A Brazilian student in Polytech : Interview of Marilia Rosato, a MAT student

Marilia came from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), a public university located in São Carlos. The university hosts 26 000 students on its campus, when the population of São Carlos is around 245 000 inhabitants. We can compare it to the UGA and Grenoble in a smaller size. There, she was studying materials science and engineering.

She wanted to do a year abroad to discover a new culture and to gain new technical skills. Coming here was the only opportunity that she had to do a masters abroad and to obtain a double degree.

To come here, she had to learn the language first. She started to learn French doing 2 hours of classes per week for a year. It allowed her to have a B1 level. And from a French student perspective, she and all of her fellow Brazilian students who came here had a very good French level and I think we were all impressed to see them adapt so quickly.

The fact that she came here with other Brazilians student was a big plus. They could help each other settle in and not be overwhelmed by the administrative procedure and the distance from their home. To find lodging, they were helped by Polytech to complete all the procedure with the CROUS.

Then the classes started. At first it was a little difficult to integrate with us, the French student. The language barrier still being quite difficult to overcome, the French that they had learnt was quite different to the one that we use to communicate daily. Especially us, younger people. But with time, they adapted and they felt well integrated in the class.

The first semester was the hardest for them. It was also the hardest for us, as this is usually the hardest semester in MAT. The schedule was also a lot busier than what they were used to. With the added concentration effort that they had to make in order to understand French, it was quite hard at first. The second semester was easier and since Marilia already had done well in the first one, it was less stressful.

About Grenoble, she found it to be great. The mountains are great and plenty of activities are available. She found it very dynamic all year long. The food is also a big plus.

She also had plenty of time to travel across Europe with her Brazilian mates, which was great since you don’t travel across continents very often. Their first trip was to Iceland during the Toussaint break of 2018. She has visited 11 countries in total.

In summary, she loved it here in Grenoble. We all know how discovering a new culture is always very enriching. But she can say that this experience has changed her life for good, because of all the friendships that she created here but also with the new opportunities that this has given her career-wise. Finally, she has to finish her studies in Brazil starting in August but she plans to come back to live here in 2021.

Internships in the City by the Lake

Sylvie Charbonnier is a GIPSA lab researcher whose field of research is signal processing and automatic control. In her job, she’s had many opportunities to work with foreigners, through scientific conventions or article peer reviews. And for many years, Ms Charbonnier has sent TIS students to the US, thanks to a fellow researcher who supervised their work at Chicago University. Thanks to this contact, many TIS students have got to hone their skills in digital signal processing while working on sleep analysis.

Have a lot of TIS students got the opportunity to do their internships in Chicago? Or students from other programs?

My contact used to supervise one student a year. He also did welcome one of my PhD students, who worked there for an entire year. IESE or RICM students could have done their internship in his lab, since the subject revolved around signal processing, but only TIS students were sent over there.

Bird’s eye view of Chicacgo © Alex Qian

This opportunity for TIS students to do research abroad started from around 2008 for about seven years. Unfortunately, the relation started to abate five years ago, as Ms Charbonnier explains: “When I stopped working on sleep analysis, it just happened, and after a while [our relation petered out].”

Would you be willing to find another contact abroad?

You don’t make relations to send students abroad, but, when you see an opportunity you may use it to help students who are looking for an international experience.

For this reason, students from any program in Polytech Grenoble should be aware that their teachers can help them find a research internship. Ms Charbonnier is used to going to China to give lectures to students at the university with which Polytech Grenoble has an agreement. Furthermore, many of her colleagues work in collective research projects with funding from the EU. Our teachers get to travel and meet a lot people: that’s why you should be on the lookout!

A TIS Student getting involved in the children refugees lives’ in Lebanon

This summer, Sixtine T. will go to Lebanon with an association named “SOS chrétiens d’Orient”. This association is meant to help Christian populations which are persecuted in Middle East. It is active in Lebanon but also in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Armenia. She started by taking steps to get involved with them because she valued their project. Using profile and personality tests, they decided to send her to Lebanon, where she will be the most useful.

“ – What will you do in Lebanon?

– I will have a lot of propositions like organize and participate to summer camps for Iraqi and Syrian children who are refugees in Lebanon. They are a lot (~18% of the people living in Lebanon). I might be doing French or English classrooms for the adults. I will also visit needy people: elderly, disabled, precarious, in reintegration or in prison, etc. Another aspect is to help manage donations as the association also provides emergency aid and helps reviving the local economy. As an example, last year they helped to grow a vine as there is Lebanese wine. I will probably work there. In short, there is a lot to do. The association is present in Beirut but also in Tripoli, Al Qaa, a northern city next to the Syrian border and Rmeish, next to the Israeli border.

I will be gone for 2 months. My whole humanitarian summer! It won’t really be a vacation time, as there is no break in humanitarian trips. I won’t work from Monday to Friday but from Monday to … Sunday. In this service, it is said that we have 1 week end off in the month to do tourism, walks, to relax and do cool activities with the others volunteers in Lebanon, but I will see the country and discover the culture during my mission. I’m very happy to leave!

Political map of Lebanon

– When did you decide to go and why?

– It’s been a while since I wanted to participate in a humanitarian project. Since middle School I guess. I was wondering when would I have the opportunity, if I would have to take a gap year or not, etc. I really had a lot of questions. At the beginning of my school year in Polytech Grenoble, I discovered that, as I already did last year, my internship was already valid. I realized that I had a 2-month vacation time so that it was the occasion to do something I wanted to live. From the start of the year, I talked about it to my parents and started my researches for an association I could go with. I had to think of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to travel. As a matter of fact, I wanted to go alone (to work with new people and without any of my friends), and in a foreign country.

Humanitarian aid is something you can start where you live. As an example, in Grenoble, there are a lot of poor people in the streets that requires help. The thing is, what I needed was a personal experience while leaving my home and my loved ones for a time abroad, to get to see and help local populations.  As a Christian, I’m affected to see these populations getting persecuted because of their beliefs. I wanted to see and to live with them in order to understand better, in another way than using media. It is also an opportunity to bring a concrete help with whom I am. In fact, I am not rich but I can give them my time. I know that when I’ll get back from Lebanon, I will have personally grown a lot even if I know what I’ll bring them will be ridiculous. Finally, if I can make them smile, forget their daily life for a while, help educate a few ones and offer them some holidays, I would be happy with that. I know this is what I can bring in my own little way. I believe that providing help up to one’s capabilities and being able to live a strong personal experience as this one is necessary to build oneself.

During the school year, we saw Sixtine getting prepared for her trip as they have to get informed on the country’s situation. They also need to know the places they are willing to help: it’s geography and tense situation. They must understand political principles and the population’s situation of the people they will help. She found it very interesting!

 This preparation time is meant to keep them safe while they will be in the villages and to give them the best tools to provide the best help they can to populations they will visit.

“- How many volunteers will be with you?

-I don’t know yet. For now, there are approximately 50 volunteers who stay in their affiliated country during the whole year (16 in Lebanon) but in the summer, a lot of students or young adults swell the ranks. There were some training sessions in Lyon for the potential volunteers to inform them and introduce them to head of mission or some old volunteers. Before you go, you have to know the mission well. I met a few potential fellows in Lyon but they might be sent in Egypt or Syria instead.

My case officer says we will be plenty in Lebanon as there are multiple things to do and they need many people to organize these summer camps for refugee children. The amount of volunteers in Lebanon depends on how many people will volunteer as this volunteership is not insignificant. As you can imagine, it is meaningful to go in Lebanon to help Christian persecuted populations while you are yourself Christian. Even if all securities conditions are respected, the trip is still a little dangerous. In Lebanon, I guess we will be around 30 volunteers or more. “

If you’re hesitating to go on a humanitarian journey, you have to ask yourself the right questions. It will surely be an amazing experience which you might not be able to live many times again. Nevertheless, you need to be ready and to know what you’re capable of. For example, if you are depressed or very afraid of blood it might not be the best idea to go and help in hospitals. You need to question yourself on what experience could suit you the most, or which one could make you grow the most. Do you need to go abroad or do you feel you have to stay where you are? Should you get involved alone, with your companion or with a friend?

Remember that helping others is something you can start in your local sphere, while getting out of work or walking in the streets. Leaving for a trip requires another involvement, if you really want to live something special. In a conclusion, I would say that if you’re hesitating, you won’t regret the journey.

An internship in a French-Japanese Laboratory: Interview of Adèle a MAT4 student

Adèle is a MAT4 student and did her fourth-year internship in a French-Japanese laboratory situated in the University of Tsukuba, city located fifty kilometers north of Tokyo which is around 45 minutes by train.

She found her internship via the partnership maintained between the Tsukuba University and Polytech Grenoble. Everyone in the material departments is aware of the possibility to go abroad for either a three month internship or a double degree, thanks to M. Vallée who is very involved in the partnership.

She stayed there 3 months in a laboratory doing mainly research work on plasma etching. Two Polytech’s teachers work there including M. Vallée. She was supervised in her work by a Polytech teacher. There was also in the lab a student in MAT5 doing his double degree, and a Japanese student.

The trip in itself consists of a 12 hour flight to Tokyo and a 45 minutes train to Tsukuba. There you meet with a Japanese student named Masato here specially to help you with the paperwork. You have to make a resident card to work there and everything is written in Japanese. Thanks to Masato who spoke a very good English, this was not a problem. Masato is a kind of a rarity there because very few Japanese spoke good English.

There were also a lot of former Polytech students still there doing their double degree to help you acclimate and understand how everything works. They have a year of experience in Japan which is very helpful for the newcomers. There were also seven MAT4 doing the exchange at the same time and even more on the campus. A kind of association was also on the campus for foreign students to meet up, organize parties and cultural outings.

The first few days were quite hard due to jet-lag. During summer in Japan, the sun rises at 4 am and sets at 6 pm which she found to be very pleasing. The general feeling as a tourist is very reassuring. Whereas you may be kind of overwhelmed in cities such as Paris where you can find tourist traps and you have to be kind of suspicious, in Japan everyone is very polite and friendly. Even if they don’t speak English at all, they will always be keen to help you. Some even may want to take a photo with you because they rarely meet Europeans.

One thing that you may not adapt to is the food. Even if it’s really good you may find yourself dreaming about cheese or saucisson. Fruits and vegetables are quite expensive but the restaurants are mostly very cheap, you can have a very nice meal for around six euros.

You also have to adapt to their culture to not seem rude or impolite. Many little unwritten rules are to be followed which can be a little confusing sometimes. Rules such as to only whisper in the subway, or to take off your shoes in restaurants.

All in all, the adaptation is very easy since you are not alone and everyone understands that you come from a very different background. Your English skills are also a major plus for the lab work. With the locals, you will often find yourself mimicking the message you want to pass.

On the subject of accommodation, you will be given a list of rooms on the campus or more spacious studios. In her case, Adèle had a thirteen square meters room with a tiny bathroom, a fridge and a heating plate which she found to be perfect for three months. When you do a double degree, you will be roommates with your French mates and fellow Japanese students in a much larger space.

One of the many differences with our universities is that the buildings are separated between male or female students.

The rent was around 280 euros for thirteen square meters which is not very expensive given the location.

Considering the lab work, the tutors where very helpful and taught her how to use the various devices that she had to use. Her tutor gave her his expectations for the week to come and she had to make herself her schedule to accomplish her various tasks. She was on average in the lab from 10 am to 6 pm. There was no pressure on you as long as you had the job done.

The integration with the other colleagues was very easy, some of them were already her classmates in France and the Japanese student didn’t hesitate to go on lunch with them. They went to restaurants and karaoke’s with colleagues to have fun and to socialize.

Outside of work the activities in Tsukuba consisted mainly of karaoke’s or batting centers (a place where you have a baseball bat and balls are thrown at you) but you can also visit the rice fields or hike on mount Tsukuba.

Tsukuba japan

In the streets of Tsukuba

The most interesting thing to do was to travel out of Tsukuba, which they could do for about 2 weekends out of 3. They visited mainly Tokyo but also the cities of Nikko, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto, where they hang out in the streets, visited a lot of tiny temples, restaurants, castles, museums and did shopping.

temple japan

One of the many temples they had the chance to visit

One of her favorite memories is from the Team Lab museum which you can see in the following picture.

team lab museum

Team Lab museum in Tokyo

The Chinese district in Yokohama is also fantastic and the food is delicious. In her top 2 of places to visit.

Yokohama bay japan

Yokohama bay

They also saw some fireworks, traditional festivals such as the Sanja Matsuri or Sanja Festival which is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. Prominent parades revolve around three mikoshi (portable shrines referenced in the festival’s name), as well as traditional music and dancing.

Traditional parade during Sanja Matsuri

Traditional parade during Sanja Matsuri

Another highlight of one of their trips was their stay in a traditional Japanese house with a garden in the center, an onsen (a traditional hot bath) and a host who spoke English and was a really pleasant encounter.

In summary, everything about her internship was perfect. She got to discover an entirely new culture with her friends, had a very interesting work subject with a fantastic team and would gladly recommend this choice of destination for an internship if you have the chance to do it.

She may return to Japan to visit again, but after having been to other new countries!

Semestre à l’étranger : Une expérience convenable à tous ?

Les départs à l’étranger à Polytech Grenoble et dans tout le réseau sont assez courants. En effet, toutes les écoles d’ingénieurs sont fortement incitées à rendre des expériences à l’étranger obligatoires dans le cadre de la scolarité. Bien que ce ne soit pas une contrainte officielle de la CTI, beaucoup d’écoles observent cette recommandation et la rende obligatoire dans le règlement des études de leurs filières. Cependant, la plupart des étudiants choisissent de partir en stage à l’étranger ou en woofing plutôt que d’effectuer des études à l’étranger. Un contraste important causé par la peur des étudiants d’être confronté à plus de difficultés en partant en semestre à l’étranger.

Axel est un étudiant en TIS 5 qui est parti à l’Université de Montréal (UDEM), au Canada, grâce au programme TASSEP. Avec lui, nous allons découvrir comment se passe un semestre d’études à l’étranger et essayer de briser le mythe d’une sur-complexité administrative lorsqu’on étudie dans un autre pays.

Premier argument ? Le programme TASSEP, qui est un programme réputé pour être difficile d’accès pour les étudiants de Polytech, Alex y est rentré malgré tout et comme il l’assure : « Il faut toujours tenter car qui ne tente rien n’a rien. » En effet, quand on est l’un des seuls à oser, beaucoup plus d’opportunités s’offrent à nous. On comprend, certes, la paresse des élèves devant le dossier à compléter pour effectuer une demande : un dossier doit d’abord être déposé au bureau des Relations Internationales, et un autre (plus complet) doit être soumis en ligne à l’UGA. Dans ce dossier, sont demandés le CV et les relevés de notes, entres autres, mais plus particulièrement le projet de motivation et une réflexion budgétaire.

Liste des documents à déposer aux RI de Polytech Grenoble

Comment as-tu établi ton projet et ta lettre de motivation ?

« Mon projet est venu au fil des années : j’ai toujours été intéressé par l’informatique et j’ai acquis des connaissances en santé depuis que je suis arrivé en TIS. Je n’étais pas sûr de ce que je voulais faire mais j’étais intéressé par les nouvelles technologies. Je souhaiterais allier la réalité virtuelle avec la santé et le domaine des jeux vidéos. Quand je me suis rendu au RI et que j’ai eu une réunion avec mes responsables de filières ils m’ont tout de suite soutenu. Et c’est à l’UDEM que mon aspiration s’est concrétisée. »

Une fois le projet défini, il suffit juste de rédiger la lettre de motivation (en s‘appuyant sur un modèle si besoin), et d’y coucher ses motivations.

Et comment établir un budget pour une situation qui nous est complètement inconnue?

Cela nécessite beaucoup d’organisation et de prévisions. J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir faire mon stage de TIS 4 (qu’on nous conseille de faire à l’étranger) en Belgique avant de me rendre au Québec. Cela m’a aidé car je n’ai pas eu à faire beaucoup de dépenses là-bas. Je pense que pour tous les types de budget, il faut réfléchir à notre motivation et à combien on est prêt à mettre dans ce projet. Il faut aussi être débrouillard et chercher des bonnes affaires, même si l’aspect qualité/prix est important. Par exemple, quand nous sommes arrivés à Montréal avec mon ami, nous avons booké un Airbnb pour avoir le temps de chercher un appartement pour le semestre. Le problème c’est que bien que le prix était accessible, on s’est retrouvé dans un Airbnb avec des punaises de lit et des cafards.

Au final, Axel et son ami ont dû choisir un appartement coûtant 600€ par personne et par mois, ce qui est bien plus cher que le prix moyen d’un appartement en colocation à Grenoble. La chose à retenir c’est qu’il ne faut pas hésiter à allouer un plus grand budget car le confort au cours d’un semestre de trois ou quatre mois n’est pas à négliger. Certains étudiants boursiers peuvent s’inquiéter de cela mais Axel l’étant lui-même soutient que : « Bien que je sois boursier à un petit échelon, les aides rendent la concrétisation de notre projet possible. En plus de la bourse du CROUS, je recevais la Bourse Régionale de Mobilité Internationale (BRMI) et l’Aide à la Mobilité Internationale (AMI). »

Quelles difficultés as-tu rencontrées au cours de toutes ces étapes administratives ?

« Au niveau du plan administratif, vu que je suis parti au Canada pour des études de moins de 6 mois, j’ai juste eu à faire une demande d’AVE, qui coûte vraiment peu cher. Un formulaire est nécessaire au Québec qu’il faut transmettre à la RAMQ ; il est obtenu auprès de la caisse primaire d’assurance maladie et permet d’être couvert au Québec en gardant son affiliation en France. La seule petite difficulté que j’ai rencontré était de respecter le délai imposé pour constituer mon dossier pour les RI et l’UGA. »

Dans la plupart des pays, le passeport français accorde l’extrême chance de ne pas avoir à demander un visa d’études ou de séjour si on reste pour une courte période (de moins de 6 mois en général). Cela permet de diminuer les démarches administratives et de faciliter le délai entre l’acceptation de l’université et le moment où on peut acheter son billet, ce qui est bien sûr un plus pour le budget. Pour le Canada, l’AVE se demande en ligne et est accordée en moins de 72h. Axel a même pu la faire depuis la Belgique pendant son stage de TIS 4.

Montréal de nuit ©Free-Photos sur le site Pixabay

Comment as-tu été accueilli à l’UDEM ?

« A l’arrivée j’ai été intégré dans un programme de parrainage comme les autres étudiants. Mon parrain m’a fait découvrir l’université et la ville. Le seul point déstabilisant était de me retrouver dans un campus immense mais j’avais planifié d’arriver avec de l’avance pour prendre mes repères. »

L’arrivée à l’université se passe comme prévu quand on a de la chance. Ce qui change souvent, néanmoins, est le programme de cours choisi lorsqu’on avait déposé le dossier aux RI. En effet, ils arrivent que certains cours soient supprimés ou qu’ils excluent les étudiants en échange d’une année sur l’autre.

Quels sont les avantages qui t’ont poussé à étudier à l’étranger ?

« Pour moi le principal avantage est de découvrir une nouvelle culture. J’ai pu sortir de chez moi et concevoir une nouvelle manière d’aborder l’enseignement et l’apprentissage des cours. D’abord, à l’UDEM on avait un choix bien plus large de matières (malgré quelques restrictions) qu’en France. Les cours ne sont pas imposés comme dans le système universitaire français où le choix est très réduit. Là-bas, il y a aussi plus de flexibilité : les étudiants peuvent tester un cours et s’il ne leur plait vraiment pas, ils peuvent le lâcher ou changer de voie. »

Le plus surprenant à l’arrivée dans un nouveau pays est la différence avec le système d’enseignement français. Cela diffère grandement selon la région géographique mais en général on tombe sur un système plus souple où la relation étudiant-professeur est moins formelle. Dans toutes les matières qu’il a eues, Axel raconte que les professeurs sont vraiment présents et ludiques, et qu’ils s’assurent qu’on comprend tout.

Il est plus facile de suivre des cours en français mais dans tous les cas, il ne faut pas hésiter à se présenter à chaque professeur au début du cours, de lui signaler qu’on est étudiant en échange (même si vous ne serez probablement pas le seul), d’autant plus si le cours n’est pas enseigné en français ou en anglais. De cette manière, le professeur s’adaptera de manière à ce que vous compreniez bien l’ensemble du cours et il essaiera sûrement de parler plus lentement.

Il faudra aussi adapter sa propre attitude. Selon Axel, les étudiants québécois sont différents des étudiants français : « Ils ne sont pas désinvoltes comme on l’est un peu en France. Comme on peut assister aux matières qu’on choisit, tout le monde est automatiquement plus intéressé. » Tout comme les professeurs québécois qui sont d’après lui des personnes motivées qui cherchent surtout à transmettre leur vision des choses et leur goût d’apprendre, et qu’il est possible de passer voir dans leur bureau. « Là-bas, les devoirs servent à noter le travail, mais aussi à comprendre et vérifier qu’on a bien compris le cours. La date de l’examen est fixée pour qu’élève réussisse. »

Si tout était à refaire que changerais-tu ou améliorerais ?

« Les Airbnb : j’essaierais de chercher un appart dès l’arrivée. Sinon pas grand-chose. »

Les professeurs de Polytech gardent-ils contact avec toi durant le semestre ?

« Les profs te tiennent au courant des événements et des choses à faire, mais avec le décalage horaire (même s’ils essaient de le prendre en compte) ça rend parfois difficile d’allier les contacts avec les deux universités. »

Comment as-tu organisé ton retour en France en ce qui concerne l’appartement, le décalage horaire, etc. ?

Pour le retour en France, j’ai eu de la chance car le semestre UDEM se finit le 23 décembre alors que celui de Polytech se finit autour de mi-janvier. J’ai eu le temps pour me remettre à l’heure française, passer fêtes avec ma famille, et trouver un appartement. Cela a été un peu difficile car les propriétaires louent rarement pour 2 mois, mais j’insiste sur la nécessité d’être un peu débrouillard pour ce type de projet. »

Après une telle expérience, il est certain que vous reviendrez tous avec une plus grande indépendance et en étant plus dégourdi.

Quels conseils donnerais-tu aux futurs étudiants qui souhaitent partir en semestre ?

« De mettre leur appart en sous-location si possible. Et sinon d’oser même si les probabilités d’être sélectionné sont faibles. »

Le fait qu’Axel ne changerait rien à l’expérience qu’il a vécu, c’est la preuve qu’une telle expérience en vaut la peine. Tout ce qu’il faut pour réussir son séjour, c’est partir avec les bonnes clés en main.