Some of the world’s greatest thinkers have come from France, including René Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, authors like Marcel Proust and Albert Camus, famous filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Renoir, and artists like Monet and Cézanne. Between the language, the world renowned universities, the wine, and the art, that pro/con list you may have started might leave you with an overwhelmingly number of pros. A summer or semester in France may not be enough for you, and more and more students are thinking the same thing. Join handfuls of other students, and the ranks of plenty of French successes, by earning your degree abroad in France.
Everyone has a picture of France in their minds, from romantic chateaus and vineyards as far as the eye can see to the Seine winding around Parisian streets and the bluest Mediterranean waters of the Côte d’azur to the snow-capped mountains, France is un grand rêve (a dream destination).
Paris. The “City of Light” is immediately where your mind wanders when you think of France, with the sun setting just behind la Tour Eiffel. Paris is the capital and most populous city in France, with a population of around two million people living in and around the city. Most of France’s major universities call Paris home, the most notable being the University of Paris, or Sorbonne, and Sciences Po Paris.
Lyon. Located in the eastern part of the country in the Rhone-Alpes region, Lyon is the third largest city in France, next to Paris and Marseille. It has earned a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France, and the world for that matter. While Paris is the City of Light, Lyon is the “Capital of Lights”, named so for the Fete des Lumières (festival of lights), that occurs every December and lasts for four days. École normale supérieure de Lyon is one of the most prestigious universities in France, and is specifically focused on training researchers and teachers in both the sciences and humanities.
Aix-en-Provence is the epitome of southern France. The weather in Aix-en-Provence is famously mild, and the city averages 300 days of sunshine a year. The warm mediterranean climate makes it the ideal place to take a stroll down the Cours Mirabeau or read out on a café terrace. Aix-en-Provence is first and foremost a university town, with a large student population attending Aix-Marseille University and the several other institutions around town. There are always free events hosted by clubs and students at the university creating plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in student life while earning your degree in Aix-en-Provence.
Other popular locations to earn your degree abroad in France include Grenoble, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Lille. All of these cities offer notable universities and degree programs, and each provides a unique environment to immerse yourself in while you earn your degree in France.
Degree Programs in France
France has a long history of higher education tracing all the way back to Napoléon. The high quality of French universities is recognized around the world. With 77 public universities and countless other specialized schools, it is no wonder France is a perfect place to earn a degree abroad. In fact, one in three French doctoral degrees is awarded to a student who is not originally from France. Universities in France are structured similarly to most European countries, offering undergraduate, or bachelors, degrees, masters degrees, and doctorate level degrees.
Most students are surprised by the size and abundance of institutions, specializing in a more or less broad spectrum of subject areas. Even in small to mid-size towns like Aix-en-Provence or Grenoble, there will be two or three universities broadly focused on the sciences and humanities, as well as a few schools specific to engineering, business, and other specialties, like law and economics.
By and far the top subjects in which to earn a degree in France are business, culinary arts, and fashion design and merchandising. However, with France’s diverse university system, ranging from public universities to grandes écoles (elite private universities), you can find degree programs in France in just about any subject.
If you intend to directly enroll in a French university to earn your degree in France, classes will be taught primarily in French, unless otherwise specified, so an advanced or near-native proficiency in the language will be necessary.
Scholarships & Costs
Since education in France is government funded, tuition and enrollment fees are relatively low, but will obviously vary based on the degree level (bachelor, master, doctorate) and area of study you choose. Generally, bachelor’s degree programs in France will cost around 190 euro a year; however, a pre-med or engineering student will pay more per year. Scholarships and financial aid for international students is typically available through most host universities, but outside scholarships can also be found on GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory.
While education costs are relatively low compared to the cost of a degree in the U.S. or U.K., the cost of living in France tends to be relatively high, mostly due to the high level of tourism. France is one of the most visited countries in the world, which means the price of most goods and services is inflated, especially in popular tourist destinations like Paris or Aix-en-Provence. However, living and earning your degree in France will make you savvy like a local in no time; you’ll quickly learn to navigate tourist traps and find the best deals on the most authentic experiences.
Accommodation & Visas
Student dormitories are the standard accommodation for international students pursuing a degree in France, at least in their first year. Campus housing is the best way to get to know other French and international students. Even if you choose to move off campus in an apartment, you’ll have plenty of friends and potential roommates if you start off in the dorms. Another popular option, especially for those still working on their French language skills and hoping to become fluent, is living in a homestay with a French family. This will give you a whole new family and support system during your time in France too.
You will need to apply for a long stay student visa in order to attend a French university, which will also require you to fill out a French immigration form in order to apply for a residency card. For specific visa information, contact your home country’s designated French consulate, and be sure to discuss the details of your visa with your host university so you can get any necessary documents.
Benefits & Challenges
Tongue Tied. Maybe your French conversation skills are a little rusty and the language barrier is proving trickier than you thought it would. Don’t worry, take a breath, because soon enough you’ll be speaking, thinking, and dreaming in French! It takes time to shake the cobwebs away and become comfortable with your second (or maybe even your third) language.
Wanted: A French Friend. Earning your entire degree abroad in France will ensure plenty of French friends, but you may find it a little difficult to connect with your classmates at first. The French tend to be a little more reserved when it comes to establishing friendships, looking for quality not quantity, but once you’ve made a French friend you have one for life.
Dépaysement. You’ve probably spent countless nights dreaming of life in France, yearning for a change of scenery, and upon arrival in France you may find yourself feeling out of place and missing home. This is all part of the culture shock process; as soon as it wears off you’ll wonder why you called anywhere else home.