France: Pau - French Language and European Studies

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USAC welcomes students to come study abroad at the University of Pau in France! USAC's French and European Studies program gives students the opportunity to study in this small, charming city set against the magnificent Pyrenees.

Courses available at the University of Pau are taught in both English and French, and range from French language courses at all levels to multi-disciplinary options focusing on French studies. Professional Internships can also be arranged for students of at least Junior standing who have taken no less than 4 semesters of college level French or equivalent.

  • Live in charming Pau, a lovely small city set against a stunning backdrop of the Pyrenees and with more green space per inhabitant than any other European city
  • Choose from courses in Intensive French plus a choice of electives
  • Enjoy field trips to the Pyrenees and the French Basque coast
  • Take the optional Paris/Loire Tour and soak up all the “City of Light” has to offer
  • Participate in sports activities such as skiing, hiking, yoga, dance and more

Questions & Answers

I had class Monday-Thursday from morning until evening (2 hours of class then 2 hours of break, etc.) and I travelled almost every weekend.


based on 28 reviews
  • Academics 8.4
  • Support 8.9
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 8.3
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 15 of 28
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Pau, France

Pau is a wonderful little city—it’s not a rural village or a big city, but a great middle ground of the two. It’s a great place to study as the academics are intense but fun, and it’s also a central area from which you can travel to multiple areas: for example, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Biarritz, St Jean de Luz, Lourdes, the Pyrenees and multiple cities in Spain are all within three hours of Pau. The Pyrenees offer incredible views and beautiful areas which are all accessible in Pau. For travel, however, you have to really figure out the public transportation system. It is fairly cheap, but because it is run by the government, it can be subject to strikes or delays with no notice; however, overall it was still an effective way to get around. Pau itself is a quiet city, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to go clubbing every night. But if you want to learn the French language, make great friends, explore the world or just live abroad for a semester, I would definitely recommend Pau.

How can this program be improved?
No improvements necessary, the program is great.
Yes, I recommend this program
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An Im-Pau-rtant Experience

I went on a study abroad to Pau, France and it changed my life. I met and studied with people of all ages and all nationalities and got to learn about each of their cultures. I lived with a hist family with whom I developed a great respect and love for the French lifestyle - we did everything together from travelling to cooking to going on casual picnics and strolls in the park - my favorite memory. I got to travel and see the world and experience all types of cultures and people. After the program, I desperately want to go back and make a career for myself in France one day. I’d advise future abroad students to never be afraid to speak! Use your language skills at the market, the restaurant, etc!

How can this program be improved?
Make sure everyone has as great a host family and teacher as I did
Yes, I recommend this program

Pau Tips

I had no idea what to expect going into this trip, which is the reason I’m writing this review. First of all, Pau is an adorable town that has a cute town center and public transportation running through every corner of the city, so I wouldn’t worry about that. The program heads will literally walk everyone to the station where you buy bus passes if you need them. My husband and I lived ~15 minutes away from campus and we walked everyday and were fine! We went for the Fall semester, and the weather was absolutely perfect the entire time. It rains a little, but we loved that. Also, if you go during the summer, be aware that almost no places have air conditioning! Only the movie theater will provide you with come cool air, and movie tickets are really cheap. This program is excellent at taking you on excursions and showing you important French places and history. Go on EVERY excursion and free tour that you can! Even if it’s in French and you’re not that confident! Be ready to make friends because you will attend each excursion with the same people. However, while these people are from all over the United States (and probably have differing cultures), it’s a little easy to only hang out with other Americans and not branch out (as far as social life goes). And that’s not really the point of studying abroad, so socialize with French people and other foreigners! They’re all very nice. That brings me to my favorite aspect of this program, which is the fact that everyone takes a Language Placement test at the beginning of the semester and is matched up with all other foreigners in that school at the same level (except for European students from Erasmus). In my class, there were people from Russia, Japan, Austrailia, Iraq, Brazil, Ghana, and more! We saw each other everyday and we created intense bonds. This was my favorite part of the whole experience, I will never forget those relationships. That said, I do wish I would’ve socialized with more French kids my age, but they already seem to have their own friends at school so they’re harder to approach—Be brave! The teachers are incredibly nice and the classes are VERY manageable. It’s very easy to get straight A’s, (if you do the homework), so don’t worry about that. Don’t worry if you can’t understand your teacher on the first day, you’ll be able to understand every word s/he says by the end of the semester. Almost all host family experiences I heard of were positive, but every single story about living in the dorms was also positive. Other foreigners live in the dorms and that can create even more friend opportunities. Plan a few trips before hand, but you don’t have to book every single thing because plans will change and maybe you’ll want to follow a friend group going to a specific place on the weekend. Try to travel every weekend!! See as much as you can. Consult RyanAir and Flixbus for everything!! Also the trains are very nice and stop through Pau. Learning French will happen if you just try to communicate. Yes, it will be hard and awkward, but once you do it you will gain confidence. Last tip: Get excited to study abroad!! This will give you memories to last a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps more organization and specific schedules from the USAC office—when we arrived we had no idea where to go for events and didn’t understand that USAC was separated from other foreigners and the host students.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Pau 2016

USAC Pau was an incredible experience. I had the oppoturnity to study abroad twice once with Kent State University in Florence, Italy and with USAC in Pau, France. I felt that I had a better experience in Florence because of the housing location in the center of Florence. The only downside to USAC Pau is that the dorms are located farther from the city center. Public transit is a great option but not necessarily reliable as the French workers often strike leaving the busses not in operation. The staff is wonderful and the location is fantastic. If you are able to travel on the weekends, you have many options! Bordeaux, Bayonne, Biarritz, Lourdes, Barcelona, Toulouse, Lyons, Paris you name it!! The food is wonderful as well! Try foie gras (a local speciality) and the local wine Jurançon. Excellent trip and would absolutely recommend!

How can this program be improved?
It would be wonderful if housing was downtown.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Best Semester of College

The town of Pau is a quaint yet modern. The French streets and centre-ville are quintessentially French and this town turned out to be the perfect place to study abroad. It is easy to travel in the surrounding area to make for a weekend adventure but having Pau as a home base facilitates being in school throughout the week and being successful in class, including consistent attendance. My program through USAC as well as a course I was taking, accommodated dates and times as well as activities and guides for weekend visits to other towns and regions. Personally, my whole undergraduate career was leading up to my study abroad experience, and I was thinking ahead of time what it would be like once I returned home and how I could use the experience abroad to affect my life after I returned home, in work and school and my general outlook on life. Study abroad affected all of these aspects in a positive way.
Something important that I didn't anticipate was that my immune system would be affected and I would get sick while I was abroad. This happened twice where I had to go to a physician but I was able to use the University medical services and the people there were very helpful and understanding and the services as well as medicine were not nearly as expensive as they would have been back home. That was a pleasant surprise, but these services were also covered through the study abroad insurance. I also found that I needed to commute to school, while it is not easy to choose where a future host family lives, it might be useful to mention that proximity to campus is a key factor in your housing preferences. Getting lost is just something that happens and will happen often, if you are someone who has a great sense of direction I would offer your services or assert yourself amongst friends and classmates! International phone plan is also absolutely necessary, especially being able to use internet without wifi (which will happen often because there is not nearly as much free wifi in France as there is in the U.S.). If you have arranged for a host family, make this a priority, this is THE best way to improve your french outside of class, and only a couple hundred dollars more than the dorms (but includes more meals in a family setting, laundry and in most cases wifi at home, a kitchen, etc.). Also know that arrangements for housing aren't all clearly laid out ahead of time, each family is particular and will generally offer more than they are expected because I found that most French families are generous. The program will make every effort to match your specific and ideal requests with the right family and do not hesitate to ask for exactly what you would like in a home stay experience.

How can this program be improved?
more telling/descriptive information from USAC about the specific aspects of daily living and connecting earlier on with the host family would help alleviate prior anxiety. Life in France is very, very different than life in the U.S. and a sneak peek of what that looks like before you have to enter it all at once may be helpful and reassuring for some students.
I would go grocery shopping every couple of days for food and I would pack little lunches to save money or in some cases I would bring leftovers from dinner with my family at home. You might want to bring a lunchbox with to pack food during the day.
Yes, I recommend this program
Packing Light ;)

Home Away from Home

Last year, I packed my bags in the middle of July and headed across the globe for five months to explore continental Europe and improve my French. I can whole-heartedly say that living in Pau was one of my favorite, most cherished times of my life, and here's why:

1. I lived with a French family who welcomed me into their home and city with unparalleled hospitality. I had two host sisters who would invite me to go get dinner or coffee, watch movies, or take walks around the neighborhood, and my host parents would teach me to cook traditional French recipes and help me with my language homework. Dinners with my host family were accompanied by hours and hours of French conversation. I learned so much about French culture through these dialogues (not to mention vocabulary!).

2. My French professors were incredibly helpful. Spending hours in a classroom reading, writing, and speaking French can get tiresome, but my professors were passionate about helping us improve. We often discussed French culture versus our home countries, and since my classmates were from all over the world (Angola, Columbia, South Korea, China, etc.), I learned so much about so many different cultures. I made amazing friendships with both French and international students, and it was helpful to practice my French with peers while learning about them and their home countries in the process.

3. Pau is a city unlike any other. Nestled near the Pyrénées mountain along the western coast of France, it takes less than two hours to reach either the mountains or the beach. Pau has a small-town vibe, but if you look for a night-life, you can find it. The centre-ville is quaint and filled with rich history, but it is also a technologically-advanced city, not to mention absolutely beautiful. There are always events taking place, plus tons of restaurants and shops. Anything you're looking for, you can find it in Pau!

I always knew I wanted to study in France, but was unsure how to choose the city. What I wanted most was an authentic French experience with an opportunity to speak French 24/7. Pau went above and beyond my expectations. By the end of the semester, I was able to have complete conversations with total strangers in French; my playlists were filled with French music that I had picked up from the radio, my host sisters, and other friends; I could walk all around the city without a map and know exactly where I was. Pau is the perfect town for a study abroad experience, and USAC's connections with host families and the university were second to none.

As for myself, Pau truly became a home away from home and I cannot wait to visit again.

Yes, I recommend this program

Fall 2017

This program represented many firsts for me. It was my first time studying abroad, my first time visiting France, and the first time I’ve stayed with a host family.

The two greatest benefits of the program are the fact that Your French skills will definitely improve and that you will meet wonderful people from many different backgrounds. This USAC program is special in that regard because the students you find in your classes are not just your fellow Americans, they come from other international backgrounds. Incidentally, I was the only USAC student in my french classes.

I must also use this space to give a shout out to the Pau Staff. I couldn’t have succeeded in the program without their continuous support.

If you’d like to take advantage of a genuine international experience in a quaint french town with a lot to offer then this program is for you. If you’re serious about becoming a francophone then don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it!

Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome program and university for learning French!

L'Université de Pau et des pays de l'adour is only of those universities that brings in students from all over the world, so I met people from all over. At the same time, the program helps big time in connecting its students to French students/locals. Both in and out of class, my French level skyrocketed. Also, lots of cool excursions and things to see and do in/around Pau. Hoping I get to go back someday!

How can this program be improved?
I do recall wishing to have more free time from classes – maybe the schedule was a little hectic for making friends and meeting up with them outside class.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Study abroad in France, do it!

My summer in France was amazing. The USAC staff was great at making the before process really smooth. My advisor had no problem answering all of my questions.

My host family was really nice and made an effort to help me feel like part of their family. They took me on all of their family trips and even helped me practice my French. Even just spending a couple weeks in France made a big difference in my language skills.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Vive le 64

The USAC Pau program provides numerous opportunities for all students learning French. The academic set-up of this program is to give all students an equal chance to learn French according to their abilities and speed. The onsite staff and professors greatly encouraged and supported all students regardless of level and that gave us a welcoming and accommodating feeling in a city we were new to. In addition to the in-class academics, USAC organized tours and field trips throughout the semester to nearby cities and towns. Not only did it give us the chance to improve our French outside of the classroom, but to also get acquainted to our surroundings and the culture of Southwest France.

The city itself is undeniably picturesque. The main street in Pau, Boulevard des Pyrenees, where much of the night life can be found, has the backdrop of the Pyrenees mountain range. With that, there are many opportunities for studies to experience the outdoors with university-led hiking, skiing and kayaking trips.

While Pau may be hard to find on the map of France, it is a phenomenal city with a phenomenal program. The amount of knowledge that I gained in not only French, but also about myself and the world is innumerable.

I highly suggest that you consider this program. The onsite staff, the host families, the professors and the community as a whole was so extremely welcoming. Pau will forever be considered another home for me.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Charming Little Town in France

I went to Pau, France for about 5 weeks during the summer of 2013 through USAC. I took many years of French in high school and wanted to be able to use some of what I learned in real world applications. I had also never been to Europe before and thought this would be a great place to visit for the first time.

Pau is a town of about 100,000 close to the Basque country in Southern France. It's quaint and quintessentially French--a lot of the customs are still observed in Pau, such as closing shops down on Sunday, that you probably won't find in a big city like Paris. Moreover, if you're looking to practice your French, Pau would be a great city since not a lot of people automatically speak English back to you. Even though it's a small town, there's still a downtown with bars, museums, restaurants and shops, so you won't get bored, especially if you're there for a short period of time.

The program directors were great--they addressed all of our concerns in a timely manner. The course instructors were very good as well--they were local French professors who taught foreign students. I definitely felt that my French improved greatly after my month abroad.

Pau is close to bigger cities such as Toulouse and Bordeaux--only about 2 hours away by train. The city is also close to beaches on the Atlantic ocean as well as the resort city of San Sebastian, Spain, and the program includes enough free time to visit all of these places. The optional Paris tour was great too--got to see all the major sites in just a few days.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Looking for something?

Open-minded people. Spirituality. A family. A new career outlook. Perhaps your old self. France, like many other countries, is a pathway that will lead you to places you never thought could be so beautiful had you not decided to take them.
Everyday is something new. In France, a day in the life for me was so much more than the smells of warm chocolate croissants coming from the patisseries, or the rain splashing down on my umbrella. It was learning about myself through the struggles of language barriers, to the unfortunate forgetfulness of my boarding pass, to the talks about life with local taxi drivers at 2am. You will never be able to limit what you are looking for if you decide to embark the path of studying abroad, because they will undoubtedly find you, and prove you wrong in all of the best ways imaginable.

Yes, I recommend this program
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My semester abroad in Pau was life changing. I learned so much about the French culture and also more about myself. I met amazing friends that I know I will be close with forever. My French was at a beginner's level when I arrived and it improved a lot. I am even thinking about studying in Pau again to finish my French minor. Pau is the perfect little city. It has great shopping, dining, and nightlife. I made so many French friends that I still keep in touch with today. I lived with a host family. The program takes you on fun trips to cities such as Bordeaux and Toulouse. Ryan and Robina were so helpful. The more I write,the more I miss Pau! While I was abroad, I was lucky enough to travel to 10 other countries.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I would change would be my living arrangement. I lived with a host family and I did not get the specific number of meals per month.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Most Interesting Summer of My Life

I never thought I'd learned so much from going to Pau for my study abroad program. It was interesting at first knowing that not many people there spoke English; thus, I had to really use my French to get around.

The good: The city is beautiful, and I have missed it everyday ever since I left. The people are friendly, the foods are to die for. La Maison Macaron and Georgio's became the top visited places for me and my friends. It's a small city, so getting lost wasn't really a concern. I usually stayed on Marechal Joffre and around to check out the stores. The buses will be your best friends if you don't want to walk the miles.

You have to speak French! And if you don't, you'll end up confused. I love the field trips and the activities we did outside class. My first term I had Marie-Helene as my teacher, and she had been the best teacher I'd ever had my entire life. If I go to Pau again, I'll make sure to find her.

The second term of the program we got international students coming in, and it was a blast. I ended up placed in the class with bunch of Europeans who had spoken French fluently, and I thought I was about to lose my head. But it turned out wonderful and I had learned so much.

Ryan and Pauline are the nicest, sweetest people I'd ever had as advisers. They're very helpful and they are so full of love.

The ugly: Unfortunately, the city wasn't as safe as I thought it'd be. The first week of school, someone snatched away my laptop while I was using it on campus. So the first week I ended up visiting the police station twice. They told me that they'd send me documents and information, which never came.

Internet was horrible in the dorms. I had to walk to McDo to skype and do some research. After the laptop incident on campus, I got too scared to stay on campus for too long to use the internet.

The weather was a nightmare when I got there. It rained all the time and it was difficult for us to get around without getting soaked. However, we got used to it and started enjoying it.

The bad: It was so hard to leave! I wanted to stay so badly that I made plans to just buy a house there and stay there forever with some friends. The month of sales was horrible too in a way that I couldn't help but visit the stores everyday to buy something.

What I'd have done differently:
Pack lightly. With the sales going on, I ended up throwing out some stuff to have space in my luggage.
Chain my laptop to my arm or something.
Get internet access for my dorm.
Bring more jackets and sweaters, and long pants. I know I had no problem with it, but a lot of my friends brought shorts and it was freezing at some points.
Extend my stay.

How can this program be improved?
The staff need to prepare themselves for the worst that can happen. Everyone told me the campus was very safe, but obviously it wasn't when my laptop was snatched away from my hands. I remember a very nice French couple who found me on campus took me to the police station, and I returned back to the dorm that night feeling horribly shaken. I had to wait for someone from USAC to take me back to the police station the next morning, and afterwards, it wasn't very nice when I heard, "You still can make it to class. You have about half an hour to an hour left. Before it's marked as an absence."

I was traumatized! I wouldn't want to miss my class either if it wasn't for the police station appointment. And the day after, the staff made an announcement that all students were responsible for their belongings and should not stay on campus late. Also, I was told that it wasn't a big deal and I shouldn't be bummed. Honestly, I never even thought of asking them to replace my laptop. I just wanted them to tell me that everything would be okay, that bad things happened every once in awhile. But no, instead I got cold shoulder and was avoided for a week or two. I won't mention names, but if only the staff could be nicer and more understanding, it'd be wonderful.

They need internet in the dorms. I always spotted people at McDo, using the internet there because they never got internet in their rooms.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Realistically Amazing

I had an amazing time in Pau, but realistically there were some struggles and things that should and I hope are improved for future students. I loved the option to stay with a host family and the staff makes sure to pick families that want to have students and take you in as a part of their family.

Host Family Tips:
Eat supper with your family, ask them about their day, make an effort to get to know the, let them know if you won't be around, be respectful, keep your room clean, if you have a problem talk to them about it, address conflict in a mature and respectful manner.

The staff was very welcoming in Pau, but I didn't really think they were very helpful. I can understand it because they have people from all over participating, but it can still be frustrating.

Tips for Communicating with Staff:
Be specific about your questions, decide if they are the appropriate resource (it may be better to ask your host family or home university or someone that has previously been on the program), keep them informed on your weekend travels, remember they are not travel agencies.

The weather in Pau can be frustrating. It rained over 50% of the days I was there. I actually ended up keeping a journal and writing whether or not it rained each day I was there. When it starts getting cold (late October/November) the mix of cold and rain can be quite chilly and dreary.

Tips for Clothes:
Bring warm clothes, RAIN BOOTS, warm socks, umbrella, LAYERS, scarves, gloves, hat, etc.

Finally remember to enjoy yourself and to try to focus on the positives. Your experience is what you make it and usually thoughts affect how you feel. If you are upset about something it will probably affect and possible ruin your time. Remember that you have the power to decide how much you will enjoy your time. Also it can be pretty tough to meet other French students that aren't a part of the program. You have to be the one to take action to make French friends. It does help to go out and experience life in Pau to make these friends or meet people.

How can this program be improved?
More interaction with French students.
Yes, I recommend this program


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USAC is a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities that collaborates to offer affordable, academic and authentic study abroad programs. There are abundant opportunities to immerse in the culture, history, and academics of other countries providing...