French Undergraduate

The French Program

Undergraduate Advising Hours
Drop-In Advising (9am-11:30am)
Email or call (805) 893-3111
Advising Appointments (1:30pm-4pm)

The study of French is an intellectual adventure that leads to the core of Western civilization. In language, literature, the arts, the media, political theory, philosophy and religious thought, France has played a key role in shaping the West as we know it today,  with great scientists, artists, explorers and thinkers radically transforming our ideas about time, being, truth, justice and power. French is also an important global language, with more than 180 million speakers worldwide, including those in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. In today’s global economy, mastery of French, especially when combined with English fluency, offers a powerful advantage to those entering the job market, going on to graduate or professional training, or considering work with aid agencies and NGOs. French is the third most requested language in the American labor market, particularly in sectors such as insurance, healthcare, finance, and humanitarian aid.

Why study French at UCSB?

  • Students receive extensive training in French culture, literary history, theory and criticism, as well as intensive training in the mastery of the French language, both spoken and written. Classes taught in French tend to have a low student-to-teacher ratio, (under 25 students/class), enabling students to benefit from more individualized attention and to build closer relationships with their professors.
  • UCSB’s Education Abroad Program offers ready access to study experiences in France, to enliven the learning of language and culture through total immersion and training at one of our UC Study Centers in Paris, Bordeaux, or Lyon.

Facts on French in the World

  • French is the second most commonly taught language in American schools after Spanish with over 1.2 million students. It is also the third most spoken world language after English and Spanish.
  • As the fifth global economic power, France shares a close business partnership with the United States: 2,800 French companies in the U.S. earn a combined 1.7 billion U.S. dollars annually in varied sectors such as technology, medicine, banking, defense, publishing and tourism. Outside of the European Union, the United States is the top consumer of products from France and the second supplier of products to France (after China).
  • French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and, alongside English, one of the two working languages of the UN in New York and Geneva. Students interested in a career in journalism, diplomacy and international relations will present a linguistic advantage by speaking French.
  • French businesses have a notable presence in the United States, with over 3,600 affiliates and over 560,000 employees. In return, the United States is the top foreign investor in France, with a foreign direct investment stock of nearly 115 billion euros at the end of 2014. Over 2,700 American businesses operate in France and employ nearly 440,000 persons, making the United States the top foreign employer in France ahead of Germany.

Adapted from Cultural Services of the French Embassy


What can I do with French?

Careers in all facets of international business, from marketing and media to banking, law, finance, trade, entertainment and communications, require a good grasp of at least one foreign language such as French. So do careers in international relations, diplomacy, science, teaching and the arts.

Other career opportunities include translating and interpreting, journalism, publishing, foreign service, civil service, humanitarian aid, international business, international relations, travel and tourism, library sciences, and other international, non-governmental organizations.

Lily Nikzad

"My French education at UCSB has been an integral part of my academic and professional life over the last few years, both at home in California and while studying abroad in Lyon. As a double major in French and Global Studies, my study of French extended beyond the borders of metropolitan France and into the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. Since graduation, I’ve been working in development and outreach for the international refugee community. Considering how pervasive the French language is around the world, and especially within refugee communities, having had such an excellent and supportive education in French at UCSB has been incredibly useful in my career in international development."

--Lily Nikzad

Eva Kerner

Eva Kerner, UCSB graduate in French:

"When I was in Paris, I wrote press releases on behalf of one of the largest aerospace actors in the world & prepared ExCom members for press events, further becoming the online spokesperson for the CEO of one of the largest investment banks in France, in addition to UN Committee members & UNESCO Sec-Gen candidates. In San Francisco, I also worked in a primarily French co-working space, for a French innovation consultancy firm with a French startup accelerator as our neighbor. I conducted research, developed a corporate innovation strategy & scouted potential investment opportunities for one of the largest European financial services providers. Now in NYC, I work developing the US market for a French startup that just won the accolades of Les Echos as the #1 startup to invest in!  I am grateful to UCSB for the phenomenal education it provided for me, and for giving me the practical tools to excel in my professional development!  This drive very much continues to motivate me and inspire me today."

Lisa Walters

"Studying French was the best decision I ever made. As a pre-medical student, I was accustomed to learning about the processes that make life work. My choice to study French, however, is what made my life and my perspective of the world so much bigger. French literature, history, and culture is infinitely fascinating, and immersing myself in Bordeaux as well as in my French courses at UCSB has given me the cultural sensitivity and tolerance that is vital to a career in medicine. I see people in their complexities in a way that I never would have if I did not study French, and this is key to treating patients (and all people) with respect and compassion."

--Lisa Walters

Recent UCSB French Department graduate Laurence Hall (2013) pledges a $1000 additional support to the beneficiary of the Tobin Travel Study Grant which yearly enables an undergraduate major to travel to France. His message to current Gauchos about the uses of his major in his professionam life:

Fellow Gauchos:

As a recent graduate of the French Department, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the preparation I received during my time at UC Santa Barbara. I would also like to spread a few words of encouragement to students currently working towards a major or minor in the discipline.

On a daily basis, in both my personal and professional life, I constantly call upon the values and skill-sets instilled in me from past coursework, my time spent studying abroad, and the shared wisdom of faculty members/mentors in the French Department.

Learning a foreign language, as well as living and studying abroad, raised my level of confidence when making public presentations, taught me how to think critically and analytically when managing projects, and most importantly helped increase my emotional intelligence. 

My profession calls for me to interact with people from a wide variety of cultural and geographical backgrounds. Living in France for a year was the best preparation for such a task. I’ve learned that each engagement with a new person, place, or culture is a precious opportunity to gain knowledge from those who may have experienced life from a completely different vantage point. This mindset has served me more in my career and personal development than any other training, industry knowledge, or internship ever could.    

I wholeheartedly wish each of you a wonderful continuation in your program, and can say with strong confidence that you will be prepared for a rewarding future in whatever career or walk of life you chose to pursue.


Laurence Maurice Hall
Account Manager, NEOGOV
UCSB Class of 2013
French Major, Distinction in the Major
Hermione Chevallier Prize Recipient 

“Taking French classes at UCSB with such influential and passionate professors was a privilege in and of itself. Being lost in a sea of 300 student-lectures for other classes on a daily basis made the intimacy of my French classes so much more meaningful. I went on to live in France for a year, which was very challenging but absolutely worth it. So many walls built from assumptions and hesitancy were torn down and those experiences are ones I will have for the rest of my life. "

Colin Machado

"Drawing on my experience at UCSB and several years abroad, I began a Masters program at Johns Hopkins in international relations and economics in 2010. My experience as a French and Italian double-major at UCSB was particularly helpful during my first year at JHU's satellite campus in Bologna, Italy. I am now a Boren research fellow in Morocco, where I use French on a daily basis. I owe much of the progress I have made so far to the education I received at UCSB and, in particular, to the invaluable experience of studying abroad through EAP."

— Colin Machado