Anna Exertier - Grenoble, France Resident Director
Anna Exertier is a Resident Director for API Study Abroad in Grenoble, France. Anna came to Grenoble to study French with API in the summer of 2003. She is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in French and Art. Shortly after graduating from college, Anna moved to France to teach English for a year. Ten years later she is still living in Grenoble sharing her life with a husband and two daughters ages one and four. She enjoys cooking, traveling, and most of all spending time with her family.
Your love for French and France started with your experience studying abroad in Grenoble with API in college, how did you transition from student to director?
I studied abroad in Grenoble just during the summer of 2003. I knew right away that as soon as I finished my undergrad degree that I would be moving back to Grenoble! I took the leap in 2004 and worked as a Teacher Assistant in a couple middle schools and a high school through the TAPIF program (Teacher Assistant Program in France). During my first year living in Grenoble, I spent my free time volunteering in the API office. A position opened and I applied. So here I am today! I was really fortunate to be in the right place, at the right time.
You’ve spent the last 10 plus years living in Grenoble, and even met your husband there; do you think you’ll ever leave France?
At the present, neither one of us have talked about moving to the states. We have our routine, friends, my husband’s family, a home we just bought five minutes from our daughter’s school by foot. I’ve really come to appreciate the French schooling system and how children are reared in France. Plus, the French cuisine is a reason alone to never leave France!
What is a typical day like for a student on API’s Grenoble, France program?
Funny stories and new experiences! But most of all, little personal victories on a daily basis. The majority of Grenoble students live with a host family. They have breakfast and dinner with their hosts seven days a week so there is constant interaction in speaking French. A typical day for a Grenoble student would be class in the morning and some in the afternoon either at the CUEF (language school), or at GEM (business school). If it is the spring semester, we have a lot of skiers so they might go skiing before or after class. When the weather is nice, they a hike up the Bastille with friends, hang out or do homework in cafés, then dinner with the host family.
How do you use your experience as a student in Grenoble with API to help students today?
I can understand and relate to their difficulties, since I’ve dealt with most of them myself. Knowing both cultures very well now, I’d say I have good advice to give when they need my help.
What kind of extracurricular activities or excursions do you offer to help your students immerse with the local culture?
We’ve set up a few volunteer opportunities for the students such as, playing with three to eleven year old kids during lunch and recess time, art workshops with Senior Citizens, and working a few hours a week at the American Corner. We have the Director from each association come and speak in our office so that students can easily sign up right on the spot. Also, there is a one-day event in the spring when students and the Rotary Club work in the vineyards pulling branches. The money earned goes to an association which improves the living standards in a home for handicap people.
We spend a lot of energy motivating students to get involved anyway they can. It’s the best way to improve their French language skills, make the most of their stay in Grenoble and avoid going home feeling frustrated because they didn’t make French friends or meet many locals.
How do you ensure the safety & security of API’s students in Grenoble?
The housing assignment is very important for us and it’s by far our biggest job. We spend so much time meeting with families and getting to know them, as well as the residence staff. We can count on the families and the residences to keep us informed if issues arise. We know almost every student on an individual basis, we see them regularly so we can be sensitive and vigilant when we feel like something is off. Plus, students feel comfortable coming to us and talking for whatever the reason may be.
What is the best piece of advice you can give students who are interested in applying to the API Grenoble, France program?
Choose to live with a host family. We brag that our host families in Grenoble are the best, and 90 percent of the learning experience is outside the classroom and with the family.
What about API’s program in Grenoble is unique when compared to other programs in the area?
There are two of us (Resident Directors) that work full time. It is a small to medium sized program, so we are able to give a lot of individual attention to students.
What is your favorite part about your job as one of the Grenoble, France Resident Directors?
It’s hard to choose just one, so I’ll probably say a few here. I have a job that constantly stays interesting! Though the excursions and activities remain the same every semester, the students change, and I get to witness again and again new eyes discovering the beauties of France for the first time. I re-live my experience and the joys from when I was a study abroad student. Also, there is almost nothing more rewarding than when I see a student blossom and grow in such a short period of time. Knowing that I have assisted in some way in their growth is really rewarding.
Do you have plans of expanding your program in Grenoble in any way?
We’re always open to new ideas and projects. We’re looking into offering a larger variety of courses at the French university with French students. The courses would be taught in English.