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Off-Campus Study

ISEP at Université de Nantes



A short distance from the Atlantic coast, Nantes is known as the Venice of the West due to its location on the river delta of the Loire, the Erdre, and the Sèvre. There is a very strong international presence in Nantes because of the many international students attracted by the University. Students can take courses taught in French at the University or they can take French language and culture courses at the Institut de Recherche et de Formation en Français Langue Étrangère (IRFFLE).

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 oftentimes 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 University of Nantes here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type



Nantes, France

Languages of Instruction

French - Depending on which option you choose: 3-5 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: a Full year or semester enrollment in university courses - Language Requirement: A minimum of 4-5 semesters of university level French or its equivalent must be completed prior to the program. 
  • Options 2: Semester ONLY- French Studies courses at French as a Foreign Language (IRFFLE) - Language Requirements: A minimum of 3-4 semesters of university-level French or its equivalent must be completed prior to the program. 


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 Fair.



The city of Nantes is located on the Loire River in the northwest province of Brittany. Today, Breton culture is manifested in the distinct regional character of the people and the Breton language is still spoken in some rural parts of Brittany. 

Nantes is a major port and industrial center; it is also a lively cosmopolitan city with cafes and gardens. The city is rich in architecture: sites include the Gothic Cathédrale St. Pierre, a 15th-century chateau, and classical 18th-century buildings and palaces. Nantes also has many museums and is host to numerous cultural events. Frequent train connections run to Paris, Tours, and Lyon.


A short distance from the Atlantic coast, Nantes is known as the Venice of the West due to its location on the river delta of the Loire, the Erdre, and the Sèvre. There is a very strong international presence in Nantes because of the many international students attracted by the University. Students can take courses taught in French at the University or they can take French language and culture courses at the Institut de Recherche et de Formation en Français Langue Étrangère (IRFFLE).

The university benefits from the presence of advanced research facilities. It has specialized libraries of humanities and law, sciences, and technology. Languages, literature, and humanities are considered strong areas of study, as are science and technology. Some university courses are offered on a full-year basis only.

Students typically enroll in 5-10 classes per term which average to 18 hours in class per week. A term runs for 12-13 weeks.  Students must take 30 ECTS credits to earn the equivalent of 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 pre-requisites. 

Language Notes: French language evening classes throughout the semester and/or an intensive week-long language course during the first week of September are offered to students, free of charge
Pre-session A 10-day pre-session French language course is offered at the beginning of July for an additional fee at the intermediate level. 

Option 2: Semester- French Studies courses at French as a Foreign Language (IRFFLE)

Courses depend on the student’s level of French. Students will take a placement test upon arrival to be placed in the appropriate level. All programs consist of the following core subjects:
-French Language: spoken, written, and grammar
-French Civilization: French history and contemporary society 

Students placing into higher levels select from the following workshops in addition to their language studies: French expression-advanced pronunciation, phonetics, and body language; Cinema; Reading of the Press; Literature; Image analysis; French History; The History of Art in France and Europe; Student methodology; Economics and Society; France and Europe Theatre; Phonetics training; French Literature and Writing techniques 

For more information on courses and language options, see the:
ISEP French Language Advising Guide for US Students



Course Information for the different language levels taught at the IRFFLE can be found here

To find additional course descriptions, please follow the instructions by clicking the link “course information”.



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. 

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.

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



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 fundament Eaux 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.

Course Approvals

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


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.

Student Life

Although the university was founded in 1962, it is historically linked to the medieval universities of Nantes and Angers. International students comprise nearly 10 percent of the student body. The university takes pride in its role in regional development, and the social and cultural life of the city. 



Orientation for students attending the University of Nantes is required. Information will be provided on the various services the university offers and on activities available in town. A tutor from the international office will serve as a mentor for all ISEP participants, and an explanation of the French university system will be provided.


Host will provide arrival directions with acceptance packet


Université de Nantes offers numerous extracurricular and cultural activities (sports, theatre, dance, cinema…) For more information please take a look at the international student section of the university’s website: international student: practical information 

During orientation week you will also have the opportunity to enroll in ‘Autour du Monde’- an association for international students which organizes many cultural activities and gatherings throughout the year (for example, international evenings, welcome parties, day trips and weekend visits to castles and Mont-Saint Michel). You can also enroll to be paired up with a French tandem partner and become a volunteer for the association.

Housing and Meals

Students are housed in single-occupancy rooms in university residence halls, which are equipped with sports and recreation facilities and libraries. Shared kitchens are provided but meals can also eat at one of the university restaurants. A stipend is provided to pay for both housing and meals.

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 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 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.