Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Class Completed!

I must say that going to school at GEM is completely different then anything I have ever experienced before. I have as of Monday completed one of my courses here, Business Development in Emerging Economies (apart from the 2,000 word paper due in 2 weeks I need to write). I really enjoyed the professor a lot, but the material itself wasn't of huge interest to me. For this class we had to complete "15 contact hours." This basically means that the course could be completely extremely quickly. Unfortunately, I have never been prepared for this type of learning environment, and I am learning that others have not either. The 3 hour sessions of the same class and same professor can get tiring very quickly. Even worse, is that next monday I will get to start a new topic with a new professor from 8-6 PM with short breaks throughout the day. I really don't know how I will make it through.

On a more positive note, I started my French class yesterday. I absolutely love it! I definitely think it will be my favorite class. The professor is very nice and helpful. We often would get off on tangents and she would answer all of our questions. We learned some basic questions/responses and phrases. We will be meeting every week for 3 contact hours and also are required to complete out of class learning exercises as well. One of the options is to meet one-on-one with a tutor for 30 minutes to work on anything that we may want to improve on. I think that this exercise will be my most useful tool to improve my French. I have continued practicing with Rosetta Stone, but it is nice to have feedback on my pronunciation. I think that with the combination of the two I will be able to learn the language much quicker.

As for the rest of my week it wasn't too eventful. I had a class presentation on Monday, so I spent some of the weekend working on that as well as starting to panic a little about being away from home. Fortunately with the internet and technology we have now I was able to talk to my parents and some friends and they helped me think more positively about my whole experience. Over the weekend I had a wine and cheese night with Rohit and we watched a movie. On Saturday morning I went with Lucy to go grocery shopping. We took her suitcase so we could carry more back, which was really nice.

Yesterday after I got out of my French class Isabelle and I went to Le France where they only serve beverages. We got coffee and wine and had a really nice time hanging out. She had a presentation to give today so she practiced and I gave her some advice to improve. I tried to get some reading done for my law class tomorrow but we mostly talked. We made a plan to cook dinner and drink wine Thursday night at her apartment. This coming weekend I will be going to Lyon with a group of 8 girls to explore. I am really looking forward to that. I think it will be a great weekend. Unfortunately I didn't have the most thrilling week so I wanted to wait until I had more to write about before posting a new entry. This afternoon will consist of a visit to the bank and hopefully a walk up to la Bastille. It is a beautiful day. I hope I left myself enough time to fit everything in!

Au Revoir!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

One week completed!

I am happy to say that I have no successfully completed one week in Grenoble! I have already made some great friends and created some lifetime memories.

On Saturday morning I met my new friend Rohit, who is from India studying as a Master's student for a full year at Grenoble, for a personal tour of the city. He met me at my apartment and showed me a second way to get to the school. Also a plus, this way will help me avoid the train/bus station better at night making it safer for me to walk home. We walked all around the center of Grenoble and grew more and more familiar with the city. We crossed over the river to the Italian section of the city where we discovered almost everything was closed. We ventured back into the city to find a place to grab a cup of coffee. In France a cup of coffee is about the size of a shot of expresso. A grand (large) café au lait is only about 8-10 oz. After finishing our coffee we decided to find a place to eat lunch. Rohit was determined to have me try a taco. Needless to say, they are huge, and I knew I wouldn't be able to eat a whole one at that moment. I settled for a turkey wrap, sort of, instead which was very good.

After lunch Rohit and I met up with Isabelle to see the Notre Dame and the local art museum. The Notre Dame was very nice and looked incredible for its age! The museum unfortunately wasn't so great. But we each took turns saying what we saw in each of the strange paintings which definitely made it more fun. My favorite part were the older paintings from several hundred years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't take any photos otherwise I would share a few of them on here. After leaving the museum we saw some boys doing tricks on their bikes, and of course had to stop and watch. Personally, I was terrified they were going to get injured... but it was still very interesting to watch!

We then went to a bar and hung out for a while and chatted. It was nice to have a low key day after all the craziness of traveling and adjusting to Grenoble. I was almost out of money so I got some from an ATM and Rohit walked me home to make sure I didn't get mugged. It was still pretty early so I probably would have been fine, but I appreciated the extra security of him walking with me.

On Sunday Isabelle, Rohit, and I met at 10 AM. Unfortunately Isabelle had a couple strange incidences with men on her way to meet us, but otherwise we had a very nice day. We started walking toward the Olympic stadium, but ended up just making a huge loop around the southern end of the city and then heading back up to check out another park. Rohit left us around 1 or so to clean his apartment and play soccer after helping me find the much needed sleeping medicine to get me through the night. Isabelle and I stopped for coffee and lunch and then continued to wander around the city until I was about to fall asleep from exhaustion. This happened at about 3... I ended up falling asleep for 3 hours. But I was able to wake up and do my online course assignment and finally sleep through the night.

On Monday morning, Isabelle and I met at 10 AM to take care of a few more French administration items. For my tasks I had to go to a few different places throughout the city, but it was nice to be able to walk around a little bit. At 12 we stopped at a nice little cafe for lunch and then headed back to GEM for our 'team building' exercise. The international office had organized a bowling event for us. They randomly placed us in groups of 5 people and it was a blast! I met 4 new friends; two from China, one from Hungary, and one from Germany.

After bowling Mona, Isabelle, and I went to McDonald's to wait for the rain to slow down that and started on our way to the bowling event. I have never seen such expensive McDonald's in my whole life. The cheapest meal you could get was at least 7 Euros (multiply that by 1.5 and that's what it would cost in US dollars.) We made a mad dash for the train station and headed back into the city. It was about 5 PM when we got back; the night was still young. Isabelle, Felicia (exchange student from Taiwan), and I decided that we wanted to see a movie since it was such a crummy day. We saw Wolf on Wall Street. We were lucky enough to see it in English with French subtitles. I enjoyed it very much; not the most uplifting movie, but I thought it was really well done. I can imagine Brian would like it very much. After the movie we all went our separate ways for the night and again I was able to sleep through the entire night.

Today I had my first day of classes or class depending on how you look at it. I had three hours of Business Development in Emerging Economies. Our professor was Polish but lived in England. He was a very good professor and made the class go by very quickly. We only have 4 more days left of his class for the entire semester. On Monday we will have group presentations and at some point later in the semester we will have a 2,000 word paper due (worth 70% of our grade), but no final exam!

When my class ended at 1 Isabelle and I met for lunch and then ventured into the city to find a couple odds and ends and see what sales were available. Apparently France has a big sale every year for four weeks and it is going on right now. Everything still seems incredibly expensive. I saw a pair of shoes that I liked but it wasn't worth the money especially since I will be receiving a couple pairs of shoes in the mail from my mom soon.

I needed to talk to talk to the manager of Carline to figure out a few things about my apartment and get some questions I had answered. After speaking with her, I had a glass of wine and hung out for a little while. Isabelle and I met up at 5 by the Gare. We bought some groceries and came back to my apartment to cook some dinner, drink wine, and chat. I had a great time and learned a new recipe!

I have some reading to complete before class tomorrow, but I am fading quickly. I hope to accomplish some of it before drifting to sleep. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Au Revoir!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Learning to Navigate a Foreign City

My second day in Grenoble was much, much better. There is a group on Facebook called "GEM January Intake 2014" where I was able to find a student who lives in the same building as me. Since I had so much trouble getting to the school the first day, I decided to find a guide. She and three of her friends were all from China and I am thankful to have met them because I now know how to easily get to and from school. I definitely would not have figured it out on my own. I have to walk through a bus station and under the train station to get to the school. It's a little too complicated for a newcomer to figure out alone.

Once at the school I sat through the Welcome presentation, which wasn't too interesting, but as I left the room a girl named Isabelle came up and introduced herself to me. She is from Sweden and we became fast friends. Isabelle is in the bachelor's 2nd year program, so I won't have classes with her but that's okay. The two of us got lunch together after the second lecture and I still didn't have much of an appetite at that point. From all of the traveling I have been doing I have been really nervous and haven't eaten very much. But luckily due to the ridiculous amounts of walking I have done, that has changed relatively quickly.

After the lectures were over for the day Isabelle wandered the streets of Grenoble with me in search of towels and bedding. After quite a long walk we finally stumbled upon a "mall." Very, very different than a mall in the U.S. We asked several locals where to find them and eventually we got to the right place. It was a store similar to a WalMart or Target, but smaller. I found other necessities there as well such as shampoo and conditioner which were remarkably smaller than what I am use to, but they did have Pantene, which I use at home as well which was nice to find. We decided to take a taxi back to my apartment to drop off all of my new purchases and then headed back into the city to grab dinner. I had my first legal glass of wine and a steak dinner which was huge! I didn't eat too much, but it was delicious none the less. After dinner we parted ways and I went and bought some groceries and then headed home.

Again Wednesday night I woke up in the middle of the night. Fortunately I was able to fall back asleep for about another hour. It took me a while to actually get out of bed Thursday morning so I didn't have time to eat breakfast. I got to school just in time and we had a lecture by Gordan Roy who was originally from California. He decided to randomly liquidate his life and move to Grenoble with his wife (who was originally from Grenoble) and two kids with no jobs or plans. He had a very interesting talk and talked mostly about "why." After the lecture we had time until we needed to be at the next one, so Isabelle and I walked to her apartment and made pasta for lunch. She also introduced me to a strange fish in a bag that you dip in a mayonnaise type sauce. It was very good actually, I didn't think I would like it!

By the afternoon I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. I decided to skip the last session for the day and get some rest. I came back to the school at 6 however, to meet up with a group of people to get pizza and beer. I had such a wonderful time and met so many new people. I was telling my dad this before but I still haven't made any French friends yet, or American ones at that (although I have met many; they all seem to stay together.) I have met people from Sweden, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Taiwan, and Syria. After pizza I decided to walk home before it got too late. I actually stayed up until 12:30 AM! So i think that it helped with my jet lag. I still woke up during the night but I was able to go back to sleep much more quickly.

Today was pretty low key. I made my first meal in my apartment of scrambled eggs and French bread. I went to my class this morning and then afterwards had lunch with my friends Isabelle, Mona, and Andrew. I got brochette which is much different than what I have previously had. You get one huge piece of bread  with cheese and other toppings placed around it. All three of us girls also had a glass of wine for lunch because we are in France and why not?!

I took my french language test in the afternoon and it's safe to say I will be placed in a beginner's course. I tried to find my way to get a month-pass for the tram, but I couldn't find it. So instead I walked home after grabbing a few more groceries (because nothing is open here on the weekends). Tonight I will probably relax because I am exhausted and cook myself some dinner.

 Au Revoir!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lone Traveler

What a day it has been.... I started my "day" on Monday at 8 AM, I got up got ready and inevitably drove my Mom to work. Unfortunately, the night before when I had tried to lift the suitcase we had purchased, I could barely pick it up. My mom almost started crying and told me I had to find something smaller. So after dropping her off at work Monday morning I went to the mall to purchase the new suitcase. This one was about 4 inches shorter, which for me makes a huge difference. I went home and unpacked and repacked for the third time and was finally ready to go. Brian took me to the airport via way of first dropping my mom's car off at her office and saying our final goodbyes.

Brian was very nice and helped me check in my luggage and made sure I go up the escalator to security before we went our separate ways. This was the first time I had ever traveled alone before. I have gone on flights without my parents before but not without knowing someone on the flight. But luckily I've traveled enough by myself that it wasn't a huge problem. My flight from Albany to Philly was delayed due to the unpleasant weather and deep freeze, however, we got off only about 30 minutes later. Once in Philly I had about 3 hours to kill before my flight. I filled most of the time by either sitting or pacing back and forth. I ate half a sandwich which later made me feel sick on the plane, but otherwise the wait wasn't horrible. Again in Philly the plane had another delay, this time due to Mechanical issues. However, about an hour later we were on hour way to Paris.
Watching the sunrise over France

Apart from not feeling well the flight was very smooth and relatively quick. I watched "The Butler" for the first leg of the trip which I thought was wonderful. We arrived in Paris only 15 minutes later than scheduled, so at about 8:10 or so. I was expecting it would be more difficult to go through security and customs, however it only took me about 2 minutes, including the waiting time in line. I grabbed my suitcase which was 48 lbs and decided that taking a taxi might be easier and less stressful for me. It was about a 30 minute ride to the train station so I had 3 hours to kill until my train from Paris to Grenoble. While I was watching the monitors a girl came and sat next to me. This is how I made my first friend in Europe! She (Dammy) noticed I was reading a book and got really excited and asked me if I spoke English. Dammy was from London meeting her friend in Lyon and didn't speak a word of French either. Her train left an hour before mine but we spend about two hours chatting and it was really nice and we exchanged phone numbers so hopefully I'll have a friend I can visit when I'm in London.

I got on the train to Grenoble no problem. I was seated in coach because it was only slightly more expensive and I spent most of the trip asleep. France from what I did see was very, very green. I got into Grenoble at almost 4 PM and took a taxi to my apartment. 1 Rue Roger Josserand. The woman in charge got me all settled in and had me sign a few more papers. She showed me around my room as well as the laundry room, fitness center, and sauna. She asked me to come back in 30 minutes because her printer wasn't working. I used this time to finally take a shower. Unfortunately for me, for some reason I couldn't figure out how to get the water hot no matter how much I turned the nobs so it was very unpleasant. Also, I had planned to buy towels and bedding once I got here rather than bring it with me, so I used my shirt as a towel. I highly recommend avoiding this experience at all costs! Take warm showers and use proper towels, you will feel much better!

After I met with the woman in charge again, she gave me a box full of kitchenware and I was finally ready to go! She gave me a map and I finally ventured into the city of Grenoble. As I tried to follow the map I got more and more lost. I asked a handsome Frenchman to give me directions and I was finally in the right direction again. I approached the train station where I had arrived earlier and could see Grenoble Encole de Management just on the other side. The problem was I wasn't sure how to get to the other side. After asking for directions, again, I was finally able to get there. Once at the school I had no idea where building C was so I got frustrated and left. It was already after 6 and I was tired. I started wandering in what I though was the right direction only to get myself even more lost. I realized I hadn't really had anything to eat and had forgotten my lunch on the train so I stopped at a kabob shop and ordered some dinner. I tried asking the gentleman where on the map we were. I didn't speak French, and he didn't speak English. It made things a little challenging. Another woman walked in who did speak english however, I told me how to get home. I was only 3 train stops and about a 15 minute walk away... After eating, taking the train and finally figuring out where I was I stopped in a store to buy some odds and ends like soap and cereal and garbage bags, to name a few. By the time I finally got back I was ready to crash. I still had no bedding or towels. With the help from my dad I decided to use my coats as blankets for the night and tackle that problem tomorrow. I went to bed at about 9 after having a chance to reconnect with a few people back home. Luckily I have free wifi here so I am able to do so.

It is now 4:30 AM and I am realizing how bad my jet lag will probably be. I have found someone to walk me to the school tomorrow so I won't run the risk of getting lost again and I am safe and settled. My apartment is perfect for me. This is just a little bump in the road and I'm excited to see what tomorrow brings!

Au Revoir!