On January 23rd, the Association of Jamaican Nationals in France (JaminFrance) hosted a webinar on studying in France or Étudier en France. My post isn’t timely but this session was because right about now is the time when prospective students would apply for university. Mastery of a foreign language can be useful in a variety of fields and I’m glad that this session demonstrated the value of French as a part of education, business and international relations.

The first segment of this session discussed what could aptly be referred to as “transition programmes” – programmes that would start in Jamaica and eventually give you the opportunity to travel to France or the French Caribbean.

Masters in Politics and International Cooperation (MPIC) at UWI

The best way to describe the MPIC programme would be a joint Bachelor’s and Master’s programme, given that it starts at the undergraduate level and continues to the graduate level. A 5-year programme, it gives students the opportunity to study at UWI Mona, Sciences Po Bordeaux and Université des Antilles (UA) in Martinique. Only UWI students can apply because it’s a joint programme with UWI, and the first year at UWI counts as the first year at Sciences Po and UA. Initially, you are enrolled as an International Relations major at the undergraduate level with French as your foreign language of choice. Then, you would apply for this programme and be accepted having met the necessary GPA and language requirements. The first year would be spent at UWI as an IR major, followed by the second year (bac+1) in Bordeaux. The third year of the programme would be spent in Martinique, followed by fourth year in Bordeaux. The fifth year would be spent at UWI. At the end of the programme you will be awarded with a Bachelor’s degree from UWI, a degree from Université des Antilles, a Masters-level diplôme from Sciences Po and a Master’s in Politics and International Cooperation from UWI. MPIC has been described as an exciting and challenging programme that has offered students the opportunity for international exposure, improve their language skills and boost their employment opportunities. Alumni have moved on to work for various government agencies, international agencies, NGOs and academia. Applications open early-mid February and results are expected in June. You must be a full-time student to participate. There are no guaranteed scholarships, though students have been able to find assistance in the past. And students pay their tuition to UWI so you won’t have to worry about paying tuition in euros to France.

Bachelor’s in Education (B.Ed) at Shortwood Teachers College

If you’re looking to combine your knowledge of a foreign language with education, then you may be interested in the Bachelors’ in Education offered by Shortwood Teachers College. This programme is available for both Spanish and French majors, but of course I will be focusing on prospective French majors. During the first two years you will study courses in pedagogy, literature and culture and civilizations. Because you don’t pick your major until your second year, these courses will target both languages until you pick your major. In the first semester of your third year you must participate in a 12-week immersion programme, travelling to a country based on your major. French majors will spend a week in Paris, then five weeks at a French university to study language, literature and pedagogy. This is followed by an observation period where students will visit local schools and observe how languages are being taught. The immersion programme offers first-hand experience on how French teachers teach and teach languages. Students may also get the opportunity to take beginner level courses in another language, like German. In Year 4, students are in Jamaica and do teaching practice.
To qualify for this programme, you need a grade 1 or 2 in either French or Spanish. However, the language that you studied at CXC will not affect the major that you choose. You can apply having studied one language and then start from scratch in another language (I assume that what matters is that you studied a language). Applications open in April and end in August. The cost of the immersion programme is €3500 which covers tuition, airfare, accomodation (everything except personal spending money). Students can pay in installments, starting from first year. Scholarships are also available, especially one from TransJamaica Highway Ltd for a French student who comes from a parish in the vicinity of the highway. It’s a full scholarship plus 50% of the immersion programme cost.

ELAN Project

As we know, France is not just mainland France. This session also introduced opportunities to study in the French Caribbean through the ELAN project. ELAN, short for Échanges Linguistique et Apprentissage Novateur par la mobilité (Linguistic Exchanges and Innovative Learning through mobility), is an EU-funded project which supports students’ and young professionals’ mobility throughout the Caribbean. Because the title of this post is about studying in France, I will be writing for the benefit of students in the English-speaking Caribbean interested in studying in the French Caribbean. However, those are not the only services offered by this project (and maybe I’ll write an entire post about it). The project facilitates student exchange programmes between the French and English-speaking Caribbean, so universities in partnership with this programme are UWI, Université d’État d’Haiti and Université Quisqueya in Haiti and Université des Antilles in Martinique and Guadeloupe. Choosing to study in the French Caribbean presents several options which ELAN is prepared to assist with, such as brokering an agreement between universities for you to study abroad for a semester or a year, or providing assistance as you do your entire degree or an internship in the French Caribbean. The project also offers assistance by way of:

  1. Travel Allowance: when you arrive in that exchange country they reimburse you a portion of your travel expenses.
  2. Monthly Stipend: €700 per month for the duration of your stay in Martinique or Guadeloupe.
  3. Assistance in preparing your thesis abroad.
  4. Assistance with the administrative process like visa application.

It should be noted that assistance from ELAN is available at any level of tertiary education (Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate). Unfortunately, there’s no Campus France centre in Jamaica. Campus France is the body which promotes French tertiary education for international students. Therefore, you will have to contact them directly through their website at http://www.elan-interreg.org/ or through social media @Elan-Interreg.

Edu-Konnect- Rennes School of Business

The organization recruits students for the Rennes School of Business. The school offers Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in English, with the option to study French concurrently. Applications are currently open until June. Bachelor’s programmes cost €9000 and Master’s cost €18,200, which run for 15 months and includes pursuing an internship in France. Scholarships available ranging from €2000-€5000, namely:

  1. Talent Scholarship: For prospective students who are working in Jamaica and can demonstrate that they’ve developed some skills in the business sector, which can be listed on the scholarship application.
  2. Solidarity Scholarship: for Third World countries where due to inflation, the foreign exchange rate of the euro and the local currency is high, you can apply for assistance. Apply to the school with your transcript, CV and conduct an interview. Scholarship award will vary between €2000-€5000 towards tuition
  3. Bienvenue en France Scholarship: This scholarship is offered in partnership with the Alliance Française and has an award of €500 euros, where a student can demonstrate that they attended and completed a French course.

For more information you can contact them by email at edukonnection@gmail.com or @edukonnect on Instagram.

The second segment of this session discussed applying directly to universities in France, and some of the factors you have to consider in applying and moving to France, such as:

Application Process: Every university will have their specific application process, whether it be applying directly to the school or using an online application site like Parcoursup or eCandidat. You would have to contact the university directly with your questions about programmes and the specific application process. Speaking generally, the application period will start in February. You will need documents such as your transcript, motivation letter, thesis proposal (for graduate studies) and any other document that you can reasonably expect to provide to a university. These documents will also need to be translated. For students looking to pursue graduate studies, depending on the school, you may need to do an evaluation of your qualifications. France may not automatically recognize your previous degrees. You can check out France Education International on how to have your certifications recognized. However, it may be safe to say that a degree from UWI is recognized, as UWI graduates have yet to run into any problems. Also, you will need to demonstrate some proof of French, roughly at the B2-C1 level. Some schools may have their own language proficiency exams, but you can’t go wrong with DELF exams offered at the Alliance Française de la Jamaïque.

Tuition: This is a little more complicated to address. Initially, tuition fees at French public universities ranged between €150-€400 (depending on your level of study) for all students, French and international. However, for the academic year 2019, the French government proposed tuition increases for international students to the tune of €2770 for Bachelors degrees and €3770 Master’s degrees (doctorates will stay at €380). However, not every public university has adopted this tuition increase, therefore, it’s possible to find a university that still charges the older and cheaper tuition. Remember that these prices are only applicable to the public system. Prices will vary and likely be more expensive for private universities and most business schools. Moreover, you will have to pay for things like student insurance and CVEC, which goes towards campus life, renovating campus infrastructure and provide scholarships.

Visa Process: In order to study in France you need a student visa. Unfortunately, the French Embassy in Jamaica no longer processes visas, so you will have to apply for one through the VFS Global centre at the DHL building in New Kingston, and your visa would be issued by the Embassy of France in Washington. As you can imagine, you will need your provisional acceptance letter from the university. You will also need proof of financial resources, approximately €650 per month for 10 months. This does not mean that you must have that amount sitting in your bank account at the time you apply for your visa. However, you need letters from guarantors and bank statements certified by a Notary Public (not a Justice of the Peace) to demonstrate that you have access to those funds. You will also need to provide proof of accommodation, such as a landlord sending you a lease agreement or someone you know who lives in France writing a letter agreeing to host you. You must also demonstrate proof of insurance. The point is, the French government wants to ensure that you won’t become a burden on the state. It is the discretion of the Embassy whether to grant your visa.

Accommodation: You have a choice between several different types of accommodation, such as on campus student residences or foyer, apartments, private housing and flat sharing or colocation. The average cost of housing in France ranges between €250-€700, depending on the region and type of housing. You can go old school and search through a real estate agency or online through sites like Leboncoin, Arpej or Le Crous. Le Crous may be especially useful because it also offers information on grants, accommodation and overall support for international students. Depending on your region, you may even be able to check Facebook for listings. The best time to search for accommodations is between May and July, as landlords go on holiday in August and September/October is back to school season. Documents your potential landlord may request include: a copy of your passport and visa, recent payslips and job contract with salary details (if you’re working), details of your guarantor and their payslips and a university letter. Lease agreements are usually for at least a year.

Guarantors: As a foreigner, your landlord will more than likely ask that you have a guarantor, who is a French citizen. This can be your employer (if you’re employed) or your bank (some banks will act as your guarantor but please speak with a bank representative about this option) or even a real estate agent. And they would be required to write a letter to your landlord. However, if none of those options are available, you can use Visale. Visale is a service that will act as a digital guarantor. You upload the requisite documents and request a visa stating that Visale will act as your guarantor. If you can’t pay your rent or there’s damage when you’re leaving, then Visale will reimburse your landlord. You automatically qualify when you are between the ages of 18 and 30, up to €600 (€800 if you live in Île-de-France).

Note that the option exists to apply for financial aid for housing through CAF. CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales) is useful for both students and Assistants and is probably the first thing you should apply for when you get to France. They will reimburse a portion of your living expenses, depending on where you live and how much you earn or your status as a student.

Side Bar for the Assistants de Langue who are looking to transition to students after your tenure. The cost of returning to Jamaica, going through the visa process again and returning to France is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, it would benefit you to research programmes as early as possible and try to get accepted before your visa expires in May. It’s possible for you to write to your course director and explain the visa situation in order to expedite you getting a provisional acceptance letter. Or even speak to your local Prefecture about extending your visa. Persistence will be key, because if you wait for the normal course of things, you may not hear anything before your visa expires.

Finally, the third segment of this session looked at English programmes that some of the JaminFrance members were currently pursuing.

If you’re interested in pursuing education, particularly teaching French to non-French speakers, you can look into a Master’s in FLE (francais langue etrangere), offered in Montpellier and at UA in Martinique and Guadeloupe. It should be noted that the FLE programme at UA can be done online, therefore you won’t have to absorb the cost of living in Martinique or Guadeloupe.

Université Clermont Auvergne: The school offers a Bachelor’s in International Business as well as Master’s programmes in International Business with French, Msc. in Accounting and Finance and Msc. in International Audit Economics and Finance. With a four-year degree you would be admitted directly to the M2 of these programmes (second-year). Personally, I’m uncertain whether it is that these programmes are solely M2 programmes or if there’s a corresponding M1 programme that graduates with three year degrees can qualify for. Questions, questions. And the best part is that this is a public school, even though it’s a business school, so tuition is still affordable.

Université d’Orléans – Master’s in Language, Business and European Management: This school has at least three other programmes in English (Fundamental and Applied Physics, Automotive Engineering for Sustainable Mobility and International Economics) but those weren’t the focus of this presentation. The Master’s in Language, Business and European Management was designed for non-francophone students to study business and management in a European framework, as well as learn French. You need a Bachelor’s degree in humanities or social sciences, including subjects like foreign languages or management studies. Applications open in February and there are two closing dates: the first one is in mid-April if you intend to apply for campus accommodation and the second date is May 31. Applications are made directly to the school using their application and you would provide information such as a motivation letter and your career plans after completing the programme. You will also need to provide a detailed CV and certified copies of your degree and transcript. In terms of tuition, you will have to contact the school to find out which rate is applicable to you.

Toulouse School of Management at Université Toulouse 1 Capitole: This school is one of a handful of public business schools in France that offers management courses in English at the public school rate (for now). It offers M1s in International Business, Finance, and International Marketing and Innovation. There are doctoral programmes in Marketing, Strategic Management and Human Resource Management. Under the M1 in International Business you are exposed to different areas of business such as marketing, strategy, finance management and accounting. The school is located in the city-centre and is well connected. It also operates one of the largest research and marketing data labs in the South of France. Application is done through eCandidat. Pro Tip: the application will ask for your bac (a certificate that doesn’t exist in Jamaica) so select the option bac autre international (or whichever term is used to refer to a bac done overseas). Applications open in early February and end in late March. Results can be expected in June. You need a CV, a motivation letter discussing your character and interest in business and a very detailed history of your grades.

Université de Lorraine: This school offers the unique advantage of being in a region that is considered the heart of Europe and gateway to major European cities like Paris, Brussels and Luxembourg. There are learning centres located in Nancy, Metz and Épinal. This school is also international student friendly, with about 10,000 international students and an international students desk to direct your queries to. There are only 16 Master’s programmes taught in English in fields ranging from business administration and management to biology/chemistry/biomechanics. The programmes are full-time for 2 years (they go up to M2) and some may require an internship. Your application will depend on your choice of programme. Non-francophone students must demonstrate an adequate level of French (to be safe let’s call it B2). Applications are through eCandidate and the deadline is March 15.

Université de Bordeaux School of Management – MBA in Finance & Accounting: This programme packs undergraduate and graduate-level courses in the span of two years. The first year starts by teaching the fundamentals of finance, accounting, economics and other things that you would be expected to learn at the undergraduate level. Second year is where you start the graduate level courses. As you can imagine, the programme is pretty intense packing 4-5 years worth of learning into 2 years. Bordeaux is very student-friendly, so cost of living is affordable.

There was an issue that I felt was worth addressing from the Q&A segment of the session. There’s a sizable amount of people who started out as Assistants and then transitioned to students after their tenure. And I’m sure many more will continue to do so, and are readers of this blog. Some of you may try to pursue being an Assistant while studying, to which I say Godspeed. Taking this route comes with issues I previously addressed like visa transition and applying pressure on the French authorities in order to get documents processed. Theoretically, it’s possible to be both an Assistant and a student, given that a student visa allows you to work around 20 hours a week and an Assistant works for 12 hours a week. However, this would require your teaching schedule and your class schedule to not clash, which you may have no control over and requires plenty of luck. This writer would not recommend it and you do so at your own risk. And even if you don’t intend to pursue both concurrently, it’s still a tedious process. One that’s difficult yet possible. Your ease of transition and ability to get through to the local authorities may also depend on the city that you try and go through (READ: don’t try this in Paris). A lot of it may truly depend on how lucky or blessed you feel. The option may also exist for you to apply to the Rectorat as a full-time teacher, because they need substitute teachers, and from there the transition to a full-time working visa is smoother.

Another Side Note: some of you may, like myself, be overly confident in your abilities and want to study in France in a French programme. The advice from this session was to be an Assistant for 1-2 years before making that leap. I don’t care what score you got in CAPE French, French in the classroom and French on the streets of France are not the same. And the acclimation period is apparently very real. Or as I was told, for the first 2 months everything will sound like gibberish until it doesn’t anymore.

In conclusion to this very long post, special thanks to JaminFrance for this very informative session. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and IG @Jaminfrance. If you want more information, feel free to contact them through social media or via email at jaminfrance@gmail.com.