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Where Should You Study French Abroad on a Budget?

Girls in Morocco, Hiking, Atlas Mountains

Almost everyone would like to have a Ferrari. But yet, very few people do. Why? The reason is not lack of desire, but cost. You have to pay a lot of money for that Italian V-12 with the six-speed transmission and the high-performance tires. To many people, studying French abroad feels the same way.

But what if studying French abroad didn't have to cost an arm and a leg?

But what if it didn't have to cost an arm and a leg? What if you could get that sexy exotic sports car for the same price as your mom's minivan? That doesn't happen much in the world of used cars, but it CAN for your study abroad!

And so with only just a little bit more further ado, we at Go Overseas present you with the top destinations to study French abroad -- for cheap!

Québec City, canada

Québec City, Canada

Bonjour, eh! Yes, our delightful neighbors to the north have more to offer than just great bacon and hockey, the greatest sport on earth (come at me, football). Colonized by the English as well as the French, the province of Québec holds a fierce fierté (strength) in their Francophone heritage -- making the capitol of this region, Québec City, first on our list for budget destinations to study French.

We all know Montréal, the buzzing, trendy Euro-hub of Canada. Montréal is all well and bon, but for French learners on a budget, Québec City wins out for several reasons.

First of all, it's a beautiful city to post up in while focusing on French. This charming place is an enchanting mix of old Canada and new Europe, with flying-buttressed cathedrals and trendy government buildings competing for the skyline with the watchtowers of the old fort wall.

If price is the obstacle keeping you from realizing your study abroad dreams, your destination of Québec City is just a long ride in a station wagon away.

New fusion cuisine fights for space on restaurant menus with traditional fare like fish stews and potato poutine. Canada is a beautiful nation with its own native cultures, and Québec City offers, in this author's eyes, the most appealing mix of exotic atmosphere and North American flavor. Public transportation is absolutely excellent, and while English is understood, French is preferred everywhere.

Secondly, Québec City, and its provincial namesake, boast some of the best universities in Canada, including Université Laval, Université du Québec, and McGill University. There are also numerous language schools with a range of options for college students and graduates alike.

And finally, the overall cost of living there is 30% higher than Québec City and American and Canadian students have the opportunity to save thousands of dollars on air travel. If price is the obstacle keeping you from realizing your study abroad dreams, your destination of Québec City is just a long ride in a station wagon away. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for gas and snacks than baggage fees and a plane ticket.

french guiana

French Guiana

Where is Europe? If you pointed to the portion of your map that contains Spain, Germany and Denmark, you're correct. BUT, if you pointed to one particular little country in South America, you're ALSO correct!

Wait, what?

That's right! French Guiana, bordering the nation of Brazil, is a former French colony but now a sovereign member of the European Union, and a legal department of the nation of France! Their currency is the euro, the official and predominant language spoken is French, and the European Space Agency's primary launch site is the Guiana Space Center -- uh, pretty cool, right?

More practically speaking, however, this South American gem is covered primarily in rainforest, with the coastal region dotted with several cities and towns. This means, that while you'll likely be taking courses in the capitol, Cayenne, you'll have the opportunity to explore some of the world's most unique landscapes during or after your studies. In Cayenne, there's both an Alliance Française with group and one-on-one French lessons and the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (UAG) for exchange students.

A tropical South American rainforest nation where you can also study French on the cheap? Where do I sign up?

As for cost of living, French Guiana is not a particularly wealthy nation by traditional economic measures -- the median income in 2013 was roughly nineteen thousand dollars -- but they are rich in history, and their future is bright. The annual carnival celebration is the rival of any in South America, and the Guiana Space Center has absolutely revitalized the area, accounting indirectly for nearly seventeen percent of the GDP.

However, this low cost-of-living is to the benefit of students who want to learn French here: rent is cheap, food is cheaper, and American students will find that a little bit of money goes an awful long way. So if money is holding you back from studying French abroad, look south, not east!

A tropical South American rainforest nation where you can also study French on the cheap? Where do I sign up?

guadeloupe

Guadeloupe

So the mention of warm, tropical places caught your attention, huh? Okay, Go Overseas reader, I’ve got you right where I want you, because our next destination to study French abroad for cheap is the Caribbean nation of Guadaloupe!

Located near Puerto Rico and off the coast of Venezuela, Guadeloupe is, like French Guiana, an official region of France, a member of the European Union, and user of the euro currency. Tourism is a major industry on the island nation, though Guadeloupe is far more than just a pretty face (more on that in a minute).

With an average year-round temperature of a gorgeous 87° Fahrenheit, this literal hot bed of culture, art, dance and music has the sunny skies, sandy beaches and soothing seas to make just about any traveler mistake it for paradise.

Guadeloupe has made a big splash on the world’s cultural stage, as well. The birthplace of the island dance music genre zouk, the indigenous sounds of Guadeloupe can be found in night clubs all over the world, far flung from the tiny little island.

The island is also a player in world literature. The famous poet Saint-John Perse, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960, hailed from Guadeloupe, as does the author Maryse Condé. Other famous Guadeloupeans have added their own personal spice to the global stew. Musician Francky Vincent and French soccer superstar Thierry Henry both trace their roots back to Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe has made a big splash on the world’s cultural stage.

As for French education, all official business and formal education is conducted in the language (though many speak Antillean Creole on a day to day basis). For exchange students, the University of the French West Indies and Guiana has two campuses on the island, one in the country’s largest city of Pointe-à-Pitre, and the other in Saint-Claude (ISEP has an exchange program in Guadeloupe).

For adult learners, numerous language schools and programs, like CESA Languages, the Language Travel Company, and Apple Languages offer courses in Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe.

Prices (and incomes) are lower in Guadeloupe than in mainland Europe or America, which helps with cost of living. However, keep in mind that depending on where (and when) you're coming from, the cost of a plane ticket could set you back a pretty penny. (Pro tip: Hack the airfare price by buying an affordable ticket to Miami, Puerto Rico, or Dominica, and a second, separate ticket to Guadeloupe.)

dakar, senegal

Dakar, Senegal

The westernmost city in the entire “old world,” Dakar is the capital and largest city of the West African nation of Senegal. One of the most important ports in the history of the world, Dakar is a rich, bustling place of commerce, culture, and music.

So what makes Dakar and studying in Senegal so special? Well to start, it's a veritable melting pot of West African ethnic groups and home to some of the most acclaimed artists, musicians, writers, and political minds of all of sub-saharan Africa. It is the hometown of global R&B superstar Akon, author and feminist Mariama Bâ, film director Ousmane Sembène, and singer Youssou N'Dour (now, interestingly enough, the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Senegal). Throughout the city, Dakar is alive with colorful graffiti, sunset drum circles, cultural events, and dance parties that last until sunrise.

Senegal is also notable for being one of the most politically stable nations in Africa -- which means it's been able to make leaps and bounds in overall development, building a national identity separate from it's colonial past, and (probably your largest concern as we go on about studying in West Africa) is pretty darn safe for travelers.

The old-world port city charm of Casablanca, crossed with a modern, world-aspiring young populace makes Dakar one heck of an awesome place to study French on the cheap.

However, for as much work Senegal has put towards building an identity separate of their colonial heritage, the French language has stuck and is now the official language of the country. In Dakar, French is one of the main languages used to communicate (though we recommend learning a few words of Wolof to get by) and numerous language schools and universities offer courses to help students -- local and foreign -- perfect their French fluency.

For exchange students, several excellent public and private universities operate in Dakar, including Cheikh Anta Diop University (the University of Dakar), Université du Sahel, and Dakar Bourguiba University. For independent language learners, ACI Baobab, located in one of Dakar's quieter suburbs, and the downtown Institut Français have options for language courses.

As for your budget French learning needs, dear student, Dakar will be incredibly friendly to you. An inexpensive meal out will cost you around $4 USD, beer hovers around $1 - 2 USD, and a room with a host family averages out around $80 per week.

The old-world port city charm of Casablanca, crossed with a modern, world-aspiring young populace makes Dakar one heck of an awesome place to study French on the cheap.

normandy, france

Normandy, France

Okay, okay, so maybe you want to actually learn French in France. There's just no pleasing you, is there, anonymous Go Overseas reader? Well we thought of that, and we've got the best place in France for you to study on the cheap - Normandy.

Now if you're like me - and any other red-blooded American -- the name Normandy evokes a reverent acknowledgment. The region is the point from which Allied forces invaded continental Europe to liberate it from Nazi control. The area is French, but it holds a special place in American hearts.

You can either go to Paris and pay twenty bucks for a watered-down cocktail, or you can spend some time in Normandy, enjoy a more leisurely pace of life, and get a three-course meal with wine for your same twenty dollars.

But, back to modernity! Located on the North Atlantic coast of France, Normandy is a stark, beautiful region of cliffs, agriculture, and fishing. Unlike the Mediterranean coast of France, Normandy is overcast most days of the year, and often fairly cold. But this hostile beauty gives birth to some of the province's greatest treasures: abundant oysters, sippable ciders, and creamy Camembert cheeses.

Because Normandy is not one of France's larger tourist destinations (aside from the hallowed beach), students looking to study French abroad can get much more of a small town vibe in Normandy -- not to mention all the benefits of small town prices. Look, you can either go to Paris and pay twenty bucks for a watered-down cocktail, or you can spend some time in Normandy, enjoy a more leisurely pace of life, and get a three-course meal with wine for your same twenty dollars.

As far as education is concerned, Normandy has a handful of excellent universities for students looking to advance their studies. Among these is Caen University, founded in medieval times in 1432. Additionally, the Center for Teaching French to Foreigners is located in Normandy, which acts as a primary hub for foreign students who wish to study French in France. Parfait, non?

morocco

Morocco

Although the official languages in Morocco are Arabic and Berber, French still comes in with a shiny bronze metal as the third most spoken language in this former French colony. It is the primary language of commerce and trade in Morocco, as well as being widely used in government and education -- especially in the southern half of the country. Not to mention, Moroccans tend to be impressively multi-lingual.

Those interested in learning more professional French for business or diplomacy should definitely consider studying abroad in Morocco and perhaps try your luck at scoring an internship during your time here.

Now you might be asking us -- why Morocco when you could go to a country that actually speaks French 100% of the time? If your goal is to go to one country, experience one culture, come home after eating too much of just one cuisine, and end up feeling like you missed out on the rest of the entire world, then yes by all means, please skip Morocco.

But if you're kind of down to study abroad in a country smack in between Europe and Africa as this cultural hodgepodge of languages, people, and food (Tajines! Couscous! Mint tea!), then Morocco might have something pretty special in store for you. With Portugal and Spain a quick ferry ride away from Tangier, and the rest of continental Africa at your feet, this is the ideal location to take full advantage of being abroad.

If your goal is to go to one country, experience one culture, come home after eating too much of just one cuisine, and end up feeling like you missed out on the rest of the entire world, then yes by all means, please skip Morocco.

Language schools offer French courses across the country, but Rabat is perhaps the most popular destination with several institutions offering standard and intensive programs for one week or longer. Many of these programs also include homestay options in addition to hotel accommodation, a great choice for those looking for more cultural immersion and local experience. Also consider Marrakesh, where you can sip fresh juice and get lost in it's maze of souks between classes.

In addition to being cheaper than Europe and a safe, traveler-friendly destination, Morocco's location really is unbeatable considering the traveling you can get done from that one plane ticket across the Atlantic ocean.

Where Will You Go?

So are your pockets a little light? Does your bank account not have quite as many zeroes as it used to? Well fret not, Go Overseas'er, for studying French abroad is not out of your reach. You've got options in the Caribbean, both Americas, Africa, and even France itself! So go out there, don't let money be an excuse, and allez-y!

Ready to take a look at a full list of French language courses abroad?
Photo Credits: Madeleine Loney, Québec City, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Dakar, Normandy, and Morocco.
Jason Rodgers

Jason is a hockey player from Virginia, and his passport is a quilt of stamps and visas. He studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris, worked in International Ed in China, celebrated Thanksgiving in Amsterdam and cheered July 4th in Brazil. Jason can recite Sartre in 3 languages just as fast as he can put a puck past your ear. Follow Jason on Twitter @HeyJayJRogers and on Google+.