anyway, for the most part French guys are respectful and a lot of fun. When my friends and I hit the night scene, we usually end up meeting really nice guys that can hold an interesting and intellectual conversation on diverse topics for hours, which is a lot harder to find back in the US. Another big difference is how French guys dance (they have moves!). Here we can actually see and have eye contact with the guy dancing with you. Unlike in the States, where the grinding phenomenon does not allow you to see the guy while you dance. 

Finally, French men are not afraid of phones. Back home girls are never really sure when and if a guy they met are actually going to call them. But here the guys ask for your number and diligently contact you the next day. Yeah, I know, crazy. 

So I don't know if French men are better then American boys but my friends and I are sure having fun making guy friends here in France!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Meet the new Grenobloises

Bonjour! As promised, you get to meet the other girls who are participating in the program. They each wrote a few words to introduce themselves, so scroll down to see who's who.


As a junior at Ohio University, studying French as well as pursuing minors in both Spanish and Linguistics, I could not be more pleased to be studying in Grenoble this semester. I began studying French in high school, but this is the first time I've actually been here. I couldn't ask for a better way to put my learned skills to the test.

I've been with my host family for a week now, and I really feel this placement has been the highlight. My host mom is the director of a modern art studio here, while my host dad is an engineer. They have two daughters, ages 9 and 12. Between the four of them there is plenty of conversation to be found. Thankfully, this keeps me from retreating back into my introverted shell. In many ways, my host family exhibits ideals that seem very classically French, and yet in others they are a modern family with their own distinct way of doing things. In short, they're really kind and encouraging people and I can't wait to learn more about them as I'm immersed in their culture. 



A little about me: my name is Alessa Rosa, and I study journalism at Ohio University. I've studied French since high school, and I decided to take the learning outside the classroom to better master the language, which is the reason I'm here today. France is indeed a foreign land. I know that that is a very obvious statement, but it didn't hit me until a few days after arriving here. My adventure began at the airport in Paris in which I managed to get lost within five minutes of being there (that Charles de Gaulle is a tricky airport). Thankfully, a nice gentleman came to my aid after expertly hitting on me. I didn't mind much since he was nice and not creepy about it and pointed me in the right direction. The rest of my days there consisted of better getting to know the people in my program (who are all very awesome and fun people) and the city.

While I thoroughly enjoy sightseeing in Paris, I'm glad my study abroad experience is taking place in Grenoble, a city that one can look up and see the beautiful snow-covered mountains, walk along the majestic rivers, go out for coffee or drinks in the busy downtown, or partake in all the different activities offered at the college. Grenoble has a little bit of everything which is sure to make my experience unforgettable. That is not to say that there aren't a couple downsides to being in Grenoble, including the shower situation. My host mom is lovely and very helpful, and I'm thankful she has opened her home to me, but the shower has given me great difficulties. First, the shower head is not installed on to the wall, but instead one has to hold it in one's hand which makes only one hand available to wash one's whole body and hair. Second, the hose is too short, therefore when one washes one's hair one must squat the whole time. It is quite an exercise. Another downside right now is the language barrier which hopefully won't be a problem much longer as my French gets better. I'll keep you updated.



My name is Marjorie Saunders; I’m a sophomore at Ohio University studying political science, global studies, and French. My host family is comprised of a mom and dad and 4 of their children who are all moved out. Caroline and Xavier, then Marjorie (31), Jean-Baptiste (30), Francois (25), and Alice (21). Xavier is really athletic and likes to go hiking and run marathons. Caroline stays at home and is full of energy. They gave birth to god-like children; they’re all so pretty.

When I first arrived in Grenoble, I immediately noticed how beautiful everything was. A lot of the town was built in the 12th century, and there is plenty of history here. There are three large mountain chains surrounding the city- Belledonne, Vercors, and Chartreuse. My family and I have hiked up to the Bastille 3 times already, and my legs are killing me. While I’m here, my expectations are to have my French speaking skills increase greatly.

I’m currently writing this post at my family’s castle in Provence, 3 hours from Grenoble… being rich is fun. It dates back to the 13th century and I feel like a princess. All of the kids have their own room and there’s a chapel and other buildings on the grounds. Yesterday I walked around the grounds in the rain and I felt like Taylor Swift in her “Love Story” music video.  



It’s hard to believe I have only been in Grenoble for just over a week. I feel like I am finally finding my way around the city and getting acclimated to French norms like taking the tram and having to keep track of its schedule. After waiting twenty minutes in the cold rain, I quickly learned I needed to know exactly when the tram was coming BEFORE I went to the stop. After just a little bit of exploring and walking around, I learned my way around the city and in doing so found a lot of cute shops and things to do! There are so many pretty buildings and squares here, it’s fun discovering new places!

My host family is wonderful! I am living with a single woman who is in her sixties and her cat. However right now her daughter and grandson are staying with us for two weeks. Her daughter speaks some English but my host mom does not speak a word. Even though her daughter speaks English, we communicate solely in French. Her grandson is only two and a half months old and is really cute. His mom calls him “petit cornichon” which means little pickle in English, which I think is adorable. We are living in an apartment in the center of city that is only a three minute walk to the tram stop and train station, which is quite nice. The apartment is smaller than my house in Ohio, but is much nicer compared to the small dorm I was living in at Ohio University. The bathroom consists of two rooms, one which only houses the toilet and then another room adjacent to it which has the sink and shower. I thought this was really interesting when I first saw it! Also the apartment has metal shutters which make the rooms really dark, even during the day, so I’ve been sleeping in quite a bit without even realizing it! I wake up at noon thinking it’s nine am!

So far I absolutely love Grenoble! It’s a lovely city that isn’t too big but isn’t too small. However it does feel ginormous compared to small-town Athens where I attend school in the United States. Even though Grenoble is much bigger than I am used to, it still feels manageable because you can walk to anywhere in town or you can just take the tram, which is much faster, but with the weather being in the fifties right now, it’s nice to walk. I can’t get over the amazing mountain views. You can see them from almost anywhere in the city! I’ve never seen anything like them before! I would say Grenoble is a great college town, and it’s also great for us foreigners because it’s not too difficult to navigate and everyone is really nice and accommodating. I’m having a great time so far and I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store for me!



Well dear readers, I'm assuming that most of you have already made my acquaintance and don't need the introduction...but what the heck, I'll jump in with the others and write a few words about myself too. As I previously mentioned, I'm a first-year graduate student and teaching associate of French at Ohio University, and when I was offered the opportunity to accompany a group of OU students participating in this study abroad abroad program, I jumped at it. I had just returned from France a few months previously and the lure of going back to a country where cheese is savored as a dessert, bread is employed like a utensil and shops actually close on Sundays, was simply too strong. So after a mere five months in my homeland, I packed up my purple suitcase and set off for my third round of la vie française.

One of the joys I discovered while living abroad was that of sharing my experience in the country with other foreigners, in order to lessen the anxiety that inevitably accompanies traveling in a foreign country. When my parents and brother came to visit me in France, I was delighted to impart what I knew of the country's cultural norms and social practices to them. For example, the average American frolicking around France might not realize that it is perfectly normal (and desired) for a waiter to stop by your table only two or three times during a meal, or that when leaving a shop or restaurant you're expected to say "Au revoir, merci," as you go, even if you only stayed for five minutes and didn't buy a thing. These little nuggets of knowledge can take a visit from ordinaire to extraordinaire, and the best way to uncover them is via a living person, rather than a guidebook. Most of the girls on this trip have already travelled to Europe and are aware of practices different from home, but the two years I spent living in Dijon helped make me into a resource for them when they're in doubt. It's nice to feel useful from time to time!

As for my present situation: I consider myself extremely lucky just to be participating in this program, and so when I met my host family I realized that my luck had not yet run out. My host mother's name is Catherine, and she has two daughters: Marianne, who is in school and lives part of the time at home, and Melanie, who is a chef and has recently moved out of the apartment. They took me under their wings right from the start and treat me as a member of the family. In return I baked a batch of peanut butter blossoms for them, which doesn't nearly equal the generosity they've showed me, but at least it keeps their sweet tooth satisfied. If you have any other brilliant suggestions for American treats that deserve to be introduced to the French, send them my way.

A bientôt!