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. [Note: This is Part 2, make sure to check out Part 1 of this post first.]
The School 📚
Grenoble Ecole de Management is an internationally accredited school. I was in the third year BIB program studying International Marketing and Advertising. The classes are set up a lot differently than in Canada. We’d have 7 courses, and other than French, which was every Tuesday, classes would last 1-2 weeks and then be done until exams. Days could be 8:00am to 6:45pm with a 2-hour break at 1:00pm. This is a long and early day compared to what I’m used to. But somehow we managed to go out every weeknight, wake up at 7:30am and power through the day. How? I’ll just blame it on the excitement of being on exchange.
Classes aside, GEM was amazing at planning social events. There are a bunch of societies that basically compete to throw the best party. Some you just show up at the chosen bar, others you get a ticket, go on a bus and get taken to a huge dance hall with an open bar – which I’ll explain in the nightlife section. There are events every week and it’s not just going to bars/clubs.
It may have just been my luck, but everyone at that school (exchange students and local students) were so welcoming. Invitations are given to everyone; it’s not cliquey. Basically you become friends with all your classmates. It’s incredible that I made friends from around the world. GEM is the perfect school for exchange in the sense that you will never feel alone – just participate! Seen below is the photo of the Spring Gala held at the school.
The Fun 🍻
We all know for university students, and especially those studying abroad, finding the good bars is high on the priority list. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. These are the bars that we frequented more than once. The bars that we went to one time were for an event hosted by GEM, so I’m not sure how fun they would be without a huge group of people you know.
London Pub: the #1 spot. They have the best music – literally all the ones you want to sing and dance to (old and new). Plus it’s pretty much an ode to English culture – they even had a jersey hanging from of the Ottawa Senators (my hometown hockey team). Monday night has happy hour rates.
Sun Valley: there were quite a few events held here. There’s a good space for dancing and mingling, plus they have a huge section for playing pool (pretty sure there are at least 4 tables). Or if foosball is your thing, they’ve got that too!
O’Callaghan: for a classic Irish pub. Grab a couple pints and watch some European football. We had an amazing St. Patrick’s day here. March 17th is a HUGE deal at my university back home and I was not expecting France to celebrate on the same level. We decided to go to O’Callaghan’s since it’s the only Irish bar we knew of. As we turned the corner, the courtyard was CROWDED with people celebrating and drinking. The bar set up beer stations outside and the lines were so long that you would just get two beers at once and be double fisting most of the night, lol.
Vieux Manoir: is a hit or miss type of place. The main reason to go here is that it’s open until 5am (I believe) so after most of the bars close at 2am we’d head to Vieux Manoir for more dancing. It’s mostly EDM music. The proper term for this place is a discotheque.
Le Subway: I only went here once, but I hear it’s a popular student spot. More of a sit down, chat, drink, and chill type of place.
Le Verre a Soi: this is a very cool wine bar that we went to a few times as a group. If you want more of a posh night out to try multiple wines and enjoy the company of others, this is the place for you. How it works is you get a card that you load up with an amount of your choice. With the card you go up to the wine bar, select the wine and the amount, and the machine will pour for you. I would normally put €15 on my card and try out 4 wines.
Open Bar Parties: this was the most incredible thing I discovered while in France (party-wise). You’ll pay €20 cover for a party and get ENDLESS alcohol. Go back as many times as you want and indulge in the inevitable hangover. After witnessing a few of my friends not end the night so gracefully (that’s putting it lightly), I would suggest not drinking before this event – at most one beer. Trust me. Another interesting thing about these events, is that it can get messy. The first one I went to was a full on alcohol fight (like a water gun/balloon fight but just throwing cups filled with alcohol). I was warned and dressed in clothes I didn’t care about. The first few times I got hit, it wasn’t so pleasant but then some friends and I made a game out of it. It turned into a alcohol throwing war. Childish, I know, but why not let loose? It was one of the best nights of my exchange. The other open bar parties I went to were not as messy, but I still suggest wearing clothes you don’t care about.
Other Parties: held by GEM or Erasmus – make sure to follow all the Facebook groups to keep updated. I was always that annoying friend who invited everyone to a cool event the second it popped up on Facebook, but in the end we all had a ton of amazing nights. Take advantage of as many of these events as you can stomach … the alcohol catches up with you. One example of an event is Woodstock – a huge end of the school year celebration, seen below.
The Slopes 🎿
One of the main reasons my friends chose Grenoble for exchange was for the easy access to the slopes. Grenoble is only 1-3 hours from some of the best ski resorts in the Alps. There are so many opportunities for day trips, weekend trips, even a ton of school organized trips (see Les 2 Alpes & Val D’Isere posts). I’ve skied my whole life and started to get bored of it, so I didn’t think I’d ski at all while on exchange – tops 1 day. In the end I spent 8 days skiing. Though that may not sound like a lot, it reignited my love for the sport. The Alps are incredible.
The Food 🍝
Groceries: if you are in a rush, go to the local shop near you. For more of a shopping experience like you’d get back home, I’d suggest going to the Monoprix in la Caserne de Bonne. It’s a mall that has an H&M if you need anymore reason to make the trek. Also, since lugging around groceries is a pain, I’d suggest investing in a rolling grocery basket – which you can also get at Monoprix for cheap.
Fondue: La Fondue was our favourite place to go. If you go with a big group I suggest getting a cheese fondue and a meat fondue. But it is super filling so if it’s just two of you going, stick to one cheese fondue to split.
Chevre Chaud: wherever I went, this was one of my favourite meals to order. It’s a salad with baked goats cheese on bread. A salad, yes I know, but it’s actually really good and I’ve never noticed this dish anywhere but France.
Sandwiches: you can go pretty much anywhere for sandwiches but my favourite spot to go during my lunch breaks is Planetalis, since it’s right beside GEM. They also serve tasty burgers.
Bagelstein: OMG this place is heaven. They serve amazing bagel sandwiches. Sadly, I discovered my love for this place in the last month of my exchange. There are apparently a bunch of these around France, so I went to their location in Nice too. My favourite is the Fitness bagel, seen below, and I’m not being basic, it’s actually delicious.
Extra Tips 💶
Rent a Bike: this is something I wish I did. You can rent bikes at Metrovelo for €15 a month – with a €120 deposit that you will get back. It great for exercise, getting places, and discovering more of the city. You are given a lock so you can bring your bike anywhere.
The Tram: is the quickest way to get around the city. It was perfect for lazy days. Tickets are €1.50 each or you can buy a monthly pass. Make sure to have a ticket (and to validate it each trip) or you will be slapped with a hefty fine.
I will be posting general Study Abroad Tips soon, so stay tuned! Check out pictures from my experience on my Instagram!