Mont Saint Michel France

Gap Year


Dates and Details

The Normandy Experience

Winter 2022 Semester:

Jan 24th - April3rd, 2022 (77 days)

Cost: $13,500 USD

Autumn 2022 Semester:

Sept 20th - Dec 5th, 2022 (77 days)

Cost: $13,500 USD

Ages: 18-22


  • Live in an 18th century chateau in the heart of Normandy

  • Be immersed in French history and culture

  • Engage with French people in the local community

  • Develop your leadership skills

  • Complete 40 hours of volunteering

  • Experience independent living in a supportive community

  • Discover new creative outlets

  • Optional French language learning

Program Overview

Immerse yourself in French history and culture while learning practical skills, developing your leadership style and discovering opportunities for personal growth.  The Normandy Experience Gap Semester focuses on building character, resilience and independence through experiential learning. The program offers a offer a blend of cultural and community experiences, leadership skills development and outdoor learning interwoven with reflective and creative practice. The program is taught entirely in English with optional French language learning.

Chateau le Mont Epinguet
Omaha Beach

Our Residence

A world frozen in time, Chateau le Mont Epinguet offers an opportunity to live surrounded by history. Built in 1751 by Count Mondesir, the château is the highest landmark on the Normandy Cotentin Peninsula. It has housed a nephew of the Pope, a French Admiral and served as German communication headquarters in WWII.  It stood empty for many years until it was bought by the Berridge family in 1991 and brought back to life. The running of our residence is a team effort and students have opportunities to work alongside our live-in chef, shop for meals and help out in the garden.  Read more about the château. 


For lovers of History, Politics, Architecture, and Art, Normandy is a dream destination. Civilized by the Romans, conquered by the Vikings and occupied by the Germans in WWII, Normandy has over two-thousand years of history to discover.  Engage with all this stunning region has to offer through  unique hands-on experiences led by historians, artists and local experts. 


From rugged coastal trails to ancient forests, Normandy is a nature lovers paradise. The French consider The Cotentin Peninsula, one of the top destinations to get outside and get away from it all.  You’ll be immersed in the landscape of Normandy through outdoor experiences led by expert, qualified guides. Hike, bike, swim, sail, surf and camp your way around the Normandy Peninsula!


Normandy is an agricultural region where food is at the centre of life. Dairy, Produce and Seafood are abundant here and a traditional French market can be found every day of the week. You’ll learn all about the French way of  cooking, eating and enjoying food and have gastronomic experiences from artisanal bread making to digging your own seafood right out of the sand.


Cultural Engagement, Compassionate Leadership, Contemplative Living and Creative Expression are the foundations of our curriculum. These foundations are designed to help students engage more fully with the culture and people of France and facilitate a meaningful, fun and rejuvenating experience during your time abroad.  The program is designed for students of all subject interests including History, Politics, Architecture, Anthropology, Literature and the Arts, and takes a hands-on, student-centered approach.  You'll be assigned a faculty mentor who will help you set personal goals, reflect on your experience and hone in on your tangible take-aways from the program.


Creative Expression

Enhance your experience of Normandy by engaging with your surroundings through a variety of creative mediums. Build communication skills and right-brain thinking through a variety of writing, art and craft workshops. A week-long Digital Filmmaking project serves as a platform for team building and leadership skills development for the whole group.

Highlights include:

  • Full week learning Digital Independent Filmmaking 

  • Art and craft workshops led by local professional artists

  • Workshops in Digital Photography and Travel writing

  • Internship opportunities in Social Media Management, Writing, Photography and Videography

  • Mentoring for personal creative projects in Writing, Art, Photography, Film and Performance


Contemplative Living

Time and space to “just be” is highly valued here and we encourage our students to prioritize and nurture their mental, emotional and physical well-being during their time with us. Time is made for contemplative activities such as reading, walking, journaling and connecting with others. Weekly workshops are offered in mindfulness, meditation, yoga, nutrition and cooking. Good, fresh food is a big part of life in Normandy and we eat a sit-down, family style meal at both lunch and dinner prepared by the whole group under the guidance of our in-house chef. 

Highlights include:

  • Time and space to unwind, reflect and "just be"

  • Workshops in meditation and yoga

  • Living the "Norman way" with good, fresh food at the center of life

  • Building leadership and life skills through community and independent living

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Cultural Engagement

Cultural Engagement is more than just seeing, it involves learning by engaging with the landscape, history and people of the Normandy region through hands-on doing. Trips and excursions are active and participatory and offer opportunities to build skills, develop leadership qualities and expand your world view.

Highlights include:

  • Pilgrimage across the bay to Mont St Michel, a 900-year-old monastery on a tidal island

  • Touring the D-Day Landing beaches with a WWII historian

  • Discovering medieval Bayeux and the story of the Normandy Conquest

  • Hiking the coastal headlands of the Nez du Jobourg

  • Milling flour and making bread at a 16th century windmill

  • Kayaking across the marshlands of the Marais


Compassionate Leadership

Learn how to be a more empathetic leader by honing your listening skills, cultivating patience and fostering positivity in a team environment. Compassionate Leadership blends team building, deep listening and role-play exercises delivered through workshop modules, outdoor experiences and student-led activities. 

Highlights include:

  • Narativ UK Workshop developing deep listening skills through personal storytelling

  • Workshop in leadership differences and discovering your personal leadership style

  • Student-led experiences researched, designed and led by student teams

  • Residential life coordinated by a different student team each week

  • Weekly reflection with your faculty mentor to provide feedback and chart progress

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French Language Learning

For those interested in learning or advancing French Language skills, the program offers optional French language classes three times per week. The Language Program aims to improve conversational French, reading comprehension and writing skills through practical application and daily practice. With very little English spoken in Normandy, there will be plenty of opportunity to use and perfect your French through interaction with the local community, on field trips and through the French-only speaking lounge at the château.

Who is this program for?


This program is for any student interested in living in France and being immersed in French history and culture.  We welcome students of all interests and the program encompasses a wide range of subjects including History, European Civilizations, Architecture, Literature, Art History, Politics, Anthropology, Linguistics, and the Arts. The program is designed for students interested in building leadership skills, personal development, collaborative learning and living in community.  

Consider this program if you would like to:

  • live in a beautiful part of rural France and have an insiders experience of French life

  • advance or jumpstart your French language skills

  • meet local French people and use your skills to help the local community

  • access more creativity and develop right-brain thinking

  • spend time outdoors in a beautiful part of France

  • build practical life skills in a supportive environment

Do I need to speak French?

Our program is taught entirely in English with optional French language learning

What if I have a lot of French?

Great! You'll have plenty of immersion opportunities and advanced French language classes if you wish

Do I need to be creative?

You do not need to be an artist, just bring an open mind and willingness to participate. 

Do I need to be outdoorsy?

You don't need to be a mountaineer but you should enjoy spending time outdoors and be willing to jump in and be challenged. 

Where will I volunteer?

We will match your volunteer placement with your interests, skills and personal goals.  Your placement can be offered in French or English.

Where you will go...

Some of the places you'll go to on the program include:

  • Mont St Michel, s 900-year-old monetary on a tidal island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second most visited attraction in France

  • D-Day Landing sites including the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Pointe Du Hoc, Pegasus Bridge and Arromanches

  • Bricquebec, a local village with a 14th century castle ruin and weekly, bustling French market

  • Cherbourg, a port city surrounded by a Napoleonic  fort and penultimate stop of the HMS Titanic

  • Portbail, a coastal town with pristine white beaches perfect for swimming, surf and paddle board lessons

  • Bayeux, the story of the Norman conquest Bayeux Cathedral, the Bayeux tapestry 

  • Saint Vaast La Hougue, a beautiful fishing village, beaches and great fresh seafood

  • Tatihou, an abandoned penal colony now a bird sanctuary accessed by amphibious vehicle

  • Château des Ravalet, an 16th century chateau with a dark history surrounded by world-famous gardens

  • The Cap Du Hag and Nez de Jobourg, coastal cliffs rising 128 metres out of the sea and the best coastal hiking in Europe

  • Château Fort de Pirou, an 11th century fortified chateau  boasting far reaching views from the parapets

What you will do...

Some of the experiences you will have on the program include:

  • Tour the D-Day Landing sites in a US Army Jeep with a WWII historian and learn about the planning and execution of the D-Day Landings

  • Learn Digital Filmmaking hands-on and make film from start to finish

  • Walk across the sands of Mont St Michel Bay to the Abbey just like the pilgrims did 900-years-ago

  • Learn to live the Norman way with good food, nature and time for reflection at the center of life

  • Work at a 16th century windmill learning how to mill flour and bake bread in an ancient wood-fired oven

  • Hike the Nez du Jobourg, an ancient smugglers trail and some of the best coastal hiking in all of Europe

  • Plan and execute an authentic French meal including shopping at a traditional, outdoor French market

  • Meet local French people through volunteering and hands-on experiences at local farms and craft studios

  • Dig oysters and clams out of the sand and prepare them for dinner just like the Normans

  • Lead a group researched and designed tour at a local destination of your choice

  • Discover your leadership style through workshops and outdoor leadership activities

  • Learn meditation, mindfulness, yoga and other stress-reduction techniques