Elyse J. - Grenoble, France - Fall 2012
Bonjour à tous, and greetings from Grenoble, France! For those of you who will be going abroad this year or the next, or for those of you who are interested in voyaging to a different country, but not sure when or where…I have some tips for you, of which I have taken note of since my arrival in France. Some of these I had already adhered to, and others, which make up the majority, I have learned over the past six or seven days. If you don’t have the time or patience to read through all the tips, I recommend glancing over #2,3,6,7,8,9,10…(Okay, so that’s almost all of them, but be sure to glance at the underlined portions).
1) When you are making your departure for another country, leave several days in advance. Plan for late departures, language barriers, and ticket problems. For example, my flight out of O’Hare was delayed five hours; plus, I had to purchase a new train ticket at the airport in Paris (to connect to Lyon, then to Grenoble), after waiting in the ticket line for about one hour. The speedy, European trains are just that…speedy. They have to leave on time, and if you can’t lug your luggage onto the train fast enough, you better hope there are some kind natives to help you out. Thankfully, I didn’t have to be at the university until several days later…Thus plan ahead.
2) Lose cents to make sense. Basically, to make sense of some of the cultural things, you may have to be flexible with your spending the first couple of days. This is especially true if you are going to a country where they speak little English, or where they can speak English, but you have the ability to speak French, German, or what have you (and you need to practice with the natives)…For example, I ordered a small orange juice in McDonalds, and the cashier asked if I wanted the smallest size…I assumed that she meant “small”, but instead I got a cup even smaller than the size “small.” And ended up paying more than I wanted to. But now, in retrospect, I know what to ask for when I order a drink. …Lose cents to make sense.
3) Most McDonalds have free wifi! Use it! But don’t let the first meal you eat in another country be a BigMac with large fries. If you are residing in dorms on or near campus, be prepared to have limited access to the internet, to pay for the internet, or to be without wifi.
4) The bathrooms in Europe (at least, in France) are not like American bathrooms…To be very straightforward, European toilets are defined as follows: squat-aim-release. My first night at the dorms, I walked into the bathroom, opened one of the stalls, and thought it was a shower. I guess the smells didn’t give it away at first.
5) In some dorms, you may have very limited facilities and provisions; for example, no toilet paper in the bathrooms and no screens on the windows.
6) Visit the tourism building/center/office in the town. They have excellent resources for local events, how to use the transportation, etc. Also, they can answer any questions you may have about the city or town in which you are residing (i.e. if there are any bad neighborhoods to avoid, etc.)
7) Walk around and get lost… Okay, get lost, but be smart about it. If you are alone, a female, and want to get lost in a big European city, I recommend saving your exploration for the day-time, or when you have made a few international/native friends.
8) Things I wish I had brought with me (had they fit in my suitcase/had I remembered): lunch box (those offered in Grenoble were 22 euro or more!), multi-tool (with screwdriver, etc. all in one), more summer clothes (be sure to check the average temperatures for the month(s) in which you are departing…here, September can be quite warm), water bottle (I finally found one!).
9) If you are going abroad to study a language or to a place where English is not the major language, push yourself to speak with natives and other international students! It can be somewhat intimidating at first, but once you try, you’ll want to keep trying! Also, some universities offer international-language-exchange-programs, or they have groups that pair you with a native student. This is a great way to learn about the culture in the country where you are staying and/or about other cultures.
10) You will lose things…although, hopefully nothing too valuable. I lost one of my scarfs today on my way to the campus. Don’t be carefree with things (especially with official documents…guard those with your life!), but don’t freak out if you lose a pair of gloves or your favorite scrunchie.
Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have (especially since I know that you have to for class)! Also, feel free to contact me via email…Ms. Alice can provide you with my email address.