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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

ISEP at Université Jean Monnet de Saint-Etienne



Located an hour from Lyon and host to one of the stages in the Tour de France, Saint-Étienne is a hidden jewel known for its tradition of hospitality. Spend time engaging in a vast range of cultural and sporting activities or attend a soccer match of one of the best teams in France. Université Jean Monnet de Saint-Étienne offers a French language and culture program at the Centre International de Langue et Civilisation (CILEC) during the first semester. For the more advanced French speaker, students can take courses at the university taught in French.

Students studying in France must be independent, self-reliant, organized, and able to handle ambiguity in order to successfully immerse into the highly structured and often times bureaucratic French university system.

A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus and comfortable with the local language to thrive in this location. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.

Learn more about the Université Jean Monnet de Saint-Étienne here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type



Saint-Etienne, France

Languages of Instruction

French - Depending on which option you chose: 2-5 semesters of college-level French required

Program Dates

Fall 2018: September to December

Spring 2019: January to May

All dates are tentative and may change.  ISEP will alert all accepted students of final dates.


Early departure for fall term may be possible. Please contact the ISEP coordinator of the host country for more information.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75.  
  • Option 1: Full year or semester- enrollment in university courses - Language Requirements: A minimum of 4-5 semesters of university-level French or the equivalent must be completed prior to the program. A test of aural comprehension, note-taking skills and composition are given upon arrival.
  • Option 2: Semester 1 ONLY- enrollment in French language and culture courses at the Centre International de Langue et Civilisation (CILEC) - Language Requirements: A minimum of 2-3 semesters of university-level French or its equivalent must be completed prior to the program. Intermediate and advanced levels of instruction offered. 
  • Students must submit ISEP language proficiency report in the application, even if native speaker.


Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up.  Direct options may have an additional cost.

ISEP Exchange chance of placement for US students is generally Good.


Saint-Etienne is a city of the Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France, located near the Loire River. It is known as a white, blue and green area because of its skiing, boating, mountaineering and other outdoor pursuits. Cinemas, theaters, concerts, museums, entertainment of all kind, as well as leisure parks, a regional park with tracks for mountain biking and hiking, rock climbing, skiing, as well as a nautical base for sailing just 15 minutes away from the university. Saint-Etienne is the 14th largest town in France. Located in a greater urban district of 540,000 people, just 60 km away from Lyon. The French Alps are only some 150 km away, and a trip to the Mediterranean merely takes 3 hours, while Paris is 2 ½ hours by high-speed train. The Rhone-Alpes region has all the advantages of a great European region. In France, it is only second to Paris as a center of excellence for higher education and research and offers a huge potential for higher education, culture, and tourism.


A multidisciplinary university, Saint-Etienne was founded in 1970. It has a “stephanoise” orientation to the regions social and economic needs. Facilities include research labs and an electron microscope center as well as a brand-new sports center.

Université Jean Monnet de Saint-Étienne offers a French language and culture program at the Centre International de Langue et Civilisation (CILEC) during the first semester. For the more advanced French speaker, students can take courses at the university taught in French.

Economics, humanities, law, and science are appropriate for ISEP students. Noted research centers operate in the fields of Renaissance studies and classics, the study of European monastic orders, and urban and regional economics.

Students typically enroll in 6-12 classes per term which average to 12 hours in class per week. A term runs for 12-14 weeks. Students should take 30 ECTS credits to earn 4 Lake Forest credits.



Option 1: Full year or semester- enrollment in regular university courses 
Students may take any open course for which they have the prerequisites. 

Language Notes: Up to 2 classes on French culture (3 hours/week) at CILEC are included in ISEP benefits during the second semester.
Pre-session: A pre-session French language course is offered for an additional fee for beginner and intermediate levels. 

Option 2: Semester 1 ONLY- enrollment in French language and culture courses at the Centre International de Langue et Civilisation (CILEC) 
Courses meet 18 hours/week and aim to allow students to express themselves in French more fluently in interactive classes; Perfect their writing skills and improve their knowledge of grammar; Discover French society via surveys, meeting people and interviews.


Students should not expect to take a full course load in English but may combine courses taught in French and in English.

Fall Semester:
- Body Language and Social Interaction
- Arts et spectacles: du Theatre greco-romain au Total Art
- Women’s Studies

Spring Semester:
- Women’s Studies
- American Value and Belief Patterns from a European Perspective
- The US Constitution: Major Issues of Debate
- Major Issues of the 20th Century (US-centered)



Please click on the link “University Home Page” and here you will find Course information, student information, etc.



French universities operate in ways that are quite different from the system with which you are familiar. Understanding the differences will help you plan your program of study in France, use your time effectively while you are there and return with transferable credits. French students follow a highly structured curriculum specific to the degree they are pursuing from day one at the university. They do not take “liberal arts” or general education requirements for 2 years before focusing on a major or area of study as most U.S. students do. At the end of each year, they must pass a set of required exams before they can move on to the next year’s program.

Please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.

Can review the country handbooks for ISEP here as well:



ISEP Placement info: http://www.isep.org/Coordinators/us_placement_notes_english.asp


Your Responsibility as a Student
In general, French students have to assume more responsibility for their own lives on campus than American students. They do not have as many campus support systems as American students, and they too may experience frustration when they first begin their studies! The amount of information you receive before you leave and during the first days or weeks of your stay abroad may seem overwhelming. However, if you review the material sent to you by ISEP and your host institution carefully, you will be ready to meet the challenges of adjusting to a different system and find your coordinator and professors more willing to help you than if you had not prepared yourself.

French professors are not as accessible as their American counterparts. Increasingly, however, professors do have office hours or may be available if you make an appointment. They will also be willing to answer questions and discuss problems before or immediately after class. It would be a good idea to introduce yourself to the professor at the beginning of the year, explaining that you are an international student. Do ask other students in class for advice or assistance if you do not understand something.

French university courses are two basic types:

  • Lecture courses are given in halls seating from 100 to 1,000 students. These are called Cours Magistraux (CM). The professor presents the subject; students take notes. Many professors prepare and distribute course outlines or lecture notes that help students prepare for exams.
  • Study sections (known as travaux dirigés (TD)) consist of small groups of students. In the seminar-style sections, students apply and deepen what the professor has presented in the lecture hall. Attendance is mandatory.

Because French students have very little choice in regards to the courses they take within their area of study, French universities often do not publish detailed course descriptions or course catalogs. Rather, a list of modules orunités d’enseignement with an indication of the number of hours per week or the total number of class hours for the course and the corresponding ECTS credits is provided. This information can often be found online under “Formation”, “Licence (for a certain area of study)” and “programme”.

For example, you may see for a course description:

L1 semestre 1
UEF « Histoire moderne » / ECTS : 6
Initiation à l’histoire moderne (1h30 CM + 2h TD)

This can be interpreted as follows :

L1 semestre 1 = 1st year of the license, semester 1
UEF: Unité d’enseignement fondamenteaux or a required course for the degree
Modern History for 6 ECTS credits
Introduction to Modern History
1h30 CM = 1 hour 30 minutes per week of course Magistra Ux or lecture
2 h TD = 2 hours per week of Travaux dirigés or study section


Registration (inscription) is the process of enrollment into the university; you will fill out many forms and hand in several passport-size photos in order to receive the various university cards signifying your enrollment.

Course Selection: 
As an exchange student, you have greater flexibility in choosing courses than French students do. You do not need to take a complete package of courses at one level. However, if you focus on courses in one or two departments, you will find it easier to put together a schedule, your program of studies will be more cohesive, and you will have a better chance of getting to know French students because you will be seeing the same group on a regular basis.

Selection of courses is done during registration. You should expect to have to go to each building that houses the faculté (department) of the course you wish to take, find the administrative office, ask for a course listing and sign up for the desired course. Students should be aware that the registration process can take several days. French universities are not as “service-oriented” as those in the United States and there are many students for few administrators. Ask questions of your ISEP host coordinator if you have trouble registering. Also, the add-drop process is very informal. You may want to observe several classes before making your final selection and to make sure that you will be able to follow the course and fulfill all course requirements. Remember to consult about any changes in your course selections with your host and home coordinators and advisors. Be sure to keep track of your courses, including course titles, hours, professors, and assignments for after your exchange. In all cases, you must verify all of your course information with your host coordinator to ensure that you have enrolled properly.


Student performance is assessed in two ways:

  • Short quizzes given throughout the semester allow instructors to check what their students have learned in each unit.
  • Examinations covering all of the material presented during the semester are given at the end of each semester, generally just before the February break and again in June, before the summer break.

Some U.S. universities will only award credit if you have an exam grade. Exams may be oral or written. The professor will grade you as he or she does a French student. Although the grading system in France goes from 0 to 20, the grades from 0 to 14 are generally used; 15 and 16 are relatively rare; 17 and 18, very rare; and no one is sure that 19 and 20 really exist. A 10 is about a U.S. “C”; in some courses, an 8 or 9 may be a “C” for a non-native speaker; 12 is good. Above that - bravo!

The atmosphere at a French university may seem low-pressure, but be on your guard. Even if a class does not require regular assignments, you must keep up with the reading and attend classes. Final examinations are given at the end of each course. ISEP students should check with professors to determine when the exam will be given as most professors do not provide a syllabus at the beginning of a course. As a foreign student, you may not be required to take the final exam. You may be able to substitute written assignments for the exam. Check with the professor to find out whether you are expected to take the exam in order to get a grade (in many instances, the exam might be the only evidence that you have taken the class) or whether you can substitute other assignments. Taking a final does not automatically entitle you to a grade since you must pass your exams to receive a grade. Also, make sure to register for the exam in addition to taking it.

If you make any special arrangements with a professor, obtain the agreement in writing signed by both you and the professor. Provide a copy of the agreement to both your home and host ISEP coordinators and keep a copy for yourself. Without an agreement in writing, it is expected that you will take all final exams. Credit transfer is not guaranteed if you fail to take exams or provide written proof of other arrangements.

At the end of the exchange, the faculté will award you a final average. The grades you receive from the faculté are not contestable. The only way to modify a bad grade is to do supplementary work, the grade for which will be averaged with the bad one.

Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.

Experiential Opportunities

There are several opportunities for volunteering in the community through campus and church organizations. There is a possibility to engage in English language assistant teaching at local schools.

Student Life


Orientation covers housing, health, emergencies, safety and general information in the morning, followed by lunch, administrative paperwork in the afternoon. Students participating in the French language and culture courses at CILEC will take a language proficiency test usually on the following day. Students will be accompanied to help them open a bank account. Orientation generally also includes local tours to help students getting familiar with their surroundings. 

The on-campus international student organization Sava provides a buddy program prior to arrival to help international students get acquainted with life in Saint-Etienne. If given notice at least TWO WEEKS before arrival, the international office will arrange for pickup at the main train station either by the Sava or by the host coordinator. Otherwise, students should follow arrival directions in the acceptance packet.


Host will provide arrival directions with acceptance packet


The sports service (SUAPS) offers numerous activities from Aikido to water-polo. The University organizes and sponsors concerts, conference, exhibitions, and cultural events. International students have the possibility of participating in numerous extra-curricular activities: theater, choir, student newspaper, sports, cooking and (moderate!) wine tasting clubs. The foreign students center sponsors tours of local sights and organize affordable regional excursions (Lyon, Alps, medieval festival in Le Puy) as well as visits to Paris and the Côte d’Azur.

Housing and Meals

Students are housed in single-occupancy rooms in a university residence hall and receive a cash stipend for meals. There are two university restaurants and cafeterias. 

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing, and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 semester:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost


College Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application


College Deposit due on Acceptance (non-refundable, but shows as credit on bill for off-campus term)


ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance ($90/mo estimated)

Note: Some countries may require national insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance, if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses






Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of January 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate, nor fees to enroll in courses at partner institutions, and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.