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Gap year student viewing Monet's Water Lilies in Paris, France
Gap year students shooting a documentary film in Normandy, France

France offers an unparalleled canvas for creativity, from the museums and contemporary art scene of Paris to the captivating landscapes and light of Normandy. You’ll explore Drawing, Painting, Writing, Film, and Photography in hands-on classes and workshops, learning through experience what it means to be an artist in France.

You'll meet innovators and creators—writers, filmmakers, photographers and craftspeople pushing boundaries and producing meaningful work—and discover new inspiration within your own creative practice.

Explore pivotal movements and figures in French art, unlocking the French artistic sensibility and broadening your perspective on its art and artists, and their importance to French society and identity.

The program culminates in a 5-week artists residency at the Chateau le Mont Epinguet, a quirky 18th-century chateau in the heart of Normandy. There you’ll focus on one artistic discipline—writing, film, photography or studio art—and engage in hands-on classes and projects that push the boundaries of your artistic practice.

Live the artists life in a creative community and craft a personal portfolio that showcases the ideas and inspiration gathered throughout your artistic journey.


Student directing and shooting their short film

Autumn 2024: Sept 25th - Nov 20th, 2024​

Cost: $17,500 USD

Inclusive of all room, board, airport transfers, tours and entrance fees.

Not included: airfare to Paris, CDG. Meals on travel weeks and Paris. A sample meal budget guide can be found here.

Concentrations Offered: Film, Photography, Studio Art (Painting and Drawing) and Writing.

French Language Offered: Yes (Conversational classes)

Language Requirement: None

Eligibility: Open to students between the ages 18 - 22.  Requires an online application and interview.


Map of France showing where gap year students will visit


Students visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
  • Paris including the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, the Pompidou Centre and Musée de l'Orangerie.

  • The Palace of Versailles, the opulent home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

  • Monet’s home and garden in Giverny, the inspiration for the famous waterlily paintings.

  • The ancient city of Rouen, famed for its Gothic and Medieval architecture.

  • The dramatic white chalk cliffs of Étretat, natural formations rising 300 feet out of the sea.

  • Honfleur, the quaint, seaside village that inspired the paintings of Monet, Courbet and Boudin.

  • The sites of the Norman Conquest including Caen, Bayeux Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry. 

  • D-Day Landings including the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach led by a WWII historian.

  • Mont St Michel, a monastery over a thousand years old on a tidal island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Cherbourg, a port city surrounded by a Napoleonic  fort and penultimate stop of the RMS Titanic.


The program unfolds in two parts: Foundation (3-weeks on the move) and Focus (5-week artist residency).

The Foundation weeks unite the entire group in creative exploration through guided tours, studio visits and hands-on workshops that ignite inspiration and orient you to the people, places, and movements that shape creative practices in France. We'll travel from Paris through the French countryside, stopping at Versailles, Giverny, Rouen, Honfleur and Bayeux.

Along the way you'll be immersed in our Keystone Course: The Art of Being French, where we explore facets of contemporary French life—both timeless traditions and the latest trends in art, culture, language, customs, and cuisine. The course includes conversational French language lessons to help you navigate your experience and foster a more personal connection with French people.

During our journey, we'll ask big questions, examining the purpose of art and its capacity for shaping culture and cross-cultural understanding. We'll ponder the ways art can break barriers, address injustice, and promote healing, seeking to uncover the essence of art and the motivations that drive artists.

The Focus weeks allow for deep-diving a chosen artistic concentration—Studio Art, Film, Writing, or Photography—developing skill through hands-on classes and personalized projects. Inspiring local excursions and cultural experiences, from Mont St Michel to breadmaking and local cider and cheese makers, provide deeper insights into Norman culture and fuel creativity. Whether you want to direct a documentary film, create a photo essay, or paint a series of landscapes, our practicing artists will help you challenge and guide yourself from concept to completion.

You'll also complete our Keystone Project: Carnet du Voyage (Travel Journal) designed to capture your experience and explore your personal style. Through the fusion of drawing, painting, photography, writing, collage and keepsake, you'll reflect on your journey, gather inspiration, and produce a unique portfolio piece that is a tangible expression of both you and your creative evolution.

The final week brings it all together with a showcase of work and time to reflect on the insights and connections made during this transformative journey.


Gap year students directing and shooting their short film
  • Paint and draw “en plien air” mastering skills in acrylic, watercolor, pastel, charcoal and pencil.

  • Capture the decisive moment in film and take your Photography to the next level.

  • Meet and work with professional artists, performers, filmmakers, artisans and craftspeople.

  • Writing sessions in the iconic Parisian haunts of Hemingway, Joyce and Camus.

  • Documentary filmmaking that connects you with local people and customs.

  • Collaborate with your creative peers and work across the disciplines.

  • Develop your personal artistic practice and complete meaningful work.

  • Learn to live the Norman way with good food, nature and time for reflection at the center of life.

  • Visit a 16th century windmill learning how to mill flour and bake bread in an ancient wood-fired oven.

  • Hike the Nez du Jobourg, some of the best coastal hiking in all of Europe.


Students making fresh French bread

This program is for any student interested exploring French culture through the creative lens and developing their artistic skills along the way. 

Consider this program if you would like to:

  • travel through the French countryside exploring art, culture, history and food.

  • enjoy organized travel with people who value art, creativity, culture and community.

  • connect with French people through their art, craft, cuisine, language and traditions.

  • ask big questions and explore how art can illuminate fresh perspectives and build meaningful connections.

  • live in a beautiful part of rural France and have an experience of French life.

  • develop your skills in Painting, Drawing, Film, Photography or Writing.

  • learn from professional artists, meet craftspeople and learn from them about the artists life in France.

  • learn or improve French Language skills through daily practice and conversation classes.


Chateau Le Mont Epinguet in Normandy, France

In Paris, the program is hosted at the Maisons Internationales de la Jeunesse et des Etudiants. The MIJE in Paris offers simple, dorm-style accommodations in the heart of the Marais, about a 10-minute walk to Notre Dame.


In Giverny, Rouen, Honfleur and Bayeux, 3-star hotels and Air BnB's will host our stays. 


Our 5-week artist residency is housed at Chateau le Mont Epinguet in Brix, France. All of our rooms are triples or quads with shared bathrooms in the hallway. Faculty, including a live-in chef, join students in residence, fostering a communal atmosphere with daily home-cooked meals.


Learn more about the MIJE

Learn more about the chateau


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