A Successful Semester Studying Abroad in Grenoble, France

When adjusting to life as an international student, there’s more to learn than just new course material. From the moment I stepped off the plane in France, I began learning aspects of a new culture and experiencing the challenges of understanding a new language.  

The Sciences Po Grenoble building is where all my classes take place—our mascot is a yeti! 

What I Captured 

Integration Week at Sciences Po Grenoble 

After the first two weeks, when Integration Week at Sciences Po Grenoble ended, I began learning new administrative processes, new teaching styles, and new ways of grading. Amidst the waves of information, ensuring all my ducks were in a row could have been an overwhelming process.  

A study abroad student standing in front of a screen and professor

Discussing administrative local strata in France with Professor Marcou in his France State, Institutions, and Society course. 

In my experience, CEA CAPA made adjusting to the French academic system nearly seamless. While preparing for this semester abroad, CEA CAPA told me what to expect regarding my academic program. Having been forewarned about the slower pace of French administration, the nuances of the French grading scale, and the volume of a typical French student’s class schedule, nothing at Sciences Po Grenoble was too surprising. While CEA CAPA helped get my skis under my feet, it became my responsibility to control how I’d ride down the slope of this study abroad semester.  

A group of study abroad students standing outside a building

Visiting the French Revolution Museum during Integration Week with other international Sciences Po students. 

During my time at Sciences Po, I recognized a few rhythms that helped me have a successful academic experience. Foundationally, as was the case when I studied at my home university in the U.S., balance is vital. Relationships, recreation, and responsibilities should each receive their dues. 

A group of study abroad students holding cups

Enjoying some sweet tea after hiking to the top of the Fort de la Bastille in Grenoble during Integration Week with Sciences Po. 

Building Relationships Abroad 

From the start of my semester, building relationships gave me a foundation to build on. The people I met made an immense impact on helping me feel more connected and engaged while living in a new country.  

A study abroad student looking out a window

Riding the tram to campus with my roommate who also studies at Sciences Po. 

Tangentially, building relationships while studying abroad also provides a unique opportunity to create lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I didn’t expect to meet so many international students, but now, I can gratefully say that I have friends from Lithuania, Finland, Italy, Brazil, Ireland, Türkiye, and the Czech Republic

A study abroad student sitting at a desk in a library

Taking time to study before class in the Sciences Po library with my friend. 

French Culture and History 

Secondly, wherever you’re studying, I suggest you invest time in unearthing the cultural gems of your study abroad destination.  

A building with a mural on the side

Admiring the Fresque des Lyonnais, a mural depicting about thirty prominent figures who made Lyon what it is today, including faces like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the Lumière brothers. 

Learning about the history and culture of your location can help you make connections with the local grocer, salesperson, student, or professor.  

A group of study abroad students sitting on a ledge looking at a city

I rode the bubbles to the top of the historical Fort de la Bastille in Grenoble for a CEA CAPA excursion. 

For me, learning about the history of Grenoble proved beneficial in the classroom when my professor makes a reference to French culture or history.  

Academics Abroad 

Finally, in my experience, investing in academics is equally as valuable as investing in people and culture. Learning my field of study in another country alongside other international students is allowing me to see political science from multiple perspectives.  

A notebook and a bottle on a table

Taking notes in Professor Petiteville’s Change in Global Politics course at Sciences Po. 

Additionally, because all my political science-based courses were taught in English, I fully engaged in class discussions while still practicing my French language skills in my French language class, which is taught in French of course!  

A study abroad professor standing in front of a table with study abroad students sitting at a table

Spending an evening at the CEA CAPA office in Grenoble to learn about French food culture! 

Reflecting on my study abroad semester, the CEA CAPA team in Grenoble, the friends I made, and the professors at Sciences Po, made me feel more confident and independent as an international student.   

Payton Arbuthnot is the Content Creator – Photographer in Grenoble, France, and is currently studying at Cedarville University.


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