Finding Happiness in Paris and Studying It

Le Bon Marché Paris

In France, happiness takes various forms: a certain joie de vivre, an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures, and an affinity for companionship. This fall, happiness and its key role in modern French culture and society were the topic of the course “Le Bonheur: Happiness in Paris and in French Cultural Production”. Taught by professor Carole Viers-Andronico, the course was part of the University of California Education Abroad Program signature semester focusing on French culture, history, and food.  

Throughout the semester, students studied the elusive concept of happiness with a multidisciplinary approach, exploring it through the lenses of literature, art, food, and sociology. Works of French literature featured prominently, as students read about Proust, finding joy in the beauty of daily life, and the role of memory in preserving past happiness. Other important authors, such as Montaigne and Zola, completed the picture with their words on the importance of friendship and the satisfaction of material possessions.  

The analysis of the concept and practices of happiness in France was not limited to works of literature but extended to the daily world of the people of Paris. For example, the course focused on consumerism and the perceived connection between happiness and the enjoyment of goods. To better ground their discussion in the Parisian reality, students visited Le Bon Marché, a department store founded in 1852 and often recognized as the longest-operating department store in the world. Le Bon Marché is thought to have been at the forefront of important innovations in retail, such as the standardization of prices and the moving of goods to the front of the store for customers to peruse. These innovations significantly shaped the way in which we shop and acquire goods and thus represent an important steppingstone towards today’s consumer society. 

 Students could hardly be expected to find a path to individual happiness as a class assignment, but by the end of the semester, their investigation of the topic had led them to explore and better understand various aspects of contemporary France and to add a unique new perspective into their life experience. 

 Accent collaborates with partners to identify and develop the courses that best align with student interests and institutional global learning goals. Accent faculty have years of experience in the design and delivery of experiential courses in a U.S. education abroad context. Courses include adaptations of campus syllabi with case studies from the host-country, new courses developed to address the same learning objectives as courses from a campus catalog, or fully customized curricula. To learn more about the course development process and timeline, please reach out to Accent’s Program Development team at