France (grades 10 – 12) | Language Learning

Immerse yourself in French language and culture as you explore the cosmopolitan cities and off-the-beaten-track villages of France on this summer language immersion program for high school students. Work alongside traditional Breton shopkeepers in a coastal village, learn to make artisanal truffles from a French chocolatier, savor high culture and hidden neighborhoods in the City of Light, go zip-lining and canyoning in the Alps, and spend a homestay week becoming part of a French family.

July 2, 2016  –  August 3, 2016
Students completing grades 10 – 12
Language Learning
Typical Group:
16-18 students, 2 leaders
33 days


  • Discuss famous works of art at the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Centre Pompidou — in French!
  • Enjoy a crêpe or a pain au chocolat as you relax at a Parisian sidewalk café.
  • Put your French to the test by spending a morning shadowing a local Breton baker, shop owner, or farmer.
  • Celebrate Bastille Day with your homestay siblings and their friends.
  • With the help of professional guides, try your hand at windsurfing, canyoning, or rock climbing.


While you are visiting the world-renowned galleries of the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, gliding by téléferique over glacial peaks and fields of summer snow in the Alps, and experiencing day-to-day life with a French family, expect your language skills to improve as you get know the essence of France. In vibrant cosmopolitan cities and charming, off-the-beaten track rural towns and villages, spend time getting to know local culture and history. Visit monuments and museums, go swimming, hiking, biking, canyoning, and canoeing, and become a part of the community through your many interactions in French with local people.

Each day, your leaders create conversational French exercises designed to help you communicate more easily with the many French people you meet. Language lessons are fun, interactive, vocabulary-based, and relate directly to our experiences as a group. Other language learning activities include scavenger hunts, games, and informal interviews with local people. The goal is to improve your fluency in French by building vocabulary and speaking confidence.  The best way to do this is by talking with local people. A minimum of two years of French is required to participate in this program.

We begin in a traditional Breton fishing village on the remote coast of Brittany. We explore the area by bike and put our French to the test by working alongside local people in cafés, boutiques, and local farms. Six days are set aside to savor metropolitan Paris – the monuments, museums, markets, and cafés. We then board a train for Alsace, where we have the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in everyday french life by spending a week with a local family. After saying goodbye to our French siblings and friends, we head south to the university town of Aix-en-Provence. Walk from our hotel in the heart of town to Matisse’s studio and favorite vistas, and discover the colors, tastes, and smells that have inspired the imagination of artists and travelers worldwide. Take day trips to meet with producers of olive oil, lavender, and Champignons de Paris. Then it’s on to St. Raphael for four days on the Riviera, where we tube and sail on the glittering Mediterranean by day,  and peruse markets along the beach by night. Our final stop is Chamonix, high in the French Alps, where we are welcomed by Putney friends in their 18th century traditional home, nestled in a village between two mighty glaciers. Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, is the backdrop for our final week of adventurous exploration.  

High School Students in France on Summer Language Program

Try your hand at chocolate making with a French confectioner!

Accommodations in France are varied, ranging from comfortable Old World-style hotels to a simple dormitory-style mountain chalet. Residences are often run by wonderful families or individuals who play a role in setting the tone for our experience and who facilitate interaction with local people. We start out each day with a French breakfast at our residence. For other meals, we generally eat in restaurants, or bring a picnic with us on excursions.

“My comprehension improved drastically, as did my fluency. I learned many new words, and I have a new understanding of the culture. I really loved my homestay family. My homestay sister was really nice and we watched lots of movies together. She also gave me access to her book collection so I was able to do some reading. We are still in contact right now and I hope she will come to visit me one day.”

— Lily Schwartz, Brentwood School, Los Angeles, CA

During the homestay week, you stay with a French family who has a child of a similar age. This is a unique opportunity to experience French life as it is really lived. The families are carefully selected by our local homestay representative, a trusted longtime friend of Putney, who chooses them from among her friends and contacts in the community. The group gets together for excursions several times during the week, and both leaders stay in town for the duration of the homestay.

We travel primarily by train, which is the way most French people move around the country. Occasionally we use a chartered bus or local public transportation for excursions or short transfers to and from rail stations.

What to Expect

You should come to the program excited about immersing yourself in French language and culture, open to new experiences, and willing to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and make the most of your time in France. You are required to speak French and must sign a pledge that you will do so, not only with the many French people you meet, but also with the leaders and within the group. The program is active and the group spends much of its time outdoors. While you do not need to be athletic, you should come prepared to be physically active and open to trying new things.

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer travel programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.


$9,190 plus airfare



Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2014 Language Learning France A Blog.

Unit A Itinerary

*This program is for students who will have just completed grades 10-12, and who have taken at least two years of French.

This program begins and ends at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Departure • Join your group for four and a half weeks of language immersion and adventure travel in France. Gather at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to meet your program leaders and depart as a group for France.

Brittany • Fly into Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, and board a train to spend five days in a rural fishing and farming village tucked into the remote coast of Brittany. Explore the area by bike and live among the friendly Breton people on a small family-run farm that also serves as an inn.

“During my homestay my host grandmother created a yummy, special, six-course lunch complete with good conversation — in french — and freshly shucked oysters (a favorite of mine). What makes this memory so special is how uniquely authentic and hospitable it was — I felt like a member of this amazing French family.”

— Lucy Spahr, Carleton Washburne School, Winnetka, IL

Paris • Six days are set aside to enjoy Paris–the monuments, museums, markets, and cafés; the Left Bank, Île de la Cité, and Montmartre. Visit Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and more.

Family Life in Alsace • The next stop is Alsace, where you have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in French language and culture by spending a week with a local family. Both leaders remain in the same town as the students during the homestay, and the group gets together for excursions throughout the week.

Provence • Next, head south to Aix-en-Provence to spend four days exploring this university town, and taking day trips throughout the region. See Van Gogh’s home, Cezanne’s studio, and swim in the Gard River beneath the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct.

Teens on Beach on France Summer Program

Play in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea during our stay on the French Riviera.

The Riviera • Continuing south to the Mediterranean coast, spend four days relaxing on the sunny beaches of the Riviera in the town of Saint Raphaël.

The French Alps • The journey ends in a small village near Chamonix in the French Alps. Stay for four days at a mountain chalet opposite Mont Blanc, the highest point in Western Europe, and an area of stunning natural beauty.

Return • On the last morning of the program, take a private bus to Geneva, Switzerland, and depart for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, accompanied by one of the program leaders.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Background • From the rocky northern coast to the rolling pastures, orchards, and sunflower fields of central France, to Mediterranean beaches and majestic snow-capped Alpine peaks, France’s spectacularly diverse natural beauty and rich history and culture, make it a favorite destination for travelers. Explore the magnificent chateaux and opulent palaces of Louis XIV, the boulevards of Paris, and discover the local stories of small towns and rural villages. Use your language skills to get to know French people and bring history to life by tying it into modern day culture.

Paris, France on summer language program for teens

The bateau mouche glides along the Seine past the illuminated monuments of Paris.

Population • France is home to approximately 65 million people. Paris and Aix-en-Provence are the largest cities we visit (populations 2.5 million and 125,000, respectively).  We spend most of our time in smaller cities and rural towns. In Brittany and in the Alps we stay in communities of about 3,000 people. The population of Blois, in the Loire Valley, is about 50,000.

Language • French is the only official language of France, although there are over forty regional dialects, including Breton, Provencal, Picard, Gascon, Limousin and Alsacian.

“My greatest sense of accomplishment was exploring the ‘hidden’ parts of Paris. Many parts of Paris are not well known and I did have a chance to explore them. Personally, I gained a better understanding of French and a historical understanding as well.”

— Yefei Yao, Weber Middle School, Port Washington, NY

Climate • Summers in France are pleasantly warm. Daytime high temperatures are generally in the mid-80s, though it is cooler in Brittany and in the Alps, where afternoon temperatures seldom exceed 80 and nights dip into the 50s.

Cuisine • France prides itself on its refined and delectable cuisine. After experiencing the crackle of a fresh baguette, enjoying a warm goat cheese salad, or devouring a molten chocolate cake, you can’t help but agree. Each region of France has its own specialty, usually a product of the region’s climate, history, and customs. While northern French cuisine is a hearty reflection of the region’s farming industry and proximity to the Atlantic coast, southern French cuisine showcases Mediterranean and Italian influences. Throughout our exploration of France, we complement meals at restaurants and bistros with delicious picnics and plenty of stops at cafés and boulangeries.

Cheese French Markets on Summer Program for Teens

The food in France is outstanding! Sample some of the many varieties of regional cheeses, pastries, and confections throughout your journey.

Currency • After centuries of using the French Franc, France converted to the Euro in 2002.  An ATM card is the most convenient way to access cash in France.

Voltage France uses 230V/50Hz current and type C plugs (two round pins).  You should bring a universal plug adapter, and may need a voltage converter to run some U.S. electronics.

Visa  U.S. citizens are not currently required to have a visa to enter France.  Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements.


The Language learning France program is directed by Susannah Poland. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

Susannah Poland

Education: Stanford University, B.A. Before joining Putney, Susannah conducted research at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on emergent African feminisms and contemporary female artists for forthcoming exhibitions. In spring 2013 she took a leave from the museum to conduct fieldwork on Mount Everest, in Nepal, for Umea University School of Business and Economics. She is fluent in French and programs trips in Africa and Europe. Susannah has a particular affection for the French — she lived in France for several summers as an adolescent, practices French cooking with her Francophone mother, and spent last summer apprenticing with beekeepers in the French Alps and southeastern countryside.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement – Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.