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A unique linguistic and cultural experience for international students

28 international students who entered the Ingénieur Polytechnicien program are currently doing an immersion internship at the French Institute of Languages and Services (IFLS). This internship lasts 4 months and contributes to the successful integration of the international students.

From September 24, 2014 to January 14, 2015, 28 students who integrated École Polytechnique in 2014 through the entrance exam reserved for international candidates studying abroad, follow an intensive language program developed by the Institut français des langues et services or French Institute of Languages and Services, based in Villeneuve sur Lot. Coming from Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Russia and India, these students have 15 weeks to perfect their French before starting the rest of their courses early January on Polytechnique's campus.

A total immersion program

"We want our students to be surrounded daily by the French language and culture," says Valérie Raspaud, Head of the IFLS. How? First, thanks to the French families who host the students for the duration of their stay. In their families, students learn everyday life vocabulary, understand how the French people live and discover French food. "We give them the keys to access and enjoy our culture," says Valérie Raspaud.

A tailor-made training

Then, at the Institute, students are grouped according to their level. They have grammar lessons, reading comprehension and oral expression, all the while being introduced to the French political, economic and scientific life. They work their pronunciation using the SpeedLingua software that stimulates and re-educates their inner ear to the specific frequencies of the French language. "We tailor our courses to the needs of each student while keeping in mind that they will later on go to École Polytechnique. This is why we teach them how the French institutions work, we enrich their scientific vocabulary, we encourage them to be daring and full of team spirit," says the Head of the IFLS.

As soon as they arrive at Villeneuve, the students also have the opportunity to do a business internship or to volunteer within an association. Last year, Yuan Zhang, a Chinese student (X2013), thus chose to do an internship at the Financial Services of GIFI, a French retailer distributing products at low prices. "École Polytechnique is the only French Grande École to offer a long-term language learning program. This was one of the reasons why I decided to join X. The courses in Villeneuve gave me self-confidence and helped me understand and discover French professional and cultural life smoothly," says Yuan.

In parallel to their courses, many activities are organized to encourage the X students to practice their French and enrich their vocabulary, such as visiting castles or businesses, debating on current topics, enjoying film screenings...

A first step towards a successful integration at École Polytechnique

Erina Ekaterina, a Russian student who was at Villeneuve last year, now speaks French fluently and is very involved in the life of her class on campus. "Right now, I am very busy campaigning for the election of our future Kès (name given to the club made of 16 students who represent the rest of their class at École Polytechnique). If we are elected, I will be in charge of supporting and helping international students throughout their studies at Polytechnique," says Erina. The Kès plays a key role in the integration of international students on campus through the organization of customized guided tours of the campus, a welcome cocktail, cultural outings in Paris, meetings between students and networking.

The 28 Polytechnician students at IFLS will leave Villeneuve on January, 14, 2015. For the following ten weeks, they will have courses in French and scientific methodology directly at École Polytechnique, before joining the core courses with all other students of their class. Throughout their studies, they will continue to develop this double culture, thus creating a valuable link between X, France and their country of origin.