Life Outside of the Classroom (Vivian in France)

It’s difficult to put into words exactly what my experience in Grenoble was like. I can try my best to describe to you how welcoming my host family was, how I still dream about delicious, authentic French cuisine, the amazing students I was blessed to share my experience with or how absolutely beautiful the city and the scenery was but none of that will do it justice. You really have to go there to fully understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Grenoble is like one of those cities you see in the movies—the classic French architecture, the quaint streets lined with small mom and pop shops, the air always seems to have a hint of fresh bread with the streets bustling with its residents running their errands at the open air market every morning. Personally, my favorite part about the city is the way it’s surrounded by mountains on all sides. The first day after our arrival, we ventured up to the Bastille, a fortress atop one of the lower mountains, and took in the city from an aerial point of view. It was incredibly special to share that experience with fellow students that quickly my friends.

During my experience, there were several things I wish I had learned sooner; the most important of which is knowing how to prioritize and manage my time wisely. Since a young age, we’ve been taught that as students, we must focus on our academics. This focus was further emphasized once I entered the University of Michigan, as academics became the number one priority in my life. However, things change when you’re in a foreign country. You can no longer be in the mindset that you have plenty of time to explore and experience the different things this city has to offer you. With the short six weeks that you’re in this beautiful foreign city for, you can no longer take time for granted.

This was something I really struggled with and I wish I had learned sooner rather than later. I found myself weeks into the program and feeling as if I’ve not seen any of the city at all except for the route I took to and from the school each day. Realizing that my time in Grenoble was quickly ticking away, I finally told myself that I am not going to spend this once in a lifetime opportunity stressed over my grades. However, with it always being my number one priority, it was hard for me to put academics on the back burner. Slowly, I gave myself more and more time to explore the city and experience its culture rather than constantly worrying over assignments or exams.

This changed my experience in Grenoble drastically. I challenged myself to take different routes to and from class each day, try a new cafe or restaurant for lunch, study at a different location each day or explore a different nearby city each weekend. It opened my eyes to so much more that Grenoble had to offer when I didn’t fall into a routine or only spend time studying. As students, it’s hard to let go of the idea that getting good grades is the only thing that matters. You can learn inside of a classroom anywhere but when you’re abroad, you get the exclusive opportunity to learn from not only a textbook but from the people you meet each day, the new experiences you encounter and from the memories you make. To me, those lessons left far greater of an impact.

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