French Immersion: Contemporary Issues in the French-Speaking World

Three weeks living and breathing French will transform your first-year language skills beyond what you thought was possible.

Carta Details

Photos from past years


“French Immersion: Contemporary Issues in the French-Speaking World” is  a course designed to help students move towards greater proficiency in French. Through an intensive immersion program, which will include several hours of daily instruction, discussion and organized cultural activities, students will develop higher level linguistic skills and cultural competence essential for studying and working in Francophone countries. 

In the course of the program, we will discuss texts, films and podcasts that examine present social and political issues. We will read great writers of the past and put them in conversation with the writers and thinkers of today.  This dialogue between the past and the present will inform our thinking about the importance, relevance and evolution of the literary canon.  

Who should we be reading and why?  How should we read and interpret authors from times past? How does the current context shape our understanding of their writing?

Course Prerequisites

The equivalent of at least one academic year of university level French, or AP/ IB in French. You are entirely welcome to apply and describe your French background if you think you meet that, but don't have specific credits or test scores to signal it.


COVID Caveats

If in-person SoCo is not possible, this course will be offered virtually. In a virtual format, the immersion experience will be preserved through synchronous online instruction, group and partner work, and online cultural activities (including virtual museum visits, guest speakers and film screenings).  The SCAs (Sophomore College Assistants) will be instrumental in creating an intimate Francophone community.    

Meet the Instructor(s)

Heather Howard


Southern California born and raised, I first studied in France as an international relations student at Sciences Po in Grenoble. I grew up in Santa Barbara, California, raised by a francophile mother who passed on her love of the language and culture. After several years working for an international law firm and completing a paralegal degree, I left to pursue a degree in French Literature at UCLA, where I earned a doctorate in 18th-century literature. After teaching at a variety of different institutions, including USC, Scripps Claremont and Allegheny College, I came to Stanford fifteen years ago as a lecturer in French. I have taught French language courses at all levels, including several Cardinal Courses focused on community engaged learning. My early interests in literature, philosophy, politics and social justice are now combined with a passion for language teaching. My most current research and conference presentations have focused on these pedagogical challenges, especially on how to bring greater cultural context to the language classroom.

Visit Dr. Howard's Website

Vera Shapirshteyn


Having completed both my undergraduate and graduate studies at UC Berkeley, I joined the French program at Stanford in 2011.  My interests are quite broad, and I am always eager to explore various philosophical, literary and artistic movements with my students. In recent years, politics and social justice issues have become central to my intellectual and professional life.  At about the same time I came to Stanford, I also became involved with the Prison University Project, a program that grants Associates degrees to the incarcerated people in order to enable them to pursue higher education upon release.   As part of this program, I taught a number of Reading and Composition courses at San Quentin State prison. Interactions with students in these courses have had a profound effect on my worldview and have deepened my commitment to social justice in this country.