Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
From Maureen: This post must be written by the one who experienced this challenge solo. Although I tagged along for this incredible opportunity to spend a year in Grenoble, Steve alone was put through his paces in order to have a unique academic qualification from the Grenoble École de Management bestowed on him. I hand over the blog reins entirely to him so he can tell you what it was like.
Back in October 2009, I was well into my eighth academic year as the director of the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) at NC State University and serving on the faculty in the university’s department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Having cofounded BOPS, Inc., a venture-capital- backed semiconductor company, I was happy with the contribution that this background allowed me to make to the EEP and to the department, but I was also pondering that age old question of, “Now what?” My business skills and gained expertise had been hard-won in the proverbial School of Hard Knocks, but I had always wanted to fill in my knowledge gaps with more formal training. Fortunately, I was at a point in my career at NC State that I was eligible for a sabbatical, and as Maureen and I had always wanted to experience living in a foreign country, I was ecstatic to find that there was a tailor-made program called the Grenoble Ecole de Management’s (GEM) AACSB-Endorsed Post-Doctoral Bridge to Business Program.
Maureen has covered much of our shared experiences in Grenoble, but this post gives me an opportunity to tell y’all about my experiences as un étudiant âgé (older student) in a non-engineering school surrounded by French speakers. I think I hit the trifecta!
I vividly remember my first day of entering the doors at GEM, not knowing where to go or whom I should see first. Being GEM’s inaugural student in this program posed some logistical problems at first, but they were quickly solved, and I soon commenced what would turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Maureen and I did not have to move to Grenoble for me to take part in this program—about 3 to 4 weeks total—in which you attend intensive 3- to 5-day workshops during the course of 12 to 18 months. The remainder of the program can be managed remotely online with your direct supervisor. But we both wanted an immersive cultural exchange; we wanted to learn to live as French people, and I wanted to learn to be a French researcher conducting international research from a French Grand École.
Many of my Grenoble days began with savoring a warm, golden-brown buttered baguette, from La Grange à Pains on rue Nicolas Chorier (see With Bread & Wine post), topped with a confiture de framboises (raspberry jam) along with a cup or two of my favorite French café. After descending my one-hundred-plus steps to the street from our apartment, I was greeted by the city life—people moving by cars, buses, trains, trams, bikes, and foot. The delicious aromas of the outdoor markets, the freshly baked breads and pastries, and the newly brewed coffees being enjoyed by les Grenobloises at the dozens of outdoor cafes lining my path on the way to GEM were obstacles to my making my destination in a timely manner. My days were filled with reading, writing, rewriting! and researching, interspersed by meetings, conferences, and my favorite, des déjeuners avec mes amis (lunches with my friends). Les Français do many things well, but they truly excel at living in the moment when it comes to food, family, and friends.
On the whole, the weather in Grenoble is quite sunny with a delightful mix of seasonal brisk chill and dry warmth. On my back-and-forth walks to GEM, I was always treated to the spectacular panorama of the French Alps—les montagnes, the Belledonne, the Vercors and the Chartreuse—popping up from different views as I turned the corners down one rue to the next. If I were lucky, and I often was, they were snowcapped with a soft orange yellowish icing glow, graciously provided by the rising or setting sun.
Were my original expectations of the program met? No, not all the original ones, but a new set of expectations emerged during my time at GEM that far exceeded the original ones. While I am proud to bring home my new academic qualification to teach in business schools in North America, Europe, and Asia, I am profoundly pleased that I can count among my friends and colleagues so many new and interesting people. I happily have a list of those who had a significant impact on my GEM experience and our French experience, and I thank them sincerely—À tous, merci mille fois! If I have missed anyone on this list (or missed any accents in your names), please accept my profuse apologies.
Stay tuned for le blog finale (the final blog post).
A+: à plus tard: Until later
Merci mille fois à ….
Valérie Sabatier, Vincent Mangematin, Corine Genet, Caroline Gauthier, Sylvie Blanco, Khalid Errabi, Christelle Robin, Olivier Cateura, Barthelemy Chollet, Claudio Vitari, José Gotzsch, Celine Jullien, Aldo Geuna, Marc Humbert, Severine Le Loarne, Stéphane Malo, Federico Pigni, Philippe Le, Christophe Bonet, Isabelle de Menou, Stella Lishman, Magali Michel, Alan Moore, Andrea Carafa, Sebastian Schorch, George Watts, Hye Yoon Park, Nadege Friess, Stéphane Jaumier, Reza Movarrei, Delphine Vidal, Poonam Oberoi, Marko Pitesa, Pac Chatterjee, Jeff Yan, Isabelle Bodas-Freitas, MB Sarkar, Charles Baden-Fuller, Amélie Boutinot, David Catherine, Gregoire Croidieu, Andrew Parker, Alexandra Gerbasi, Thibault Daudigeos, Charles-Clemens Ruling, David Gotteland, Olivier Trendel, Christophe Haon, Carole Gally, Delphine Vidal, Ana-Cecilia Mauchamp, Jean-Jacques Chanaron, Benoit Aubert, Anne Brau-Monet, Martine Allegre, Pauline Cotton, Mireille Gavarri, Karima Messad, Florence Sibut, Florence Trottier, and Any Reynier.
If a reader would like more information about my experience at GEM, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.