Approx. Time Difference
Add 9 hours
(Sept 30 - Oct 30:
Add 8 hours)
Bordeaux Language and Culture
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Study Centers Abroad
UCEAP programs in Bordeaux are directed by a UC faculty member. The Study Center Director and staff at each site advise students on academic matters, assist with housing, plan field trips, and provide information on cultural opportunities.
Bordeaux Study Center
Centre d’Etudes de l’Université de Californie
Université de Bordeaux 3
Batiment E, Domaine Universitaire
33607, Pessac Cedex, France
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011 33) 5 57 12 44 88
Phone (calling from Bordeaux): 05 57 12 44 88
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code ............ 011
(dial this to call from the U.S.)
France country code .............. 33
City code: Included in city phone number (drop the initial 0 when dialing from the U.S.)
Approximate Time Difference
Add 9 hours (September 30–October 30, add 8 hours)
The Study Center offices in Bordeaux is usually closed from the first or third week of July until the student arrival day.
Fall, Spring, and Year Immersion
The academic program begins with an intensive language program (ILP) in Bordeaux. The ILP includes intensive language training and background on French culture. You must take the ILP for a letter grade. The ILP concentrates on providing an introduction to French contemporary culture and history, and developing French writing, conversation, and grammar skills. The ILP is designed to prepare you for the demands of regular university coursework. During the ILP you will attend orientation sessions and receive information about the university and its fields of study. If you are a fall or year student you will receive 4 UC quarter units (3 semester units) for the ILP. If you are a spring student you will receive 3 UC quarter units (2 semester units) for the ILP.
The academic program during the year consists of regular university courses. Classes are available in a wide range of fields. Recommended fields include anthropology, art history, environmental/ecological studies, French language and literature, studio art, history, medieval studies, political science, economics, and sociology. The art history and history departments offer a variety of survey courses from classical antiquity to the present. An inter-departmental ecological studies program examines this field from a variety of perspectives. A large selection of courses is also offered in the science and engineering fields.
Fall Language & Culture Program
The Bordeaux language and culture program can accommodate students with four to five quarters (three semesters) of university-level French. The program offers a specially designed curriculum intended to improve both oral and written language skills while providing a fundamental background in French culture, society, and literature. All courses are conducted in French.
Intermediate language and culture classes are at the core of the program in Bordeaux. The program is taught entirely in French. The instruction is conducted at the University of Bordeaux’s Department for French as a Foreign Language (DEFLE), which enrolls students from a wide variety of countries and cultural backgrounds and provides training in French language and culture.
Libraries & Textbooks
At the University of Bordeaux there are libraries at each Bordeaux campus for students to use. There are several bookstores downtown and one near campus where you can buy your textbooks.
Take familiar reference books and key works that are important for your major; these materials may not always be readily available in English.
You can find all books from the reading lists at the university libraries. However, libraries usually have limited hours and do not offer the option of late evening studies. It may be difficult to check out or reserve books. As a result, you may need to purchase books from the reading lists (though it may be inexpensive, as usually there is less required reading than at UC). The situation varies by university.
Immersion Course Information
The Study Center offers a course on methodology each semester, which is designed to assist you in writing academic papers for the French universities using various subjects of French contemporary culture. The methodology professor also has office hours to help you succeed within the requirements of the French academic system.
When you arrive, you are required to take a language test to determine the level of classes recommended during the first semester. Those who place in the two lowest levels are strongly encouraged to take a French language class at the University of Bordeaux’s Department for French as a Foreign Language (DEFLE). The DEFLE, in addition to French language courses, offers literature and civilization courses designed for foreign students. These courses are open to you as an immersion student. Classes often require two term papers or a midterm, and a final exam. Plan to study regularly for all your courses even if the professors do not ask for anything until the final exam.
As a UCEAP student in Bordeaux you may also take courses at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (IEP). IEP Bordeaux offers a wide range of classes in political science, international relations, political sociology, and economics. Among its research units, the Les Afriques dans le Monde (LAM) is an internationally renowned research center focusing on the analysis of political issues of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Important note to fall program participants: You must make sure you can take your exams before the end of the semester.
You are required to enroll in a minimum of 18 UC quarter units (12 semester units) each semester. The average course load is five to seven courses per semester, depending on the number of classroom hours per course.
Registering for Courses
You will complete your administrative registration with the University of Bordeaux online (in April for fall/year programs, in November for the spring program) and will obtain your student ID card during the ILP. The Bordeaux Study Center staff will send you the necessary information by e-mail. During the ILP you will also receive course information and assistance with university course registration.
Registering for courses in French universities may be a challenge, as the registration process differs from one university department to another. In some cases you do not even have to register, you simply show up in class and speak with the professor. If you are at all unsure about the registration process for a specific course, check with the Bordeaux Study Center Staff for guidance.
University course catalogues are not common, and course descriptions and scheduling are often drawn up and posted in departmental offices the week before classes begin. Students and Study Center staff occasionally receive conflicting or ambiguous information during the registration period. For this reason, it is important to consult with the Study Center throughout the registration process.
You will enroll in Bordeaux classes with the help of the local UCEAP staff. The Study Center provides a course list that helps you to select classes. You may also seek out new courses not listed. For these, you are required to collect relevant data about the new course, which is submitted to the UCEAP Systemwide Office for review.
Language & Culture Course Information
The academic program begins with a two-week practical language session, the stage intensif, followed by more advanced language courses for the remainder of the term. During the stage intensif, you will take language classes for 20 hours per week. Instruction is designed to advance your language abilities to the level necessary to function successfully in the subsequent fall culture classes. The stage intensif includes the study of written and oral French through exercises, conversation practice, and lectures on contemporary French civilization.
During the second part of the program, you enroll in language and culture classes at the DEFLE. You will take approximately ten hours per week of oral and written French language study, plus six hours per week of courses on French culture and civilization. You will choose one civilization course plus a research paper topic for a semester project, which you complete by the end of the program. Research paper topics may include Roman art, city government, trade unions, merchandising Bordeaux wine, staging Racine at the Grand Theatre, traffic regulation in a medieval city, planning the riverfront at Bordeaux, etc. Tutorials are offered to orient you in these projects and help you write the paper. You will also take 1-2 culture courses from class offerings in literature, art history, and French for business.
The French culture and civilization courses are typically structured as follows:
French Civilization I:
This course comprises a thematic and comparative approach to French civilization, focusing on issues of culture and society, physical geography, history, language, religion, political institutions, and state and regional administration.
French Civilization II:
This course examines fundamentals of French attitudes and aspects of French civilization. Topics include the State organization, the education system, the press and the media, and the French population.
French Civilization III:
This course examines French civilization and society, covering demographic data, recent transformations, economic background conditions, and the structure of French administration and important institutions. The course also covers social differentiation: the countryside and its life, workers and trade unions, the tertiary domain, and employees and public officials.
French Culture I (choose two options out of the following five):
- French with an Emphasis on Tourism: discusses means of transportation and the different types of tourism as well as the professions that relate to tourism
- French Song: studies French contemporary songs starting from 1970
- French Theater: offers an overview of French theater, analysis of texts, and performance practice
- Literary Texts: explores the difference between the language of literature and the language of communication
- Language of French Media: studies contemporary texts and recordings drawn from French media
- History: introduction to French history
French Culture II (choose two options out of the following five):
- French with an Emphasis on Tourism: discusses means of transportation and the different types of tourism as well as the professions that relate to tourism
- 19th-Century French Painting: focuses on the Realism period during the second and third Republics, examining Courbet, Millet, and Daumier
- 17th-Century French Literature: focuses on 17th-century French culture and society, examining key literary texts of the period
- 19th-Century French Literature from Romanticism to Naturalism: examines the lives of key authors and their literary aspirations and value systems
- French Business Studies: the French business system and the different types of communication within firms
French Culture III (choose two options out of the following eight):
- Francophone Literature: examines literature of North African, black African countries and the French Antilles written in French
- 19th-Century French Painting: see previous description (French Culture II)
- Journalist Writing: the diversity of journalistic writing through a corpus of documents published by the press
- 17th-Century French Literature: see previous description (French Culture II)
- 19th-Century French Novel: emphasizes the major works of Flaubert and Chateaubriand
- 19th- and 20th-Century French Poetry: traces the evolution of modern French poetry
- 20th-Century French Theater: surveys French theater and the authors of major dramatic works
- French Business Studies: see previous description (French Culture II)
- Contemporary French Literature: focuses on 20th and 21st century authors
You will not have access to regular University of Bordeaux courses in this program.
Registering for Courses
You will complete your course registration upon arrival in Bordeaux. The Study Center staff will provide you with instructions on registering for courses at your orientation.
Courses in Bordeaux are assessed in a variety of ways. Some courses are assessed on the basis of a final exam only, others will have a midterm and a final, and some may have one to three papers throughout the semester and an oral presentation in front of the class at the end of the semester. Final exams may be administered in class, as a take-home paper, or as an oral exam. For oral exams the professor will propose three or four different subjects for the exam and the student will select one at random. The student then has about 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to speak in front of the professor.
For some departments you need to sign up for your final exams and for others you don’t. Be sure to check with your professor to make sure you have completed all administrative steps required to take the final exam.
Grades for the fall immersion program are typically available by early April and grades for the spring immersion program are typically available by late July.
Grades for the fall language and culture program are typically available by late March.
For information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
There is an office on the University of Bordeaux campus that is available to help find internships in the city. If you are interested in doing an internship you need to explore and research on your own. If you are interested in a research-based internship in a lab, then you will need to contact professors in the field you desire to work in. If you want to secure an internship with a private company, you will need to send out inquiries to see what opportunities are available.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extending your UCEAP participation may be possible. The following extension options are available:
- Bordeaux Language & Culture fall semester to Bordeaux Immersion spring semester
- Bordeaux Immersion fall semester to academic year
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Travel to Your Host Country
Understanding Your Finances
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Be sure to have access to enough money (U.S. $2,000 to $2,500) to cover initial living expenses (rent, meals, and incidentals) that will be incurred shortly after arrival. You will need access to enough cash to pay your security deposit and first month's rent. You may want to consider obtaining travelers checks in the U.S. for this purpose (see below).
Take enough money (about U.S. $2,000 to $2,500) to cover initial expenses (rent, meals, and incidentals); you will not be able to open a bank account immediately upon arrival. There is an AmEx office in Bordeaux where you can cash travelers checks (although travelers checks are not widely used in Bordeaux).
The Study Center does not have an agreement with a particular bank. Fees and services will vary by bank, so shop around before you choose a bank. There is no cost to open an account, but you will be required to provide your passport. You can order checkbooks and bank cards when you open your bank account.
Opening a bank account in France is free and does not require an initial deposit. You will receive a debit card within about 10 days of opening an account, and if you wish, you may request to receive a checkbook as well.
If you expect reimbursement:
- Leave your French bank account open until all checks are deposited. Once all reimbursements are completed, write to the bank and have them close the account. You can request that the French bank transfer the balance to
a U.S. account. There will probably be a transfer fee of $25.
- Have the person who owes the money transfer it through his or her bank directly to a U.S. bank account. International bank-to-bank transfers are allowed by French currency regulations.
When you register with the University of Bordeaux, you will receive a university e-mail address and you will be able to access WiFi on campus.
During the ILP, you will have access to computers and WiFi at the DEFLE (Foreign Students Department) and in the Study Center. When the regular term starts, you will also have access to computer rooms at Bordeaux 3.
Expect computer access to be more limited than at your UC campus. You will be allowed to write papers by hand if necessary.
Have mail sent to your private address once you are settled in your homestay or apartment.
You will be asked to provide your housing preference in a housing questionnaire e-mailed to you by the Bordeaux Study Center. Your housing choice is binding; do not expect to change your housing preference after arrival.
You have a choice between living in an apartment or a homestay. It is recommended that students who will be studying in Bordeaux for the full year live in apartments. Your address will be confirmed by late June if you are a fall or year student, and mid-December if you are a spring student. You will move directly into your permanent housing upon arrival in Bordeaux.
Apartments are furnished, including kitchenware and sheets. You may need to obtain your own towels.
There is a wide range of homestay accommodations, in terms of location, facility, family interest, and socio-economic and educational background. If you choose this option, review the general Homestays section at the end of this chapter before making a final decision about housing. The homestay housing cost includes breakfast and dinner seven days a week. You will be provided with a single room that includes bedding (sheets, blankets, and pillows). Towels are usually provided. You will have access to kitchen facilities and cooking utensils to prepare lunch when you are at home.
You are required to make your own housing payments directly to your landlord or host family (even if you are on financial aid).
All renters in France are required to have liability insurance for protection against accidents, fire, or water damage. For Bordeaux participants, the renter’s insurance premium is included in your UCEAP fees.
Rent is paid by the students at the beginning of each month—always in euros and directly to the landlord (never with travelers checks). You will likely be required to pay a one-month rental deposit in advance. This is returned within one month after you move out if the room is left in the condition it was found and in good condition according to the rental agreement. If you decide to move without giving one month’s notice, you may be fined up to one month’s rent. Phone bills are extra expenses. Rent includes breakfast and dinner seven days a week, plus lunch on weekends.
Under French law, you are required to have renter’s insurance, which covers fire, water damage, accidents, and theft (only from your home). For Bordeaux participants, the renter’s insurance premium is included in your UCEAP fees.
Students living in apartments will prepare their own meals. It is also possible to buy food in shops and bakeries near the university. Note that eating options on campus (cafeterias, restaurants) are very limited during the ILP, since most French students are not there yet.
Students living in homestays are provided breakfast and dinner seven days a week. On weekdays, you must buy or prepare lunch on your own; on Saturdays and Sundays, lunch will be provided.
Meals in student restaurants (the “CROUS”) are substantial and only cost about €3 each. If you eat primarily at student restaurants, you can keep within the estimated budget noted in the UCEAP student budget. If you cook some meals and eat at regular restaurants often, plan on spending more each month than is noted in the UCEAP budget. Eating out in France is generally a lot more expensive than it is in the U.S.
Most students live 30 to 60 minutes away from the university. Monthly transportation passes available in Bordeaux cover the bus, tramway, and metro services. The costs of these passes are approximately €29.
Bordeaux also has an annual pass available for €204, which is a better deal over a 10-month period than the monthly pass (€20.40 per month for 10 months vs. €29 for the monthly pass).
In Bordeaux there are bike lanes to accommodate cyclists. You can rent bikes in Bordeaux through a bike renting system; see the VCub website
for details. Note that you are required to have a French bank account in order to rent bikes from these services.
Students with Disabilities
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Students in the Bordeaux programs may not legally work in France (unless permitted due to their citizenship, i.e. EU citizens). French law dictates that international students only have the right to work while studying in France it they are enrolled in an institution that participates in the national student health care plan; the University of Bordeaux does not meet this requirement.
If you have questions, concerns, or feel that you need to be tested for a sexually transmitted disease, you can receive information and testing at the following clinic:
Maison Départementale de la Santé
2, rue du moulin Rouge
Phone: 05 57 22 46 66
France is a relatively safe country, with most crimes being non-violent. The majority of crimes directed against foreign visitors, including Americans, involve pick-pocketing and theft.
Personal Safety Tips
- Guard against pickpockets and purse snatchers.
- Avoid walking in deserted areas at night, especially alone; walk only in well-lit areas. Always walk with a friend.
- Avoid wearing flashy jewelry and watches. Leave items that you do not need on any given day at home.
- Keep wallets in front pockets, wear purses close to your body or use a money belt. Carry your purse or bag with the strap diagonally across your chest. Do not store a camera or other valuables in backpacks where they can be removed without notice.
- Be inconspicuous. Try to dress to blend in with locals. College sweatshirts, sweatpants, baseball caps, white sneakers, and shorts are all associated with Americans and may make you stand out.
- Act like you know where you are going, even if you do not. Plan ahead when you are in an unfamiliar part of a city so you will not have to pull out a map and demonstrate that you are lost.
- Do not carry your passport. Copy the first page of your passport to use as a form of ID and leave your actual passport safe in your room. If you lose your passport, or if it is stolen, immediately notify the nearest embassy or consulate, local authorities, and UCEAP Study Center staff. Before departure, scan the first page of your passport and e-mail the file to yourself. If your passport is stolen while you are traveling, you can access it online and print out a copy, which will help in obtaining a replacement from the embassy.
- Do not use an ATM in isolated, unlit areas or when there are people loitering in the vicinity. Avoid using the ATMS in train stations, especially at night. Beware of people standing close enough to the ATM to read your personal identification number (PIN) as you enter it into the machine. Thieves often conduct successful scams by simply observing the PIN as it is entered. If your card gets stuck in the ATM, be wary of people who offer to help, even those who seem to be helpful and ask for your PIN so they can “fix” the machine. Legitimate bank employees never have a reason to ask for the PIN.
- Remain aware if using your laptop or smart phone in a public space. Many laptops, cell phones, and Smartphones, are stolen by agile thieves watching you and waiting for you to turn away for a moment. If using a laptop in a restaurant or café, do not sit near the doors where a thief could run in, grab the computer, and run out easily. Sit in a back area and remain aware of the people around you. Do not place your cell phone or Smartphone on the café table; always keep it in your purse or pocket. Do not text or phone while walking down the street or waiting for the metro; do so in a discreet place where no one can see the phone you are using.
- Lock your door and secure your bike to prevent theft.
For additional information, see the U.S. Department of State pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad.
Demonstrations & Strikes
Strikes and protests are frequent in France, mostly in metropolitan areas, and are usually staged by public officials, unionized workers, farmers, and anti-globalization and eco-activists. While violent civil unrest is not common in France, student, labor union, and immigrant demonstrations have escalated into confrontations in the past.
Large demonstrations in France usually have a strong police presence, but there have been occasions when protesters burned cars and numerous arrests were reported. In addition, the congestion caused by large demonstrations could cause major inconveniences for a visitor on a tight schedule.
Demonstrators are required to obtain a permit, and some of the local media will list scheduled demonstrations.
Avoid all protests and demonstrations, including student and labor rallies.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Substance Abuse and Smoking
Drug use is strictly forbidden by law.
You will find different practices and attitudes towards drinking in France. Alcohol can be purchased by anyone over 16 years old. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Familiarize yourself with the UCEAP Substance Abuse Policy.
Many theft and assault victims are targeted when making their way home from a late night out after drinking alcohol. If you go out late at night, do so with a group of friends and drink responsibly. If you drink too much, you could easily get into trouble. Alcohol will affect your judgement. Even a few drinks can make you take risks you would not otherwise have taken. Alcohol can, and frequently does, cause a person to lose all common sense when it comes to their own safety. Avoid becoming a victim.
An anti-smoking law forbids smoking in all public places, including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Smoking continues to be well tolerated in France so you will see many more people smoking.
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.