Why did Mark select GEM for his exchange? He lists several reasons. He says he was looking for a life experience out of his comfort zone, one that would incorporate a foreign language and culture. He adds, “my decision was completely based on having a new, cool experience that was not an English one.”
The city of Grenoble had also been an appealing factor, as its location- at the foot of the Alps- provided opportunities to try skiing and snowboarding, and its specialty- considered the technology and engineering hub of France- also provided him with exposure to industries aligned with his academic background, which is in software engineering. The costs of living in Grenoble were also a predominant factor in choosing Grenoble over an expensive city like Paris.
However, because it was not deemed as an international city to visit, Mark thought this was the ideal chance to get a real, student experience in a local environment, where he could make good use of his previous year of French studies.
Grenoble was, and is, a city where one can really appreciate the French culture and learn French in a localized environment, versus studying in an international city, where he would have felt less pressure to learn and speak French for instance.
However, out of all these reasons, the pinnacle is the skiing and snowboarding factor. After his friend from Colorado lent him all his snow equipment, Mark set off immediately to try snowboarding. Coming from a warmer place- South Africa- Mark adds, “I had felt snow in my hand four to five times in my life before coming here, and I had never been exposed to weather less than zero degrees before.” Mark certainly has taken advantage of the nearby ski resorts and stations that are numerous throughout the region. When asked which ski station he prefers, he smiles and just says the following: “each ski station has a special place in my heart.”
Clearly, every ski trip, a total of nine trips so far, has been memorable, but unique. One such experience is notably the ski trip in Chartreuse, where, with covoiturage (a popular ridesharing website in France), Mark also visited a monastery that has two monks manage the entire process of brewing the local and well-known Chartreuse liqueur.
He has definitely thrived in Grenoble, doing as locals do, and comments how his experience so far has been a lifestyle one, rather than just solely an academic one.
Speaking of which, Mark reflects on the classes in his Global Technology Entrepreneurship program, noting that the students were much younger than expected and had less working experience as a result. However, this provides an opportunity for an open class environment and discussion, amidst a non-biased perspective, suiting him very well, as his focus is on learning and appreciating his French education, rather than memorizing and regurgitating class lectures. He finds he can immerse himself in the courses from his program and supplement his background, as all the courses are based upon technological developments and applications in the business world, an element that is key for him. The main difference between GEM and Capetown are the amount of group projects here, in contrast to the endless amounts of stressful, individual projects back in South Africa. The group projects, being the norm, are central towards improving one’s team skills and managing deadlines.
Reflecting on the experience at Grenoble so far, Mark highlights the exchange as a lifestyle experience, combining Grenoble student life, academic life, and snowboarding of course.
His main piece of advice for students is to snowboard and ski as much as possible, and to join the Meet & Talk group on the student portal. This online database features students offering to help others with one language, in exchange for help in another language. Mark immediately searched up all French students interested in learning English, who offered to help others like himself in French, and contacted all of them via email. He currently has around three lunches a week of these language exchanges between French and English, serving the interests of both parties. Another final thing he will say to others interested in attending GEM, particularly those from South Africa, is to contact him directly for more details and an account of his own experience on dealing with French administration at the beginning of the exchange. He is open to receiving Skype calls and emails, and also highly suggests for those interested in GEM to get as much feedback as possible from past exchange students.
Interview and article completed by Karicia Quiroz
Samuel Armstrong, an Australian from the University of Sydney, is currently studying in the Master’s of Global Management program in GEM. He is certainly enjoying the city, the ski stations, all while maintaining his workout routine, learning about the value of group projects, and really gaining a lot from his French exchange.
Two students from GEM, Dyveke and Andrea, are currently studying business at Bentley University for a semester, an experience they both describe as “American, but with European aspects.” They are really enjoying their exchange in the United States, especially living on campus in Waltham, just a half an hour shuttle ride away from Boston.
Fiona Devaux, a graduate management student from Grenoble EM, talks about her experience at University of Birmingham. As the second city of England, Birmingham has come a long way from the industrial era! After numerous refurbishment investments, the city has become dynamic and young.
A Year in Europe: “You’re probably wondering why I chose to name it a green city if it is known precisely for mediocre air quality.
Well Grenoble is also home to the first French écoquartier – green neighbourhood – a planning project supposedly abiding by the holy Trinity of sustainable development: equal attention to economical, social and environmental development.”
Gallivance: “After living in the Sahara Desert for two years, the lush greenery of Paris was positively blinding. The Seine looked nothing like the Nile. The Eiffel Tower dazzled. I walked through my first rainstorm in years – quite different from the desert sandstorms I’d experienced.”
Grenobloise: “A New Yorker on her way to becoming a “grenobloise”. I moved to Grenoble in June 2011 from Manhattan. I studied Fine Art in NYC and I want to travel, perfect my French, work and make paintings in France. Here I share my experiences.”
Thoughts and Musings: “My first year of college, I took a semester of conversational French. I got okay – not great, definitely not fluent. But it continued my knowledge of the language. That semester I decided to change my major from English to Biology; at that point, I knew that I would no longer be able to take any further French courses.”
Run Steph Run: “Being in France has taught me something very important about my relationship with running and with myself. Homesickness tends to sneak up on me. It catches me by surprise every time, smothering me, and I’m defenseless against it.”
QGOSS: “I love traveling light. The lighter, the better. Next month I will be traveling through Europe for a month and a half with nothing but my backpack. Note: I’m a college student, a recent college graduate who enjoys couch surfing and hostels. This isn’t for everyone. So how does one go about traveling light?”