Life in Grenoble

Life in Grenoble

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.