The Paris Field Study and Internship Program
Traditionally one of the cultural and political centers of Europe, more recently – with Germany – the "motor" of European integration, France remains, for all of that, a solo voice in the choir of Europe. Truly an exception and not only in its own eyes. A magnet for diversity and a bastion of the idea of the Republic, it attracts and exasperates participants, fascinates observers and confounds pundits. French and non-French alike. The game is often subtle, sometimes raucous, always complex.
The core objective for all students in the Paris Field Study and Internship Program, besides fluency in French, is to gain a player's understanding of the French game, to grasp both the attraction and the exasperation of the "Hexagon", at a level understood by those who truly live there.
Paris as an international capital needs no introduction. As the capital of a centralized State and territory and one of the power points of Europe, there is no end to the diversity of activity in the Paris region, whether in science, culture, business, politics, international affairs, administration or creativity of every sort. For IFE in Paris, this astoundingly varied hum of activity serves as so many doorways through the tourist looking glass into the center of the center of France.
Internships in Francophone Europe is a French not-for-profit educational organization, founded in France in 1987. Active in Paris, Strasbourg and Brussels, IFE offers French-language Field Study and Internship programs for undergraduates and recent graduates. These programs are academic programs of education abroad, lasting a semester or longer.
IFE was founded for the purpose of serving as a resource for advancing trans-Atlantic understanding and contributing to French and European studies in the US. It fulfills this mission principally by providing undergraduate and recent post-graduate students the opportunity, the preparation and the necessary structure for effective cross-cultural, French language-based education focused on contemporary French and European society.
Since its creation, IFE has developed close relations with a number of leading American colleges and universities. It has diversified its programs of cross-cultural learning while remaining focused on its central area of expertise: using its field-study-and-internship model to provide students the opportunity to discover France, Belgium and Europe from positions within French (or Belgian) society.
In 2004 IFE earned the "haut patronage" of the French Ministry of Education in recognition of its contributions to these objectives through its various programs.
The IFE mission-driven academic internship
THE FIELD STUDY AND INTERNSHIP MODEL
The Field Study and Internship model uses participation in the professional workplace of another society for language perfecting, inter-cultural learning, and acquiring comparative knowledge in a specific field.
IFE works individually with each student to identify a placement and research strategy that meets his or her academic and career goals.
The four principal elements of the success of this model are: thorough classroom preparation; topic-specific placement; guided independent field research; individualized accompaniment, follow-up, and advising.
All organizations which host IFE interns understand several key points:
This is a trans-cultural experience for both parties.
An IFE student is well prepared in general for the internship and will be ready to take on some responsibility after a short period of adaptation.
The student intern is to be included as part of a working team, interacting on a regular basis with other members of the team.
Hosting an intern requires a commitment of time and space to make sure the internship is a structured learning experience.
The individual placement strategy
IFE enrolls students from all academic fields, placing them in the professional/disciplinary setting of their choice.
A placement strategy for each student-intern is arranged by IFE and the student several months upstream of the start date of the program. The process begins with the “placement form” filed as part of the application for admission. This form provides applicants an opportunity to delineate what they hope to gain from the IFE Field Study and Internship semester as well as to describe their relevant background, skills and any other ideas they may have for the internship.
This approach is the core of IFE programs. In any semester, as many as one-third of IFE students hold internships that have been arranged by IFE for the first time, despite scores of host organizations already known to IFE — but not appropriate for specific student projects.
Types of organizations, range of fields
No two student interns are exactly alike, and IFE works with a broad variety of organization types to ensure a good fit between an intern and the work environment. Government ministries, agencies, not-for-profits, schools, research centers, foundations, corporations, cultural institutions, laboratories, NGO’s, small firms and partnerships, media organizations, are some of the organizational categories in which IFE student interns go to work.
Variety also results from IFE’s commitment to placing students as close to the heart of their chosen interest as possible. A typical IFE student group may include students of art history and museology, physics, international relations with a range of area interests, social and cultural anthropology, sociology and social work, peace studies, French and Francophone literature, economics, English or comparative literature, contemporary art and markets, architecture, biology and pre-medicine or public health, marketing, many types of engineering, mathematics for the social sciences, fashion, public policy, urban studies, Romance languages, management of organizations and still other fields.
The IFE preparatory sessions
Why an intensive preparation before the internship begins?
To enable students to take the step across the line that separates observers from participants, the IFE model begins with five weeks of classroom training, a mix of lectures and workshops combined with site visits. The IFE preparatory sessions provide students with an in-depth introduction to the local setting and culture that will be their milieu for living, working and studying during eighteen weeks.
How does the preparation work?
The pedagogical approach practiced in all three cities mixes lectures with small- group workshop classes for discussion, debate, press review, oral presentation, site visits and lecture/visits. In this way a balance is struck between needed new material on one hand and, on the other hand, a chance to work with new facts and concepts, in French, applying them to a reading of current events.
What is the language of the preparatory session?
All instruction in all three programs is solely in French. French is the only language spoken during the preparatory session in class and outside of class while present on IFE’s premises in the three cities.
What is the content of the preparatory session?
Read more about the specific courses comprising the preparatory curriculum of:
The curriculum of the Paris program
Preparing students to participate in France and Paris
In the Paris program the five-week preparatory session is devoted to a multidisciplinary cross-section of politico-historical, institutional, social and geographical France. Through lecture, discussion, workshops and site visits, this two-course session provides students with the core notions, central principles and social synthesis needed for any understanding of France today.
Students become familiar with the actors, the acronyms, the social problems, the political stakes, the cultural movements, the demographic profile and the territorial diversity of France. As a result of this preparation students become interns ready to take their place, and take part in the work of their host organization.
Course I - The Foundations of French Politics, Policies and Institutions, Yesterday and Today
The purpose of this course is to help students grasp fundamental notions of French society today by studying the roots and the development of the main institutions and concepts of French political life. It also extends this analysis to France’s international policies, decisions and debates, past and present, including its view of its role in the world, focusing on several key themes. The course contributes to the overall purpose of the IFE preparatory session, which is to equip students to participate as fully as possible in French professional life and social and political discussion. For more than two centuries, since the Revolution of 1789, France has constructed its political identity on the basis of a continuous, ongoing modification of its institutions and on the results of a broad variety of forms of political experimentation. No less than 14 regimes and as many constitutions frame the political history of France. This grand-scale political laboratory has forged unique forms of political behavior and doctrines, many of whose influence has extended well beyond the borders of France.
Professor Cauchy explores the fundamental points of this history in a series of lessons which enable students to address such questions as "how much of this change was in discontinuity?" or how much of what occurs in the century following the Revolution of 1789 is a search for a new equilibrium in a European and even world context? Professor Grosser demonstrates how all the important questions and developments of French political life and debate take on an international cast, beginning with the heritage of the old European rivalries, the favored relations between the French crown and the Vatican, the heritage of empire and sovereignty, and moving on to the great security questions of the 20th century, and France’s ongoing self-examination on its role in the world. These lessons – based often on case studies from France’s diplomatic history – illustrate the importance of the changing French institutions as presented by Professor Cauchy for international decision-making.
Taught by Pascal Cauchy and Pierre Grosser.
Course II - Structure, Transformation and Issues in French Society: A socio-cultural approach
The purpose of the course is to equip students from various disciplines with a basic sociological toolkit as a means to get a solid grasp on French society today including the main issues that are currently crucial for the structuring of the French public space. The course also aims to equip students with a basic understanding of French society from a cultural perspective since culture and cultural policy are among the most important of these structuring elements.The course contributes to the overall purpose of the IFE preparatory session, which is to equip students to participate as fully as possible in French professional life and social and political discussion.
In the first of the two parts of the course students will be taught what sociology does and then will apply that to social stratification and transformations in the welfare state, to the rise of spatial segregation, to the question of the "destiny" of French society in the face of immigration, the existence of institutionalized racism, the changing place of women in French society, and metaphorphosis of the French school system. In this way the entire first part is focused on the question of mutations of French society – social, economic, political and cultural, while also demonstrating how the State contributed heavily to these mutations but has been in turn profoundly affected by them.
The second part of the course will examine how changes in French society have both prompted and been affected by changes in the definition of art and culture, especially when art is placed in carefully-defined socio-cultural, political, and esthetic contexts. Ideologically art has moved from elitism to participation. This part of the course will also look at how new discourse on art is reflected in art-making and in cultural practices. The ties between public and culture will also be examined through an analysis of the democratization of art as practiced in France since the end of the 18th century, impacting how art is displayed, how it is taught in schools, its place in the public space, etc. Another question which will inform all of the second part of the course is that of the engagement of artists in the life of the polis and the State as art actor. Pride of place will be given to case study and to developing thoroughgoing definitions of the essential notions in this area of investigation.
Taught by Ugo Palheta and Constance Moréteau.
During the internship period
It is during the internship period that students work individually with their research advisor to delineate a research topic, set an outline, define sources, and produce the independent study field research project.
Student-interns also return weekly to IFE premises to attend a third academic course, a seminar on European issues and stakes.
Course III - Towards a European society
The European Union and European integration are phenomena which must be taken into account in the course of a growing number of IFE placements. This course is designed to give students the background and the tools for reflecting on European issues and thereby incorporating European considerations more skillfully into their work. It is also essential that any young person at the beginning of the 21st Century who acquires an in-depth exposure to a European culture acquire at the same time some knowledge of European affairs. Specifically, the objectives of the course include:
- Familiarize students with the history of European integration including its long historical cycles, the actors of this history, and the changes over time in the concept of integration
- Convey an understanding of basic European institutional structure and function, including the decision-making process
- Present and discuss the various theories of European integration
- Impart a concrete understanding of "Europe" at the level of economic and political integration
- Familiarize students with the broad lines of major European Community policies
- Train students to read and interpret European current events.
This course is taught in four parts each of which raises a fundamental question facing the European Union. The EU is commonly thought to be an integrated economic space if it is anything, but in the first part students learn to question that assumption as they are led to examine the community-nation disconnects which can exist in matters of budget, in fiscal policy, social welfare, labor mobility and other aspects of an economy. Another great issue facing the Union is to what extent it has been able / will be able to create a common public policy space. The second part of the course takes a chronological look at advances and blockages along the path of a political union from 1960 to 2008 and equips students to draw tentative conclusions on the current state of affairs on this question. In the third part of the course the main institutions of the EU and their functioning. The major question here is what direction for the EU between efficiency on one hand and reducing the democratic deficit on the other. Specific attention is paid to the Parliament, the Commission, and member state ministerial-level representation. The fourth part raises the critical question of belonging. This concerns the membership of States and the question of widening the Union and also the question of European citizenship and European identity on the part of individuals.. Taught by Pascal Cauchy.
What is the outcome of the preparatory session?
At the end of the first five weeks of the program, students are much more confident in spoken French and boast a solid familiarity with local issues, concepts, historical foundations, and actors. They are now informed observers, ready to become informed participants.
And competent readers of the daily papers!
The Paris region concentrates significant levels of activity in a boggling diversity of spheres. Besides being the administrative, financial and economic center of France, it is also a capital of scientific research, a capital of cultural activity and creation, as well as a capital of social and political movements for France and beyond.
There is not room here for a representative list of all that students have done and can do through the Paris Field Study and Internship Program. Moreover, IFE hesitates to publish lists of placements, which however long and impressive can forge the mistaken notion that placement at IFE is a list-driven process. Instead, read more on students profiles here: http://www.ife-edu.eu/Student-Profiles
Field research – The internship in writing
The extensive independent study field research paper produced by the student is both the centerpiece of the intern’s professional engagement and the culmination of the academic achievements of the semester.
During the preparatory session IFE teaches the methodogical guidelines and principle to which students are expected to adhere in the development of their written research.
Students work individually with a research advisor from their field. The first task is to identify a topic, following guidelines established by IFE for research topic choice. The subject must be tied in a useful and complementary way to the student-intern’s responsibilities, as well as to the core concerns of the host organization. The research question should be designed to draw as much as possible on resources available to the intern via the internship (data, documents, interviews, observations, seminars and the like).
Students begin to focus on this project after the first 2-3 weeks on the internship. Each internship agreement signed with an organization makes explicit mention of this program requirement, and this is the culminating element of their semester. Once the topic is identified, students meet individually, as regularly as they wish, with their IFE research advisor to generate a research question from the topic, develop an outline, identify sources and research methods, and discuss drafts submitted by the student.
The research advisor also helps students prepare for the oral defense (soutenance) of their work which takes place a month before the end of the program and the due date of the paper. The purpose of this exercise is to help students evaluate their progress and diagnose the weak points in their outline and arguments.
Rather than an extraneous burden added to the intern’s other duties, the field research project grows out of the internship through a useful and rewarding synergy of internship and research.
The Field Study and Internship model results in well-trained student-interns fully engaged in mission-driven internships in their field, while exploring a critical problem guided by an experienced research advisor.
The Profiles section of this site contain sample profiles that illustrate the continuum which connects a student’s major and study abroad goals with the IFE placement and the topic of the independent study.