For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of going on exchange. When picking universities, I would drop one from the roster if it didn’t have a good study abroad program – it mattered that much. I ended up choosing Grenoble, France for my experience. Best decision ever.
The Choice ✔️
Initially I had my mind set on going to England – specifically London. My school didn’t offer London, but I could go to the UK. Then I saw Paris and that was it, “I want to go to Paris!” But when it came to applying for the exchange, I started to compare all the offered schools in France. I could go to Paris, Lille, Rouen, or Grenoble. I compared the following attributes: proximity to other cities/countries I wanted to visit, classes I could take, residence options, etc. I also contacted people who’d been to these places and asked them the following questions:
1) Was it easy to find nice housing? I’d prefer to be in student housing so I can meet other students. I’m also concerned about being in a safe neighbourhood. Any tips on finding a place?
2) Did you ever feel unsafe? I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen the movie Taken. Lol of course I’m not that paranoid but just checking!
3) I only know the basics of basic french. Do you think this will be a big disadvantage in the city?
4) How expensive was the cost of living there?
5) Are there many breaks/opportunities to travel around Europe or is it very study driven?
The City 🇫🇷
After all that research, I determined Grenoble was #1. Best decision ever. Walking around the classic French style buildings I’d look up and see the snowcapped Alps in the background – it never got old. Something about nature so grand is transfixing. The city itself was small but the perfect size for a ‘University town”. Wandering around, there were many cute spots to be discovered. If you ever needed to get out of your room, it was a great city to stroll. Check out the video below to get a better idea of the city!
Now I’ll answer the questions I asked people who studied abroad (in regards to Grenoble):
1) My school helped set up a lease in a student residence (described below).
2) There was one area in particular that I wouldn’t linger around (Saint Bruno) but other than that, I felt quite safe. But that being said, I never walked alone at night – you never know.
3) You have to take a French class at school, which helped. But just try to speak French. Start a conversation with Bonjour and if you are stumped apologize and ask if they speak English. It was never too much of a struggle because there was usually someone to help with the language barrier.
4) The cost of living depends on the exchange rate you are dealing with. If I took it as a Canadian dollar equals a Euro (which it did not) then all the prices were extremely reasonable. When I went, 10 CAD would equal about 7 Euros. Just make sure you always have the exchange rate in mind!
5) Yes, there were SO many opportunities to travel. The school schedule is quite complicated so I will be explaining that in Part 2!
The Sites ⛲️
These are a few spots in Grenoble that I particularly enjoyed.
Le Bastille: for the best view of the city, a great hike, or a fun gondola ride. My procrastination is SO bad that I spent nearly every day saying I wanted to go to the Bastille but never actually went until my last week. Stupid move. Don’t make the same mistake.
Place Victor Hugo & Place Grenette: are part of the city centre. In Place Victor Hugo, there is a lovely garden with a fountain in the centre, that sadly isn’t in action until Spring. Around Victor Hugo there are many shops to check out, like Zara, Galeries Lafayette, and some French stores that were really nice but I can’t remember the name of! Connected to Victor Hugo is Place Grenette, a courtyard with a grand selection of restaurants and shops. It also stems out into cute little side streets with more shops and restaurants to discover.
Jardin de Ville: this is a beautiful garden and one we started to enjoy on a daily basis, it seemed, once the weather started getting nice. We’d go there in the day to chill and *try* to study. The best times there were when we would have our pre parties in the garden. We’d get a group of 10-40 people, sit in a circle to chat, and drink until it was time to go to the bars.
River Isère: if you’ve read any of my other city guides you should know by now that I simply enjoy being by water. The walk along the Isère is a great sight. Being along the city centre, it’s also easy to get to.
Traveling To/From ✈️
There are a few options for getting to Grenoble. I was traveling with two friends and one of which was studying in Paris, so we flew there directly and spent One Day in Paris before catching the train to Grenoble. The train ride was 3-4 hours and cost us 100 Euros. But you can find cheaper fares with an SNCF Carte Jeune. Some other people either flew into Lyon or Geneva and caught the train to Grenoble. All options are easy so judge it off of total cost.
When going on trips from Grenoble we’d have to take the train to the Lyon airport (1 hour away and about 10 euros with the Carte Jeune) the Geneva airport (2 hours and about 20 euros with the Carte Jeune) or just directly take a train to the location of choice. Buses were also an option, I just preferred the train and I bought the discount card for it anyways.
The Residence 😴
I stayed at Les Estudines Marie-Curie and I don’t necessarily recommend it but here are the pros: 1) Easy to set up for a short term lease, 2) Already furnished, 3) Close to school, transit, and the city centre, 4) It’s a student residence. And this is the main con: 1) A rip off for what you get, they definitely had hidden fees. The reason I chose to live there is because my school helped with the initial contracts for that specific residence, which eased the stress of preparing to move abroad. Also, 4 other people from my school’s exchange were staying in the building, which was comforting.
Another residence option is Europole. A lot more people I knew stayed here because it’s closer to the school and the city centre. It’s also more social. The only thing is you’d have to buy your own bedding, towels, etc. For those study abroad students who didn’t stay in a residence, some people stayed with Host Families and some rented a room in another student’s apartment.
The Phone Plan 📱
Before leaving for France, I called my phone company to get my phone unlocked. This was about $50 to do. Once it was unlocked I could take out my SIM card and replace it with the one I got in France. I HIGHLY recommend getting a SIM card through Free Mobile. It’s about 20 euros a month and you have unlimited local and international calls (when you are in France) so you can call home as often as you like. The best part is that they give you unlimited data in France (may actually be limited but they give you more GB’s then you can imagine using). Also free texting!
Check out Part 2 for information on the school, the fun, the slopes, and extra tips! Check out pictures from my experience on my Instagram!