“Calm down, it’s gonna be alright,” I took a deep breath and started my journey to take part in the summer school programme for two weeks at the University of Grenoble-Alps, France. I come from a small place but a place of great historical importance called Gargaon in the north-eastern part of India. Going to a different country completely on my own was definitely quite an adventure for me. I chose to travel by bus to submerge myself more amidst nature, the taste of travel and to find stories in faces.
It was around 3 pm on 16th June 2019, I landed on the picturesque Grenoble, south-east France. Long traveling hours made me feel little bit tired. However, the beauty of the place and the newly experienced warmth and hospitality of the locals rejuvenated me. Seeing the mountain every morning from my accommodation, being able to survive that record-breaking heat wave, the intense hiking in the Alps, humming together with people and musicians of all ages and genres on Fete de la Musique, gorging on delicious French cuisine (not to forget “The French Wine”), my experience in France was vivid and special. I also made some wonderful friends from different parts of the world who made my journey beautiful and a memorable one.
Grenoble is called a mountain city due to its proximity to the Alps. It is surrounded by three mountain chains, Vercors massif towards west, Chartreuse towards north and Belledonne to the east side. The two rivers in the Grenoble – the Drac and the Isere are also called as the lion and the serpent, referring to the destructive flood in 1859 caused by the two rivers. The city also hosted the Xth Winter Olympics in 1968. Whether it’s the old town or the new blocks in the city, the scientific centres or the ski resorts, the museums or the pubs, I experienced knowledge and had fun in my journey.
The two weeks of the summer school were packed with intense schedule. As the days passed on, we got used to the system and tried to have some fun at the same time. The initial three days went on familiarizing ourselves with the places, transportation in the city, getting to know each other and exploring the place. It was a bit of culture shock for me at first just like the time I landed in Heathrow Airport for the University of Southampton. Homesickness was always a part of my stay somehow. We grow older and try to act matured, but that feeling never leaves! Honestly, I don’t complain and no matter wherever I go, my home goes with me in my heart.
We hiked to Vercors massif during the first week and through Col du Lautaret during second week. This was my first ever mountain hike. Since my birthplace is at the south side of the eastern Himalayas, spending time in the Alps was refreshing though sudden change in the climate and altitude was little challenging in the beginning. When I left Southampton, it was still cold and almost 10 days later, I was living at above 45°C temperature. This year’s European Heat Wave broke the earlier records of 2003 and it is high time that we act collectively to reduce global carbon footprint.
The summer school was a great learning experience for me. It was the first time I managed to arrange my travel to a completely different country by my own. Adapting to a new place can be exhausting, especially when one is totally foreign to its culture and language. I really appreciate the warmth of the locals who embodied the definition of perfect host. I could feel the sense of community around me who welcomed me with open arms and made me feel so protected. Their love for their country and their culture is inspiring. The respect they have for other nations is equally overwhelming. The friendliness of the French people genuinely made me feel at home and it was the same feeling for my summer school friends.
During my stay, I had the opportunity to enjoy the music festival happening there which was the amalgamation of genres irrespective of creed or age. I specially remember an evening when I witnessed Celtic and Irish music played by a group of versatile musicians where most of them were old but very young at heart. From my perspective, I had the opportunity to witness a society within the Alps where age is truly a number, people take utmost effort to hold a meaningful conversation in a completely foreign dialect with the same amount of respect that they feel for their own language, where knowledge is a selfless practice to uplift each other leaving aside petty judgements, where people have unconditional love for their soil and work for the betterment of their motherland.
Being from a small town, I could connect to their social and ethical values. We don’t really need a mansion or own luxurious lifestyles in order to be happy. I did not expect to come across similar values like the people of my motherland in a distant place, almost 6271 miles away. No matter where we live, life can be so simple yet of high quality and fun is not limited to the amount of wealth. I did not have time to go to Paris or explore other parts of France and my days were confined to the mountains and scenic villages. However, I came across a very developed society which is culturally, intellectually and morally very intact. I wish that every other society including my own country would flourish the similar way.
This experience taught me tolerance, perseverance and most importantly, it reminded me the real meaning of life. Personally, this experience was quite enriching and I have a much broader outlook on life right now. It was around 6:40 pm on 29th June 2019, with loads of memories and almost teary-eyed, I hopped on the tram towards bus station for my journey back to England. My bus was due at 10 pm from Grenoble and I was still completely ignorant of the fact that I would be the only Indian girl in the bus to be interacted accidentally by a French guy who was going to pursue Indian music after falling for it four years back. I was also unaware of the fact that the femme belle with the beautiful smile looking out of the window in Euro rail only booked her urgent vacation just for Wimbledon, a sport she enthusiastically played many years ago and still capable to pursue.
“How should I start my blog?” still mesmerized at her jolly spirit like many of her peers, I tried to think.
“There we are. Before it used to take just 23-25 minutes,” the thrill in her voice woke me up. It was time to say goodbye to her as we entered into the streets of London.
Thanks for reading my blog. Santé!