Home France Resident Director Spotlight: AIFS in Grenoble

Resident Director Spotlight: AIFS in Grenoble

by AIFS Abroad
grenoble france study abroad

Last Updated on March 11, 2020 by AIFS Abroad

Miranda, left, with students


Miranda Rea has been our Resident Director in Grenoble for over 20 years(!) so we thought we would ask her a few questions about French culture, study abroad, and why Grenoble is such a unique (and underrated) place to study.

Tell us about your experiences abroad.

During my degree, I did not have the opportunity to study abroad. However, from a young age I lived in South Africa, and this is where my desire to travel and experience life in foreign countries developed. It was a magical experience, but also taught me the difficulties of living away from home, of managing situations very different from those we are used to, and learning that finding a solution is possible, but not always necessarily the one we anticipated!

What do you think are the biggest differences between French and American culture?

In France, food is central to understanding the culture. Learning what to eat and when, following the seasons, table etiquette, making conversation for more than an hour – these things can be hard for some students in the beginning. But it is something most come to enjoy and appreciate, and say they will try to introduce into their lives and routines when they return home.

What are students most apprehensive about and how do you help them through this?

I think that students are perhaps most apprehensive about living with a French host family. Many see this as the most important aspect of their experience, but also the most daunting. What will the family be like? Will they like me? Will I be able to come and go? Will they understand me when I speak French? When students arrive in Grenoble, I take the time to talk to students to find out what kind of host family situation would be most suitable. This is reassuring for the students, and also for the host families. At the end of the semester, students tell me that they would not have it done any other way.

In your opinion, what sets Grenoble apart from other French (or European) cities as a place to study abroad?

Grenoble is a thriving city, with a strong university culture and a large international research center. It is a city which provides everything a student needs and encourages them, through reduced prices, to participate as much as possible. There are cultural activities, a variety of sports to watch and participate in, plus excellent public transport (a pass is included in the program fee). There are so many festivals and cultural activities: the Coupe Icare in September, dedicated to paragliding, or the Christmas Market in December, and of course, the Grenoble cable car that takes you up above the city. On a clear day you can see Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe.

The city is small enough to allow students to quickly feel comfortable, while still providing plenty to do. Grenoble is regularly voted the most popular student city in France! The city is framed by the mountains which provide an endless source of activities and magnificent views.

What changes do you notice in students who have studied abroad on your program?

I believe that many Resident Directors would say the same thing: students grow in confidence, they learn to be more independent, to adapt to new surroundings, people and languages, and to listen and be tolerant of others. They even learn more about the U.S. by meeting students from schools and states they have not visited. Even after many years, I find this stimulating and wonderful to watch!

AIFS offers J-Term, summer and semester programs in Grenoble, and a unique Management Program at the University of Grenoble that is consistently rated as one of Europe’s best. Find out more on our website.

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