The best experience of Erasmus is waiting for you in French Alps in Grenoble!
Hi! I’m an MBA second year student Sten and I was asked to share my Erasmus experience from Autumn 2016 semester that I spent at the French top 5 university: Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM). Of course, I accepted this offer because it was a life-changing experience for me and I recommend other Ebsters to take part of this opportunity too.
Most people probably don’t even know where Grenoble is located and what’s special about it. For introduction, I would like to mention that it is a small but very international city in the southeast part of France. A remarkable part of the population is made of international students and of different companies’ employees who have immigrated there from all over the world. For example: during my lectures I met around 20 different lecturers of whom only two were French. Grenoble is known as European Silicon Valley because many international enterprises have brought their product development there and they do a lot of innovation and development cooperation with universities. Even though it’s the Alpine region and it’s surrounded by many mountains (real mountains, unlike the ones in Haanja), Grenoble is still one of Europe’s most plane-leveled cities. So, there’s no need to worry that while walking between the school and your home you have to go up a mountain.
Grenoble – Europe’s Silicon Valley and the most flat city in France
- What is the most important thing your time abroad has taught you and what was your favorite part of it?
Most of all, the Erasmus experience has taught me to communicate with different people, people different from myself and to understand them better. You can’t make broad conclusions about any nationality or culture, instead you should look each person individually. And you should do that even in here, in Estonia, while communicating with people from your own nationality.
This experience was exactly necessary while focusing on leadership qualities. A good leader has to understand what are each of his/her employee’s strengths and weaknesses and personal ambition that motivates them. Taking all these details into account it’s impossible to have different people who complete each other put to work for the same goal who all in all are serving the team and its leader’s common interests.
In black and white theory it’s easy, but in reality there’s no seminar for multicultural leadership that’s even close to being equal to the Erasmus experience. The Erasmus experience is more valuable than any experience in you home country, because you’re in a different environment and while working out of your comfort zone with strangers, your personality comes out much clearly. All of this also helps you to learn more about yourself, for example: I understood what I like and what I don’t. Thanks to that, in the future I can contribute to only the things that make me happy.
Internationality and different people are definitely GEM’s key words
- How does EBS differ from your exchange university?
The difference between EBS and GEM is as high as an Alpine mountain. When in EBS I am one of the youngest on my course then in GEM I was clearly the oldest. The difference comes from the fact that in all over Europe the young people take all school steps in a row until their Masters, therefore they are around 22-24 years old on their Masters course. The student’s internship that takes place in the evening after school or during the weekend was completely foreign to that university and to other students. There were more than a couple of times when I had to explain how the system in Estonia exactly works.
The student life in GEM is definitely more active. Because the young students do not work, they put their effort in different student organisations that are active in the university. There are over 20 student associations in GEM that organise different activities starting from professional investments to sports events. Naturally, the most popular are the associations that organise parties.
Even though the difference between the two universities is quite big, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better than the other. That’s even more gives reason to go there and experience different study environment at GEM yourself. Based on my experience: GEM is more useful to have on your CV in an international context but EBS gives you better knowledge and abilities to be successful in the future.
- Describe a typical student day in Grenoble.
There was no typical student day. It all depends on which subjects you choose and that makes up your curriculum which changes time to time. Usually, I was at the university 3 days per week on average and the lectures lasted 3-5 hours. Some weeks I had to go to school 5 days a week and the lectures lasted from 8am to 8pm. Nevertheless, some weeks I had only one 1,5h lecture per week.
Since my lectures in EBS start usually at 17:30 then the hardest days were obviously the ones that started 8am.
- What is your favorite memory?
The italian students, with whom we did a lot of silly jokes. Although on everything else we had completely different opinions and then the common sense of humour always held us together.
Estonian’s best friend in Grenoble – the Italians and their friends Spanish people
- What did you miss the most about Estonia?
If I’m being totally honest then I only missed my dogs. Since I knew exactly when my Erasmus experience was going to end, I was focusing more on how to do as many new and interesting things as possible to not waste any precious time there. Nevertheless, it was the fastest 4 months of my life and because of that I still didn’t get to do all the things that I wanted to.
If you have the opportunity to go on Erasmus for a full school year I would definitely recommend to take that under consideration because one semester will pass incredibly fast.
- And what will you miss most about your host country?
Running in the mountains of Grenoble. The school schedule was quite flexible which allowed me to dedicate most of my time to sports. Of course I got to test my abilities in the mountains which is a completely different experience than working out in Estonia.
Who doesn’t want to run but is a big fan of hiking or skiing should definitely go to Grenoble.
Even though it’s already snowy in the mountains in the middle of November then Grenoble is still really Springy
GEM has put together a thorough handbook, which gives you great insight of what to expect of Grenoble. Information is available on GEM’s website: http://en.grenoble-em.com/international-student-life. If you have any additional questions then you can always contact me, you can get the information from Sirli or Susie.
- Living Expenses
It all depends on what you want – if you prefer to live by yourself, how big the place should be, where it is, what do you want to do on your spare time, how much you want to travel etc. What you have to understand is that France is a much more expensive place than Estonia. I lived in a studio apartment for which I paid €700 but had everything that I needed – laundry room, kitchen, bathroom etc and a very helpful house owner Pierre. The additional monthly expenses that you should take into account are about €400-600.
Of course there’s a possibility to live twice cheaper but then you have to share an apartment with 3-4 people. Presumably not a studio apartment but a bigger one ☺. By the way, sharing an apartment is not a problem and if you have a wish to study French then for that there’s no faster way than to find French roommates.
GEM has created different opportunities to find accommodation – all sorts of platforms, communities etc. In addition, people are looking for roommates on the school’s FB page. Finding an accommodation is not a thing you should be worrying about.
- Flexibility at the university
They do not look well on people who are late to class, some lecturers won’t let the people who have been late join the lecture. Otherwise the university is very student friendly and if you have any worries or requests they will always find you a solution that’s best for everyone.
- How is the (exchange) system there?
The students get to choose the classes they like from the subjects they offer three months before the semester starts. Additionally, the school sends enough information – what, when and how to do. There’s nothing complicated and it doesn’t differ that much from the systems in EBS.
- How does the student buddy/support system look like?
GEM has probably the best welcoming program for exchange students. One of the school’s student associations is responsible for this and their members help you (when needed) to find an accommodation, deal with French bureaucracy and they organise different meeting events etc. You just have to contact them and ask.
- Transferring subjects to EBS.
Since the EBS study department supports the Erasmus programme very much and Susie & Sirli have done everything very easy for us then I didn’t have any problems in that field.
Author: Sten Põder
Photos: Sten Põder
Translator: Laura-Liisa Lilleberg
Editor: Kärt Mättikas