HSSA students on a language tour in Rennes

Diversity in Rennes

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CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location. 
The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email inclusion@ciee.org. We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location. 
No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues.



French people can be very direct when discussing physical appearances. For example, a host parent may comment “You look horrible today,” as a way to signal that they care about you/your health and being well-intentioned.

Heavily overweight people are more noticeable in France than in North America, although a recent survey indicates that one French person out of six is considered obese. The French have traditionally been and can still be openly critical of heavily overweight people and may speak openly about weight, or make assumptions based on physical appearance, but overall, the French are becoming more sensitive to the way physical appearance differences should be addressed.



France is working to modernize amenities and to improve accessibility services for people with disabilities. Over the past decades, the French have made substantial progress in providing support to people with disabilities: for instance, any new built structure must take into consideration accessibility for people with mobility impairment. However, France's historical city centers are being protected for preservation, and many areas remain difficult to access for disabled people: paved streets and narrow sidewalks, absence of elevators or ramp in old buildings.      

Regarding neuroatypical students, the situation is pretty similar to the one in the United States. Students who receive academic accommodations will need to provide that information several months in advance, along with an official letter from their home institution. Once on site, CIEE staff will schedule an appointment with the Université Rennes II’s health & disability services office so that the request may be validated by the host institution.



According to a progressive French law, all companies must pay men and women equally – but this is still very much a work in progress. France has officially made catcalling and other street harassment punishable by law, which acknowledges that catcalling is an issue that needs to be addressed. 

Gender stereotypes in education and media is a more recent area of public awareness, debate, and policy development. Despite the increasing awareness and policy expertise, the implementation of the existing policy and judicial tools has led to only timid results.

While the topic of gender identity still is underrepresented in education, young people, in particular, are increasingly sensitive to this subject and generally supportive and accepting of non-gender conforming people. However, the situation is far from being ideal with 80% of people who identify as transgender reporting having been the target of discrimination or violence.  Onsite staff will address gender and gender identity issues in orientation and will provide suggestions on how to cope with gender discrimination should students encounter it.


X Gender Marker

While the topic of gender identity still is underrepresented in French education, young people are generally supportive and accepting of non-gender conforming people. The French administration does not recognize gender neutrality and, in consequence, does not deliver gender-X IDs. Some companies and organizations have made it possible to not specify gender identity, although it’s not possible yet to identify as X gender. For example, Air France, and Sorbonne University in Paris will allow individuals to identify themselves by their chosen name and make the necessary changes to gender identity markers on university documents.



French people in general are very interested in having cultural exchanges and sharing French and European history with students who are retracing their family history. Occasionally some people may question why students with a Francophone background do not have strong language skills or are not knowledgeable about French history, but this could be a wonderful opportunity for students to share more about their family background, goals, and expectations, creating a great cultural exchange opportunity for all people involved.



France, like the United States, was built though integrating communities from different origins. The French melting pot is mostly made up of Europeans, Africans, and Asians who have migrated to France at different periods for political and/or economic reasons.

French policy rejects any references to national, racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities. This model is based on the idea that the nation state should interact with the individual only, not communities or groups, in order to give equal treatment to everyone. “Absolute equality” is seen as the best way to ensure the integration of all citizens, to the benefit of both the nation state and the citizens themselves.

As a result, French authorities have rejected targeted policy measures for ethnic, religious, or linguistic groups. While the objective is to avoid any form of discrimination, in practice some believe that this principle of neutrality, which can be viewed as the "colorblind ideal of a universal French Republic,", has had the opposite effect and has contributed to rendering minorities’ needs invisible. Nevertheless, the U.S. approach to recognizing minority groups has had a tangible influence on French attitudes. In particular, the younger generation tends to feel empowered by the expression of diversity and minority rights.



The French notion of secularism, or laïcité, has a big impact on the way that society views religion and gauges the appropriateness of religious expression. The concept allows for debate on what should be reserved from private life and what is appropriate in the public. For many, faith is a matter of privacy, and expressions of religious belief within public institutions is not allowed.

In 2019, about half of French citizens identified with Christianity, about 39% identified with no religion, about 6% identified with Islam, about 1% identified with Judaism and about 3% identified with other religions. Although Islam has become the second religion in France after Catholicism, there is some stigmatizing of Muslim communities in the country. During orientation and throughout your program, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding these issues.



France has traditionally been quite conservative around genders and genders' roles as attached to male and female genders. When same sex marriages were made legal in 2013, the country saw an outburst of homophobic responses most often led by religious groups. Today, homosexuality is much better accepted and integrated into French society.

Students can find different responses in this area: acceptance and understanding, ignorance of the different sexual orientations and gender definitions, and at worst hostility and rejection. The French also often consider that sexuality is private and intimate; they may have a hard time with open discussions of sex. CIEE Toulouse is sensitive to the range of these issues and will provide information and support to proactively create an inclusive community.



France can be relatively expensive, but there are many catering places and transportation services that provide student' discounts (e.g., cost of a full meal on campus restaurant in Rennes: 3,50-4,75 euros). Also, museums and monuments often offer free entry or reduced prices for students. Health services are less expensive in France than in the U.S. (e.g., cost of general practitioner visit: 25 euros). While some French people may have a preconceived idea that all students coming from the U.S. are wealthy, our host families are generally sensitive to this issue.

Programs in Rennes