Learning French Over The Summer In Grenoble, France

by Kendall Ogle

For the summer semester of my graduate studies in International Political Economy and Development (IPED), I was lucky enough to be granted a Language Immersion Study Award (LISA) to study the French language in France. With these funds, I spent eight weeks in the southeastern city of Grenoble and attended intensive language classes at the Université Grenoble-Alpes.

Grenoble is the largest city in the French Alps, and the Université Grenoble-Alpes campus is situated at the eastern edge of the city with marvelous views of the surrounding mountains. The river Isère – upon whose banks the original city was built – runs through the valley next to campus and has beautiful walking and running trails following alongside it. I studied at the University Centre for French Studies (CUEF) on campus for twenty hours every week. All of the staff and teachers at CUEF are highly professional and excellent at what they do, and the administrators organize several cultural excursions and trips throughout the city and region for students. My classmates came from all around the world, with particularly large groups coming from China and Canada. Due to my prior language studies, I was placed in B1 (intermediate) level courses for both of the four-week sessions that I attended CUEF. Since French was often our only common language, my classmates and I often continued practicing the language together during our breaks and at university-sponsored events.

The requirements of LISA funding include accommodation with a French-speaking host family, and I had the pleasure of staying with a family in the southern suburb of Échirolles. My house was located right next to a green space of forested mountains full of trails, which was a wonderful spot to take evening walks or runs. I was the first ever student to stay with my host mother, Odile, so she was especially enthusiastic about introducing me to the area and all of the people in her community. I spent lots of quality time with her, her adult sons, her other family members, and friends. I got to know many lovely people from Grenoble – called grenoblois – and learned a lot about the city’s history and culture from their perspectives. One of Odile’s old coworkers even invited me to take a personal historical walking tour of the city center. I enjoyed every second of staying with a French host family and am very grateful that LISA required me to make that choice. I was able to practice much more French and meet many more local people than I would have if I had stayed at the student residence.

Grenoble has a charming historical center full of landmarks, beautiful city squares, and an abundance of great restaurants and coffee shops, just like most European cities. The advantage it has over other French towns – and the reason I chose to study there – is its amazing location in a green valley surrounded by the French Alps. I utilized every possible opportunity to go on long weekend hikes with my host family, classmates, or on my own using public transportation. Grenoble is the perfect place for outdoors enthusiasts to develop and practice their French skills while taking advantage of the surrounding landscape. I am very grateful to the IPED department for enabling me to pursue this incredible summer opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to build on this French language foundation in order to work in international contexts.