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, English and SYA Practicum.

Full course descriptions for 2019-20 can be opened below. You will also note that many of our courses are denoted as "FW" which means that the course involves a fieldwork element designed to challenge students in the broader community.

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2019-2020 Courses at SYA France

English (H) - 1 Credit

SYA offers a well-defined and comprehensive English course that prepares students to return to their home school prepared for their next class in English or to enter a competitive university program. The SYA English program is distinctly geared towards the study abroad experience and works in tandem with the overall program’s mission to create globally aware, divergent thinkers prepared for a 21st-century reality. The SYA curriculum is structured to reflect the various stages of the study abroad experience and facilitates a cultural immersion experience with a series of assignments and readings created with this goal in mind.

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. Chosen texts challenge students to improve their critical reading and analytical writing skills and cover a variety of literary movements. The readings engage with themes of alienation, isolation, foreignness or self-discovery, as well as the notion of place and identity, both geographic and internal. Texts selected also support the students in contextualizing both their collective and individual experience throughout the program. 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 sophisticated way, through both informal and formal journaling and expository writing.

SYA Practicum (H) - .5 Credit

The SYA Practicum is a place-based and experiential course designed to provide an environment in which students work towards the SYA Core Competencies for Learning Abroad. This interdisciplinary course begins with an in-depth immersion into the host city and region, focusing on the use of the unique resources of each of our host countries and their unique and challenging learning environments. Because the objectives are skills-based, the content of the course is not limited to traditional disciplines and works in tandem with SYA fieldwork courses and activities throughout the year, including study travel.

The course culminates with the signature SYA Capstone experience. The SYA Capstone is designed to provide students with an opportunity to showcase their evolving skills through a comprehensive project pursuing a topic chosen by students and based on personal interest and self-motivation. Above all, these projects are crafted with the intentionality of embodying the SYA mission, highlighting the student’s experience and relying on, and engaging with, relevant local resources.

Students who excel in this course are provided extensive opportunities to drive their own learning.


Guided by its Mission, the SYA mathematics courses combine in-class and online learning activities in a hybrid learning environment, with a focus on helping students build their independent learning skills as an integral part of learning mathematics. Students are expected to complete preparatory online activities outside of and prior to class, in order to be prepared to actively engage in mathematical problem solving and collaboration in the classroom. This approach to learning mathematics is quite different from the traditional instructor-led, lecture-based approach to which many incoming SYA students are accustomed. Read more about SYA math course expectations here.

NOTE: All SYA math courses incorporate extensive use of technology, helping students develop graphical and numerical analysis techniques in addition to the traditional algebraic study of functions.

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 show a deep understanding of the fundamental ideas. Students take the AP Calculus AB exam in May.

AP Calculus BC - 1 Credit

In addition, the following course may be offered if there is sufficient enrollment. Even with insufficient enrollment, this course may be offered online through our partner, One Schoolhouse.

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.

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 perspective (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. Intense 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 and Contemporary Culture (H) - 1 Credit - FW

The objective of this course is to introduce and familiarize students with French literature through the lens of the cultural life in Rennes. In correlation and parallel with the work done in class, students will take part in events that are occurring in the city -- learning takes place both in and outside the classroom. Field work is driven by what the city has to offer, from literary novelties pertaining to this age group to films and plays at local theaters to resources from area bookstores that students can pick out for SYA school library. This kind of active participation in Rennes citylife will also be reflected in the school newspaper.

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

This course focuses on the history of France from the Industrial Revolution to the present day, with a particular focus on urban history. After a comprehensive study of the historical context, students will work on questions directly related to their local environment in order to better understand the area of France in which they live. Class work will therefore take place partly in the classroom (student presentations, discussions, case studies) and partly outside with field work.

Art History (H) - 1 Credit - FW

Throughout this course, students will learn about many aspects of art history from the Middle Ages to present-day France. The aim of the course is to help students not only exercise their eyes, but also to develop their analytical skills and critical thinking skills. Part of this course will be composed of field work, in order take advantage of local resources and better understand the environment in which they are living.

Political Science and Global Issues (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course introduces students to the concepts of globalism, fundamentalism, multilateralism and multiculturalism, enabling 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, with the opportunity for the students to attend special exhibits, lectures and conferences. Students are expected to analyze the topics presented and then present their point of view in class. Students will also be asked to write articles for the school newspaper and for News-Decoder. The course will also facilitate the students’ participation in collaborative projects with classmates, students from local French high schools, members of local organizations and peers from other SYA campuses. Students also have the opportunity to attend 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 - FW

Since the beginning, cinema and politics have always been closely tied, and television only reinforced the power of image in dealing with the intricacies of social and political issues. 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 movies and TV series, 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 in class. Students will be asked to write articles and movie reviews for the school newspaper. Participation in movie festivals in Rennes is a possibility, with opportunities for students to meet professionals in the industry.

Environmental Science (H) - 1 Credit - FW

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.