Getting to know folk!

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I had three welcome days last week organised by the international students institute (ISI). We did different things from the menial French administration to outrageously fun events mixed in with a lot of confusion, which equates to a perfect Erasmus experience. We had a welcome breakfast which was cake with sugary nuts and of course there was also coffee. Everything has nuts in it here as it is a speciality in this region. There are three different types of walnuts I believe and it is very versatile but I feel sorry for those with nut allergies.

We were given some instructions about choosing our modules for the semester. The lecturer briefed us on the structure of the university and also its prestige in France which struck an appropriate amount of fear into us. The most shocking thing he said was that French students have preparatory classes for ‘les Sciences Po’ (les Grandes Ecole) and it is very difficult to get into. So it will be interesting to see how it compares to Dundee and which one I find a more progressive university. The interior of the university is quite old which chalk boards, wooden benches and I would say out-dated building.  However the modules that I hope to take look fantastic. There is one entitled, ‘Muslims and Islam in contemporary France’ and another ‘the geopolitics of the Middle-East’.  

I almost forgot to mention I MET LOADS OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS!! There are Bazilians, Americans, Swedish, Finish, Belgium, German, a Mexican, Canadians, a Uruguayan, Hungarian, Australian, Slovakian, Czech Republican and more! I think everyone was so relieved to meet people in the same boat as themselves, I certainly was. We all went up la Bastille together that day and practiced our broken French with each other. We had more cake when we got to the top 🙂

We met that night for a few drinks a bar called London Pub! We got table service! Lol Although normally it does function like a pub/bar where you order at the bar. The waiter came over with bowls of sweets and crisps which was awesome! Anyway the next night after a day of boring admin and campus tours etc… we had another night out organised by the university. This was at a bar called Plan B. They had a really great menu with aperitifs I had never tried before and also some local drinks such as Chartreuse which is a nutty drink. The transport system must be working with the university’s board of professors or something because the last tram home is at 1.30 despite the bar shutting at 2pm. So early bedtimes for all! Anyway overall I have found those two nights super sociable and a great way to meet new people, the music wasn’t too loud and the drinks were better quality. I haven’t lived here long enough to say yet but so far the student culture seems different and I am liking it!  I will leave the rest for next time.

Next post will include: Le Chateau de Vizelle where, ‘La Musee de la revolution francaises’ is. It was so good it deserves a post all by itself! 

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The Only Way Is Up!

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So it has been an emotional few days. I left my friends place in Switzerland and took a coach from Geneva airport to Grenoble. Again the scenery on this journey was incredible. It was another summers day with the sun burning through the coach windows and warming my wee cheeks. There was an American man on the bus educating his kids on the region which he clearly loves, I think he is a geographer. But he mentioned we passed the silicon valley where a lot of microelectronics stuff is made and he described how the region was a hub for research and development  in electronics  technology as well as atomic energy. It was nice to have a completely free tour guide!

My one contact in Grenoble, a woman called Gaelle, met me at the coach station with her 19 month old son Timeo and took me to my halls of residence. Everything is so well laid out in Grenoble that it is quite easy to find your way from one place to another via trams or buses. Arriving at the accommodation was very intimidating. I was sent from one building to another to then find an extremely impolite woman who demanded to see my documents. I was slightly confused because she spoke so fast and had such a cold voice that even the warmest of hearts couldn’t make a difference. Anyway after much persistence that I never received a package of documents she rang the building I had just come from and they said to bring me over to their building…again! I finally sat down with a sane person and filled out all the necessary documents. I just need to set up a french bank account and buy more insurance! Home insurance! I also found out the next day I need to set up civil responsibility insurance in case I cause an accident whilst in France. This seems necessary considering the fact I don’t know which way to look when I crossing the road anymore.

I won’t lie to you, the first night was quite emotional. However I knew that I was in the right place and that everything would be alright. It is a strange feeling to only know one person in a massive town especially for an extrovert like me. God has strengthened me and given me peace of mind despite all these nerves and helped to keep branching out. My flatmates didn’t open their doors when I knocked the first few times but I spoke to the first flatmate last night and he seems really nice. I’m making progress.

 The office forgot to give me the key for the post box which has my login details for the internet. So I haven’t had internet this weekend, I did not realise how reliant I am on the internet. Dear me! Okay to round things up the two highlights of my weekend.

1.) I went to a roller hockey match on Saturday night, it was Grenoble vs Paris. The YETSI’s won (Grenoble team)! It was sensational and the crowd was electric. It is much better than football. I went with this Christian organisation called FEU (Foyer Evangelique Universitaire). All the people there were really nice and so patient with me. I got flustered a couple of times mid-conversation but I had a lot of fun. There were a lot of grenoblois  in the group but there were also people from Paris, Nimes, Marseille and a family from America.

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2.) Sunday  I took a tram into the city center and made my way to the river. I walked along the most beautiful river in the world with over 4 bridges along it. I reached les Jardins des Dauphines and it had a sign directing people to la bastille. As I had nothing else to do I went for it. Everyone else had backpacks and trainers but the path started so smoothly I didn’t think anything of it. There were old spiralling stone steps leading you to next part of the journey. Up and Up and up I went. Like this erasmus experience the only way is up as I have nothing to lose but everything to gain. I had no idea what I was aiming for. I reached a large building but  that was not the attraction and so I continued on the path. Through the alpine trees you could see mist covering the city, a clear view of the alps and the bizarre bare rock formation. To cut a long story short it was exciting to reach la Bastille and discover all these old fortifications as well as the best view of the city there is. It’s 475m at the top and well worth a full day of exploring. I only spent 2.5 hours exploring however there were many more paths to go along. Geez I sound like a tourism brochure.

Until next time! 

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Geneva

United Nations Geneva

United Nations Geneva

Geneva is where I start my journey. The landing was worth every penny I paid and I would even go as far as to say that if all my trip amounted to was viewing the alps through an aircraft window then I would be satisfied. You get a full view of lake Geneva and the snow capped mountains as you arrive, it is seriously breathtaking. Incroyable!

I landed at 10 am and bought myself a tram ticket for the day which came to only 8 Swiss francs. The tram to the city centre was very quick. It all just seemed too easy really as everything was clearly labelled, on time and it was very tourist friendly. So far everyone has understood my French. That’s a good start!

The whole experience has been quite nerve racking and there were so many things to do before leaving Liverpool for Geneva. Money was always my biggest worry but I managed to get a EU travel card from the post office which seems like the easiest option as it allows you to transfer money from a UK account to the travel card for free. Grenoble university had been very good at replying to my emails despite the holiday season. Now I all need to do is focus on one step at a time- next step visiting a friend in Switzerland.

So what am doing right now? Seriously… I am so happy it is unreal. I am sitting in front of a monument called Brunswick’s monument next to lake Geneva in a little chalet-style coffee shop with outdoor fires going. Charles II, duke of Brunswick sounds like a very vain and mean man however he paid for an extremely beautiful monument to be built which I have the pleasure of viewing. There are little birds flying around the cafe area. One landed on my table earlier and surprised me. Maybe it took pity on me because it saw I was the only one sitting on my own! I must sound like a loser to all of you but I feel so relaxed.

Today it is lovely and warm- no wind, no clouds, no rain and I can see the sun. I am seriously glad to be out of the UK as I was starting to get fed up of being cold. I think I will take a tram to see the United Nations building before getting the train to la Chaux-de-fonds.

P.s. I think I could live in Geneva.