Part of the year abroad series for Line-S – Chambéry, France. Read here: Year Abroad in Chambéry
Also posted on the Ski Club of Great Britain here.
As a French and Italian student, the compulsory third year abroad began to loom on me. I tried to scout out jobs and internships that would be accepted by my University, but after contemplating whether to become a Language Assistant for the British Council or debating whether a receptionist job in the Alps would be acceptable, I settled for a French University.
Sitting in the lecture hall back in second year, naturally, when I scanned the list of places available to study abroad, my first thought was, “if I’m going to be there during the ski season… which is closest and most easily accessible?” So therefore, I came to decide between Geneva, Grenoble and Chambéry. As both Geneva and Grenoble are both big cities, known by most skiers as the main airports, I thought that the living costs in Chambéry would be cheaper, therefore enabling me to ski more often, which was the ultimate goal!
During my French ‘freshers’ week, although not at all similar to that of the UK, I quickly enquired about ski trips, to which I found the group Fiber’Glis, an organisation run by the students of Université de Savoie. The trips were day trips, including transport, lift pass and ski hire, usually setting off at the crack of dawn to reach the nearby resorts for first lifts. I went a few times at the beginning of the season to Val Thorens as that was one of the first resorts to open. Fibergliss also organises trips to the smaller, quainter French alpine villages such as La Norma, which is a real treat as they are characterful and aren’t filled with Brits abroad.
However, there were not trips every weekend, or I decided I wanted to go to a different resort, which is where my lifesaver, Bla Bla Car came to my rescue. As a language student, this is the perfect opportunity to practice your French and to maybe even make a regular travel buddy. When someone is driving from A to B, they will post it on the website, and if you want to go that way, you can book it – it’s that simple! Not only does this take half the time of public transport, it is also a fraction of the price. What’s more, all the people I hopped in with were so like minded, so the journey went by so quickly as we nattered about skiing and my French improved a tenfold.
Driving up through Sainte-Foy
In the months building up to the beginning of the ski season there were many local ski sales with discounted skis, poles, helmets, jackets, sallies and outrageous retro gear. As you can imagine we got rather over excited and bought some horrifically bright gear and had a gaper outing to VT, finishing a hilarious day at the bar 360 opening party.
From December, I started working on Saturday’s for Ben’s Bus in Moûtiers, which was so beneficial for my French, and once I’d finished a relatively long transfer day I could hop on the last bus up to resort, which also meant getting up to Tignes, Val D’Isere and Val Thrones was easy. My time off in January coincided with my friends uni ski trips and with the help of Seasonaire Facebook pages and some of my friends doing seasons, I was never short of a place to stay! If however you don’t have friends doing seasons, both Wasteland and NUCO need reps throughout the season, and in repayment for your hard work they will provide your ski hire, lift pass and accommodation.
If taking a year out is not compulsory, I would highly recommend it. Although Chambéry may not be quite as exciting as your uni town or city, I know my Monday afternoon-Wednesday afternoon timetable, a long with my long weekends skiing made everyone at home very jealous – I for one had an amazing time, with special thanks to my student loan and Erasmus grant!