Midterms: The "Study" Part of Study Abroad

Eleanor Desing headshot
Eleanor Desing
March 10, 2023
A picture of pens and pencils on top of a stack of notebooks and folders

After being here for about two months, I’ve found that it can be easy to forget that I’m here for an academic experience. Between all of the field trips and cultural experiences, classes and homework tend to fade slightly into the background. I still enjoy my classes, but besides actively being in class, my homework usually doesn’t take me that long.

But now we’ve arrived at midterm week, I’m definitely reminded of all the classes I’m taking. When signing up for this program, I was curious about the difficulty of the academics, particularly because all the classes I take here impact my GPA at my home university (though this isn’t the case for everyone). I thought that it would be helpful to have a blog detailing the midterm process/difficulty for anyone else who is curious.


Class structure: I am taking 5 classes for a total of 13 credits: French grammar (which everyone takes); French Classicism: Art and Architecture; Theater Production; Religion, Society, and the State; and French Gastronomy. All of the courses are taught in French. I personally am not taking a course at the University of Nantes but I know many people that are.

Grade breakdown: The grade breakdown is different than the U.S., with more emphasis placed on exams. For instance, my art class is composed of:

  • Presentations: 25%
  • Midterm: 25%
  • Final Exam: 40%
  • Participation/Homework: 10%

Each course differs slightly, but this provides one example. There isn’t a drastic difference from U.S. classes, but there definitely is a switch in emphasis that I needed to get used to.

Grade assignment: While I haven’t received very many formal grades yet besides midterms, the grading scale was also something that I needed to get used to. Your grade is given to you out of 20, and the percentages corresponding to each letter grade do not match the US. Here is the scale:

  • A: 16 and above
  • A-: 15
  • B+: 14
  • B: 13
  • B-: 12
  • C+: 11
  • C: 10
  • C-: 9
  • D: 8, 7, 6
  • F: 5 and below

So don’t be afraid if you get a 15/20. While not everyone would be happy with this in the U.S., this is a great grade in France!

Midterm format: Midterms take place over a period of two weeks. They occur during normal class time. All of my classes had midterms except for my theater class because that is a practical course where we are preparing a performance. The format of my midterms differed from class to class. But in general, they tended to emphasize more aspects of memorization and less comprehension than U.S. exams. For example, in both my art history and religion classes, specific dates and historical names were important for us to remember, while I usually haven’t found much emphasis placed on these in U.S. exams. Most exams included fill-in-the-blank, short answer, or essay portions. You will not find any multiple choice.

Midterm difficulty: Once again, the difficulty of the midterms differed depending on the class. I don’t think that any of my midterms were necessarily harder than in the U.S. Still, they definitely required an adjustment in my way of thinking, which I think was harder than just remembering the material. Talking to my friends after midterms, everyone agreed that they wished they had started studying a bit earlier (which is something that sounds very similar to the U.S.).


Overall, midterms will be more stressful than a regular week of classes, but you should try not to get super stressed about them (easier said than done, I know!). I found that the hardest part was the adjustment in test/grade format, so be sure to ask your professors any clarifying questions before your exams to make sure you are prepared for what is coming. I hope that this quick overview helps you know a little bit more about what to expect about academics abroad!

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Eleanor Desing headshot

Eleanor Desing

Hi, my name is Eleanor! I am majoring in French and Psychology, and I am so excited to be participating in the Nantes immersion program in order to improve my language skills and immerse myself in French culture. I love to read, cook/bake, and spend time outdoors. I can't wait to share my experience with all of you!

2023 Spring
Home university:
Loyola University Chicago
French Language
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