Independent Cultural Study: FR 399A

French majors spending a term or two on exchange at a French university are eligible to enroll in FR 399A. The student prepares an essay on a cultural aspect of the host university’s geographical region, and submits the essay to the Department. Course credit is granted after successful completion of an oral exam, and acceptance of the essay by the Department.

The student will submit a project proposal of one page to the Department Chair by November 15. Approval of the proposal will be sent to the student by December 15. The proposal must be written in French.

The essay, also written in French, is due on or before March 1. Students are encouraged to keep an electronic and hard copy of their essay. The essay will be evaluated by the Chair and the coordinators of the third year away program. The evaluation has multiple steps: The evaluators will read through the essay and offer corrections, comments and suggestions, after which, the essay will be returned to the student for revision. The student will then correct and revise the essay incorporating the evaluators' comments. The revised essay will be re-submitted to the evaluating professors by April 30.

To obtain a credit for FR 399A, the student must also undergo an oral exam.  This exam will take place in the French Department during the Fall term following the exchange experience. 

FR 399A is considered a course credit and it will be counted as one of your courses (course fees apply).

Ethics guidelines

Students are not required to complete a course project ethics application for this course.

Please note that you must obtain a Letter of introduction from the Department of French Studies, which is to be provided to all individuals being interviewed

Essay guidelines

The essay must conform to normal essay style. It can serve as a work-term report for students in Co-op.

The essay must be of high academic quality. While it might be based on personal experience, it must show evidence of research, organization, and depth. Documents gathered on site (newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, literature, pictures, etc.) should be added to the report and presented at the oral exam.  Students should avoid relying on Internet sources but should rather demonstrate engagement with authentic cultural documents and interaction with members of the community. 

The essay must show proof of an effort to enter into contact with people, or a specific aspect of French or “Québécois” life, and will require thorough preparation (e.g. interviews, research data, or a combination of both). 

  • Length and Style: 12 to 15 pages, double-spaced (3000-3500 words + bibliography)
  • Organization: logical sequence of ideas, well-structured paragraphs, etc.
  • Documents and Methodology: documents gathered on site (newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, literature, pictures, surveys, recording of interviews, etc.) should be added to the report and presented at the oral exam. The use of Internet print-outs should be avoided.
  • Original Content: the topic should be original and can be based on personal experience. It must show evidence of research, organization, and depth.
  • Language: the use of varied sentence structure and appropriate level of language, variety of vocabulary appropriate to the subject, flawless grammar and spelling.
  • The essay must be written in French.

Oral exam guidelines

The oral exam will be comprised of two parts: First, the student will orally present the topic of the report, the documents studied and analyzed in the preparation of the essay (hard copies are highly encouraged), the main ideas of the report, and the conclusion. The oral presentation should not simply repeat material covered in the essay, but should contextualize the project and expand upon it. For example, you might explain what motivated you to choose the topic, difficulties you encountered in doing research, how your understanding of the topic changed, etc. Cue cards are allowed. Secondly, following the presentation there will be a question period.

  • Length and style: maximum of 20 minutes, cue cards and Power Point presentations are allowed. The presentation will be followed by a 10 – 15 minute question period.
  • The presentation must be given in French,  the question period will also take place in French.


Essay: 60% (Organization, Documents and Methodology, Original Content, Language)

20-minute Oral Presentation: 40% (Organization, Originality--not a replica of the essay--, Language, Answers to Questions)

Possible subjects

  • a survey of a cultural resource in the city where the student is spending his/her exchange (an analysis of his/her research on a museum or library, an analysis of a French political issue in the daily press, theatre, cinema, etc.) The student is not to submit a summary of a play or film, but a broader study within a social or cultural context. Documents and pictures should also be added to the report.
  • the teaching of English in a French Lycée or a secondary school in Québec. This should not be limited to personal recollections of experiences as a language instructor but should demonstrate research and analysis.
  • an analysis of newspapers/news coverage in Nantes or Chicoutimi, i.e., the press in France or Québec; the French daily magazines (L'Express, Le Point, Le Nouvel Observateur , etc.) Copies of the newspapers and magazines should be added to the report.
  • politics, world affairs, or relations between France and Europe, France and Canada and the Third World, etc.
  • medicine, or crime, or the cinema, or the banking system, etc.
  • television in France/Québec
  • the year's literary prizes
  • scientific news
  • the business world
  • social problems, etc.