If you’re thinking of studying French at the University of Leeds, I hope this will give you an idea of what to expect in your first year, and what your options for second and third year are. I am a second year French and History of Art student and I really enjoy my study of French at Leeds.
One of my main reasons for studying French was simply because after seven years of studying the language in secondary school, including two exchange trips, I really wanted to continue learning so that I wouldn’t forget the language and might eventually become fluent.
The first thing to know about studying French, or any modern language at Leeds, is that the university has a really strong system of “joint honours” degrees, wherein they offer degree courses that combine two subjects, and this is particularly prevalent in the languages department. Courses offered include combining French with any other language, as well as subjects as varied as Cultural Studies, Economics, or International Relations. The ability to study a joint honours program allows you to have greater breadth over your degree, and I personally find that it means what I’m studying always feels varied and new; there’s never any monotony. There are over one hundred people studying French in each year at Leeds, but only around ten do French as a single honours program.
In your first year as a joint honours student you will take two compulsory modules in French, one focussing on language learning, and one on French cultural studies as a field. The language module has three contact hours per week, consisting of a lecture, a seminar and a conversation class with a native speaker.
The first-year workload is usually quite light on a day-to-day basis. For the language module there are some weekly tasks, and for the culture module there usually is not much more than some seminar preparation and reading the set texts (there are 6 over the academic year). Towards the end of each term, both strands have pieces of assessed coursework that need to be submitted. Balancing both can be quite stressful! Each module also has an exam in the summer exam season.
I would say the best thing about doing French at Leeds is the variety it gives you: in the first-year culture module you look at plays, books, film, and history, ranging from the 17th to the 20th century. The topics change every few weeks, so it’s more of an introduction to the possibilities. However, in second year you have a choice of modules that look in-depth at topics such as French history, politics, film, modern and medieval literature, and poetry. There is also an optional translation module, which is useful for vocational French skills. I can’t think of another BA degree that gives you such a wide choice of topics to study. This is certainly an advantage of the course at Leeds in particular, as the French courses at a lot of other universities are often very literature-focussed, without much room for other avenues of exploration.
For the year abroad, there are three options; a study placement at a university that Leeds has a partnership with, a work placement in a Francophone country, or a placement in a French school with the British council.
Most students go to France, as that’s where most of the opportunities are, but the university doesn’t restrict students to France. For the study options there are universities in France and two in Quebec, Canada. You pick three universities you are happy to go to and people are almost always allocated to one of their choices.
For the work experience options, students can apply to companies that the university partnered with, or find their own. This is made easier by the fact that the second-year compulsory language module covers how to write CVs and cover letters to the standard that French employers expect. The British Council gives students the chance to teach in French schools, which you can do either in France, or in one of France’s overseas regions such as Martinique. However, the downside to this option is that whilst you can express preferences, there is no guarantee as to where you will be allocated.
Like practically every Leeds uni course, there is a French society, and in first year especially it’s a great way to meet your course mates. They do a variety of socials, from outings to night clubs to film nights. There is also an annual French society trip to Paris, usually either in reading week or the very early part of the Christmas holidays. The committee is made up of second years, and they also give you the chance to sell required books you no longer need in second year to first years. Overall, French at Leeds is an interesting and rewarding course, and the fact that your fellow students do such a diverse selection of joint honours combinations means that you meet lots of different people.