Tag Archives: American students in France

Studying Abroad in France: Getting Started

Where or What?

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide whether where you study or what you study is more important to you.

If you’re already enrolled at a university in the United States or Canada, you’re probably on some sort of degree track, which means that if you want to graduate on time (whatever that means for you), you’ll have to take certain courses which will count for credit toward your degree. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to limit you too much as to your choices of where you’ll study abroad since with a little research, you can probably find a program that works with your degree in almost any major city in France.

Of course, if you’re really dead set on experiencing Bordeaux or Paris or Strasbourg for themselves, you could just take an extended vacation there, but often your best bet in this sort of situation is to take French language classes since they will almost always count toward a degree back home.

Which Program?

You’ll then have to decide on a program– whether faculty led, independent study, third-party provider, reciprocal exchange… The options can be overwhelming, so your study abroad office on your home university’s campus should be your first stop to gathering information about the programs available to you.

Many times, American universities will have well-established programs with partner institutions abroad, or they will have good working relationships with third-party companies like CEA who provide their own academic programs. For the first time traveler, a program led by a faculty member from your home university or a third-party program provider is a good bet, since they tend to provide more onsite support and planning (CEA, for example, offers all-encompassing package programs for a lump sum which includes pre-departure advising, housing, airport pickup, onsite staff, and more).

For the more seasoned globetrotter, a reciprocal exchange or independent study program will likely give you a more fulfilling experience and can save a lot of money by cutting out services and amenities you may not need if you already know how to live abroad.

Course Approval

Whatever you decide, you’ll need to start applying at least a semester in advance of when you want to study abroad, and you will need to visit your academic advisor at some point in order to get his/her approval for the courses you will take while abroad.

French Press TIP: Be sure to get more classes approved than you will actually take since course schedules can conflict with each other, classes can be dropped based on student interest or professor availability, or other unexpected changes. This will ensure that what you are able to take will still count for credit at home.

The time it takes to plan a semester abroad takes just as much time as you will spend in France once you’re there, so get going early, and brace yourself: it involves a fair amount of legwork, but the rewards are definitely worth it.

Next up: Everything you ever wanted to know about student visas for France

Studying Abroad in France: An Introduction

So you want to study in France?

You’re not alone: In 2011, France hosted approximately 268,000 foreign students of higher education¹. Known for its robust educational system (there are often multiple universities even in smaller French towns), France continues to be a popular destination for both tourists and students alike.

And why not? You’ll be studying at some of the most respected schools in the world surrounded by the rich history of the home of Jeanne d’Arc, Napoléon, Guillaume le Conquérant, Victor Hugo, Claude Monet, Charles de Gaulle, and countless other luminaries from France’s past. Whether you’re going in order to attain the fluency you’ve always dreamed of or you just want to soak in the je ne sais quoi of French culture, studying abroad in France is one of the best decisions you can make for your education and your personal growth.

The process of moving abroad to any country is daunting, but having done so myself twice, I can tell you it’s not as unattainable as it might seem—and it only gets easier with practice. In the next several installments, I’ll explain what it takes to study in France as an American, the French educational system, what to expect from French housing, how the French score their students, the cost of living as a student in France (with some notable perks!), and more.

So, without further ado… allons-y !

Quick Links:

  1. Getting Started
  2. The French Visa Process
  3. French Housing
  4. French Universities
  5. Life as a Student in France