I’m Kevin Della Pace and i’m on exchange from University College Dublin. I’ve spent a year in Grenoble now so I wanted to part my experiences to you.
After finding out that my Erasmus was set for Grenoble in April, I had the whole summer for it to build up and eventually sink in. France, a new country with different ways of doing things as well as a new culture to get used to. Granted I am half Italian so I have some understanding of how a Latin country works (to a degree!) So I wasn’t too worried about coming here in fact if anything I was very excited as France is one of the places I have been longing to live in ever since I started going there when I was a little kid living next door in Italy.
As soon as I arrived in Grenoble in August I knew it was going to be good. How did I know this you ask? Well frankly you can’t go wrong when you leave rainy season in Ireland and arrive in Grenoble with a temperature of over 23C and you’re having a good espresso and sandwich from a boulangerie. After getting a place to stay I guess you could say the “honeymoon period” set in and all was rosy, quite like myself after all the sunshine. But of course then reality kicks in.. If you hear the word France then you are sure to also think of the word beaurocracy which comes with getting the CAF, insurance, housing
tax, bank account and even getting a French number. To sum it up you are left like this,
But doing it early and all at once at the start saves you from having to wear that expression for months on end, well at least until something else comes up..
Oh Me! Oh Life!
Well life is part of the everyday right? Grenoble might not be the biggest city but I would say it’s a nice size and close to a good variety of places. I’ve visited Lyon (Concert central after Paris), Annecy, and Torino which is my home away from home, Paris and a number of smaller towns nearby. The city is incredibly flat which when you love cycling makes you think you the hit jackpot. The cycle lanes are everywhere and there are beautiful cycle routes that take you along the river Isere and you can visit all the small towns along the way. One thing that has shocked me on many an occasion along the routes is seeing so many pensioners cycling along (and keeping up with those half their age!) and most bizarre is seeing them rollerblading. If there is one thing I’ve noticed it’s how seriously they take being fit and healthy here, more so than what I notice in Ireland in terms for when they get older.
As for the people here, I’ve got to say that everyone has been pretty understanding, this is mostly when you at least try to speak French however broken it may be, just try it and you’ll see that the response you get will be much warmer in comparison to when you walk in and start speaking in English right off the bat. After all it is common courtesy to try and speak in the national language and good manners are well looked upon in France. There is a minimum line of good manners that no matter where you go you always have a hello and good afternoon/evening etc.
Obviously University has to be talked about and generally it has been pretty positive, with the professors being nice and especially if you let them know that you are on exchange, they do try and not speak too fast. Group projects, I’ve had more than ever here and working with other students from here was an experience but when having queries on what you wrote etc. they’ve always helped and chipped in when I’ve gotten tongue tied for presentations. One thing to get used to though is the size of classes. Basically all classes are no more than 30 which is odd as most of my classes in Ireland are 3 or even 4 times that size and then you get the random tutorial thrown in sometimes. It’s much better to get to know the others around you and also have some repertoire with the teachers instead of listening to some person on a podium droning for hours without any discussion of differing ideas and so on.
So what’s the conclusion to all this? That the stay has been great, what more could you ask with the variety of sports in each season, the facilities (including transport), and the cherry on top is a great university. Oh right and not to mention the weather (which at least compared to Dublin) is pretty sweet. So with that I sign off,