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College senior Jeffrey Bernstein remembers hanging out in cafes during his semester in Lyon, France and watching with amusement as French teenagers -- whom he says probably don't even know where Ohio is -- walked around in leather jackets bearing the names of Big Ten schools. "They hang out in cafes because they have nothing else to do," Bernstein said. "They dream of the concept of fraternities." Bernstein was one of 14 students who last fall attended the first session of an innovative study abroad program affiliated with the Centre International d'Etudes Francaises at the Universite Lumiere Lyon 2. The program, created by French Professor Frank Bowman and Associate Dean for the Humanities Steve Nichols, is unique because it is geared toward students who have recently completed a foreign language requirement. The program's aim is to immerse students in French language and culture so they quickly gain fluency. "Linguistically speaking this is the good time to go," Bowman said. Bowman said he decided to base the program in Lyon instead of Paris for linguistic, social, and economic reasons. "The temptations to speak English are much less [in Lyon]," Bowman said. In addition, Lyon is a medium-sized city with an active social life for its size, including discotheques and cafes, Bowman said. And it costs students about half as much to live in Lyon as it does in Paris. Students live with families during the semester-long stay, after completing a detailed application process that places each of the students with an appropriate family. Maneesha Sagar, a senior economics major at Bryn Mawr College, said she had only taken one year of intensive French before she went abroad, although she had some exposure to the language when she went to school in Switerland. "I think it was a very good program," Sagar said. "It [Lyon] was a good size. You get a more realistic view of life in France than in Paris which is more cosmopolitan." Much of the social life is similar to the life in the United States, Sagar said. "Essentially I think it is the same all over -- people just do things in a different environment with different food perhaps," Sagar said. She was the only non-University student to attend. The program started with week-long orientation, where students were given tapes of spoken French, including slang, to work with. "This gave us an advantage over people who were thrown in from the cold," Bernstein said. "Within three or three-and-a-half months people were fluent." Bowman said he thinks the program can be successful in other languages, like Spanish, where there is a large group of students to draw from. Only Dartmouth College has a similar program, he said. After completing the Lyon program, Bernstein spent the spring semester with Columbia University's program at Reid Hall in Paris. "This [the program in Lyon] is a very strong program in regards to language aspect, but very poor in regard to written expression," Bernstein said, adding that Reid Hall has a stronger writing program. The Lyon program is now offered both fall and spring semesters. There will be an introductory meeting on Monday, September 24 at 2 p.m. in Williams Hall 219 for the spring session.

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