Letters From Summer Abroad

In 2005 I spent time in Grenoble, France for a study abroad program. I exchanged correspondence with one of my closest friends. Here are excerpts from one of our messages. Enjoy!


You should come visit. Why? Three reasons 1. they have wine in the vending machines, and it’s cheaper than the water or soda. 2. they serve baguettes in the cafeteria, and 3. they have wine in the vending machines!

A few local students taught us how they make sangria. Step 1: take the cheapest box wine available. Step 2: add some cola, and sprite. Step 3: drink. Yeah I know, very classy. I shook my head the first night, but, depending on who’s mixing, it’s actually good.

The campus at Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble is a small cluster of residence halls hidden away in a large suburb. There’s a community kitchen in my dorm where we gather to make our group dinners. There’s laundry a few steps away across the green and plenty of old trees with shade to sit under. It’s a quiet little nook. We all have our own rooms complete with small extra cozy bathrooms. The toilets have no seat covers though.

I have class once a day for 3 hours so I have plenty of free time. The jet lag bothered me for the first 36 hours. After that, it was easy for me to stay up late and swap stories with all my new friends and dorm mates. Before landing, I read about the value of building a regular sleep schedule and how it helps with memory while abroad, so I forced myself to go to sleep with mental exercises, often walking through my day in reverse trying to remember every detail and starting again when I missed one, it’s working like a charm. I want to capture as much of this experience as I can. I only have a few more trips planned, the next one a weekend trip to Italy.

Out and about Saturday and it felt as though the entire town came out. I went out with the American crew, Brandon from Purdue and Rommel and JC from NJIT. The streets were clean and it was refreshing to see so many of our peers out and about. Grenoble is a scenic town with architecture that’s pleasing to the eye. It’s surrounded by mountains and beautiful horizons. The combination of old buildings and the grandness of the mountains is intoxicating. 

There are lots of small shops for clothes, art, hobbies, and food. The three of us walked around for about 2 hours and became part of the lively nightlife.

For the past two nights a group of us decided to explore together, walking around, bar hopping, eating, and relaxing. Lot’s of stories there, but I’ll share those in person.

Most of the students in the program are either from Hong Kong or Singapore. The rest of us (5 Americans, 1 Australian, and 1 Canadian) are in the minority. I found my MacGyver – who’s that? Some old guy from a show that could use paper clips and gum to build you an engine and fly to you to the moon and back – aka – get you out of any situation.  My MacGyver is Canadian and is clutch to have in tough situations, she’s book smart, street smart, and a scientist.

My French seems to be improving rapidly thanks to the carefree crowds (and alcohol) at the bars. The energy here is incredible, it’s lighthearted, fun, and inspires creativity. I’ve been writing every night. It’s like my brain is on overdrive and my senses are more alert. Looking into the eyes of locals, I get the sense that they’re living a good life. I’m sure they have their challenges like we all do, but I don’t see the struggle in their eyes. Instead of looking like they’re constantly searching, they seem to be content.

I can see myself living here on a farm with  rolling hills as my backyard. Okay, I’m getting tired and I’m confident that the glow I see through my window is the sun; so much for regular sleep schedules. Time to get ready for another adventure. Bon nuit.