Social Justice and Activism in Paris
Spring Semester

January 2 – April 22, 2023

Program Application

Contemporary France -- A Driver for Social Change

This transdisciplinary semester program addresses the means by which activists and activism engage in affecting change. Students are challenged to critically evaluate the historical underpinnings of social justice that led to the rise of particular forms of activism and social movements in France today. Coursework traces power and resistance through French history, society, and culture, deconstructing these themes as they relate to social justice and activism in targeted disciplines of study. Comparative analysis provides different approaches to human rights’ issues and social justice organizing, with particular attention on the cases of France and the United States, while also considering the political processes involved in the pursuit of a just society.  

A highlight of the program is an independent research course that analyzes intersections of social activism and migration. Professor Claire Zalc leads the research course. She is the director of the Institut Convergences Migrations, the French national research center on migration, coordinating more than 200 researchers and 60 doctoral students from the social sciences, humanities, and health sciences. This program is ideally suited for students with interests in: 

  • Sociology 
  • Political science 
  • Urban studies 
  • History 
  • Media studies 
  • Women’s and gender studies 


University of Pittsburgh students enroll through the Accent/University of California Education Abroad Program in Paris in 4 courses, for a total of 12 credits. Students will enroll in a required City & Language course and select three upper-division elective classes. In the first ten weeks of the program all participants will be attending the required course and two of the three electives. In the last five weeks, students will decide to either take one more course or to enroll in the independent research class.  

In addition to coursework, you’ll have the opportunity to individualize your program with volunteer opportunities and a regular series of activities hosted by the study center to help immerse you in the local culture — cooking classes, language exchanges with local students and film screenings 

Course Offerings

Required Course

The city and language course introduces students to French history, culture, and language through team-taught instruction. The class will focus on just how an ideal society should be forged, where all are free individuals and members of a cohesive community at the same time. Trying to make individuals believe—as religions do—in the primacy of the collective, and in its concomitant goal of protecting human rights, is at the core of social justice in France. Students will learn about how the diverse social actors, who constitute “the French, “continue to thrust their bodies and minds into the physical spaces of the public sphere in the pursuit of social justice. 

Elective Courses 

This course explores the interconnectivity between the rapid evolution of media outlets and content, the contemporary ‘banalization’ of terrorist and other types of violence and their fallout over issues related to social justice. The course examines forms of social confrontation and the way these confrontations are channeled on a grand scale through mass media. Students interrogate the political, economic, cultural, and psychological implications, as well as the component of “spectatorship,” related to the growing, constant sharing of violence over public platforms and political agendas. Through the study and comparison of different cases of social controversies students learn to probe their relevance to some larger, technological and globalized frames of analysis, and also to examine the adjustments political institutions, social bodies and media actors have practiced when faced with these forms of protest in moments of crisis. 

This course examines how French cinema has become an artistic vehicle to raise social issues and push for social justice and activism. The course begins with the impact that World War II had on cinema, as films were a strategy to express opposition to Nazi Germany, a way to raise awareness, and subsequently a way to remember the horror. It will then turn to Mai 68 as a cultural movement that started as a workers’ and students’ revolt to show how cinema has portrayed a desire for social justice and activism. The course will then focus on burning issues, exploring how the banlieue is portrayed in French cinema today underscoring the importance of postcolonial issues and their filmic calls for activism. It will culminate in an examination of how feminism and LGBTQ questions are at the center of social activism, and how this art is absorbing the cultural revolution that is now taking place in the aftermath of the MeToo and Time’s Up movements. 

One of the oldest traditions in France has been la contestation: a word that can be translated as questioning, entering into a dispute, confronting, protesting or simply contesting. French history has consequently borne the imprint of this long and lively history. More often than not these movements have been led by the youth, for whom protest is a means to bring about change and right what they view as wrong. This course aims to journey through a number of such movements and investigate what was being contested, what was being proposed in its place, and what was achieved as a result. From the 19th century, where the youth often paid with their lives for their ideals, to the 20thand 21st centuries, which have experienced unprecedented levels of contestation, it examines the thinkers and intellectuals who gave and continue to give the youth the tools to question the status quo on issues such as consequences of globalization, ecological concerns, unemployment at home, and wars beyond their borders leading to major waves of migration. 

This interdisciplinary course will examine the socioeconomic and political disenfranchisement experienced by residents of the “other France” – a France comprised of working-class citizens often of immigrant origin and from France’s former colonies. It will introduce students to urban sociology by requiring that they focus on the particular problems experienced by social actors who live in economically and socially disfavored parts of Paris. Topics covered include urban sociological theories, de-facto segregation, poverty, crime, schooling, public policy, national identity, the negotiation of bi-culturality, and the French secularizing mission. Students will investigate these topics from a variety of sources, ranging from documentary film and photo-journalism to literary and cinematic expressions. Via these sources, they will become familiar with a vibrant urban “vernacular” culture that contests issues pertaining to citizen-ship, racialization and representation. 

This course is designed to engage students in a multi-disciplinary, experiential research project on migration issues through a series of set themes related to collective action. It will critically address concepts of integration, community, ethnicity, citizenship, asylum and migrants’ rights by putting them to the test through social and political mobilizations. As such, it will allow students to explore migrants’ diverse experiences as they interact with societies, cultures, and institutions with a strong emphasis on the role played by activism, such as associations for the defense of migrants’ rights, aid and support institutions, as well as local organizations. The course relies on meetings with social actors and collection of first-hand data. Research papers deal with collective action motivated by positions and identities related to migration, ethnicity, religion, anti-racism, nationalism and diversity. The focus on migration and identity is particularly relevant to developing research skills and service-learning opportunities for students. 

Program At A Glance

    Program Price: $11,750

  • 12 Course credits
  • Double room in shared student apartment with other UPITT students
  • Pre-departure and overseas orientation program,
  • Overseas Accent on-site staff support in each city
  • Paris starter transit pass
  • Overnight excursion to Normandy, including transportation, guided tours, and accommodations
  • Day trip to Fontainebleau/Vaux-Le-Vicomte including guided tours and transportation
  • Day trip to Giverny/Rouen including guided tours and transportation
  • 24-hour emergency and counseling support
  • Transferable college credit through University of Pittsburg

    Unique Study Opportunities

  • Classes use Paris as a classroom, frequently looking toward monuments, architecture, street art, and other artifacts of visual culture throughout Paris to investigate the iconography of social justice and power in France
  • Through the research course, students may interact with leaders of Paris NGOs, engage with local Ph.D. students for advising sessions, or conduct research in top national libraries or media archives
  • Guest lectures offering first-hand lessons from social actors about their engagement with social justice on the ground
  • Cultural activity series including language exchanges with French students, an opera performance, day-trips outside Paris, and more

Students on this program share a double room in apartments with other University of Pittsburg participants. Apartments are centrally located and close to the Accent Study Center. All apartments are equipped with the following:

  • Washer
  • Wi-Fi
  • Fully-equipped kitchen or Kitchenette
  • Bathroom and Bedroom Linens
  • Heating
  • Microwave and/or oven

Classes will be held at the Accent Study Center in the heart of Paris’ historic center, in the 11th arrondissement.

  • Application due: with first payment
  • Second payment due: October 4
  • Final payment due: November 3
  • Departure from U.S.: January 1
  • Arrival in Paris: January 2
  • Overseas orientation: January 3
  • Classes begin: January 4
  • Spring break: TBD
  • Return to U.S.: April 22

All participants must check in at the designated arrival point on January 2, 2023 between 9am and 5pm (Note: most transatlantic flights arrive one day after their departure date). Airfare is not included in the program fee. All participants will receive a starter transit pass.

The Social Justice and Activism Program is open to students who are at least 18 years of age at the time of application, have at least a 2.5 GPA and have sophomore, junior or senior standing. There are no prerequisite courses, and no minimum language requirements.

Program space is limited. Students should complete the online application with the $500 non-refundable first payment as soon as possible. Upon receipt of your application and first payment, Accent will provide you with additional application and enrollment forms. Applications must be received by October 1, 2022. Beyond October 1 limited enrollment is allowed when space permits

  • Round-trip airfare
  • University of Pittsburgh fees
  • Personal expenses, passports, visas, books, and anything not listed as included
  • Meals, other than described
  • Travel and Personal property insurance

The health and wellbeing of all students, faculty and staff are paramount to Accent Global Learning. Accent has worked with a Medical Advisor following WHO and local health authority guideline to put protocols in place. Students will learn about Covid-19 related protocols, health resources and local regulations through pre-departure materials and in on-site orientations.

All participants are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Many European sites, restaurants, museums and other venues require proof of vaccination in order to enter.

Should a participant test positive for Covid-19, they will be required to self-isolate at their own expense.

Payment Schedule

Non-refundable first payment – $500
Second payment due October 4, 2022 – $5,625

Final payment due November 3, 2022 – $5,625

The payment schedule is the applicant’s contractual obligation. Failure to make each payment when due shall automatically cancel participant from the program one week after payment due date. All payments are effective the day they are received by the Accent U.S. Office. Accent, in its sole discretion, may reinstate an applicant subject to availability of space and late enrollment fees. Accent charges a $30 bounced check fee for each check received that is not promptly paid by your bank in the normal course of business. The program participant shall be the client of Accent for all purposes. The program price is based on 15 participants, the price may change depending on final enrollment.


Cancellation Fees:
70 days or more prior to start of program: $500
45 – 69 days prior to start of program: $3525
15 – 44 days prior to start of program: $5625
0 – 14 days prior to start of program: no refund
All cancellations must be made in writing to Accent and the University of Pittsburgh and are effective the date of receipt by Accent. Participants are liable for payments until written cancellation is received by Accent.

Ready to spend a semester in Paris?

Program Application

Accent Global Learning is not responsible for airline delays of any kind, or for expenses or loss incurred as a result of such delays. With regard to transportation/travel, regardless of the type of vehicle, Accent acts for the passenger as agent only. Accent assumes no liability for accident, injury, damage, or loss in any vehicle, or as a result of default by any person or company engaged in transporting the passenger. CST #1013432-40.