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European gap year programs

Step-by-step in Strasbourg France to speak fluent French, get work experience, build inter-cultural confidence...

IFE’s European Gap Year in French take place in two stages from September to May.

  • Part I - Exploration & Adaptation (September - December)
  • Part II - Internship & Integration (January-May)


Lining the French side of the River Rhine across from Germany, the capital of Alsace is a thriving city, home to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Known for a stunning cathedral arising from half-timbered houses, narrow streets and waterways, Strasbourg is an easy city to live in. It is also a broad canvas of contemporary France: urban, diverse, local and international, innovative and traditional.

Both stages of the program take place at IFE’s Strasbourg Center, which is located in a 250-year-old building in the district of Krutenau, across the canal from the old city and the cathedral. Central without being overrun by visitors, students share this neighborhood of old streets and low-rise buildings with local residents and businesses.


Part I in the fall runs for 12 weeks, from mid-September to mid-December. Part II is 14 weeks long, from early January to late April.


Part I - Exploration & Adaptation


Part I of the IFE Gap Year provides students with:
- intensive language training to improve their intermediate level to a more advanced level focused especially on oral skills and confidence
- an in-depth introduction to local and European society and contemporary issues
- cross-cultural training including extensive opportunities for site-visits, inter-cultural workshops, interaction with local residents, and the like.
Upon completion of Part I, students are fully prepared for Part II - Internship & Integration, in the spring.

Program Elements

Part I is structured around three elements, as described below. In addition, other visits and activities take place under the supervision of the IFE Gap Year Group Leader, at the group leader’s and students’ initiative.

- Intermediate French course: “Advanced Conversation”. This language course, taught by a certified French as a Foreign language instructor, meets one hour per day for four days each week with an additional one-hour conversation section three times a week.
- Introductory cultural course: "Understanding Contemporary France: An interactive approach". Taught in French for non-native speakers, this course enables students to acquire an inside perspective on current French and European society. The diverse pedagogy includes seminar-format classroom instruction, field trips, guided individual discovery assignments, interviews of local residents, and the like. The course meets three hours weekly, with additional hours of advising, tutorials, and guided outings for a total of approximately 6-8 hours per week.
- The IFE Practicum: The practicum represents an opportunity for students to practice and improve their oral language skills, to concretize their understanding of local society as taught in the Introductory Cultural Course, and to gain inter-cultural confidence and skills. These goals are achieved through discussion sessions, excursions, inter-cultural workshops, and a guided “e-portfolio” project on a theme that interests the student. Sources for the e-portfolio include interviews with local practitioners and activists and other related experiences as can be arranged by IFE’s Strasbourg staff. The practicum represents a minimum of 8-10 hours per week.

Formal program activities account for approximately 25 hours per week

N.B. Students who are interested in doing Part I as a stand-alone program can contact IFE

Part II- Internship & Integration

Part II of the IFE Gap Year provides students the opportunity and the necessary training and support to successfully pursue an internship in France, in French. The goals of Part II are:
- To perfect language skills (consolidated in Part I)
- To deepen students’ familiarity with French society (and with what it means to be European)
- To continue their acquisition of cross-cultural skills, self-awareness and the confidence to take on challenges and integrate unfamiliar cultures.

Program Elements
Part II runs for fourteen weeks, and is constructed around a twelve-week internship. This part also includes the preparation and support needed to be successful in the internship, as well as organized activities to foster reflection on the experience.

- "The Internship Preparation Course" meets six hours weekly during the first two weeks of part II, with the aim of preparing students to make full use of the internship opportunity through a briefing on one or more important current events issues important in French society. The topics, chosen each year, are both a lens for further understanding French culture as well as a way to help students join the conversation on the job and elsewhere. The course adopts a seminar format and entails readings and small group projects. Discussion of comparative views from students’ home cultures is encouraged.
- " The Internship Companion Course" meets weekly throughout Part II. With the aim of helping students understand and assimilate their experience in the internship, it includes discussions on topics from the preparation course to help students make sense of current events, as well as an inter-cultural workshop to prepare students and to provide debriefing and follow-up of students’ experiences on the internship. Additionally, this course supports and advises students on the preparation of the internship report (see below).
- "The Internship and Field Report" Since most internship placements in France require university training, IFE has tailored the Gap Year Internship to offer students the possibility of real participation in useful internship experiences. Certain milieu are more apt to provide such opportunities such as education, social and humanitarian action, or artisanal and retail activity.
Examples of internship placements include neighborhood social agencies working with youth, senior citizens, or marginalized populations; bakeries, organic groceries, florists or bookstores; teacher’s assistant in elementary or middle schools, assisting artisans or farmers, among other possibilities. The internship represents an engagement of approximately 20-25 hours a week.

The internship experience is an opportunity to speak French in a practical setting, to develop workplace relationships by putting into play knowledge and skills gained in Part I in the fall and, overall, to continue skill and knowledge acquisition by daily immersion. Working in Strasbourg will truly allow students to become insiders of French society.

The internship experience is enhanced and made more tangible by the work of producing the IFE Gap Year Field Report. Each student works with their IFE staff advisor (Group Leader) to plan, research and write a report synthesizing their work and learning experiences as an intern, and generating some analysis or conclusion on the experience. Students are urged to maintain a journal or log of their daily experiences and reactions on the internship as a useful source for the Field Report.

Formal program activities account for approximately 25 hours per week

IFE Gap Year students live with families participating in a local network of known, IFE-vetted host families in Strasbourg France. IFE takes responsibility for matching students with families, is available throughout the year for any difficulties and handles all business matters. Participating families have the habit of including students in family life, excursions, and the like.

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