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Grenoble - A city that never sleeps!!

Why did you choose to go to Grenoble, France?

I went to Grenoble as part of my year abroad in 2014/2015, and when I chose the destination I knew absolutely nothing about the place. When you arrive in Grenoble it doesn't look like a very 'spectacular' city. It's small and, at a first glance, there's not much to see (especially if you arrive in September when it hasn't snowed yet). But Grenoble is, in fact, amazing.

When you first move there, you'll notice that everything is grey and that most of the buildings are old, at least compared to Malaga (my city) where everything's bright, it's always sunny and there's a beach.

I think the best thing to do is not to research anything about your future destination. Literally nothing at all... apart from the basic information. It's much better is to discover things yourself as you go along. The first week I managed to get lost in a street that was practically a straight line...

One of the best feelings for me is when you arrive in the middle of the year and feel at home in a city that you found chaotic a few months before. Basically, what I mean is that I didn't choose Grenoble for a special reason... in the end, the destination is not the most important thing.

Don't pay attention to the people who will look at you strangely when you tell them you're doing your Erasmus in France, you'll love it.

How long did your grant last you? How much money did you get to help you live there?

The grant from the Spanish Ministry is only for 5 months (even if you are going for 9 months or a year... ), and the grant from the Community of Andalusia is for 8 to 9 months... I have also received the CAF housing aid for the whole of my stay.

I have published an article on my blog where I go into more detail about Erasmus grants (I am an expert, believe me). But to give you some quick and useful information: CAF is a form of financial support in France for accommodation, you can get it whether you're French or a foreigner, as long as you live in France. For me, I rented a single room at 330 euros, then a shared room (in the second half of the year) at 245 euros, and CAF paid me 90 euros per month. My residence was in the town center. So, if you want to find out where to go, just look it up on Google... that's how I found out most things.

What's student life like in Grenoble?

Grenoble has an amazing student atmosphere (and I don't drink), being that there are lots and lots of university students. There are French people from all over the country and surprisingly there are also a lot of Erasmus students too (but like I said, you don't realise this at all when you first arrive there).

There are also other foreign students who come to Grenoble to do their entire degree. Erasmus life is really good. You basically go to the same 4 bars and 4 nightclubs every weekend, but the people you meet are great so you don't really mind. Plus, if you're an Erasmus student there are a lot of parties at people's houses or residences, you always meet people, no matter what time of the year it is. Even if you think that Erasmus is almost over and there's nothing else to see, there is always someone new you meet because there are so many students about.

If I had to compare Grenoble to a Spanish city... I'd say it's most like Granada (even if there don't do tapas), don't judge me too much if you don't agree. But for the size and the number of young people there is, it's the city that is the most similar.

Do you recommend the city and the University of Grenoble to other students?

Yes, yes, and yes.

I would 100% recommend it because it's not your typical Erasmus destination, where you just party every day and nothing more (you can do that though if you want), it's special. There are spots for hiking, skiing, going to the park for a drink, seeing live music bands, travelling, going on excursions, sleeping in a mountain hut for a weekend, there are also Erasmus parties (if you go there to party, you can, and there are LOTS of parties). For me, it felt like I was living with my best friends every day, and believe me... that's what you'll remember later.

What's the food like?

Honestly, I don't have much to say about it, it's the local cuisine... that's it. There are two very good dishes. la Tartiflette and la Raclette. Obviously, these come with a lot of cheese. After trying those, I didn't try much else. Generally speaking, French gastronomy is pretty good.

I 100% recommend them though.

Did you have difficulties finding accommodation in Grenoble?

It depends on what you're looking for. Personally, I applied for the cheapest residence at the university (the CROUS residences) which is called "La Rabot". The atmosphere was great but the residence is at the top of a mountain. It might not be that big of a big deal, but there are no 'conventional' toilets. They're squat toilets, so I changed my accommodation pretty quickly. I only stayed there for a week but I have some very brave friends who stayed there for a month or longer..

If you're looking for a flatmate or flatmates that you get along well with, somewhere cheap in the centre or a similar residence with several other requirements, it's going to be difficult. But take it from me, you don't have to worry.

Grenoble is a small town. Everything is nearby and whenever you have some spare time, you can spend it with friends or go explore wherever you want in the city. So in principle, it doesn't really matter where you live (except if you live in the Échirolles district).

On my blog I'll post some tips on how to find a place to live in Grenoble, I know it's one of the most stressful thing to organise before you leave.

How much does it cost to live in Grenoble?

Accommodation is around 250-400 euros depending on what you are looking for. I personally spent around 650-700 euros per month. Although this changes a lot. I have friends who spent 1,000 euros (frankly I don't know how) and others who spent 500 euros. I saved money on bits and bobs and food by only buying white-label products and things on special offer. But then I could go and eat wherever I wanted, travel, buy things... I was actually living pretty well. If you don't come here with an enormous budget, there are plenty of tricks to save money in Grenoble (like stealing food from the residence's fridges which aren't locked).

The Tous les Jours brand (from CASINO supermarkets) is the equivalent of Hacendado (a Spanish brand) but it's much lower quality. It is super cheap for every-day, basic items. There are also two fruit and vegetable markets during the week and a 'DIA' supermarket!

Is the French language difficult? Have you attended any language courses at the university?

You can attend language courses through the agreement of your home university. There are of course French courses, but you can also study a second language for free. This is the perfect opportunity to learn a third or fourth language, you take an exam to assess your level and then you have two hours of lessons per week.

One thing with Erasmus groups is that we always speak in English. You will only speak French for administrative purposes, university, or if you make French friends.

Almost all my friends were Spanish, and I like them a lot, but I would have preferred to learn more English. Luckily I already spoke French but I didn't take the opportunity to speak English or to learn Italian for example. Don't be like me!

What is the cheapest way to get to Grenoble from your city?

Fly to Lyon if you buy your ticket at the right time, or to Geneva. Geneva is very close (it's good because there aren't many flights to Grenoble). Flights from Geneva are cheaper than those from Lyon... There are also discount cards for trains which give you 50% off on all journeys in France. As I told you before there are lots of ways you can save money.

Public transport is great, there's the tram which is really fast, always punctual and has loads of space... But most people travel by bike (I don't). If you go to Grenoble train station in the underground tunnel there is the Métrovélo, it's the bike rental company, where you can also purchase second-hand bikes.

Where is there to go out in the evening in Grenoble?

Nowhere in particular, Party at home!

Try to live in a house where you don't have to be too careful (you're on Erasmus, don't tell me you're going to behave like you're still living at your parents' house?!) and somewhere that doesn't have too many neighbours... you can party all week if you want. It's much better than going to a club.

However, I advise you to go to 'La Bobine' on Tuesdays in the Paul Mistral Park, there is an open-air aperitif and every Tuesday the genre of music changes.

Don't panic when you arrive in Grenoble and see that parties finish at around 2am. You will soon get used to it and the hangover will become more bearable. Although bars, campus pool parties, or dorm parties finish at 2am, there are parties afterwards that last until 5 or 6am, and even longer if you party at home.

Any more important information about Erasmus life in Grenoble?

  • It's really cheap to use Airbnb and rent cars to individuals using DIVY, and on top of it all, it's really fun!
  • I don't remember being that cold but your body gets used to it either way, because it does snow over there... and when it snows! in the flats and residences afterwards you can put the heating on full (my roommate made me sleep with the window open whilst it was snowing).
  • Personally I don't like skiing, and I don't know how to ski, but when the ski season starts, people go crazy, plus it's cheap. Besides, the evenings in the ski resorts are too good to miss. I regret not having tried to learn. If you want to see what is waiting for you in the evenings at the ski resort, search on internet "pano bar les deux alpes" and picture yourself there.
  • Your presence at the university is compulsory, they are not the type to say "Don't worry about it, you're only an Erasmus student, just try your best and everything will work out fine!"... although it depends a lot on what you are studying, like everything else. I advise you to be responsible, bring the stuff you need and you'll be fine, but don't go OTT.
  • People are very welcoming, the French are nice and they also like to party a lot (and they LOVE Spanish music) contrary to what people say. Leave prejudices aside and go and talk with everybody you can, you will meet people from all over the world in Grenoble

Basic Erasmus trips in Grenoble (and nearby)

  • The festival of light in Lyon: In December is the best. Whilst it's very beautiful, it's also very close and it's not expensive to go there. It's a 3D light show in the whole city.
  • Annecy: a super pretty village near Grenoble, a bit like the Venice of the Alps.
  • Near Northern Italy and in the Alps too. It's a three-hour drive and it's a very different city from the classic holiday destinations. It's super cool.
  • Paris: I didn't go there... but it's a classic. But hopefully I'll go soon.
  • The French Riviera (go as far as Italy if you can). We did it by car (with Drivy). It's a lot of hours in the car but the trip is so cool. And you have to do it at the end of your stay when the weather is really nice, if you're not bored to death (let's be real here).
  • And there's still a lot more to do...

Being a part of Erasmus is a unique experience. So enjoy each day as if it were your last. Say yes to everything you are offered and don't worry about a thing.

If you liked my article, you can follow me and visit my blog. I'll be writing about all things Grenoble, about France, about Malaga too and especially about all the cities I've been to. Tricks, advice, and much more... if you are getting ready for your Erasmus adventure right now, I promise you will love it.

And if you have questions about anything else in particular, post them as a comment! I would be more than happy to help you.

See you soon! :)

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