Paris: Social Sciences

Photo of Social Sciences group at European Parliament in Brussels, Winter 2015
Early App Deadline: 
Monday, April 20, 2020
Final App Deadline: 
Friday, October 23, 2020
Language Requirement: 
Kylie Poulin

The University of Chicago’s Winter quarter Social Sciences program in Paris offers students in the College an opportunity to study the social sciences at the University of Chicago’s Center in Paris. This sequence is designed to engage students interested in the methods and research questions of the social sciences, broadly construed. Participants take three intensive, three-week courses, taught in sequence by University of Chicago faculty. While participants are not required to have previous knowledge of French, all students will take a course in “Practical French.” Apart from the coursework, the Social Sciences program is enhanced by excursions to sites of historical and cultural interest within and in the vicinity of Paris.


Richard Payne (History) – Charlemagne’s Europe

A single Frankish king plays an outsized role in accounts – professional and popular – of the origins of the contested ideal of European unity. Charlemagne is commonly supposed to have given “Europe” its political cohesion and its essential culture, in the form of the Classical and Christian inheritances canonically entwined under his reign. The course will consider whether Charlemagne made Europe through an introduction to the creation of the Frankish kingdom, its expansion into northern, southern, and central Europe, and its political, cultural, and economic developments. It will give special attention to its encounters with groups Charlemagne’s court regarded as others, to be excluded from the novel political community: “pagans” and Muslims. It will place recent historical work in dialogue with contemporary debates over the nature, origin, and destiny of a European identity and the challenges of grounding such a political-cultural community historically – not only through the writing of histories, but also through the construction of museums and monuments, as the products of industries of memory. Wherever possible, the course will engage students directly with the surviving material cultures of the Carolingians in the museums, libraries, monuments, and archaeological sites in and around Paris. The class will interpret these collections and sites not simply as passive preservers of the past, but also as active constructors of memories on which visions of the future depend.

Stéphane Bonhomme (Economics) – Empirical Methods for Social Science Research

The goal of the course is to provide basic training in how to analyze and interpret quantitative data. The first part is a description of methods to graph and represent data sets. Emphasis will be given on methods that provide an intuitive sense of empirical relationships, using examples from discontinuity designs and difference-in-differences ("diff in diff"). Then, I will cover regression analysis, explaining how linear regression methods can be used to uncover rich and informative patterns from the data, including nonlinear relationships. In the last part of the class I will introduce the students to causality and instrumental variables methods. The course will use a variety of empirical examples from published papers. Students will be asked to experiment with data sets and apply the methods by themselves.

This course will be offered at two levels to accommodate both Economics majors and students not majoring in Economics.

Emily Lynn Osborn (History) – Intertwined Histories: Africa and France

This class explores the entangled histories of Africa and France, from the deep past through the twentieth century, through three case studies. We will start by studying ancient Egypt and then consider Napoleon’s later conquest of Egypt and the enduring legacies of that occupation. We will then investigate the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the role of France in the forced migration of African peoples to the Americas. Finally, we will trace France’s nineteenth century formal colonization of Africa, the independence movements that followed, and the complex connections produced by these processes.

Readings will consist of primary sources and secondary texts. Through field trips and outings, students will be expected to employ material culture, art, urban forms, and other cultural artifacts to study the past. The class will make several outings: a city exploration on the second day of the quarter; a visit to the Louvre to view Egyptian art and objects; a field trip to Nantes, which was once a major slave trading port; and an excursion to Chateau Rouge, the Parisian home of an African marketplace that features consumables and products that come from across the African continent.

Center in Paris

Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université Denis Diderot (University of Paris VII). The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place and a continuing Chicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Europe.


Students in the Social Sciences program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

Credits and Registration

Participants in the Social Sciences program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They receive one credit for each of the four courses offered through the program. The non-language courses have been pre-approved for use in their respective majors. The use of any of these courses in another major is subject to the approval of the undergraduate chair of the respective department. International Studies majors may normally use these courses in any of the tracks but should consult with the IS program adviser regarding their individual needs. All courses are usable, without further approval, as free electives. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit and grades are placed on the College transcript.

Please note that these courses may not be used to satisfy the general education social sciences requirement.


Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Social Sciences program during the 2019-20 year are listed below:

Winter tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $675

Paris Social Sciences program fee: $4,900


Program fee includes: Out-of-pocket expenses include:
accommodation round-trip airfare to and from the program site
instruction transportation on site
student support meals
program excursions course materials
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) personal entertainment and travel
  communications (including cell phone usage)
  health insurance and upfront payments for care
  other miscellaneous expenses

Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section. 

Eligibility and Application

The Social Sciences program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The program is designed for undergraduates in good standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the program courses (aside from the French class) are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record, personal statement and academic recommendation. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

Further Information

To discuss the Paris: Social Sciences program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Kylie Poulin.

Learn more about the
Center in Paris.

What you’ll see: 

Social Sciences students visited the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, in Nantes, with Prof. Leora AuslanderSocial Sciences students visited Nantes with Prof. Leora AuslanderSocial Sciences students visited the Sainte-Chapelle on the île de la Cité, ParisPhoto of Social Sciences group at European Parliament in Brussels, Winter 2015