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IIEF - International Institute for French Studies

by Zander Willoughby | Dec 05, 2016

This week, I’ll give a bit more context for my studies here in Strasbourg, France. I’m sorry if this one is boring, I’m not quite sure the best way to both explain everything and be exciting at the same time. Manchester’s Strasbourg placement is a bit different than the other study abroad placements because it’s not BCA (formerly called Brethren Colleges Abroad), instead I study through Lewis & Clark College in France. LCC is a college in Portland, Oregon. We study here as well with students from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. In the end, we all study at the Institut International d’Etudes Français at the Université de Strasbourg.  (Context to the context: French universities are composed of facultés, basically the different departments or colleges, but at a larger university like UniStra they’re each huge buildings with their own administration and such).

IIEF - The Classes

The IIEF is an international institute geared towards international students to learn French. We study with people from all over the world, it’s also nice because we’re all pretty much in the same boat trying to learn French, so that takes away a lot of the pressure while speaking French. We’re divided into language groups depending on language ability (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) and then smaller language groups (I’m in B2 this semester, next semester I’ll go to l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques, a French Grande École, but we can talk about that some other time). Our language groups meet together all week for a few hours a day. On top of that, we have a choice of ‘option’ classes about various topics of French culture and such. I personally really like this system. Since everyone in the IIEF is working on learning French, it makes it easy to talk to other people. Since everyone in your option classes is the same level as you (B2, etc), it makes it even easier to talk to people. AND, since everyone in your language class is exactly the same language level as you, it’s super duper easy to talk to people. This coming from an introvert lacking the chutzpah to confidently talk with people in French on the street (that’s changing, especially after a few months and a lot of awkward conversations!).

IIEF - The People

A lot of people have pushed me to ‘meet French people’ while I’m studying abroad. Most advice given to me has included “blah blah blah is a great way to meet French people!” but one of my favourite things about the IIEF is that we learn with people all over the world. In my language class, I have Chinese students, Koreans, Iranians, a Ghanaian, an American, a Chilean, and a Venezuelan. Given the huge influx of Syrian refugees in Europe, the President of the University of Strasbourg waved the inscription fees for Syrian refugees to study here. This creates a beautiful international community at the IIEF, the kind of community I miss most about Manchester.

One great example of this was last week, during a break between classes I sat down for coffee with a Brazilian and a Syrian friend. They asked me to explain the web of alliances and conflicts within the Syrian war from a political perspective (See, I can do this in French, but my hands shake when I buy things in the market…). By the end of the conversation, which included a lot of maps and hand gestures trying to explain abstract concepts, we had a circle of Syrians, Iranians, Americans, and a Brazilian discussing what our generation can do to fix the world’s problems. It reminded me a sitting the Intercultural Center talking with everything (Except the IIEF doesn’t have couches…) (But, it does have a coffee machine!).


Zander E. Willoughby ’18 is a Political Science & French major & Peace Studies minor, and a former Multicultural Affairs Programmer, Student Senate Vice-President, Model U.N. Secretary-General and more. He is currently studying in Strasbourg, France at the Institut d'Études Politiques at Université de Strasbourg. His future plans include working in International Relations or International Law, hopefully within the U.N. system.