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French immersion program takes students to Lyon this summer

January 25, 2013

With a population of 1.7 million, Lyon is the second-largest city in France after Paris. Rich in history and architecture, the city is home to Roman theaters, a famous Renaissance district, and rich culinary traditions.

Because Lyon has far fewer tourists than other French cities, students have greater opportunity to utilize French language skills by interacting with locals and learning from native speakers. The intensive French language and culture summer program in Lyon is designed to provide students with a true immersion experience.

The city attracts close to 130,000 students each year, more than 16,000 of whom are studying abroad from foreign countries. ASU students enroll with other foreign students in the Centre International d'Etudes françaises (CIEF) at the University of Lyon 2, located on the downtown campus along the Rhône river, which is within walking distance of the city center.

Students lodge in single rooms with private bathrooms in a university residence located in a lively neighborhood next to public transportation and approximately 15 minutes from the university. While accommodations do not include meals, the residence provides cooking facilities and is within walking distance to grocery stores and a bi-weekly farmers market. In addition to local restaurants and the university cafeteria, residence meal plans are available for an additional fee.

At the beginning of the five-week program, students take a placement exam to determine their appropriate level of coursework. Based on test results, students choose from a list of classes including, but not limited to, courses in literature, local history, theater, cinema, media, creative writing, gastronomy and architecture. Taught by native speakers, classes are held exclusively in French, and many include field trips where students interact with the local population, providing a rich learning environment.

Located in the heart of Europe, Lyon is also minutes away from the great wine regions of Beaujolais, Burgundy and Côtes du Rhône, and just a few hours from Paris, the French Riviera, Switzerland and the French Alps. Outside the classroom, students choose to travel independently, or to go on organized weekend excursions with other CIEF students and guides for a small fee.

Students also have the oppotunity to participate in summer cultural events in Lyon. During the months of June and July, the Fourvière Nights Festival in Lyon is a popular attraction featuring the best of theatre, dance, music and cinema. This exceptional multi-disciplinary festival takes place in one of the city's famous ancient Roman theatres. Established in 1946, the festival has grown to become an internationally-recognised artistic event and a major date on France's cultural calendar. Also throughout the months of June and July is the Vienna Jazz Festival, located just 24 km outside of Lyon. Featuring international performers, it is currently considered one of the world’s top jazz festivals.

In addition to cultural events, students in the “French Language and Culture in Lyon” program enjoy the city’s beautiful urban parks. The Tête d’Or park, for example, covers 290 acres with a central lake on which students can relax with row boats and pedalos, botanical greenhouses, and a free zoo featuring African wildlife. The park’s sports facilities, such as a velodrome, boules court, mini-golf, horse riding, and even a miniature train attract huge numbers of visitors every summer.

Other parks include Gerland Park, located in south Lyon, devoted to leisure and sports activities. Gerland Park has several gardens, two playing fields, a skate park, the headquarters of the LOU and Olympique Lyonnais teams, and an artificial fog system.

Miribel-Jonage park, located on the outskirts of Lyon, is one of the largest sports and recreation suburban parks in Europe. The park offers nine holes of golf, cycling and pedestrian paths, four beaches, and over 40 organized sports activities such as tennis, badminton, climbing and windsurfing.

In addition to the popular cycle paths available in many of the parks in Lyon, self-service bicycles are available to tour the banks of Rhône, one of the major rivers in Europe. The Rhône river is within walking distance of CIEF, given the university’s convenient location in the city center.

The "French Language and Culture in Lyon" summer program is perfect for students who want a rigorous language learning and cultural immersion experience.

The School of International Letters and Cultures’ study abroad programs are among the longest running and most prestigious at Arizona State University. Founded in 1981, and directed by knowledgeable, world-class faculty, the programs offer students the opportunity to experience and study international humanities and learn languages firsthand while earning credit toward their degree.

Applications for this summer are due March 1.

For more information, contact professor Frédéric Canovas at, or join us at the study abroad fair from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Feb. 5, in Old Main on the ASU Tempe campus.

Applications accepted through the ASU Study Abroad Office.

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Story by School of International Letters and Cultures communiciations intern Alison Graham.