The diverse regions of France offer everything from picturesque villages steeped in history to thriving metropolises full of fashion-forward culture. A founding member of the European Union and the United Nations, France plays an integral role in international politics.

One of five overseas French Départements, La Réunion has many advantages that enable it to play a key role as an interface between Europe and the Indian Ocean region. The island of  La Réunion in the middle of the Indian Ocean offers more than just clear blue waters and pristine beaches. You can also explore both active and inactive volcanoes, cirques and picturesque waterfalls. La Réunion is perfect for a student looking for a non-traditional location with a French and Creole twist. With a year-round tropical climate, breathtaking mountain ranges and untamed ocean fronts, the choices are countless. From a leisurely walk in the mountain trails to diving in the open ocean, you can find something to enjoy. 

Languages Spoken:


Education System

The University of Reunion Island is a French public higher education and research institution, located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, one of Europe's outermost regions. By virtue of its unique geostrategic position, it is the only European university in the region.

Around 15,000 students attend the six sites in St. Denis (Moufia, Victoire, Bellepierre and the University Technology Park), Le Tampon and Saint Pierre. Through its research, international influence, range of courses offered and student living conditions, the University of Reunion Island has many advantages that enable it to play a key role as an interface between Europe and the Indian Ocean.


Students looking to pursue higher education in France and its terriroties have many options. Students can choose to attend public universities or may attempt to gain admission into specialized schools. 

Public Universities 

France’s system of higher education enrolls 2.2 million students, two-thirds of whom attend the country’s 88 public universities. In order to be admitted into the university system, students must pass the baccalauréat, or as it is more commonly known, the bac. The bac is a national examination taken after the third year of high school. The universities in France offer academic, technical and professional degree programs in all disciplines, preparing students for careers in research and professional practice in every imaginable field. They offer dozens of different national diplomas. 

Short degree programs, generally involving two or three years of study, are concentrated in the fields of manufacturing, trade and services. Most are offered by multidisciplinary institutes affiliated with a university – the so-called university institutes of technology, or IUTs. 

Grandes Écoles 

Grandes écoles are selective in their admissions and enroll far fewer students than the universities (which can enroll 100,000 students). They train students for careers in engineering, management, art and architecture, to name just a few. They are unique institutions, prestigious and very selective. Their programs are so well attuned to the needs of industry that their graduates are in very high demand. To be admitted into the grandes écoles, students must take two years of preparatory courses or cours préparatoires after they pass the bac, which prepares them for the concours (or entrance examination) to these highly competitive schools. 


The system of degrees awarded in French higher education reflects a common European architecture. The LMD system — for licence (bachelor), master and doctorate — is based on the number of semesters completed since leaving secondary school, and their equivalent in European credits under the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS): 

Licence = six semesters = 180 ECTS (Baccalauréat + three years) 

Master = 10 semesters = 300 ECTS (Baccalauréat + five years) 

Doctorat = 16 semesters (Baccalauréat + eight years) 



French universities operate in ways that are quite different from the system with which you are familiar. Understanding the differences will help you plan your program of study in Reunion Island, use your time effectively while you are there and return with transferable credits. French students follow a highly structured curriculum specific to the degree they are pursuing from day one at the university. They do not take "liberal arts" or general education requirements before focusing on a major or area of study as most U.S. students do. At the end of each year, they must pass a set of required exams before they can move on to the next year's program. 

In general, French students have to assume more responsibility for themselves on campus than American students. They do not have as many campus support systems as American students, and they too may experience frustration when they first begin their studies. The amount of information you receive before you leave and during the first days or weeks of your stay abroad may seem overwhelming. However, if you review the material sent to you by ISEP and your host institution carefully, you will be better prepared to meet the challenges of adjusting to a different system, and find your coordinator and professors better equipped to help you. 

French professors are not as accessible as their American counterparts. Increasingly, however, professors do have office hours or may be available if you make an appointment. They will also be willing to answer questions and discuss problems before or immediately after class. It would be a good idea to introduce yourself to the professor at the beginning of the year, explaining that you are an international student. Do ask other students in class for advice or assistance if you do not understand something. 

In France the academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June. The exact starting and ending dates vary from institution to institution and from program to program. Often times, the different departments or facultés have different start and end dates, so be sure to consult each departmental calendar to know when courses begin and end. 




French university courses are of two basic types: 

-Lecture courses are given in halls seating from 100 to 1,000 students. These are called cours magistraux (CM). The professor presents the subject; students take notes. Many professors prepare and distribute course outlines or lecture notes that help students prepare for exams. 

-Study sections, known as travaux dirigés (TD), consist of small groups of students. In the seminar-style sections, students apply and deepen what the professor has presented in the lecture hall. Attendance is mandatory. 

Because French students have very little choice with regard to the courses they take within their area of study, French universities often do not publish detailed course descriptions or course catalogues. Rather, a list of modules or unités d’enseignement with an indication of the number of hours per week or the total number of class hours for the course and the corresponding ECTS credits is provided. This information can often be found online under "formation", "licence (for a certain area of study)" and "programme." 


For example, you may see for a course description like such: 

L1 semestre 1 

UEF « Histoire moderne » / ECTS: 6 

Initiation à l’histoire moderne (1h30 CM + 2h TD) 


This can be interpreted as follows: 

L1 semestre 1 = first year of the license, semester one 

UEF: Unité d’enseignement fondamenteaux or a required course for the degree 

Introduction to Modern History for six ECTS credits 

1h30 CM = 1 hour 30 minutes per week of cours magistraux, or lecture 

2 h TD = 2 hours per week of travaux dirigés, or study section 



Registration (inscription) is the process of enrollment into the university; you will fill out many forms and hand in several passport-size photos in order to receive the various university cards signifying your enrollment. 

Course Selection

As an exchange student, you have greater flexibility in choosing courses than French students do. You do not need to take a complete package of courses at one level. However, if you focus on courses in one or two departments, you will find it easier to put together a schedule, your program of studies will be more cohesive, and you will have a better chance of getting to know French students because you will be seeing the same group on a regular basis. 

Selection of courses is done during registration. You should expect to have to go to each building that houses the faculté (department) of the course you wish to take, find the administrative office, ask for a course listing and sign up for the desired course. Students should be aware that the registration process can take several days. French universities are not as "service-oriented" as those in the United States and there are many students for few administrators. Ask questions of your ISEP host coordinator if you have trouble registering. Also, the add-drop process is very informal. You may want to observe several classes before making your final selection and to make sure that you will be able to follow the course and fulfill all course requirements. Remember to consult about any changes in your course selections with your host and home coordinators and advisors. Be sure to keep track of your courses, including course titles, hours, professors, and assignments for after your exchange. In all cases, you must verify all of your course information with your host coordinator to ensure that you have enrolled properly. 

Course Load 

The actual number of hours in a class varies according to the department or subject and the amount of work expected of students outside class. Courses usually meet 1-2 hours each week, meaning you will probably be taking a higher number of courses than at home. Most current ISEP students at French universities are taking 24-30 ECTS per semester. 

Exams & Grading 

Student performance is assessed in two ways: 

-Short quizzes given throughout the semester allow instructors to check what their students have learned in each unit. 

-Examinations covering all the material presented during the semester are given at the end of each semester, generally just before the February break and again in June, before the summer break.

Some U.S. universities will only award credit if you have an exam grade. Exams may be oral or written. The professor will grade you as he or she does a French student. Although the grading system in France goes from 0 to 20, the grades from 0 to 14 are generally used; 15 and 16 are relatively rare; 17 and 18, very rare; and no one is sure that 19 and 20 really exist. A 10 is about a U.S. "C"; in some courses an eight or nine may be a "C" for a non-native speaker; 12 is good. Above that - bravo! 

The atmosphere at a French university may seem low pressure, but even if a class does not require regular assignments, you must keep up with the reading and attend classes. Final examinations are given at the end of each course. ISEP students should check with professors to determine when the exam will be given as most professors do not provide a syllabus at the beginning of a course. As a foreign student, you may not be required to take the final exam. You may be able to substitute written assignments for the exam. Check with the professor to find out whether you are expected to take the exam in order to get a grade (in many instances, the exam might be the only evidence that you have taken the class) or whether you can substitute other assignments. Taking a final does not automatically entitle you to a grade since you must pass your exams to receive a grade. Also, make sure to register for the exam in addition to taking it. 

If you make any special arrangements with a professor, obtain the agreement in writing signed by both you and the professor. Provide a copy of the agreement to both your home and host ISEP coordinators and keep a copy for yourself. Without an agreement in writing, it is expected that you will take all final exams. Credit transfer is not guaranteed if you fail to take exams or provide written proof of other arrangements. 

At the end of the exchange, the faculté will award you a final average. The grades you receive from the faculté are not contestable. The only way to modify a bad grade is to do supplementary work, the grade for which will be averaged with the bad one. 


Before you leave for Reunion Island check with your home institution about conditions for credit transfer. 

Students should be sure to provide a list of course titles and codes, professors, number of hours per week and the professor’s signature to the host ISEP coordinator. Your host coordinator may provide a standard form to assist you with this. In many cases, ISEP students have been able to learn their results and report this to their coordinator before they depart. Final results are very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain if the student has not provided such a list. Students should also bring all exam papers, graded homework and papers, and any other work home to their home institution to assist with credit transfer. 

French universities do not generate annual grade reports for students. Exam grades are usually posted on faculté bulletin boards. Transcripts must be requested and are usually not available until a student has completed a diploma. Your ISEP coordinator will provide an official transcript but only if you have given them a complete list of your courses and professors. The average grade for your class assignments may be listed on your transcript, under the heading controle continu. The transcript will be sent from your host coordinator to ISEP Global in Washington, D.C., to be forwarded to your home coordinator. 

REMINDER: Credit transfer is not guaranteed if you fail to take exams or provide written proof of other arrangements. 

Visa and Residency

COVID-19 Update: Visa and Residency guidelines may have changed from the details below as a result of COVID-19. Students should review the Special Conditions of Placement in their ISEP Acceptance Package for the most current information. 


Students studying in France for more than 90 days must obtain a student visa prior to departing for France and French overseas departments. The student visa requirements for France are extensive, and students should begin collecting the required documentation and preparing their applications as soon as they have accepted their program placement

European citizens and most students studying in France for less than 90 days (summer programs) DO NOT need to obtain a visa before arrival. 

Click here for ISEP's Application Guidelines for the French Student Visa. Please carefully review this document in its entirety before beginning the visa application process! 

Page Updated April 2021



Become aware of the cultural, social, political and economic facts of life in France and you will be vastly rewarded, as there is no subject dearer to the heart of the French than that of la vie française.

Seeing a new country is so much more than seeing its cathedrals and other historical landmarks. It means so much more to learn about the people, what impressions and influences have shaped them and continue to influence their responses to life.

Alexandra Wells, ISEP participant from Ball State to Rennes 2

Do not expect everything to be just as it is back home. Above all, do not assume that those you encounter on the street or in shops will speak English. The French are proud of their language and way of life, and your efforts to speak French and live like a local will be appreciated and will go far in your interactions with those you meet.

When greeting people, the French will either shake hands or kiss on both cheeks. The former prevails when meeting strangers, while the latter is common among friends. If you are unsure whether to shake hands or faire la bise (give a kiss), wait to see what is initiated by the other person and follow from there.

It is always important to consider gender relations when traveling to a new country, as these can vary greatly according to cultural context. Women in particular should be cautious when interacting with strangers in a new environment. Some individuals may not understand that a familiar way with others, for example, is merely a gesture of friendliness and may misconstrue it as something more. Firmly say "no" to any invitation you don't want to accept, and give your address only to people you know and trust. We are not advocating narrow-mindedness, but rather pointing out that cultural differences, if not understood, could lead you into a difficult situation.

For more information about French culture and advice for adapting smoothly into your host country, ISEP recommends Polly Platt's book French or Foe.

Daily Life


The three main meals are le petit déjeuner (breakfast), le déjeuner (lunch) and le dîner (dinner). Although the midday meal had great importance in an agricultural economy and is still the main meal in rural areas, there is a tendency for families to eat the largest meal in the evening. Breakfast is a light meal of bread, cereal, yogurt and coffee or hot chocolate. Lunch and dinner generally involve several courses, at minimum a first course (l'entree) and a main dish (le plat), followed by cheese and/or dessert. In restaurants, it is common to have a price that includes all these courses, with a choice of dishes.

Meals involve a succession of courses eaten one at a time. A typical family meal starts with a soup, followed by vegetables and a meat dish and then a salad, cheese and dessert. Wine is commonly served at meals. Convenience foods are becoming more prevalent, and fast food is a growing trend.


Strikes (Grèves) are quite common; the right to strike is guaranteed in the French constitution, with the public sector having the highest frequency.

In France, striking is just part of the process. There is little bargaining between management and workers before things get to the decision stage. At that point, management acts and the workers respond. The concept of collective bargaining does not exist in France.

Health and Safety

Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference the Health and Safety section of the ISEP website for general information regarding health and safety abroad. 

-  ISEP expects changes to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for 2021 and 2022 programs. If the student's host country, host university, home university, home country, or travel provider require a COVID-19 vaccination, students must comply with that requirement. ISEP will notify students if we become aware of changes in the terms of participation for their program.

- Detailed information about Réunion can be found here

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Non-British nationals should disregard the Entry Requirements and Travel Advice Help and Support sections. 

-If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Student Services Officer and Host Coordinator with any additional questions. 



La Réunion uses the Euro as it is the common currency of the European Union.

Compare your currency to the Euro.

Sources of Information


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