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French attache promotes study abroad

Students in French-language classes at John Burroughs High School were visited by a representative of the French Embassy promoting study abroad and university programs in the nation known for its art, literature and food.

But Thomas Vidal, a cultural attaché with the Consulate General of France, said his government is hoping to not only promote French-language learning among U.S. students in general, but also to attract those with an interest in business, science or other technical fields to study at French universities.

Tuition and other expenses at the publicly funded schools are often significantly less expensive than comparable U.S. schools, he said, but the diplomas are just as valuable.

Vidal was also joined by four students from the University of Southern California who had taken part in study abroad programs. Each touted various advantages to studying in France, and all mentioned the lower tuition costs.

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Dossé-Via Trenou, a recent USC graduate who studied in France for her junior year, said she’s the first person in her family to graduate from a U.S. university. Both her parents graduated from French universities, she said.

“One thing that they don’t have is the debt that I’m going to have,” Trenou said.

The classes in France were as challenging as in the U.S., if not more so, she said. But she also gained experience and independence outside the classroom, living in a tiny Parisian studio apartment and traveling to several countries, including Egypt.

“I’m from Atlanta,” Trenou said. “Four hours away from Atlanta is Los Angeles — four hours away from Paris is Cairo.”

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Part of what enabled that travel, she said, is that while her financial aid package for the year — combining loans, scholarships and grants — was enough to pay USC tuition alone, in France it was several thousand dollars more than the cost of tuition, room and board. She used what was left over to help fund her excursions.

Tuition for all students at France’s public universities is heavily subsidized by the government, Vidal said. He said the advantages to France in offsetting tuition for foreigners are twofold: it helps expand the reach of the French language, keeping it “alive” throughout the world, but it also creates global connections that can have economic or other advantages.

Someone who studies business in a French university and returns to the U.S., for example, “is going to keep France like his partner,” Vidal said. Professionals in other arenas might also be more apt to collaborate with French professionals if they speak the language and know the culture.

Javier MacOssay is an engineering student at USC, where he said studying French gives him a break from the many math and science courses he takes. He said it’s also a way to make himself stand out to employers.

“I’m more appealing to them than if I just speak English,” MacOssay said.

Yvonne Oliver, a French teacher at John Burroughs High School, said she felt it was important to have the USC students discuss their educational experiences and the advantages of studying in France to show her students it’s a possibility for them.

“In a global world right now, I think that American students would really benefit from seeing alternatives,” Oliver said. “They could not only save money, but also discover a world of opportunities.”


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