At the beginning of 2014 I undertook an exchange in Grenoble for one semester. It was an incredible experience that was challenging at times but overall I would recommend it to other students.
Grenoble is situated in the south east of France and it is the gateway to the Alps. It’s an easy city to navigate with excellent public transport. Many exchange students choose Grenoble because it has excellent skiing opportunities in winter. When the weather gets warmer there also plenty of opportunities for hiking. Grenoble is ideally situated near the Italian and Swiss border so travelling is also easy especially on the TGV.
There is also a large University campus, which includes 5 universities and a number of student accommodation buildings. There is also student accommodation, which is not situated on campus. It is important to research where your accommodation is located and I would recommend arriving to your accommodation on a weekday as most organisations are closed on a weekend.
The student accommodation can vary greatly and I would recommend the modern accommodation on campus called the new Condillac.
The academic year in France starts in September and it was slightly difficult starting in their semester 2 in January. There wasn’t a formal ‘O Week’ so the start of the semester was slightly confusing. For example; enrolments are not done online and some extra curricular activities can only be started from semester one in September.
When first arriving in France I would recommend students start the visa validation and related paperwork as soon as possible. At times the paperwork for university, accommodation and general living eg: bank accounts and phone can take a while to process. I would also recommend that students investigate Caf soon after they arrive because it can take months for the payments to be processed. Caf is available to international students and it is a housing allowance that subsides rent.
The classes are structured differently to Adelaide as each class is 2 hours long and there are no lecture notes posted online. Some of the classes can be difficult at first but the lecturers are sympathetic towards exchange students and Stendhal University offers specific courses for exchange students.
I would highly recommend studying abroad especially in a non-English speaking country. It can be daunting at first and the language barrier is intimidating however it is an excellent opportunity to improve your language skills both socially and in an academic setting. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Grenoble because it has a large student population and because of it’s location there a plenty of opportunities to travel to neighboring towns such as Lyon, Vizille and Annecy as well as other countries nearby.