Academics at SYA France

SYA France supports high school students on their journey to becoming fluent in French through the study - in French - of the language, culture and politics of France. Whether a student is exploring an outdoor farmers market, dining at a neighborhood bistro or attending the latest French play, he or she is immersed in French culture the majority of every day.

All students are required to take six courses, including French language and English. Please note that courses can change from year to year. Full course descriptions can be opened below.


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2018-2019 Courses at SYA France

English (H) - 1 Credit

SYA English provides a home base for student intellectual and intercultural growth abroad and is specifically designed to complement the immersion experience presented by the host country. Focused on challenging students to improve their critical reading and analytical writing skills, texts read cover a variety of literary movements and engage with themes of alienation, isolation, foreignness or self-discovery, and the notion of place and identity, both geographic and internal. Texts selected also support the students with contextualizing their own experience.

In addition to working toward becoming closer readers and more successful writers, SYA English students also reflect on the study abroad experience in a more explicit and complex way, through both informal and formal journaling and expository writing.


SYA offers a set of well-defined, rigorous mathematics courses which are delivered using a hybrid (in-class and online) approach. The four SYA campuses share a common curriculum which is supported via the Canvas LMS. Each course is independent-learner focused with an emphasis on two of SYA’s core student skills: independence and interdependence, and critical and creative thinking. It is likely that this approach to learning mathematics will differ somewhat from the approach students are familiar with, as the skill of learning to become a self-motivated and independent learner of mathematics is a primary focus of the SYA math curriculum.

Advanced Algebra with Functions - 1 Credit

This course is intended for students who have had one full year of geometry and one full year of algebra. Successful completion of this course prepares students to enter a standard Precalculus course when they return to their home school. Concentration is on functions and their transformations; the standard parent functions are studied from the perspective of shifts, domain and range, as well as multiplication and division. Preliminary results from rational functions, inequalities, exponents and logarithms are explored.

Precalculus - 1 Credit

This course is intended for students who have successfully completed an Algebra II course and who plan to return to their home schools to take a non-AP calculus or other math course. It is also appropriate for students who have been less than successful in an earlier Precalculus course. The course will review and extend the concepts related to functions, including linear, quadratic, polynomial, rational, radical, logarithmic, exponential and trigonometric.

Advanced Precalculus (H) - 1 Credit

This course is intended for very able math students who have been highly successful in a strong Algebra II program. Success in this course should enable students to enter AP Calculus AB/BC the following year. It covers all of the topics of the regular Precalculus course spending less time on review of typical 2nd year algebra topics to facilitate both greater depth in certain areas such as trigonometry as well as coverage of more advanced topics.

The core content areas included in the scope of Advanced Precalculus are: mastery of the properties and graphs of basic functions (polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric), as well as work with parametric equations, polar coordinates, and sequences and series.

AP Calculus AB - 1 Credit

This course offers a rigorous introduction to differential and integral calculus covering all topics included on the Calculus AB topic outline. The course aims to have the students understand the theory that underlies the various rules and applications of differentiation and integration treated in the course. All major theorems are proved, and their derivations discussed in class. Students must explore the calculus concepts from multiple perspectives: algebraically, graphically and numerically and in the context of a variety of applications. Students are expected to be able to offer clear justifications of their work that shows a deep understanding of the fundamental ideas. Students take the AP Calculus AB exam in May.

Students learn how to use technology to help solve problems, experiment, interpret results, and support conclusions.

AP Calculus BC - 1 Credit

In addition, the following course may be offered if there is sufficient enrollment:

This course is roughly equivalent to both first- and second-semester college calculus courses and extends the content covered in Calculus AB to different types of equations and introduces the topic of sequences and series. The course covers topics in differential and integral calculus, including concepts and skills of limits, derivatives, definite integrals, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and series. The course teaches students to approach calculus concepts and problems when they are represented graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally, and to make connections between these representations. Students take the AP Calculus BC exam in May.

Students learn how to use technology to help solve problems, experiment, interpret results, and support conclusions.

AP French Language and Culture - 1 Credit

This course emphasizes communication (understanding and being understood by others) by applying interpersonal, interpretive and presentational skills in real-life situations. This includes vocabulary usage, language control, communication strategies and cultural awareness.

The AP French Language and Culture course strives not to overemphasize grammatical accuracy at the expense of communication. The AP French Language and Culture course engages students in an exploration of culture in both contemporary and historical contexts. The course develops students’ awareness and appreciation of cultural products (e.g., tools, books, music, laws, conventions, institutions); practices (patterns of social interactions within a culture); and perspectives (values, attitudes and assumptions).

Preparation for the Diploma in French Studies (DELF) (H) - 1 Credit

This course is designed to prepare students for the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) exam, an internationally-recognized measure of proficiency in French. Faculty members use college-level language texts, as well as a variety of materials and techniques, such as fiction and nonfiction readings, papers, oral reports, listening-comprehension activities and films. Intensive focus is put on advanced vocabulary, grammar, colloquialisms and complex wordplay in order to prepare for the DELF exam in the spring. This course exceeds in scope and professional ramifications the Advanced Placement exam offered by the College Board.

This course is limited to students who have already taken AP French Language and Culture or demonstrate a high level of French at the beginning of the program. Permission to enroll must be granted from the Resident Director. This course will only be offered with sufficient enrollment.

French Literature: Le bruit du papier (H) - 1 Credit

In this comprehensive literature course, each author and work is presented in the historical, social and political context in which it was created. Class themes are chosen to reflect both student ability level and interest, as well as potential links with other courses in which students may be enrolled. Examples of possible themes of discussion include (but are not limited to) the Promethean nature of the poet, “Invitation au voyage” - the allure of the journey and cultural transcendence, and the fabrication of reality - fiction more real than reality itself. Subsequent activities include a textual analysis and a variety of projects through which the reader and commentator also becomes a creator.

France and Europe: War and Revolution from 1789-1989 (H) - 1 Credit

This course focuses on the study of France in its regional diversity (Rennes and Brittany) within the larger context of Europe. The gathering of documents, the preparation of class presentations and the creation of topically based shorter articles assist students in developing a capacity for analysis and synthesis. Topics include political cultures and regimes, absolute monarchy, the French Revolution, the Bonaparte system, the various republics; the foundations of the Republican regime, separation of church and state, public education, European nations and nationalism and World Wars I & II.

The Building of a Nation: Modern French History Through Cities (H) - 1 Credit

The focus of this course is on urban history in France from the industrial revolution to present-day emphasis on sustainability. Students will study the history, urban planning and architecture of Rennes (first semester) and Paris (second semester) as a means for understanding French civilization. The class will consist of presentations, discussions, case studies and fieldwork; coursework will take place both in and outside the classroom. Goals of the course include understanding: modern architecture and urbanism; political, economical and social context; symbolic meanings of cities; and urbanization and the development of the French society.

Art History (H) - 1 Credit

This course is divided into two sections: the history of painting and architecture. Through class discussions and site visits, students are encouraged to move beyond mere art appreciation to understand the complexities of a variety of artistic and architectural movements examined in the Western World. Special focus is placed on the concept of “discovery” and the development of student analytical skills.

Political Science and Global Issues (H) - 1 Credit

This course introduces students to the concepts of globalism, fundamentalism, multilateralism, and multiculturalism and enables them to better understand the nature and effect of world change through the prism of France. From a strongly defined yet evolving national identity, through its leadership in the European Union and on the world stage as a major economic power, the course explores how France is dealing with these concepts at the dawn of the 21st century.

Coursework takes place both in and outside the classroom. Students have the opportunity to visit national institutions – in Rennes and around France – as well as attend conferences outside of France. Students also have the opportunity to submit their candidacy for attending an international conference on global issues, Model UN and other study trips in France and in Europe. 

A Political Journey: Contemporary France and Europe Through the Lens of Visual Media (H) - 1 Credit

This course explores current political topics in France and in Europe – such as education, race and gender issues, institutions and globalization – through the lens of visual media. Students view excerpts of movies and TV shows, both in and outside of the classroom, and frequently find themselves questioning whether life is imitating  art or the other way around. Students are expected to analyze the topics presented and then present their point of view either through writing or discussion. In addition, students will have the opportunity to meet and debate with local French students to further broaden their perspective.

Environmental Science (H) - 1 Credit

This is an interdisciplinary course that examines how the world works and how people can alter the delicate balance of the earth’s life-support systems. It is set up to appeal to a wide range of student interests, relevant to their everyday lives, both in France and at home. The dual goal is for students to analyze current environmental issues globally and locally and to design and implement small-scale scientific investigations using an inquiry-based lab approach with Rennes and the environs as the laboratory.

Through lectures, readings, videos, field trips, discussions and debate, students learn about important environmental issues while conducting scientific investigations. Topics include biodiversity and environmental systems; demographics and populations; local and global resources of food, water and energy; and global changes and sustainability. Students who would like to use this course to fulfill a science requirement at their home school are advised to check with their school’s Academic Office.