Jordan Shewmaker '14
Strasbourg (photo by Taylor Irwin) has been called “the
crossroads of Europe” because of its location at Europe’s center.
Because classes in Strasbourg often end on Thursday afternoons,
students can sometimes leave for weekend travel on Thursday
evenings, visting places like Cinque Terre (above, with students
from Centre-in-Strasbourg fall 2012) for three-day weekends.
Strasbourg, winter 2008
Location. The Centre-in-Strasbourg program is located in Strasbourg, France, just across the Rhine River from Germany, two-and-a-half hours by the high speed TGV from Paris, and about an hour north of Switzerland. Strasbourg, with a metropolitan population of 400,000, has been called "the crossroads of Europe" because of its location at Europe's center. Its famed Gothic cathedral, begun in 1176 C.E., sits on this island-city's highest spot—the same spot on which sat a Roman fort when Julius Caesar was in the area during his Germanic campaigns of the first century B.C.E. Strasbourg's political importance grows each year with the increasing importance of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the Court of Human Rights which are located there.
Eligibility. Any rising sophomore, junior, or senior who has not yet participated in a residential, long-term study abroad program may apply. Centre accepts 24 students each term who qualify on the basis of academic seriousness, social maturity, and faculty recommendation. The committee's list is vetted by the Dean of Student Life and the Associate Dean before students are notified.
While this is not a language immersion program, the selection committee typically gives preference to students who have studied French or German. Students selected for the fall term who have never studied French take beginning French while in Strasbourg. Students selected for the spring term who have never studied French must take French 110 for a grade during the preceding fall term; if they forget to sign up for French 110 or somehow never get the word, or take French 110 P/F, they will not be allowed to participate in the spring program. No exceptions will be granted, even for advanced German students who are doing a German homestay.
Housing. Homestays with French or German-speaking families are the norm for those with advanced language skills who want to improve their fluency rapidly. Students in homestays typically have dinner two or three times a week with their home-stay families. Centre also rents three apartments, all conveniently located in the downtown area within a fifteen-minute walk of the Centre office and classroom. These apartments are fully furnished and include linens, a TV, a kitchen with cooking utensils and dishes, a washing machine, and a telephone. Because these apartments are in regular apartment buildings among French families and not in a college dormitory, Strasbourg students must be very responsible about noise: no loud music or even loud talking in the evenings. The same commonsense fire-safety rules about no candles or smoking or Halogen lamps that apply on campus apply in these apartments. During the apartment orientation session with the coordinator and director, all students must sign a statement about keeping the apartment neat and clean and about maintaining appropriate apartment behavior. Any student breaking this signed agreement will be dismissed from the apartment and will be personally responsible for finding and paying for his/her housing.
Program Dates, Fall 2014. Students studying abroad in the fall will fly out of the States on Sept. 8 (arriving in Strasbourg on Sept. 9) and will fly home on Dec. 4.
Spring 2015. Students studying abroad in the spring will fly out of the States on Feb. 9 (arriving in Strasbourg on Feb. 10) and will fly home on May 7.
Special Notes about Program Dates and Travel.
Because classes often end at 5:00 p.m. on Thursdays, students can sometimes leave for weekend travel on Thursday evenings. Increasingly, Strasbourg students are opting to spend some of their travel periods in their Strasbourg apartments, taking day-trips to Germany and around Alsace.
When students are away from Strasbourg for the night, they must let the director know where they'll be and travel with at least one other Centre student, unless their parents email the director permission for them to travel alone.
90-day maximum stay: The Strasbourg program purposely lasts fewer than 90 days so that students do not have to obtain a Schengen Visa for stays of longer than 90 days. If you plan to arrive in Europe early or stay later, you need to acquire a Schengen Visa from the French Consulate, a process that will take three months and requires an in-person visit to the consulate. (See Chicago French Consulate website.) You cannot obtain a Schengen Visa once you are in Europe.
Centre Director for 2014-2015. Next year's Strasbourg program will be directed by Dr. Mark Rasmussen, Charles J. Luellen Professor of English. Professor Rasmussen is a veteran study abroad director, having led the Strasbourg program in 2001-2002 and 2005-2006, and having co-directed the London program in 2009.
Food Money. Students studying abroad are charged for the regular Centre board plan. They are then given food money at regular intervals while abroad and learn to shop in the markets and prepare their meals as a group, in their apartment kitchens. In the past, students have become experts at finding inexpensive, fresh ingredients and preparing simple, healthy, and delicious fare. To prepare for the program, you should practice making a few recipes before you leave. Centre will pay for occasional group meals, for a two-night/three-day excursion to Paris, and for an art and architecture trip in the region that all students take.
Courses. All students will take a French course at the appropriate level, as well as three of the following courses:
A. French Masterworks in Translation (ENG 235). An introduction to the French literary tradition, from the Renaissance to the present. Authors to be studied in English translation include Montaigne, Molière, Racine, Voltaire, Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Baudelaire, Proust, Camus, Robbe-Grillet, and Duras. No prerequisites; taught by Prof. Mark Rasmussen.
B. North European Art from the Early Christian Period to the Renaissance (ARH 370). A study of the paintings, mosaics, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, early Christian basilicas, Romanesque churches, and Gothic cathedrals. Includes visits to churches and museums in Strasbourg, Alsace, and Germany. No prerequisites; taught by Prof. Kate Sowley.
C. The Construction of Europe (GOV 461). Capitalizing on Strasbourg's location at the geographical center of Europe and as the home of three of the most important European institutions, students study the Council of Europe, whose main assignment is to defend Human Rights in Europe. How does the Council work, and how does its European Court of Human Rights ensure the respect of fundamental rights in Europe? Students also study the ways in which some European States have deepened their interconnectedness through economic, political, and monetary cooperation. In conjunction with a trip to the European Parliament, students consider how the European Union was born, how it works, and what makes it unique. All of these issues are approached comparatively, with an eye toward the United States, and in their impact on students living on European soil. No prerequisites; taught by Prof. Pierre Nuss.
D. Discovering the Middle Ages (ENG 331). A study of the history, culture, and literature of medieval Europe, focusing on such authors and works as Augustine's Confessions, The Song of Roland, the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes, the lays of Marie de France, Dante's Divine Comedy, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and the autobiography of the English mystic, Margery Kempe. Detailed attention will be paid to the historical context of the Middle Ages and its traces in today's Europe. No prerequisites; taught by Prof. Mark Rasmussen.
Classroom Facilities in Strasbourg. The Centre classroom area is located at the very center of town, just off the main square, Place Kleber. It includes a classroom that looks out on the Strasbourg cathedral, a study and lunch room, a computer room with a small library, the coordinator's office, and a storeroom. The noiseless, eco-friendly electric tram stops directly in front of the building.
Cost. The comprehensive fee (for tuition & fees, room, and board) is the same as for study in Danville, except that (1) there is a $375 non-refundable deposit/surcharge due by Tuesday, March 4, that helps to cover some of the additional costs of housing in France, (2) students pay for their own airfare to and from the Strasbourg airport, and (3) a $100 book charge (also due March 4) covers all books you will need in Strasbourg, where students sometimes share copies of books and articles. All financial aid arrangements in Danville continue in Strasbourg. Students with remaining loan eligibility are eligible to borrow additional money for educational expenses. Most students say they spend about twice as much on personal expenses as they spend in Danville. However, you may be able to save some money by canceling your automobile insurance while away. The non-refundable $375 deposit/surcharge includes a $15 carbon mitigation fee, but does not include the $20 fee for the Travel Clinic, which all students studying abroad must attend.
Apply. Application and faculty recommendation forms may be picked up at one of the campus-wide informational meetings on November 19, November 27, or January 3—or in the cabinet in the Davidson Room of Old Carnegie. Turn in your completed application at the study abroad office no later than noon on February 5. Students who are selected must pay the non-refundable $375 deposit/surcharge to the Cashier's Office in Boles Hall by March 5 to hold their spot in the program.
A Note on Semester-long Centre Programs. Students may only study abroad on a semester-long Centre program once, though they may participate in as many CentreTerm and/or summer programs as they wish.
Statement about Grades Abroad. The grades that Centre students studying abroad have received in the past have been consistent with, or even a bit higher than, grades received on campus. Nevertheless, we want to make certain that you understand from the outset that the courses you take abroad will not necessarily be taught or evaluated as they would be at Centre. In the past, some abroad students have complained—after the fact—that it was unclear how their work was being evaluated, that they received little or no feedback of their progress from the professors, that they were unfairly competing with more advanced students, that they didn't receive their grades until months after they returned, etc. We will, of course, do what we can to advise you on courses you take, but finally you are responsible for those choices, and you must live with the results. The faculty committee on curriculum and academic standards will almost certainly not agree to change an abroad grade because you believe it is too low.
Medical Insurance. Students studying abroad through any Centre program receive travel and accident insurance at no additional cost. Centre's Study Abroad Insurance, while provided through EIIA (Educational & Institutional Insurance Administrators), is administered through AIG Assist. Every student studying abroad with Centre College receives an AIG Assist contact and information card as well as a passport sticker. Each has the Centre insurance policy number, which is the only information needed to receive services. The categories of coverage provided are: accident and sickness ($100,000 limit with a $250 deductible); emergency medical evacuation and emergency family travel ($100,000 limit); accidental death and disability ($200,000 limit); and repatriation of remains ($100,000 limit). For specific questions, please contact the International Programs office at 859.238.5285 or email@example.com.
Book Air Tickets Early to Save Money. Students in the past have generally been able to find economical round-trip air tickets. Some have found studentuniverse.com, statravel.com, cheapflights.com, or hipmunk.com helpful sites. Book early for the lowest prices.
Pre-Departure Training. Students selected must attend the mandatory pre-departure meetings to prepare for living and studying in another culture. Students will also attend a mandatory travel medicine clinic and a mandatory meeting on safety and security before leaving for Strasbourg.
Psychotropic Medication and Counseling. The kind of counseling and support services available on campus are not available abroad. Because any significant life transition can exacerbate and complicate already existing mental health issues, students who are currently on psychotropic medication and/or have been in mental health counseling are encouraged to consider participating in the three-week Early Summer Strasbourg program or one of the CentreTerm programs abroad. In addition, those students are urged to meet with a Centre Student Assistance Program counselor prior to their leaving, to develop a support plan for their time abroad.
Pre-Registration / Convocation Credits. While in Glasgow, you pre-register for future courses via e-mail with your regular academic advisor. You will automatically be credited with six convocation credits during your term abroad.
Passport. If you do not currently have a passport that will remain valid for at least six months after your return, begin the process of obtaining one as soon as you are selected. In the recent past, some students have waited three months to receive a passport, even though the passport agency has stated that it will take six to eight weeks. Do it now!
Grades/Independent Studies. Mid-term warning grades of D or U are issued after the seventh week of the regular term, just as in Danville. All Strasbourg courses count in the GPA, just as in Danville. The Pass-Unsatisfactory option is not available in any Centre study-abroad program. Only students whose schedules require that they take a particular course not offered in Strasbourg in order to graduate on time have the possibility of arranging an independent study with a professor in Danville.
Internet, Laptops, and Phone Communication. Constant communication with everyone in the world is less available in Strasbourg than it is in Danville. Indeed, if you want to spend huge hunks of time Facebooking and Skyping and avoiding the environment and people around you, you should not apply for this program; you can do those things in Danville and save the slot for students more interested in being immersed in Strasbourg, France, and Europe. Wireless internet is available both in the classroom and in the student apartments. Although you may turn in all work hand-written, if you own a laptop, you should definitely take it.
Some students find it useful to get a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account in addition to their Centre account, which is accessible off campus through https://exchange.centre.edu/exchange. In addition to wireless internet, all phone calls to the U.S. from the student apartments can be made for free. This is especially helpful information to pass along to your parents.
Apartment Contract and Upkeep. You are required to sign an apartment contract during the Coordinator’s and Director’s apartment orientation and to keep your apartment clean and in good order throughout the entire term. The Director and Coordinator have the right to inspect your apartment at any time, and the right to dismiss you from the apartment if you do not live up to the signed agreement. The day after the mid-term break, the Director will make a mid-course apartment inspection to determine things that need to be repaired or purchased. On the last evening of your stay, she will conduct a penultimate inspection and assess all apartment members equally the money needed to replace broken items and/or pay for professional cleaning. The last inspection occurs the day after you leave; this is to make certain you’ve stripped the linens from your beds, totally cleaned out your refrigerator, not left wet towels to mildew, taken out all of the trash, etc. Students will not be allowed to move into the apartments until the day the program officially begins; if you plan to arrive early, you must reserve a room in a hostel or hotel.
No Overnight Guests in Apartments. Because of liability issues, no overnight guests may stay in the Centre apartments, even for a single night. No exceptions can be granted to this rule. Infraction of this rule will result in your immediate dismissal from the program with none of your semester’s tuition returned. The director will be happy to provide you with a list of Strasbourg hostels and hotels of all price ranges for any guests who may visit.
Eurail Tickets. Information on Eurail tickets, which may only be purchased in the U.S. before you leave, is available at http://www.euro-rail.org. Participants in this program are not allowed to purchase and use an unlimited Eurail pass; our experience has shown that this is disruptive to the program's schedule and goals. Recent Strasbourg students have felt that a 10-day train pass is more than sufficient and gives them flexibility to travel to further-away destinations via inexpensive air travel. Some Strasbourg students choose not to purchase a Eurail ticket.
To see photos from past Centre-in-Strasbourg experiences, click here.