After 6 months living in Spain my favorite part remains the slow paced Andalusian life. Every day I wander the winding cobblestone streets of Seville and watch Spanish life unfold as it has for centuries. Seville is a very relaxed city known for its life ‘sin prisa’ or without hurry. The locals here are very friendly and outgoing, I have met many Spanish students who are eager to do Spanish-English language exchanges with Americans. Every week I meet with locals over coffee to practice Spanish and help them with their English which has been a great way to make new friends while also learning the language. The university I go to is one of the oldest buildings in the city, once a royal tobacco factory it is now one of the prominent tourist attractions in the city. Every day hundreds of tourists walk through the school amazed at the university I have the privilege of attending. My classes are a mix of fun and educational with topics ranging from Spanish cooking to painting the city. My classes are only for Americans so I have met many unique and creative people from all over the country. Once a week I volunteer at an elderly residence for men in the city center which has helped me practice my Spanish while acquiring volunteer hours. The residence is a historic former-hospital in Seville that has been converted to part museum and part elderly residence. At the residence I’m given a different task most visits, normally I do puzzles or play dominoes with the men but sometimes I help staff with chores. Since this is my second semester in Spain I didn’t experience any culture shock when I arrived, I was already adjusted to life in Seville. Before I arrived I wanted to speak more fluently by the end of the semester, my Spanish has improved significantly since I’ve been here and I expect with more practice I will eventually speak fluently. My semester so far has met my expectations, I’ve stuck with my goals and hope to continue improving over time.
Well, here I am! I arrived in Grenoble, France a little over a week and a half ago, and what an adventure it’s been already. To start out, I’d like to say that jet lag is very, very real! I had an overnight flight to London, and figured that as long as I slept on the plane my body would naturally adjust… Or not. The first few days of touring in London then making my way to Grenoble were some of the longest and most exhausting (albeit also very exciting) days of my life. If you’re planning on going abroad, give yourself time to adjust to the time difference; you’ll need it!!
The less than three days I spent in London were really nothing but a whirlwind, and before I knew it I was back at London-Heathrow airport boarding a plane to France. While I’m almost positive I was in a jet lag-induced haze the entire time, I’m incredibly glad I got the opportunity to see as much of London as possible. This included a city tour, going to Buckingham Palace, seeing the London Eye, and inevitably ending up in a tattoo parlor (not for myself, but for a friend). It was certainly an experience, but I’d love to be able to go back again and really explore the city when I’m not running on zero hours of sleep
And now I find myself sitting in my room, in an apartment building dating back to the 1700’s, with views of the Bastille out my window. How did I end up here?! I’ve asked myself that question a lot these past few days, as it still doesn’t seem real. One of my absolute favorite things about Grenoble so far is that no matter where you are in the city, you can look in just about any direction and have an incredible view of the mountains right in front of you. It reminds me of home in so many ways, and has proven to be very comforting. When it’s cloudy or rainy, which has been the case more often than I’d like, mist clings to the mountains and provides some eerie but breathtaking views. There’s history everywhere you look, with old buildings and old streets, narrow and winding through back alleys that can be quite difficult to navigate.
As far as the school life here, that’s another situation all on its own. Today marks the end of my first week of classes, and it’s been quite the experience. Universite Grenoble Alpes is a large university, with 45,000 students (3 times as many as WWU), so as you can probably imagine the campus is much larger than what I’m used to. Luckily, us international students have all of our classes in a small part of campus know as the CUEF, which makes it somewhat easy to get around. As far as my schedule goes, I take 8 hours of language classes a week, 2 hours of vocabulary, and 3 different elective classes. Some days I start classes at 8:30 am and don’t finish for the day until 5:30 pm. I’m not going to lie; it’s been exhausting. With that being said, though, it’s not overwhelming. We have plenty of breaks throughout our day and time to study, relax, or grab food on campus. The classes are taught entirely in French, which is quite difficult for someone with only one year of French experience, but I can definitely say that my language skills have already grown considerably.
Speaking of language, that is by far the biggest change with coming here to France (surprise surprise?). Being constantly surrounded by people speaking French is a big adjustment, and just making small talk or ordering food at a cafe can be challenging. I’m living with an amazing host family, but they speak almost no English, so just asking simple questions and talking about my day with them takes some serious concentration. Despite the difficulties, I’m incredibly happy living with my host family, and I think I made the right decision in the housing department. I could have lived in an apartment or university housing with other English speaking people, but would I have had ample opportunities to practice my French or come home to an amazing home cooked French meal every night if that was the case? I don’t think so.
All in all, even though I haven’t even had a full two weeks in Grenoble yet, I’m enjoying everything this area has to offer me. I’ve only seen a small portion of the town, so I look forward to exploring more and discovering what else lies between the towering old buildings and cobbled streets.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with my favorite little tidbit about Grenoble so far:
On the university campus, which is a generally “green” and environmentally friendly area, they have a whole fenced in area of goats, and their main purpose is to cut the grass. You can even go up to the fence and pet them. Take notes, WWU, take notes.