We catch up with Bhargav Prasanna Swaminathan, one year after his arrival in Grenoble from India to do a Master’s degree in engineering.
I’ve spent the better part of one year in Grenoble now and I should say that my first impressions of the City remain largely unchanged. I did manage to see Bus 26 full of, if not overflowing with people around 8am on a weekday morning, a majority of which were students (including me) racing against the clock to get to their lectures on time. But such experiences have been few and far between.
The (in)famous weather is still something I’m trying to get a hang of. Apparently I’m not alone, as qualified weathermen are in the same boat as I am! I like the summer here, especially after the long winter; mild temperatures and a lot of social events to attend! The sun is not something I really like though, given that back home, temperatures easily touch the mid-40s in summer. But I do feel happy that it is out and shining; happy for the French, if not for myself. And no, I’m already a wonderful beige. I wouldn’t want to sit out with you in the sun!
Speaking about the long winter, my first experience with the snow was wonderful and I was happy it came as early as October. But familiarity bred boredom (in place of contempt) and several spells of snow later, I was like “meh”. Some told me I was lucky though, as Grenoble has never seen so much snow of late as it did last winter.
It was December last year, close to four months after I moved in, that I finally ventured out of Grenoble and to Lyon for the Fête des Lumières. Quel spectacle! However, after the peace and quiet of Grenoble, Lyon made me queasy for a few minutes. It was only a matter of those few minutes before I adjusted, and although I love Lyon now, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said the four months had changed me somewhat. I’ve subsequently travelled to many places in the south of France and to a few other Schengen countries as well and while I loved them all, coming back to Grenoble always made me feel the happiest.
Learning French (and learning it fast) has made my life a lot easier here. A bit of small talk between a bonjour and an au revoir is something I’m managing to do quite easily now and it get things done for me more often than not. Recurring themes during conversations include the weather (quite obviously), my experiences here, cheese, wine and India. I’ve never seen people here happier than when un étranger tries to speak their language, a feeling I most definitely would have if someone else tried to speak my language.
I’ve become a big fan of the Ville de Grenoble Facebook page, with their stunning photographs of the city and its surroundings, and it’s not surprising to see that they have the second highest fan following of all city pages in France, after the official Paris page.
Zipping through the city on a bicycle has been super easy given its flat nature. The night-life is also something worth writing home about, not to mention the student parties and a lot of other such activities. I’ve seldom felt bored here. Such a small city, with so much to offer!
There’s still a long list full of stuff I’m yet to do. I haven’t been skiing, paragliding, gliding or to any of the numerous adventure activities one can take part while here. This apprehension could very well stem from my unfamiliarity with such activities. Historically, we Indians have never been good at this adventure thingy. But hey, try beating us at chess, or cricket for that matter!
I’ve another year left here before I complete my Master’s degree. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first year and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to another year here!