Since my first year of high school, when I took my first French language class, I knew I had to study abroad in France. Having lived in Florida my whole life and only traveling within the United States, France seemed like a whole other world to me. Every year for the next five years, I told my parents that I was coming to France for college so they would get used to the idea. Choosing to come to Grenoble was as easy as decisions can get. My mentor at the University of Florida had come to Grenoble Ecole de Management to study a year before my arrival, and she had nothing but amazing things to say about the city and its people. Most students at my school chose more popular, tourist locations to study, especially Paris, but I knew that I would get a more balanced and true French environment in the city of Grenoble.
When I first arrived to the city, I was more confused than I have ever been before. Everything was completely different compared to the United States for me. Being from the Sunshine State of Florida, the harsh Grenoble winter conditions took me by surprise. Luckily, I had packed a suitcase full of sweaters, so I spent the first month in Grenoble walking around like a marshmallow, layered in so many clothes. However, when the first snow in Grenoble fell, I remember being more overjoyed than ever. I Skype-called my parents, which they weren’t particularly happy about since it was 4 A.M Florida-time, and then messaged everyone that was in Grenoble to come to Parc Paul Mistral to make snowmen. I could have stared at the snow falling from the sky forever.
As you may know, Americans love their food, and I am no exception to this. The first time I walked into a supermarché, I could not stop repeating the words “Why is this so small?” Food portions are incomparable to what they are in the U.S, and it took me several months to finally accept this fact. These initial incidents of culture shock began to wear off once I became more integrated with Grenoble culture.
Grenoble is a beautiful, student-filled city that I have completely fallen in love with. The first time I hiked up La Bastille, I was amazed by the view. From the top, you can see how the city of Grenoble is so perfectly situated near the snow-capped French Alps. The surrounding mountains look surreal, as if someone painted a picture and used the painting as a backdrop for the city.
Grenoble is, in general, a perfect study abroad location, in that it is so close to both Switzerland and Italy. My visits to Lyon and Geneva were some of the most amazing (and cheap!) trips I have ever taken because of the close proximity.
Walking into my first class at GEM was nerve-racking for me; I had no idea what to expect at all. In each of my seven classes, there are about 50 students, with the exception of my two French courses. Of these 50 students, at least 35 of them are French students, with only about 15 being other exchange students. Because my class was filled with so many French students, I was able to integrate more quickly into French culture than I would have in a class full of students from other countries. I was extremely surprised at how open and friendly the students in my class were; as they were all so willing to help my fellow exchange classmates and I integrate.
After a few weeks, I realized that the course load and the teaching styles were quite different than at my home university. My professors at GEM were very focused on group projects and trying to work together for a common goal, much like we will all be doing in our future professions. Not only did this teaching style help me integrate more with my classmates, but it also helped me learn how to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Not only will GEM’s triple crown accreditations give me a competitive advantage when I am looking for internships in the U.S, but it will also allow me to apply my experiences and knowledge that I gained at GEM in my pursuit for professional advancement at home. While on my exchange semester, I was able to secure an internship in the Center of International Affairs office of GEM. Many people think that studying abroad should be your “semester-long vacation”, but I have found that being at GEM has allowed me to enjoy my vacation away from Florida, while still being able to advance my knowledge and professional experience. I am so grateful that I can take away something more than just a vacation from this study abroad experience!
These past two months in Grenoble have been like a dream come true for me. My only regret is that I could not stay longer than the four month semester. Anyone who is thinking about studying abroad in France should look no further than Grenoble. The TGV rail system will let you visit Paris as much as you want, but there is no reason to study there all semester. Grenoble is a friendly city that will immerse you into French culture, and you will gain a truly French experience (along with a few pounds from the several hundred baguettes you will be eating!) This semester abroad has provided me with amazing academic and personal opportunities, and I have met some of my best friends while abroad.
As always, Go Gators!
Thoughts and Musings: “Paris was astounding. The lights, the sounds, the smells, the food – it was all as I had hoped, had expected, had dreamed of for so long – and it was more. I enjoyed the touristy areas more than the less-populated areas, mainly because I had a mere 4 days in Paris, and who can see all of Paris in 4 days?”