Ok, this is a topic that needs a lot of thought, just like in Leamington or Coventry, accommodation can be annoying if you’re not well organised. After applying and being accepted to study in Grenoble, you will get sent some emails informing you about campus accommodation. If you want to live on campus, it is important you follow all instructions and deadlines carefully. I believe you’re guaranteed a place on campus as you as you apply in time (for me it was July 10th). However, I had heard that campus accommodation wasn’t as social as in England and wasn’t the same standard either! Still it is very cheap, some cost no more than 150€ a month. The great thing about studying in France is that students get a lot of financial help. To start with the courses are cheap (but as part of the Erasmus deal you don't have to pay fees) and they can receive the CAF for help with their accommodation. There is more about this topic in the Spending and Funds section.
Instead of going for Uni accommodation, I decided to try and find a collocation with French people to be immersed in the language and culture 24/7. To start I booked a stay at the youth hostel in Echirolles which is well south of Grenoble town centre (10 avenue du Gresivaudan 38130 Echirolles - it’s worth having a look on Google maps). But don't be worried if you turn up and don't like the look of Echirolles. Being honest, its not a nice place and I hardly touched the area after leaving the youth hostel. It’s about 30 minutes on the bus to the University and about 10 minutes on the bus into town. It’s also a good place to meet people and get information about Grenoble. The reception there is very helpful and they have a kitchen, free Wi-Fi, a library, a TV-room and serve breakfast in the morning. There is also a supermarket on the doorstep if you need to buy some food. However, the current price (Summer 2010) is 19€ per night and, because it’s part of Hi-Hostel International, 7€ for the membership card. I stayed there for a little under two weeks and the price adds up. I had some German friends who arrived and immediately started to look for a couch surfer, which is something I was introduced to during the year. Check out the website: www.couchsurfing.org It’s free and your host can show you around. [Couch surfing in general is highly recommended for travelling around Europe]. Its better organising this in advance, because the better your profile looks and the more time you put into your couchsurfing requests, the more likely you are to be accepted by someone.
I agreed to live with a girl from Warwick who studied PPE but only Politics in Grenoble, so we could share the experience when we returned and to have that English connection. As she didn’t arrive until a week and a half after me, I was slow on starting the house search, which was a mistake! Term started for Maths on the 1st September and its best to sort it out before then. Other courses start a little later, but everyone arrives around this date and it becomes very difficult to get something good if you don’t have anything by then. If you're fussy on accommodation, I would actually advise popping down to Grenoble in June, July or August to get it sorted. You’ll save money in the long-run and have somewhere good to stay. Also, you can get a feel of the place without everything being thrush on you at once. However, I didn't do this so don't worry if you can't and you don’t need to live with someone from Warwick, be confident and it’s much easier finding somewhere by yourself!
The best website for me was www.adiij.fr/. They also have an office in the centre of town, but basically you can find everything you need on the “lodgement” part of the website. You really want to look for something that is meublé (furnished) and not too expensive. Grenoble is an expensive city in France for accommodation, but if you can get something like 300€ a month, costs included (cc) you’ve done a good job! It’s best to get on Google maps, type the street address in and visit the lots of places! Otherwise, www.appartager.com is another French website that could be good, but I didn’t like it so much and you have to pay if you want people’s phone numbers. Finally, there is a Bar called Bar Subway (2 Rue Lakanal, 38000 Grenoble) which organises “speed-dating coloc” for August, September and October, so if you need to find someone to live with or a place to live, it’s great to head down there. It was Tuesday and Thursday nights for me. Its generally a good place to find Erasmus people as well! Other options are just keeping your eyes open around campus and supermarkets for people needing an extra person to live with. Remember the point I made on improving your French before you arrive. If you turn up mumbling and struggling for words, its going to be harder to find someone who wants to live with you.
On where about you want to live, don’t go very far south. Basically, when Grenoble hosted the Olympic Games they built loads of accommodation but didn’t do it right. Nowadays, if you read up on France’s social and immigration problems, that part of Grenoble is a key example and is where the riots of summer 2010 took place. If you were to get offered the Olympic Accommodation from the University, I’d reject it straight away. It’s cheap and there’s a reason, and it’s not just the accommodation you’ll end up fretting about. Also, you’ll soon find out that when the French go on strike (and they do this a lot), the last tram back to the south is at 20.00, which is a big inconvenience!
Get a map of Grenoble on Google Maps and find the Stade de Alpes and Parc Paul Mistral (Parc Mistral to locals). The perfect position, in my view, is in the centre of town arond Notre Dame Cathedrale or nearish the Stade des Alps (Grenoble’s football stadium) which is situated inside Parc Mistral. I lived 10 minutes walk south from the Stade, and it was 15-25 minutes walk to anywhere in town and 10-15 minutes cycle to university every day. If you go too close to the train station (north-west of the city) you’ll find it takes more and more time to get into University, which is east of the city centre along the Isère. There is more about bikes later, but if you decide to get a bike, and I highly recommend you do, positioning becomes less important because of the ease you can get around Grenoble. Also, when searching for places there is a number and a letter that goes with the type of the appartment. E.g. for a studio or for how many rooms. This is what I got from a booklet I picked up at the start:
T1/F1: T ou F, la signification est la même. Le chiffre indique le nombre de pièces en dehors de la suisine et de la salle de bain.
Studio: pièce comprenant un coin suisine. Salle de bain et WC doivent etre séparés de la pièce principale.
Meublé: le logement comprend les meubles, objects et équipements necessaires à la vie quotidienne.
Chambre chez l'habitant: pièce avec acces aux installations sanitaires chez un propriétaire
Chambre dans un appartement a partager: pièce avec partage des parties communes (installations sanitaires, cuisine, etc.).
Cuisine équipée: comprend au moins une plaque de cuisson et un réfrigérateur.
cc: charges comprises. Il s'agit ici des charges locatives qui s'ajoutent au montant du loyer de base. Les charges sont détaillées dans le bail et ne peuvent etre prises en compte dans le calcul du dépôt de garantie.
Dépôt de garantie: appelé également "caution", il est destiné à garantir l'état du logement au moment du depart. Il ne peut excéder 1 mois de loyer hors charges pour les non-meublés.
Frais: l'offre de logement propsee par une agence immobiliére comporte des frais exigbles à la signature du bail et s'elevant en général à 1 mois de loyer.
And the monthly prices were (just from the booklet):
Chambre: à partir de 146€
Studio ou T1: à partir de 280€
Studio: env. 400€
F1/T1: env. 500€
F2/T2: env. 620€
F3/T3: env. 720€
F4/T4: env. 800€
Ch. chez l'habitant: env. 300€
On Uni accommodation, there are lots to choose from, have a look on the Crous website to start with (www.crous-grenoble.fr). I will briefly talk on uni accommodation that I know or have heard about. There is one called the Rabot. It is near the Bastille and 20-30 minutes walk up the mountain. It’s cheap, like most of the university accommodation, and with a stunning view of the city, but the walk up seems like a nightmare. There is a bus, but if you’re out late, it won’t be running! Also, the toilets consist of bog standard holes in the ground - not sure I could do that for the whole year. Perhaps you’ll get used to it! Graham Wright, who was the Maths representative from Warwick the year before me, said that if he re-took the year he would go for the Rabot, and you'll find that everyone has a different opinion of it.
Another is “la Résidence de la Tronche”, which is a bit north of the university over the River. It’s around 160€ per month, but the kitchens consist of a tap, 1 heater, two surfaces and a table. Fridge? You must be joking! I havn't heard of any campus residences that actually do have fridges. Some allow you to pay 30€ extra a month for a room with a mini-fridge - so if you want one its your choice whether you pay more or buy one yourself. Most people at the Tronche are medics because the hospital is very near. It's also got a park next to it, which seemed to host a BBQ every Friday night when it got warmer. I would have been quite happy there for the year and a Colombian girl who lived in Berlioz said she would have preferred the Tronche because of the more social scene.
The main rule of thumb that I've heard is that if you apply for Uni accommodation and get Residence Ouest or Residence Berlioz, take it; and then for everything else: reject! But then I havn't seen many of the accommodation, so this may be wrong. If it had another year in Grenoble then I would apply for Residence Ouest, Residence Berlioz or Residence La Tronche as they are a lot cheaper than living in a coloc. Then again my friend from Warwick who I lived with disagrees. Ρrobably the best tactic would be to apply for Uni Accommodation, if you survive til the end of September keep with it all year; otherwise take advantage of someone leaving at the end of the first semestre - of which there are lots - and move into a good coloc for January. However you have to decide what your doing pretty early, like the end of October/start of November at the very latest. Otherwise CROUS give your room away. I heard of a few examples of people requesting to stay in the same accommodation and paperwork being messed up so they were given another accommodation that they didn't want. So make sure you do it by yourself.
In France, all students can get financial help from the government for accommodation, this is called the CAF and there’s more on this later because this is a very easy way of saving money.