Grenoble Economic Ambassador, Christian Garcia shares his experience
My internship with Alpexpo, a convention center in Grenoble, France officially started the first weekend of May. I wasn’t in France yet, but I participated on behalf of Mountain Planet | Alpexpo at the national convention and tradeshow for National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) at Fairmont Scottsdale. Mountain Planet is the world’s largest mountain development fair and I made sure exhibitors at NSAA knew that it was their undiscovered gold mine of opportunity in the French Alps. The convention was a 3-day event which began with a wave of foreign accents as I introduced myself to Claus, President of Alpexpo, and Laurette, Product Manager for Mountain Planet.
This entire opportunity began with a French accent by the name of Claude Bobin who I met as a marketing professor at Wilkes University. I later found out that on top of many projects in education, telecommunications, and medicine, he is also on the board of directors for Phoenix Sister Cities and the Grenoble Committee Chair. He took time to arrange this internship possibility which leads to securing and meeting Claus, who represented a French company but spoke with a German accent and Laurette, a French woman who luckily understood and spoke enough English to communicate with me. The reason I mention accents is that this was a smooth introduction to a city which would be filled with foreign languages, especially when… did I forget to mention? I had never studied French.
I first felt under qualified because of my language barrier, but after learning I would be communicating my company’s purpose to U.S. and Canadian businesses I knew I was easily prepared. One of my concerns, besides not being able to understand French, was my finances. I had little to my name aside from the student debt I was about to incur. After some excel spreadsheets and conversations with prospects, I officially signed my internship contract agreement on the second day of NSAA. This is when reality had set in that I would be traveling to France, which was also my first time in Europe, without financial burden because expenses had been paid. This included my flight, residence, and food! I’m already a low-maintenance person, so the only time I really reached into my pockets was for souvenirs and to pay American Airlines a fee for my luggage on departure and arrival.
Two weeks left of May and I landed in Lyon, France where I immediately took the bus to Grenoble, France. Once realizing Paris isn’t the only great city in France, both Lyon and Grenoble would be called underrated by me. To most Americans, these cities would be considered Southern France, excluding the beaches. Anyone interested in traveling to France should give Paris its curiosity and southern France its full attention. My city, Grenoble, was filled with international students where I would be exposed to Arabic, Spanish, and Korean at my residence and almost all French at work.
The internship tasks consisted of a sales role where I first made data entries to any business contact made in the U.S. at NSAA and a little data mining for contacts we thought would be more appropriate for our proposal. The goal was to have the American and Canadian NSAA exhibitors attend Mountain Planet April 18-20, 2018. I figured our time differences for every exhibitor interested in attending and prepared calls and emails accordingly. Contracts for U.S. exhibitors at Mountain Planet 2018 continue to be active. I was under a relaxed, Laissez-faire leadership from both Laurette and Coralie who I felt very comfortable learning from by asking questions and observing. I also helped with English & Spanish copywriting and attended French meetings about the progress of Mountain Planet. I was present at 5 rendezvous and I’m sure I introduced myself differently every time as I learned more French. Everyone at Alpexpo, the company I worked for was very kind and understanding of any learning curves I had about what I should do and how it should be communicated to our future clients.
A large part of my experience was enhanced when work was not the center of attention. As an American, I’ve heard stereotypes about the French and not surprisingly they had some of their own about Americans. I had to figure out how to explain “American culture” to French, Swedish, Indian, Moroccan and more friends, which I did by demonstrating food, music, accents, and slang with a perspective of distances from state to state in the U.S. in relation to distances from country to country in Europe. How could California culture be the same as Florida if it was further apart than France to Sweden? I would ask. At the same time, I was dismissing interesting myths about French hygiene and mannerisms like not shaving armpits or being rude and never speaking English. To clarify, most Europeans start learning English at approximately age 12 and continue until their equivalent senior year of high school unless they pursue through college, and their grooming is as similar to Americans as California is to New York. I mention this because tons of friends were curious to discover some truth behind what we’ve grown up hearing about France.
I mentioned that this opportunity presented itself with the help of Claude, my university advisor, but working with my Alpexpo team in France wouldn’t have been possible without Claus Habfast, my internship advisor and President of Alpexpo. Claus was very understanding and flexible with this internship from the beginning through the end, including being available for future recommendations or opportunities. On top of that, Claus and Laurette made sure I was set personally and professionally. Also, Coralie was my go-to help with everything and was one of the people who made my language barrier a minimal distraction. The ease of the process was also enhanced with help by Beatrice, who helped me with arrangements and legality, and Delphine, who provided my phone as I stayed in France. I’m not sure if I got lucky, but my entire Alpexpo team truly felt like a blessing and family.
Internship Cluster Program Opportunities
Grenoble is still top as the best place in France to be a student!
Donate to the Grenoble Economic Ambassador Program
Objective: Create jobs in Phoenix, AZ attracting foreign companies. The intern will play a role of an “Economic Ambassador” for Phoenix, AZ and will meet face-to-face with cluster members to explore their appropriate US penetration strategy and attract them to Arizona creating jobs locally. There are 24 clusters in the Rhone-Alpes region. Each cluster has between 50 to 500 members. Cluster member profiles are from start-ups to multi-billion dollars companies.
Location: Grenoble and Rhone-Alpes Region, France
Period: 2 or 3-month internship / May, June, July.
Training: One-week mandatory training split between The City of Phoenix Economic Development & The Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
View a presentation about the internship program opportunities!
For additional information, please contact:
Claude P. Bobin
Phoenix Sister Cities Board Member
Chair Phoenix Sister Cities Grenoble Committee
Phoenix Sister Cities Grenoble Committee Member
Director Economic Relations & Internships