Tuesday, October 02, 2012

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.
Ciao,
Elyse J.
           

                                                                                                                                    Escargot!

14 Comments:

Blogger Chris Conway said...

Very informative! Thank you Elyse! My name is Chris and I will be in Paris next semester! Im a little nervous but I think it will be great once i'm there for a little while.


Chris Conway

12:18 AM  
Blogger Nicole R. said...

Hi Elyse, I loved reading your blog! Do you have any advice on choosing classes that we will take while abroad?
-Nicole

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elyse,

Good advice, it sounds like you're learning a lot so far! Ranalli would be proud! I can't wait to go!
-Amanda Anthony

3:24 PM  
Blogger Christian Mullin said...

Elyse! That sounds amazing although you did point out some things that I will definitely be keeping in mind. I am currently going to Barcelona in the Spring! Obviously I am very excited but nervous at the same time. A couple questions for you however:

1. Choosing classes is a stresser for me in the States right now and I haven't even gotten there yet. How would you say is the best way of going about picking classes abroad? (two tips would be amazing!)

2. When did you experience Culture Shock? how did you cope with it? I feel as if I would feel alone with no one to talk to. Maybe I am overexaggerating a bit but better to be paranoid than apathetic!

Thanks so much!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello all! I read your thoughtful and inquisitive questions; I thought it would be best to respond to them all together...

In regards to taking classes while abroad, I chose classes that would count for EC credit and completed requirements for my International business major and my French major. The university system in much of Europe is very different from that in the States; for example the French students here (and some international students) must take 30 credits per semester, which is the equivalent of seven to nine classes...I am only taking four classes. Just be sure to check beforehand that credits will transfer over, etc. Also, if you are going abroad with the intention of taking classes in a foreign language, or the native language in that country, be conscious of your skill level, but also consider challenging yourself.

In regards to culture shock, I don't feel it was too extreme for me or perhaps a better way to put it is I didn't realize that I was experiencing culture shock until after the initial shock...does that make sense? In other words, I had to reflect a bit on my feelings in a particular moment to realize that "hey! That was culture shock!". When I first arrived in Grenoble, I was mostly worried about getting settled, communicating in French, and eating. The biggest part of the process of culture shock that I have noticed recently is the ups-and-downs of being so far from home. There are days when, in the morning, I am so happy to be in France, then by the afternoon, I am disappointed with my French speaking skills, then by mid-afternoon, I am happy to be in France once again, and then by the early evening I miss home and delicious, juicy hamburgers (which sounds really good right now), and then by the late evening I go to bed happy ready for another day in France tomorrow. It can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

I'd recommend staying active...or rather, discovering something new each day! And most importantly, realize that if you are going to a country with a bit of a foreign language under your belt, that when communicating in that foreign language, you will make mistakes, be misunderstood, and maybe even be laughed at...but it's the best way to learn another language and another culture.

I hope that you all receive this before your next class meeting...I was away from the internet this past weekend...I was visiting London!

Best of luck making all of your decisions!

Elyse

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Austin said...

Elyse,

Hope you are having a great time in Grenoble!
Make sure you go to a soccer game for all of us and enjoy the worlds sport.


I have picked my classes and I'm just posting for Alice now haha

-Austin H.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Austin said...

Elyse,

Hope you are having a great time in Grenoble!
Make sure you go to a soccer game for all of us and enjoy the worlds sport.


I have picked my classes and I'm just posting for Alice now haha

-Austin H.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Adrianna Hromadka said...

I love your post! I am so excited to go abroad as well. What did you take into consideration most when choosing classes to take abroad?

4:50 PM  
Blogger Chris Conway said...

Hey Elyse! Can you tell me a little more about what your classes are like? I know you said they don't transfer exactly the same way. What are classes like over there? Is there more of a power distance between the professors and the students? What is the work load like? Thanks!!!


Chris Conway

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris and Adrianna,

As a student of a small private college close to the city of Chicago, the way in which classes are conducted here in Grenoble, France bare more differences than similarities; that is not to say that the two are totally different.

Here, the university system consists of "cours magistraux" and "travaux dirigés"; in English, the former refers to a lecture and the latter, to a smaller class in which students delve into the specifics that are highlighted in the lecture (kind of like the big universities in the States...students attend lectures with the professor, then go to TA(teacher assistant)classes (which are smaller and taught by undergrads or graduate students).

Taking classes in French is challenging, but it is more challenging when you are taking a class such as International Economics in French...for this class, I am not familiar with the vocabulary and I have to work a bit harder than my French classmates, in order to learn and use the vocabulary correctly.

Thus, I would advice the following when thinking about which classes to take:
1) Challenge yourself...take classes that will fulfill your degree requirements
2)Be conscious of your level of French or any other language..."Should I take a French grammar class?" "Does the university offer French grammar classes?"...etc.

The international students had about 2 weeks at the start of the semester to attend any classes we wished and after those 2 weeks, we officially registered for the classes that we decided to take. This was a huge help in terms of determining whether a class was way above my skill level, or way below, or not enough of a challenge. I am not sure if this is the procedure throughout France, but it is worth looking into for your classes in Paris.

The course workload is determined b the student; what I mean to say, is that for the cours magistraux, the work is student-driven/independent of any assignments given by the professor. For the travaux dirigés, the workload varies...usually assignments are given and expected to be handed in. Of course, these are just my general observations, and I'm sure it is not the same for each class. Also, most classes have one major test at the end of the semester...and that's it. No other assignments,no quizzes...just one huge final...I'm really looking forward to it :)

Oh! The best thing about the university here...books are not required (unless noted by the professor, or if you are taking a literature course...but even though, you can just check out the book from the library) for classes; in fact, the libraries on campus house all of the class manuals. Usually professors provide a very long list of suggested texts to look over and use for study. I know that this is common for European universities (at least, those in France).

I apologize for the lengthiness of this comment, but I hope it helps y'all out!

Keep the questions coming!

Elyse

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking back over my last post, I noticed several spelling errors,for which I apologize.

Hope that the study-abroad process is going well for you all!

Elyse

7:23 AM  
Blogger Adrianna Hromadka said...

How difficult was your Visa process? Were there other parts of getting ready that ended up being difficult?
-Adrianna

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elyse,

I'm curious about which classes you decided to take in France. We were in French together last semester, is it much more difficult?

-Amanda Anthony

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello all!

Sorry to be responding later than usual...time seems to be flying by here in Grenoble!

Adrianna...
In response to your question about the Visa process...the sooner you start the process, the better. It can be stressful if you wait to the last minute (...not that I did...) Also, make sure that you have everything prepared AND with you when you go to the consulate in Chicago. Also, there may be extra documents or fees or just papers to fill out depending on what country you are planning to study in; thus, be sure you have fully researched and understand the requirements necessary to study in "your" country.

Amanda...
What to say about the classes here...Well, where I am, all the professors are very understanding and accomodating to international students. When a professor knows there are international students in the class, he/she usually tells the students that should they not understand something, don't be afraid to ask him/her to repeat a fact, etc. or ask after class or meet during office hours. Since your French is pretty darn good, I hope you are considering taking classes with other French students...I suppose I had the choice of taking classes that were conducted in English, but what's the fun in that? :)

There is a stereotype that French people maintain a rather introverted attitude towards strangers, that is to say those people who are not family or friends...but since that is a stereotype it is not necessarily true, especially I think you will find, within a university campus. All the French students in my classes that I have had to work with on projects or papers have been so very helpful! In fact, we tend to have a little exchange of languages...they practice their English with me, and I practice my French with them. In terms of difficulty, the one thing that is a bit of a challenge is listening to the professors and taking notes at the same time. I have one professor who speaks so very quickly, that it is super difficult taking notes; sometimes I just listen and then try and sum up what he said in regards to a certain fact or topic of discussion. Since this may be something that you will encounter, I recommend befriending some French students in your classes...or just kind of sit near them. Don't be afraid to ask them what such-and-such a word means, etc.

Basically Amanda, I would advise you to Frenchify your student life! Take classes with other French students, that are conducted in French, with French professors. Honestly, it is the best way to improve your listening, reading, and writing skills and communication skills (should you be working on group projects or giving presentations).
And now a question for you...where are you planning to study in France?

Keep em' coming! Hope things are going well back in the States!
(Don't forget to vote on Tuesday!)

Cheers,

Elyse

8:08 AM  

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