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Colby in Dijon

Program Information for Incoming First-Year Students

Table of Contents



Colby in Dijon offers incoming first-year Colby students an in-depth, language-intensive experience of cross-cultural study in the heart of France. Located in the famous wine-producing region of Burgundy, Dijon is a city of about 200,000 people and contains France's second largest art collection. Through a structured, demanding program of classes and cultural interaction, Colby in Dijon seeks to provide students with an understanding of the differences between the American and French ways of life, and to enable students to better understand the complexities of French culture.

The resident director for the Colby in Dijon program for 2007 is Professor Jonathan Weiss, of the Department of French and Italian.

The program is open to students with various levels of French, from two years in high school to advanced placement. Upper class Colby students are also part of the Dijon group. The program requires of students that they be open-minded and willing to speak French as much as possible while in Dijon. In this program, learning takes place as much outside the classroom as inside, for students will be "studying" about France sixteen hours a day, seven days a week.

Academic Program

All Colby in Dijon participants are registered at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon. They take French language courses in a branch of the university that specializes in the teaching of French to foreigners. Students are placed at levels corresponding to their abilities, and attend classes on a daily basis along with students from other countries. In addition to the language courses at the university, all Colby in Dijon first-year students take other courses specifically arranged for them and taught by professors hired by Colby. Students normally take three of these courses, including a required course on French history and the architecture and art of Dijon (both of which include field trips) and a seminar on contemporary France taught by the resident director, Professor Weiss. The total number of credits an incoming first-year student will receive is 17 (optional 18), and the distribution is as follows:

Intensive French (FR 111D or 211D): 3 credits: This is a twenty-hour per week course that includes written and oral exercises and is intended to give students a thorough review of French. They are placed according to each student's level in a preliminary exam. Course work will cover written French as well as oral expression and comprehension.

French Language Courses (FR127D, 128D, or 235D): 4 credits: After the first four weeks, the language teachers evaluate each student's work and, on the basis of this evaluation, put each student into one of three levels: intermédiaire, moyen, avancé. In the past, most students have placed into moyen and avancé. The intermédiaire level includes sixteen hours of French language per week; the moyen and avancé levels include ten hours of language.

By completing the intermédiaire level with a grade of C or better, students get credit for FR 127, thus satisfying Colby's foreign language requirement. More advanced students also satisfy the language requirement, and get credit for more advanced language courses.

History 132D: French History: 3 credits: This course, specifically organized for Colby students and taught by a French historian, Professor Jacques Ciosmak, deals with the evolution of French society from its Gallo-roman origins into the 19th century. It is conducted in French, but is accessible to all students, regardless of their level. The course includes lectures, readings, discussion, and field trips, which are on two weekends during the semester, and are obligatory. This course fulfils Colby's history distribution requirement.

French 233D or 133D: Contemporary France: 4 credits. This is a seminar taught by the resident director and it is divided into two sections. Students who place in the intermediate language level take this seminar in English (with some readings in French); students who place into the middle and advanced levels take the seminar in French, and it can count toward the major in French (if the student chooses to major in French). The course uses Dijon as a laboratory to explore the major issues facing France today. Regular participation in class discussion is expected. This course satisfies Colby's social science and international diversity requirements

Art 113D: Portrait of a City: Dijon throughout its History. 3 credits. This course is about the evolution of the city of Dijon through its architecture and representations in art. Students will study and see examples of Dijon from its beginnings as a Roman fort to its current status as a modern, industrial city. The course is taught by a French archaeologist and art expert, Professor Serge Grappin, and it includes frequent outings within the city, which has preserved its architectural heritage. This course is taught in French and presupposes no previous knowledge of art or architecture. It satisfies Colby's art distribution requirement.

In addition to the above courses, there will be an optional book seminar, held five times during the semester in a local restaurant. This book seminar is open to students in the middle and advanced levels. There are no papers or exams, but attendance and discussion are obligatory for those choosing this option. It carries one nongraded Colby credit.

A wellness lecture, in French, will be held during the semester in Dijon. Although not obligatory for first-year students, it is strongly suggested, since attendance will reduce the number of wellness lectures required when students arrive on campus in January.

All grades are assigned by the resident director, in consultation with French faculty. Students' progress in oral French, and their willingness to abide by the French language guidelines, are important criteria in the grading of language courses. Grades appear on the Colby transcript and count in the calculation of each student's Colby grade point average.


The Homestay

The homestay, in which students are placed with selected families in and around Dijon, is as important an aspect of the program as the academic courses. The homestay is more than a place to sleep and eat; it is here that students will develop their spoken French and learn the most about France. It is a portal to French civilization and culture. It serves as a resource for class assignments in the first-year student seminar.

Students take their breakfasts and evening meals in their host families; on weekends, when there are no excursions, students are offered all of their meals in their host families. Students are given a stipend to enable them to purchase lunches during the week; they are also given money for a monthly bus pass and reasonable use of public internet facilities. Taxi fares for travel after buses stop running are reimbursed by the resident director.

Not all the host families are traditional families. Some of them consist of young, professional women, with or without children. The resident director will try to place each student with the family that best seems to fit his or her profile in the housing form included with the registration packet, but there can be no guarantees of a perfect match. We can, however, assure students that only the families that are given excellent reviews by former Colby in Dijon participants are chosen as homestays.


Dijon: The City and its Climate

Dijon is located about 300 km southeast of Paris, but is easily accessible to the capital via high speed train (one hour and thirty-five minutes). It is a clean, beautiful and architecturally exciting city that has been virtually unaffected by the destruction of wars. The city center contains small, narrow streets that are reserved for pedestrians. Theaters, museums, and art galleries abound. There is an efficient bus system (all students receive bus passes) that links the center of the city with the suburbs; night busses enable people in most neighborhoods to take public transportation as late as midnight.

The climate in Dijon is mild. September is often a sunny, warm month with temperatures around 20°C (68°F). October and November are usually humid, with periods of rain, but also sunny days, and temperatures are somewhat cooler (about 10°-15°C [50°-60°F) in the daytime. December is decidedly cooler, and frost is quite common at night, with daytime temperatures around 5°C (40°F). Snow is not unknown in December, but it is rare for there to be a snowstorm anything like those that occur in Maine.


Program Schedule 2007

August 23 Departure from Boston's Logan International Airport
August 24 Arrival in Paris; chartered coach to Dijon
August 25 Orientation in Dijon
August 26 Students move in with host families
August 27 Placement exam for language courses
August 28 Courses begin
September 2 Outdoor excursion (hike), weather permitting
September 8-9 Excursion to Alps
September 21 Exams for September language course
September 23-26 Excursion to Paris
September 27-29 Excursion to Loire Valley
October 6-7 Excursion to Vézelay, Fontenay, and northern Burgundy
October 20 Day trip to Lyon
October 29-Nov 2 Fall break (no classes)
November 10 Day trip to Beaune
November 22 Gala Thanksgiving Dinner with Host Families
December 1-2 Excursion to Jura Mountains
December 4-8 Final exams
December 8 Final Reception for Students at Colby apartment
December 9 Return to Boston

Length of program: 15 weeks
Length of courses: 13 weeks
Exam period: 1 week

There is time for personal travel, but students are expected to attend all their classes and may lose credit or have their grades lowered if they miss classes for travel. Parents who wish to visit their sons or daughters should not expect that students would be able to miss classes. More details on travel will be given students in the program handbook and on site by the resident director.


Money and Costs

Colby in Dijon is an all-inclusive program. The program fee covers tuition, room and board, a monthly bus pass, all excursions and round-trip transportation between Boston and Paris, with transfers to Dijon. It does not include expenses for books, laundry, health insurance, personal property insurance, or travel except that mentioned above. 

With the help of the resident director, each student opens an account at a branch of the Crédit Lyonnais and has an ATM card that enables him or her to draw funds almost anywhere in France. The meal allowance is deposited in student accounts on a monthly basis.

ATM cards issued in the US may normally be used in France, although US banks usually charge a fee for such use.


Health and Safety Abroad

Students are responsible for their own health insurance, and proof of health insurance must be submitted before students may leave for France. If a student needs health care while in Dijon, he or she must pay for services (credit cards are accepted) and submit the bill to his or her family's insurance company for reimbursement.

The resident director briefs students on the issue of safety, during the orientation period. Students who live outside the center of Dijon are given a taxi allowance to permit them to return to their host families safely after buses have stopped running. Dijon is considered a relatively safe city, but the standard precautions of living in an urban area are required.


Social Life, Extracurricular Activities, and Excursions

Animateurs: A group of young French men and women are on hand to introduce Colby students to the city of Dijon soon after they arrive. If students wish, these animateurs can meet with them later in the semester for linguistic and cultural exchange.

Fitness, sports, and other activities: There are a number of gyms in town that offer aerobic classes and weight lifting at reasonable rates. Colby will pay for half of each student's membership (up to a reasonable limit) in one of these private clubs for students who wish to join. The Université de Bourgogne has extensive sports facilities, but there are no intramural or varsity teams, and sports activities do not begin on campus until early October. The city of Dijon maintains a number of swimming pools that are open to students free of charge. Other activities in which students have participated in the past include horseback riding and ballet and modern dance.

Community Service: Students may volunteer to spend a few hours each week helping a non-profit, non-sectarian organization called Secours populaire français . This organization helps people in need in Dijon, and is particularly active in the period leading up to the Christmas holidays. Its headquarters are located near the Colby apartment in the city center.

Cultural Events: From time to time, the program organizes cultural events open to all students at no extra cost; these may be concerts, plays, or operas. Colby in Dijon will also reimburse students half of the cost of attending cultural events (such as plays, movies in French, etc.).

Excursions:In addition to a four-day excursion to Paris and a two-night excursion to the Loire Valley (end September-beginning October), there are numerous day and weekend trips. All costs related to these excursions (lodging, meals, admission to museums, etc.) are included in the program fee and there is no reimbursement, should for any reason a students be unable to attend.

Fall Break: At the end of October, at the halfway point of the program, there is a five-day (plus two weekends) fall break, during which students may either travel on their own (at their own expense) or stay in Dijon. Students are expected to stay in Europe for the entire semester and should not plan to return home during this short break.


The Resident Director

The resident director lives in Dijon and is available for any emergency that may arise. The director's apartment is located in the heart of Dijon, at 8, Place Bousset. The resident director is responsible for the academic and extra-curricular programs, and has wide authority in disciplinary matters.

Students will often be invited to the director's apartment, and there will be regular hours during which students may stop by to talk about any problem. Professor Weiss will guide first-year students through the process of course choice for January and the spring semester, and will serve as a resource for all questions concerning Colby College.


What the Semester in Dijon Will Bring

By beginning a Colby career with a semester in Dijon, first-year students will have a cultural experience unlike any other. They will see some of the most beautiful buildings and art works that Europe has to offer; they will enjoy some of the world's greatest cuisine; they will form friendships, some of them cross-cultural, that may last a lifetime.

Most important, the semester in France will be a 16-hour-per-day learning experience. The dividing line between work and play, between what students are doing to further their academic pursuits and what they are doing to have fun, will disappear. Students may find that there is very little "work" to do for classes, certainly at the beginning of the regular semester. Yet they will be working on their French at all times - when they are sitting in a café with friends, when they are walking through the streets of Dijon, when they are with their French family, when they listen to French music, or when they dream in French at night. This is truly the most natural way to learn French.

How much students learn from the semester's experience depends on each student's attitude toward the experience itself. An openness of mind and of spirit, an ability to bounce back after disappointment, a willingness to accept diversity - all these will influence what each person learns from the semester in France. Colby in Dijon can provide the resources for an extraordinarily rich semester, but it is up to each student to take advantage of these resources and make the semester an intense linguistic and cultural experience.



The easiest way for prospective students and their parents to contact Professor Weiss the resident director of the Dijon program for this fall, is by e-mail:

Information relating to travel and similar arrangements can be obtained from the Off-Campus Study Office at Colby. The e-mail address is:, and the phone number is: 207-859-4500.


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