Grenoble, France Friday May 12, 2017

There was at least one thunderstorm during the night that woke me up. However, this morning, despite the gloomy sky, it was not raining, so I decided to take the bus out to the Universities of Grenoble, where I was an elderly exchange student 12 years ago. There are three universities on campus, University of Grenoble 1, 2, and 3. I attended the University of Grenoble 3, which also goes by the name of Stendhal University, named for the French novelist from Grenoble. Stendhal is the university of language and culture.

The universities in France are starved for cash. Buildings are poorly maintained, and facilities are primitive compared to American colleges. One of the reasons is the students pay only a nominal fee to attend. Unlike in the United States, in France just about anyone can afford to get a university education.

As to the quality of education, I found the language and culture instruction to be poor. Of course, language instruction in the United States is also dismal, and most university students in the US are cultural ignoramuses. Charging outrageous tuition and fees to attend a university do not seem to have improved our educational system in the USA. Where French students do far better than their American counterparts is in the fields of science and mathematics.

Pictured below is something I have never seen on a US university, a campus tobacco store. The smoking rate in France is declining but is still very high. As I walked around campus, I saw many young women puffing on fags, but I didn’t see a single male student with a lighted cigarette. Why so many young French people smoke in these days when everyone knows how harmful it is I cannot understand.

Below is one of the larger and better maintained campus buildings. It looks grubbier in person than in the photo. Many of the buildings on campus look as if they should be condemned and knocked down. At least now there is WiFi on campus. When I was a student here, the only places where students could access the Internet was in the small computer lab after waiting in line for a turn at one of the few computers or over WiFi at the campus bar. Campus bar? Yes, alcohol is served in several places on campus,.

Below is one of the newer buildings on campus, which belongs to Stendhal University’s language and culture program. When I attended, I had hopes that this would be where I would take my classes. No such luck. Most of my classes were in an older building that was in a sad state of disrepair.

If the campus itself is quite rundown, transportation to and from the university is excellent. It is served by several bus lines and two light rail lines. I took a bus to the campus today, probably on the same bus line that I rode back and forth when I was a student.

In my student days, Grenoble had only two operating light rail lines, one of which served the campus. Today Grenoble has five lines, and two of them make multiple stops inside the university grounds.

Although the light rail trains, or trams as they are called here, roll through campus one after another, they are all crowded. When I left the university, I decided to go back through the downtown area, as today is my last day in Grenoble. I snapped the following picture inside the tram. In contrast with the university, the light rail trains look pretty spiffy.

When I first came to Grenoble, a few weeks before classes started, I was given a temporary room in a college dorm that had once served as housing for the American Olympic team during the Winter Olympics of 1968. The dorm had no internet access, so in the evenings I would come to the park pictured below in Victor Hugo Square. One of the hotels located across the street from the park had open WiFi access with a signal strong enough to reach the benches you see at the left of the photograph.

Every evening, a group of old men would meet in the park to shoot the bull, and for a short time, I became part of the group. My French was very primitive then, but one of the men was an immigrant from Cambodia who spoke English, and he would help me over the rough spots. Then, shortly after the beginning of the fall semester, I found a room in a private apartment and had cable internet installed. Instead of going to the park in the evenings, I now spent my time studying or chatting online. I probably could have learned more French shooting the bull with the old guys that I learned at the university.

If the picture above looks dark, it is because a light rain had begun to fall, and a few minutes later, the light rain became a heavy shower. Being from the Arizona desert, I do not deal well with rain, so I decided it was time to head home, meaning back to the hostel where I am staying one more night.

Tomorrow I am taking four trains to get to Barcelona. I will be underway from mid-morning until late evening, so I suspect I will not be up to writing a blog entry when I arrive. I only have tickets for three of the trains, all of them in France. When I arrive at the Spanish border, I will have to buy the third ticket from there to Barcelona. Could have reached Barcelona more quickly on an international train? Yes, I could have, but at a higher ticket price.

I suspect that there will be no blog entry tomorrow, as I think I’ll be pretty tired when I arrive in Barcelona. However, I should make up for it the day after with pictures of the capital city of Cataluña.