Philippa McLaren – Masters in Development Finance, Stellenbosch University, describes her experience at Grenoble Ecole de Management as an incoming exchange student.
Monday: Attend lectures and prepare an assignment
The Masters in Management course present topics across a range of management issues – including corporate governance, management and leadership, quantitative analysis, and strategy and marketing. The electives I chose focused on issues of cultural diversity, leadership and communication – very appropriate in a class with students from all over the world. The course lectures offer a broad overview of subjects, while assignments provide a chance to explore topics in greater detail. Most courses also require class presentations, which offer a good opportunity to practice communication and speaking skills. Also, most subjects include group assignments allowing an opportunity to work with the many international students. In addition to French students, my class includes students from Canada, China, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Ukraine and the US.
Tuesday: Attend a morning lecture then rush off to snowboard in the Alps
The lecture load for the Masters in Management
is quite light – often allowing enough free time to get into the mountains for a full or half day during the week. Grenoble’s easy access to the mountains is one of its main attractions for international students – for skiing (in winter) and mountain climbing (in summer). This means that there are always many keen skiers and snowboarders at all skills levels heading out to one of the big resorts or smaller ski stations that are within an hour and a half drive or bus ride from Grenoble. If the weather is not great, then head to one of the indoor climbing or bouldering gyms to get some exercise.
Tips: Join GEM’s ski club, Supergliss, and benefit from discounted rates at nearby resorts and organised day trips at student-friendly prices. Second-hand equipment can be bought from a number of outdoor equipment stores, which also makes skiing or snowboarding more affordable.
Wednesday: Attend to some administrative tasks, run up to the Bastille
Studying in France comes with many administrative requirements – and I found that these were not always easy to navigate. Be prepared to open a bank account, sign up to a number of insurance policies, apply for a residence permit, set up a local phone number, and get documents translated to French. Also, take note of the opening hours of shops and offices – these may close for lunch over weekdays and may be open only on certain weekdays. However, central Grenoble is easy enough to get around by foot or by bicycle, making administrative chores and shopping easier. A trip to one of the local markets around Grenoble during the morning is a great alternative to shopping at a supermarket.
The Bastille, a fort overlooking the city, is a short but intense walk or run up from the city – at 491m it is 100m higher than Grenoble. Explore the tunnels and caves or relax on one of the walls overlooking the city. If you’re fit, then carry on to Mont Jalla (635m) or Mont Rachais (1,046m). The three mountain ranges surrounding Grenoble – the Chartreuse, Belledonne and Vercors – also offer many other hikes, although you may need to organise transport to the starting points.
Tip: Rent a bicycle from Metrovelo for 3 months – Grenoble is very flat and getting around by bike is easy and fun.
Thursday: Attend lectures, a French lesson, and meet up with a French student to exchange conversation
Yes, the French are very proud of their language and really do appreciate visitors who work on their French. GEM arranges a weekly French course for international students across a number of beginner and intermediate levels, and I found the teaching to be excellent. However, I found one lesson a week to be insufficient to make real progress and frequent practice is required. GEM also arranges for meeting up with French students aiming to practice their English for conversation exchange – an informal chat can be the best way to learn and practice a language. Outside of the school, other groups – such as Grenoble Language Exchange – host regular meetings for those wishing to practice a second or third language.
Friday: Attend lectures and go out
Grenoble has many small restaurants and bars, where you can try out the local dishes raclette, tartiflette or ravioli dauphinois. As a student town there is always a house party going on – to celebrate a national holiday, birthday, or just the start of the weekend. After that, Grenoble has a few bars and clubs – but be prepared for high prices for drinks.
Tips: Go to some live music events – some international musicians include Grenoble on their tour schedule, otherwise a few of the bars host local musicians.
Saturday and Sunday: Take a trip to Lyon
Grenoble is about an hour’s train ride to Lyon – which is a great city for shopping, traditional food, and enjoying the lovely architecture – and of course the annual Fête des Lumières in December. From Grenoble it’s also easy to get to Annecy, a picture-perfect town on the edge of a pristine lake, or farther to Paris (three hours by high-speed train), the South of France, Italy and Switzerland.
Tips: Investigate lift-sharing at covoiturage.fr where you can book a lift at about half the cost of a train ticket. Also, low-cost airlines serve routes from Lyon or Geneva to a number of destinations in Europe and North Africa.