things to do during the year abroad
Obviously in winter, skiing and other snow related things are the top of the menu of each week, but Grenoble is a lot more than that. For the social ones there are a great range of pubs and bars throughout the town and surrounding areas. Watching England v France in the rugby 6 nations is a must! There is a bar called the London Pub, which is decorated with all things british. Apparently if you're looking for a job they love English speakers because of the big Erasmus scence there but I heard they don't treat the staff very well. I preferred O'Callaghans, an Irish Pub, which always showed the big Football and Rugby Games because the Irish owner was a big Man U fan. Another place I liked was Sun Valley, which was nice a large to meet people and has lots of pool tables. My favourite nights were when all different cultures came together.
There are parties up the mountain, lots of walking and cycling routes and a big university rock climbing club among other things. There are also normally things happening in the evenings at EVE (espace vie étudiant) and lots of theatre. Get on the Integre, the foreign student welcome association, email list (http://www.integre-grenoble.org/website/) and they normally organise interesting things each week, including a weekly bar/club trip. These are great to meet other Erasmus students. I applied to Study China (http://servalan.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/studychina/) during the year and so I got involved in Franco-Chinoise nights because of my interest in China. There were also other Franco-Allemand, Franco-Anglais...nights organised as well as weekend trips away to Nice, Mont Blanc and Lyon.
A Christmas market appears in Grenoble from around the start of December and there are the local football and ice-hockey teams. The football team had a lot invested into it over the last 10 years and the reached the first division and got a new Stadium in 2007. It hosts 20,000 people but the problem now is the Grenoble FC have been relegated twice and so the stadium is normally empty. Nevertheless, they do have the odd good rugby match there for teams like Bourgoin to cash in. I watched the French Baa Baas play against Tonga for 5€ (Bastereud, Clerc, Heymans and the Tongan version of the haka - wasn't bad at all). These are cheap and you get a good top class rugby match on your doorstep.
I found the size of Grenoble to be perfect. It is big enough to have loads of things to do for a year but small enough to get around on the bike and feel at home. Also, you will soon realise that Grenoble is also in an ideal place for a bit of travelling around Europe. There are many nice little trips to french mountain towns, like Annecy and Vizille for example, and trips to Mont Blanc, Cote d’Azur and Lyon organized by the University. Just keep your eyes open really and sign up to as many things as possible. Otherwise, you can buy for 49€ a train pass for people under 25 which gives you massive discounts. After that you can organize your own trips for the weekends! Note that you cannot use this pass all the time - only in certain periods during the day (outside rush normally). My housemate also got a cheap flight to Rome for a weekend.
Also, if you’re lucky enough not to have a girlfriend/boyfriend who you have to visit during the holidays, you can plan a tour around Europe during half-term. This is extremely recommended from my first hand experience. For the first semester this takes place around La Toussaint (All Saints Day – November 1, which is a public holiday in France) and the later holidays you’ll probably want to ski as this is prime-time ski season. Having not experienced Interrailing before, I organised, with a German friend I met on my French course, to have a jam-packed trip around Europe. We paid for a 5 day pass over 10 days, and we went to Paris, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Eindhoven, Pisa (with a cheap flight) and Genoa. We watched Jonny Wilkinson’s rugby team Toulon play at the Stade de France against Stade Français and watched Inter Milan versus Genoa in Genoa; as well as the odd party here and there and 5 World Heritage Sites! It was a great experience!
Otherwise, I was invited by a Brazilian friend I met at the youth hostel for a trip around Spain. He had booked a minibus for 10 people to go to Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia! They had a great time, but I had already paid for my Interrail ticket.
For Christmas you get two weeks off, then you have exams. Obviously, you need to check with the department for the current information but for me it was the first two days of the first week of January, as all my french modules were examined before the break. Then for UJF maths you get a week off. For this week, one of my German friends booked a week in the 2alps for 9 which was great fun and is again another option to explore. You can buy enough passes from the Uni Ski Club for the week and so you can get a full weeks skiing for a fantastic price. Then you pretend you are part of the visiting unis to get the discounts in the bars - sorted! Other departments have exams at other times, Maths always seems to be early.
At the end of the year, we only had one week for Easter and Good Friday isn't a bank holiday in France. My first summer exams were 16th and 17th May and i believe there is second session sometime in June. This is not exactly a re-take session as the marks count over your first session.