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Paris and Normandy: Civilization, Culture, Memory


Normandy and Paris, France

Program Description

This is a 6-credit program designed so that students choose one course from each section. It is possible to petition for other credit options to suit individual student program needs.

Section 1: French Civilization and Culture (3 credits):

ANTH 391: Study Abroad: French Civilization and Culture

ARTH 320: Travel Study: French Civilization and Culture

FL 309: French Civilization and Culture

HIST 341: Selected Themes: French Civilization and Culture

HIST 489: Selected Topics in World History: French Civilization and Culture

SOCI 391: Study Abroad: French Civilization and Culture

Section 2: Normandy Invasion (3 credits):

ANTH 391: Study Abroad: Normandy Invasion

HIST 391: Travel Studies Seminary: Normandy Invasion

HIST 489: Selected Topics in World History: Normandy Invasion

MSCI 490: Spec. Studies in Military Sci: Normandy Invasion

SOCI 391: Study Abroad: Normandy Invasion

Students who sign up for the study will receive the course materials in late February so they can complete their course work prior to the group’s departure in July. While we are in France, it is vital that we all are able to share in a common experience without being encumbered by readings or papers. The program offers a rare opportunity to meet and talk with French survivors of World War II and to learn how the battles fought there are honored and remembered more than seventy years later. More than 10,000 French families continue to maintain the gravesites of Allied soldiers who gave their lives to liberate France. The civilization that survives in Paris, Chartres, Giverny, Rouen, Mont-Saint-Michel, and Caen reminds us of what was accomplished in the summer of 1944, arguably the finest time in American and Allied history.

Location Description

The Study Tour begins in Paris where students experience the beauty, rich culture and history of the fascinating French capital. We experience Paris on foot, via Metro, and by a river tour along the Seine. Our excursions include visits to the major political, social, cultural, and religious centers of Paris, including its cathedrals, historic churches, palaces, squares, gardens, museums, and art galleries. Students will also have time set aside for their own explorations in smaller groups. Previous groups found visits to the Musée du Louvre, Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, Conciergerie, Les Invalides, and Versailles and its Gardens to be among their favorites. Throughout our stay, we enjoy dining at sidewalk cafes and small neighborhood restaurants. Leisurely meals combine excellent food with warm conversation.

After our stay in Paris, we travel by charter bus to Chartres for a guided tour of the Medieval city and its unparalleled Gothic Cathedral, then to Giverny, the residence of Claude Monet, the great Impressionist. At day’s end, we arrive in Rouen, the capital of Normandy. More than half the city was destroyed during World War II; however, it has been rebuilt and combines a beautiful Medieval town center with more modern structures. One of the highlights in Rouen is a tour of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of France’s most important provincial museums. We also have a guided walking tour of the Medieval city with a mix of narrow streets and modern shops. From Rouen, we have a full day excursion to Mont-Saint-Michel for a guided tour of city and its Romanesque Abbaye. Our tour through the region also includes a stop in the Medieval village of Villedieu where we see how the cathedral bells have been cast. Our final destination in this portion of the study tour is Caen, on the banks of the Orne. We tour the city, which lost more than 10,000 buildings during Allied bombings in early 1944. The capital of Lower Normandy is now a bustling modern community with strong Norman links including the Abbaye aux Hommes, founded by William and Mathilda about a thousand years ago.

Caen is also home to the Memorial to the Peace. The museum and memorial serve as our introduction to D-Day and the liberation of France as we transition to the program’s second major part. We join with another small group in Caen and travel to Bayeux. Here, there will be an orientation from Lt. Col. (ret) Peter Combee followed by a walking tour of Bayeux with visits to the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (tapestry dates from 11th century), Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux (consecrated 1077, blend of Romanesque and Gothic), Musée Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie (focuses on summer of 1944), Commonwealth cemetery (largest World War II British cemetery in Europe). In addition to receptions, an optional wine-tasting, there is an evening lecture by Major-General Graham Hollands (ret). Followed by a reception.

Over the next several days, the group will experience many contacts with French citizens about D-Day and its aftermath. We visit a number of battlefields, museums, and cemeteries that serve to remind us of the enormous sacrifices made by Allied soldiers in liberating France and winning the war against the Nazis. We visit the Wall of Remembrance at St. Jean de Savigny (built and dedicated by local residents in 1997 to honor U.S. soldiers who fought there, Rue de Captain Carter (country lane near Saint-Lô (honors Captain Carter, a battalion surgeon killed there by a sniper), Saint-Lô commemorations, 71st anniversary of liberation of Normandy’s 3rd largest town (after Rouen and Caen). The town was the goal of 29th Division (Virginia) after 6 June. There is a picnic for the group provided by local families. At each site, the group will share in remembrance celebrations with French citizens for whom the liberation was the key event in modern history. The group visits Juno Beach, (Canadian and British), L’Abbaye d’Ardenne (Canadian soldiers executed here by Germans, monastery founded 1121), Pegasus bridge, bridge over Orne Canal, target of British 6th Airborne, glider landing area and museum. The British captured this critical bridge on the night of 5 June surprising the Germans in their sleep. There are lectures and guided tours for some of these sites. From Juno, the group moves to Gold Beach, Longues-sur-Mer Battery (German artillery battery completed, April 1944), the Mulberries, Arromanches Village, Mulberry Museum and Circular Theater. The latter provides a lifelike simulation of 6 June 1944.

Our group then departs Bayeux for Grandcamp-Maisy, stopping along the way at Lebrec Cider Farm at Englesqueville-la-Percée (site of memorial to 147th Combat Engineers, centuries-old walled property owned by LeBrec family). Upon arrivial in Grandcamp, along the coast of Normandy, the group will tour the Musée Des Rangers in Grandcamp Maisy and attend a reception for host families. Some students will have the opportunity to live with French families during our stay here. Knowledge of French is not a requirement and past groups communicated well using Google Translate.

The group will visit a number of sites connected to the American area of operations at Omaha and Utah Beaches, including Pointe du Hoc (German Gun battery on cliff west of Omaha Beach captured by US Rangers 6 June), La Cambe Military Cemetery (German cemetery maintained by German War Graves Commission, Isigny-sur-Mer, village (more than 60 percent destroyed in 1944, center for supplies), Graignes (village southeast of Sainte-Mère-Église where US paratroops gathered on 5-6 June, driven from village of 11 June with French citizens and captured US soldiers executed by Germans). We also visit La Fière Bridge over Merderet River (location of 82nd Airborne drop zone west of Saint-Mère-Église, bridge critical to support landings at Utah Beach), Utah Beach and Visitors Center Museum (Western-most landing branch of US 4th Division), Sainte-Mére-Église (target of US airborne in support of Utah Beach landings. The church in village center has model representing paratrooper John Steele dangling from its roof). A number of French citizens who lived in the villages in the area on 6 June and thereafter, will share their stories with the group at a luncheon. The next day, the group visits Omaha Beach and the 29th Division Monument, American Military Cemetery at Colleville to participate in ceremonies honoring the soldiers buried there. We will also visit the Château Colombières (11th century Chateau with excellent museum of Allied propaganda. Located on southern edge of Aure River, the German headquarters was taken over by Allies after 9 June).

We will also visit near Trevières for a reception at the residence of Madame Thérèse Chedal-Anglay at Vierville. The original residence was destroyed during the Débarquement de Normandie. Our final evening in Grandcamp features a dinner for the group and a farewell reception for our hosts. The next morning, we return to Paris, with stops along the Champs-Élysses and the Tour Eiffel with a final group dinner at our Paris hotel. Following a restful night, the group will depart the next day for home from CDG airport.


Michael J. Galgano | | History


Throughout our stay in France, the group is housed in double accommodations in hotels with private baths and breakfast provided. All hotels provide free wifi connection. Students will be provided with names of hotels, addresses, and phone numbers prior to departure. There are laundry facilities in the hotels and coin operated facilities in each neighborhood. All hotels are close to public transportation.

All meals are covered in the program fee. Students will receive a daily meal allowance.

Additional Items to Consider

The director will meet all flights and direct students to their lodgings in Paris.

No visas or special immunizations necessary.


  • Travel Grants 

For the 2015 Program, several travel grants have been made available through Normandy Allies:

  • $750    Normandy Allies Benefactors
  • $750    Normandy Allies Benefactors
  • $650    Post 94, Silver Spring, 29th Division Association
  • $600    29th Division Association National Headquarters
  • $500    Normandy Allies Benefactors
  • $500    Normandy Allies Benefactors
  • $500    Normandy Allies Benefactors
  • $500    Normandy Allies Benefactors
  • $250    29th Division Association, Post 78, Cresap’s Rifles
  • $300    Host Family Awards, in honor of LTC Gene Johnston, for students who stay with a host family during the International Experience. (Recipients will be eligible for all other Travel Grants)
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Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Interview with Program Director
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

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Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


ANTH 391: Study Abroad: French Civilization and Culture (3 credits)

ANTH 391: Study Abroad: Normandy Invasion (3 credits)

ARTH 320: Travel Study in Art History: French Civilization and Culture (3 credits)

FL 309: Civilization: Travel Study (3 credits)

HIST 341: Selected Themes in World History: French Civilization and Culture (3 credits)

HIST 391: Travel Studies Seminar: Normandy Invasion (3 credits)

HIST 489: Selected Topics in World History: French Civilization and Culture (3 credits)

HIST 489: Selected Topics in World History: Normandy Invasion (3 credits)

MSCI 490: Special Studies in Military Science: Normandy Invasion (3 credits)

SOCI 391: Study Abroad: French Civilization and Culture (3 credits)

SOCI 391: Study Abroad: Normandy Invasion (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.