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LGS Scholar in Grenoble

Home Was Where I was At

August 07, 2009 - by Emmanuel Hector


I’ve been so many places, seen so many faces, and have even  spoken so many languages, but Grenoble, France will forever be more than a fond memory….and if I were to ever forget, a few aching bones & scars & a body piercing will continuously testify.

I guess once you’ve seen a place go through the seasons…from knee-deep snow storms, to the blooming of flowers, to the scorching-hot sun obliterating the flowers back to nothingness…that place becomes part of you…part of your own history.

As the seasons changed the appearance of the surrounded mountains… personalities were also transformed… with strangers becoming friends, then lovers, then arch-enemies, then lovers again, then life-long friends. Most importantly, it was fascinating how strangers from different lands were able to put our differences aside & lived like a dysfunctional family.

You don’t really know a place until you’ve seen it at its best & worst …the same goes for personalities…you don’t know someone until you’ve seen them go through multiple situations that elicit multiple emotions…It’s even better when you meet people who can do that to you. And for the first time in my travels, I’ve been able to experience them all. I’ve always been a tourist or a half-hearted nomad who is always thinking of his next destination rather than enjoying where he is…Grenoble changed all that. It’s amazing to be in the middle of a heated discussion and then to suddenly realize…wow…I’m actually defending home…France…from a French perspective. Perhaps Mos Def was right in “Habitat” when he said your home “ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”  

Grenoble became that home…that place where you develop un-patterned habits…like pain-au-chocolate, classes, KEBAB, internship, baguette with cheese or Nutella (better than crack, not that I would know), wine, Facebook, party, and sleep (if remembered)…then do it all again in different orders.

As much as I dreaded the day I had to return to good ol’ New York City, I had to face reality and put an end to this journey in France. The journey started with numerous frustrations ranging from the currency exchange rates and the economic crisis, to a French language barrier, but ending with a place to call home…a home that will forever remind me how blessed I am…a home that changed my perspective on Christianity, politics, wealth, and having an office job.

At last, SANTÈ (CHEERS) to the never ending good times!         

Live. Love. Learn.


Until Next Time,

Emmanuel H.

School & Internship

August 07, 2009 - by Emmanuel Hector Bonjour,

Someone recently asked why I almost never write about my school work and internship in France...well... it's simple...that kind of writing can be a bit boring thus the reason I prefer to write about my adventures around Europe. I believe that in however many years I'll be looking back at my college career, I'll probably remember 10% of what I learned inside the classroom, if even. However, I will surely remember the education I had through adventurous travels, people met, & time spent with the friends that became family.

Nonetheless, when it comes to my education in France, it is almost the same as being educated in Adelphi University in New York. The main difference is that the language is making things a little more interesting & frustrating. All I have to basically do is pay
attention to almost everything that is said in class to avoid some surprises. So much easier said than done. For example, one day I had an exam and since I was not focused enough to hear the announcement the previous class, I had a nice test on "memoire tabou en france" waiting for me. Let's just say I learned the artist in beating around the bush that day.

Anyway, after 4.5 months in France, the improvement in my French, actually, the French learned during that time truly enhanced my educational experience. It sucked the first few weeks of my 9 (yup, nine) classes because I felt like the whole world knew more French than I did. I felt as though most of the students in my classes, if they weren't French, have been taking French courses since they were in diapers. And then...there was Emmanuel, the only black American guy with so much to say but not enough French words to express himself during hot discussions on topics like sex, alcohol, discrimination, immigration, censorship, poverty, professors as baby-sitters hired by the government, etc.

As for my internship at La Communauté d'Agglomération Grenoble Alpes Métropole (La Metro)...umm...it's interesting. It truly wasn't what I was expecting, in a good way, kind of. I feel like instead of me helping my three hosts around the office, it is as though they are baby-sitting me. I want to do work...get my hands dirty, but I simply can't. There aren't even tons of phone calls for me to make, files to file & copies to make since everything is done electronically & requires months & months of learning the complex French bureaucratic system to maneuver. They are certainly not allowing me access to confidential information especially since it's a short term internship. So what do I do for however many hours a week I spend in the office? I go to meetings politicians in the region hold to discuss things such as education & discrimination. They are a lot more boring than you might think...causing me to question my motivation to eventually become a politician. Furthermore, I also meet with different personnel in the organization to discuss things that are of interest to me. For example, I hope to be working in the public health field as a diplomat; therefore, I regularly meet with a public health specialist who travels around the world learning & showing how the French system works. I get to converse with him, yup in French, about what he does, what specific project his team is working on, what's going in public health in France in general, which branch of public health has the most amount actions, etc.

Overall, it's been a great educational experience through school and internship. It's unfortunate that everything will come to an end soon.

Until Next Time,

Emmanuel H.

An Epiphany

February 07, 2009 - by Emmanuel Hector

I've spent a decent amount of time worrying about various things since I arrived in Europe more than a month ago. My worries spanned from not knowing anyone, to the time difference, to not speaking French fluent enough, to the possibility of failing my classes, to paying (19.60%) taxes for everything, to the American's dollar's depreciated value, etc.

But then I said to myself, "What is wrong with you?" What good is it to worry about such FRIVOLOUS things? Not only can things be so much worst, but as a child of God, the concept of worrying shouldn't even be part of my terminologies/existence. Besides, just 3 years ago, Europe was a MYTHICAL place that birthed women like Joan of Arc and JK Rowling and men like Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, and Hitler...thus colonialism and world wars. All of a sudden, I found myself living in this mythical land and appreciating its cultures, peoples, architectures...so all the things that come/happen after that opportunity...whether good and/or bad...are simply bonuses.

Since that realization, I started to appreciate the little things: hearing people speak English, everyone saying "Bonjour" or "Bon Soir" to me on the streets and everywhere else I go, striking conversations with beautiful women (the pride and luxury that come with being a foreigner), having a professor conduct a class a day early just because my classmates and I want to go skiing during regular class time, having people guess where in the world my accent is from, etc.

But, along with such a chilled mindset comes the consequence of invincibility...thinking that I can take part of any risky adventure and then live to talk about it. For example, climbing a fort's wall at night, hitchhiking, taking ice-cold showers, skiing the Rhône-Alpes in places that are far beyond my levels, having no concept of time by exploring the city at night, and so on.

Nonetheless, one of favorite quotes says:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6: 25, 33 & 34)

Mixed Emotions

January 24, 2009 - by Emmanuel Hector

Three weeks later. Never have I been so frustrated and happy at the same time.

Top 10 Frustrations:
  1. Crazy drivers. Just because these Frenchmen drive tiny-toy cars, they think they can take them anywhere and do crazy maneuvers that exponentially increase your chances of getting hit or have your toes run over.

  2. Living in a residence with no internet access. But, I was still given an Ethernet hub and told if I break it, I will have to pay at least 50 Euros. Anyway, when I do get a 1 or 2 bar wireless signal, the restrictions are ridiculous...even Adelphi's website is blocked.

  3. Time zone. The 6 to 9 hours gap between friends, family and professional contacts is aggravating.

  4. The irritating smell of cat feces in some parts of the mountain. That smell goes straight to my brain to intoxicate me, especially when I'm out of breath while speed walking to my residence.

  5. Paying high taxes (~20%) and insurance for almost everything...

  6. Walking home every night after class. I don't mind it much on a nice day, but on a rainy, cold night, it's practically torture walking uphill for about half an hour. Doing that trek about twice a month tipsy is quite interesting : ).

  7. Sit in classes (9) and translate lectures for hours and hours each week...that's not even the frustrating part...it is listening to the professors drag on and on about things I don't care about, but I still have to remain focused with my low attention span.

  8. Go out, meet young, beautiful women but cannot truly hold an intellectual conversation with them due to the language barrier. I gotta get fluent in French ASAP.

  9. The need for people to bring up President Barack Obama in EVERY CONVERSATION as though I'm an expert on him.

  10. Currency Exchange. Cutting my bank account in almost half is disgustingly disturbing. The dollar must be resuscitated.
I can only wonder of the lessons I'm suppose to learn from all these frustrations. Only time will tell.

Culture Shock

January 12, 2009 - by Emmanuel Hector

Is it culture shock when it also occurs in your own culture?

I recently became conscious of my own racism. I realized that I've been going to stores and making sure I distant myself from black Africans. Why?...because they have a bad reputation in this French culture. I don't know how exactly I did it, but I always managed to find a way to let the security guards & store clerks know that I'm a non-threatening, honest, educated black American who will not steal.

In the United States, on the other hand, I managed to establish the same rapport by the way I talk, walk, dress, etc. I find it interesting how I somehow have to prove myself by showing that I'm not part of the statistics on young, black men in both cultures just so I can freely spend my money.

Nonetheless, for the first time in my travels I am not 'exotic.' In Asia, people would habitually walk up to me & touch my skin & hair with an indescribable expression from seeing a black man in real life. Here in France, I am looked upon as a potential criminal. With the help of Barack Obama, it's as though it is 'better' for me to establish myself as an 'American' rather than letting people assume I'm African. My experience so far has proven that being the "American Boy" attracts a lot more interest/attention from French women rather than being just another black man. Why should I have to disregard my roots in Africa in order to accumulate friendships and trustworthiness...

À bientôt!


January 11, 2009 - by Emmanuel Hector


I am currently taking semi-intensive French for a month with the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes Franôaises (CUEF) in Grenoble, France. CUEF will not reward me any credit, it will simply help me establish a good foundation in the French language. Since I haven't taken French for the last 12 years, I need that refresher.

Once I am done with CUEF, I will start regular classes in Université Pierre Mendè-France. These classes will include European and French studies, comparative politics, and a few other intensive language studies for a total of 30 ECTs or 15 credits. I essentially have to do twice the amount of work of French students since I have to translate then complete each assignment. Living at a residence on top of a mountain with no internet access is causing me to practically live at the library in the city below, thus murdering my social life.

Nonetheless, upon graduation, I am considering the Peace Corps. Fluency in multiple languages will surely broaden my options of which corner of the globe I will be sent to. Fluency in French can only further my career in diplomacy. Besides studying French, my stay in France already started to change me in more ways than I could have ever predicted. I guess being 4,000+ miles from home with no roommate, friends, meal plan, or anything familiar truly causes one to be independent. It is causing me to grow mentally (intellectually), physically, spiritually, and even socially. I have take initiatives, make consequential decisions fast, and desperately try not to get hit by one of those nearly silent trams roaming the streets of Grenoble.

What's next? I will backpack around Europe and possibly northern Africa. Only God knows where I will end up before I return to the United States mid June 2009.

About the Author

LGS Scholar in Grenoble, France is written by
Emmanuel Hector.

Carpe Diem!


The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author(s). The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Adelphi University. The copyright and all related rights to original work posted via the blog service are owned by and are the sole responsibility of its author(s).


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