• <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/60/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/29998_8071086937_683d5a422f_o.rev.1450805230.jpg)"/>
  • <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/60/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/29999_6856950268_ed6442d1ca_o.rev.1450805264.jpg)"/>
  • <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/60/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/29997_13537953983_5cff365fc4_o.rev.1450805192.jpg)"/>
  • <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/60/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/29122_10401981_1004028349629458_8008107117841765376_n.rev.1446045049.jpg)"/>

Off-Campus Study

ISEP at Université Paul Valéry (Montpellier III)

Only 6 miles from the Mediterranean coast, Montpellier is a vibrant city with a large university population. Montpellier also offers a rich medieval history and a unique mélange of Mediterranean cultures. ISEP participants can choose from 2 exchange options: 

Option 1: ISEP-Exchange Regular University Courses. Take regular university courses taught in French alongside local students. ISEP students will be entitled to support courses for international students provided they take a specific placement test.

Option 2: ISEP-Exchange Special Courses For International Students and Regular Courses. Combine language and elective courses designed for international students with regular university courses taught in French alongside local students. 

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

Program Type



Montpellier, France

Languages of Instruction

French - Depending on the option you choose: minimum 3-5 semesters of college-level French is required

Program Dates

Fall 2018: September to December

Spring 2018: January to May

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


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: ISEP Regular University Courses - Language Requirement: A minimum of 5 semesters of university-level French or the equivalent must be completed prior to the program.
  • Option 2: ISEP Special Courses for International Students and Regular Courses - Language Requirement: A minimum of 3-4 semesters of university-level French or the equivalent must be completed prior to the program. Students must take a specific placement test upon arrival.


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 Limited.


Located in the south of France near the Mediterranean coast, Montpellier is an ancient university town which bustles with commercial and tourist activity. Its history is reflected in an 18th-century promenade and 17th- and 18th-century buildings.


Universite Paul Valery (UPV) is one of the oldest in Europe, founded in 1289. Situated on a campus outside the city, the university, one of several in Montpellier, continues to emphasize the arts and humanities and is well known as a center for research in interdisciplinary topics such as strategic studies and experimental psychology. The library includes the original 19th-century collections of the Faculty of Letters. 

Only 6 miles from the Mediterranean coast, Montpellier is a vibrant city with a large university population. Montpellier also offers a rich medieval history and a unique mélange of Mediterranean cultures. ISEP participants can choose from 2 options: 


Option 1: ISEP-Exchange Regular University Courses. Take regular university courses taught in French alongside local students. ISEP students will be entitled to support courses for international students provided they take a specific placement test.

Option 2: ISEP-Exchange Specialized Courses for International Students and Regular Courses. Take language and elective courses designed for international students or combine these with regular university courses taught in French alongside local students.

Placements in regular courses are very competitive even for students with excellent French skills. Known as one of the best French-language training centers in the nation, UPV has a unique program that provides training on how to teach French as a Foreign Language with research in sociolinguistics and teaching methodology. Other strengths include mathematics, classic and modern literature, geography, history and archaeology, philosophy and psychology. UPV is a center for regional planning and urban/rural studies and the home of the Languedoc-Roussillon Atlas.

Please note that the departments of Film Studies, Drama, Info-Com and Fine Art have now implemented selection because of the high number of degree-seeking applicants. This may also make it more difficult for exchange students to register for those courses.

Students typically enroll in 5 classes per term which average to 12-18 hours in class per week. A term runs for 13 weeks. 



Students have a variety of options at Montpellier based on their language level and interest. Each program numbered below is a distinct program. Students should choose one and clearly indicate it on their ISEP application. 

Option 1: ISEP-Exchange Regular University Courses (a high level of French is required)

Economics and Economic Administration

Humanities and Environmental Sciences:
 biology, geography, history, history of art & archaeology 

Languages, Literature and Area Studies: Anglo-American, German, Modern Greek, Oriental, Romance, Semitic, Slavic

Letters, Arts, Philosophy, and Languages: art, audiovisual, classical literature, drama, linguistics, modern literature, philosophy

Social Sciences social psychology, psychology, ethnology, sociology, mathematics applied to social sciences.

Students who select this option will also have access to the support courses (“Cours RI”) offered by the International Relations Office and designed for international students, provided they take a specific placement test upon arrival. Every semester, up to 7 hours of classes will be offered in French as a Foreign Language, Phonetics and Composition, and, depending on the semester, between 5 and 7 hours of classes will be offered in areas such as History, Culture, Literature, Theatre, Cinema etc. 

Option 2: ISEP Special Courses for International Students in “Course RI” courses or “Cours RI” courses combined with Regular Courses (an intermediate level of French is required)

New in 2015-16, students with an intermediate level of French have the opportunity to take up to a full load of “Cours RI” courses designed for international students or a mixture of “Cours RI” courses and regular university courses (see regular course subjects offered above under Option 1) on the exchange. Students must take a specific placement test upon arrival. “Cours RI” course details from 2014-15 can be found here (fall) and here (spring).


For more information on Courses: click here.

For Tips on Finding Courses: click here.



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. 

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 of 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.


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.

Student Life


On both ISEP Exchange and ISEP Direct programs, students will receive individualized attention to help choose a set of courses. Once students have thoroughly read the course description brochures and the university website, the student will meet with the ISEP-Coordinator who is also the academic advisor. The registration officer will also help in the process in addition to student monitors.

Students will receive specific housing instructions prior to arrival. Please read all e-mails arriving from the host institution as they may include important arrival and housing information.


The host will provide arrival directions with acceptance packet.


Here is a link to the University Home Page.

Housing and Meals

Options 1 and 2: ISEP Regular University Courses or Courses for International Students and Regular Courses 
Students are housed in single-occupancy rooms in the Cite Universitaire, a mile from campus. A stipend is provided to purchase meals in the campus restaurant or to cook. 

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.