Tac tac tac bim bim pouf paf pouet pouet! TASSEP in Grenoble Past Review

By (The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 01/02/2012 to 07/16/2012 with

Université Grenoble Alpes: Grenoble - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The things that I learned from my experience abroad is to understand how it is to live and study in a different environment and atmosphere. I felt that I have grown as a person and am more independent. I also see my own country in a different perspective. I am more appreciative of certain things we take for granted here in the U.S. (dryers, air conditioning), but also I see some down faults our country possesses. My time abroad helped me see the world in a different way and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Review Photos

Université Grenoble Alpes: Grenoble - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Université Stendhal – Grenoble 3
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The curriculum in France is much different from the education system in the United States. The grading scale ranges from 0-20 as 0 is the lowest possible score while 20 is the highest. It is almost impossible to score higher than a 14. For some reason, I was placed in chemistry courses that were at the master level. I soon found out that the first year of the master's program was somewhat equivalent to junior/senior level courses in the States. The courses itself were also very different. There were no homework assignments or midterms for any of my chemistry classes. Thus, my overall grade was based mainly on the final exam (80%). There was a presentation in two of my courses, but aside from that, there was only a final exam. At first, I thought this was great but in reality, I preferred the class structure in the US because if you do not really understand some of the material, the midterm will show you this whereas here in France, you have no way of knowing until you take the exam. On the other hand, the French language courses were typical language classes. The professors assigned homework and a lot of hand outs and there was also a lab portion to one of my French classes in which you work on a computer to improve your reading, listening, and speaking skills.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Awful. Everything is so unorganized. I have to warn you now, if you end up choosing to do an exchange, specifically in Grenoble, be aware that you will do everything YOURSELF. I thought that I was the only one who had experienced this, but as I met more international students who were on an exchange, they all told me they had to deal with everything the same way. It took me one month...yes one month, just to obtain my student ID. Without your student ID, you could not get a meal card, obtain reduced fares for the public transportation, use the computers on campus, buy social security and civil assurance and etc. Let's just say that I did not have internet for the first month and that I had to eat lunch mostly off campus and spend a lot of money because of this. The reason why it took me a month to get my ID and to complete my registration at UJF is that first, most of the administration does not speak a word of English (a little French goes a long way) or prefer not to speak English (which I found out during the last couple weeks of my stay), and secondly, no one knows where anything is. Don't get me wrong, I've studied French in high school and took 5 semesters of it in college and I still had problems. I spent my first week going in circles as every time someone told me to go to a certain place, I was told next to go back to where I originally came from. Thankfully, my classmates helped me out throughout the first month. Also, don’t expect everything to be done right away. Before I left for the United States, I had to fix a grade on my transcript and it took me ONE month before they corrected it. It took a lot of patience and determination. You cannot expect something to be done after only asking once. It took me almost 10-15 times for the secretary to finally fix my grade, so if you are one to not take the initiative, I would not recommend you doing and exchange here. One last thing that bothered me was that for some reason my email account was never added to the email list for any administrative affairs after telling the faculty and secretaries of UJF and I always found out certain information from friends. For example, retakes for finals were given out for anyone who was unhappy about their grades, or who failed, in order for you to have a second chance. I asked one of my French friends about it during the summer because someone had mentioned to me about it and she told me it was the following day and I was surprised I never received any information about it! There was no way I could study just 24 hours before the retake to get a better grade but thankfully, I didn’t fail an exam. I just would of liked the opportunity of taking it again to try to raise my score and I was upset that UJF had never put my email in the system after speaking with them several times and I found out in the end I missed a lot of information during the semester.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My exchange program offered on-campus housing but I really wanted to live with a host family. They recommended some ways of finding a host family, but I really had to do everything on my own. I finally found a family through a website that offered me to stay with them. At first I was skeptical because it was not officially with the school, but in the end, it turned out to be one of the best parts of my experience abroad. My family was so helpful and I felt as if I was one of their sons. Although they were not with the university and not pre-evaluated by administrators like other programs, I really got a taste of what it is to live with a genuine French family and not a family that seems “ideal” or “perfect”. Every day was unpredictable and different and there were times where they would argue and yell with one another, and situations where it would get a little out of hand, but what family doesn’t actually have this happen? It is interesting to learn about another country’s family dynamics and this really gave me a chance to learn and understand about French culture and their way of living. The food they made was amazing and I actually learned how to cook some dishes and now I’m fixing these back in the U.S. Living with a French family really helps you improve you language skills and I was fortunate that my host mom used to be a French teacher! They would tell me things that are very common to say and phrases that no one ever says that you learn back in the States from a textbook. My host mom would always correct my French when I spoke to her or to her family which helped me improved significantly, and my host brothers would teach me phrases and some lingo that really came in handy. Also, my host family took me on day trips to different museums and other places around Grenoble. They also offered me to go with them on vacation around France. If I had one advice about housing when going abroad is that choose to live with a HOST FAMILY! You won’t regret it!

* Food:

The food in France is INCREDIBLE. It is one of the many things that I miss after coming back. I don't think I could say I had one bad meal while living there for 7 months (aside from the food from the cafeterias on campus). On the other hand, food was a little more expensive than back in the U.S. I feel that the main reason for this is the exchange rate. Other than that, try as many different dishes you can! You will be surprised what you will actually like!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The reason why I wanted to do an exchange was to feel integrated as much as possible with the local culture and I felt that this exchange gave me this opportunity. I truly felt like someone living and studying in France. I only had one American friend while abroad and he rest of my friends were either international or French so I mainly spoke French. Also, living with a French family helps you experience the local culture as well.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

It was mandatory for me to buy social security (health care) in France but obtaining it was a little difficult. As I previously said, without your student ID card, you couldn't buy social security so I didn't actually receive it until a month later. The program did not assist me much at all, as stated in the section labeled "Host Country Program Administration." I had one occasion when I had to see a doctor about my eye. I first went to the health center on campus where the "doctor" examined my eye. The reason why I put the word in quotes is that I believed that she should not even have an M.D. I say this because as I entered her office, she barely looked at my eye and really looked more at her computer. She kept insisting that the problem was due to allergies and I kept telling her that I had no other symptoms except that one eye being red and that my father is a doctor and he even believed that the problem with my eye was not due to allergies. She didn't listen to me and literally just wrote a script after seeing me for less than 5 mins. It was very frustrating that I just went to the hospital to see a specialist instead. The opthamologist told me it was an infection and not because of allergies and he gave me another script. I was relieved that he actually examined my eye and really looked into it. I think that I was just unlucky with the first "doctor" that I saw, but I was really surprised about that first examination. Also, as France has universal health care, I never had to pay for anything as everything is already covered.

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe in Grenoble. My friends and I would stay late at Parc Paul Minstral (the main park in the city) hanging out and just chilling or I would bike from my friend's apartment late at night to go back home 20 mins away and I never felt worried. Even walking downtown at night is not dangerous and I never heard of any stories that would make me think otherwise. Yet, still be smart and be aware of your surroundings. In the U.S, I always placed my wallet in my back pocket, but while in France, it became a habit to put it in my front pocket. Also, my friends always told me to put my bookbag in front of me on Tram A as it was always full and easy for people to pickpocket you. Other than that, I felt that Grenoble was safer than my city back in the U.S.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The cost of living in France was very difficult. It is very expensive to live over there. I would definitely say I spent around $150 a week easily.

* Was housing included in your program cost? No
* Was food included in your program cost? No


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

As my program was an exchange, I was forced to use French most of the times. Many people who worked in UJF did not speak English, or did not want to. Also, a lot of my friends did not always know English, or did not speak English well so I spoke to them in French instead.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French Literature (FR 326K)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? The best way to practice the language is to speak as much as you can, whenever you can! Don't be worried about making a mistake. Everyone will make a mistake and doing so will only help you improve. Living with a host family helps a lot, but also, find ways of meeting the local people. I was fortunate to have found a program that pairs two people together to learn each other's languages. The idea is that I learn French from a local, and he learns my native language. Thus, we created a plan to meet twice a week: once in French, and the other in English. This helped me improve my French a lot and his English improved significantly as well. Also, this program enables you to meet a local to continue to learn more about the culture and their way of life. I was fortunate enough to have met somebody that I call I close friend now and he invited me to his home town in the South of France to really experience what it was like to be French. I not only had the opportunity to practice my French with his family and friends, but also experience what it was like to hang out with other French people my age.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The small class sizes
  • The research opportunites
  • Where the program is located
* What could be improved?
  • Administrative organization
  • Orientation offered at the beginning of each semester
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wished I knew I would have to do everything on my own, especially all the administrative work, with little to no help from anybody in France.