Career Strategy Fellowships Study Abroad Summer Session MyCIPE

Yale Summer Session in Auvillar: Personal Geography (formerly Travel Writing)

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Program Information


Auvillar, France




Saturday, July 4, 2020 to Saturday, August 1, 2020



Area of Focus

Arts & Humanities

Distributional Requirements

Fulfills Hu or WR distributional requirement


Study Center

Course Number



2 Yale credits


Colleen Kinder 




There are only two plots in all of literature, claimed the late John Gardner: the story of a journey, and of a stranger coming to town. Most travel literature is both: the story of a journey as well as a tale of a stranger, stepping into an alien land. This program examines a wide range of place-based literature, from long-form city portraits to travel memoir excerpts. Readings by writers such as Ryszard Kapuscinski, Jan Morris, Leslie Jamison, and Pico Iyer will acquaint students with the techniques by which journalists and writers capture the essential qualities of a place.

Every weekend, participants will journey to a new region of southwestern France as a group, but once there disperse to independently observe their surrounds, with a notebook ever in hand. Writing prompts are a central facet of this course, making it similar to the Yale creative writing course "Daily Themes," in that students respond to specific writing challenges every day of the week. Students also serve as peer editors to one other, swapping drafts and learning to foster a creative community among themselves. Our core focus is to build the skills with which to render "sense of place" with precision, originality, and force.

The class will meet each week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. and students should expect about 25 hours of work outside the classroom each week, as well excursions and other program activities.


Yale Summer Session Programs Abroad updates program budgets in late January. Please note the year listed on the button below.

Summer 2019 Budget

Trips and Activities

Participants will visit the Tuesday market at Valence d'Agen, with the guidance of a local chef who will conclude the day by giving a cooking class. The second major excursion is along the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail: a long hike through the fields and tiny towns of southwestern France. As this program puts an emphasis on pilgrimage and "literary walks," setting out on foot will be something we grant significant attention to. The program concludes with a long weekend in Bordeaux, with a focus on urban ambiance and literary portraits of great cities.


All participants will live together in a large residence in the heart of the small town of Auvillar, called "gîte" in French. There will be facilities for cooking as well as plenty of nooks for gathering, studying, and writing. The program instructor and assistant, who will also be acting as a translator, will live near by, and emergency internet can be accessed from their home.


Interested students should note that this program demands a month away from the internet. There will not be wireless access at their home in Auvillar. This program is designed for immersion in a foreign environment and demands that participants bring all their attention with them to Auvillar. Participants will be expected to commit to a month hiatus from email, social media, etc. It is far less painful and way more glorious than it sounds.

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to France and are expected to arrive in Toulouse-Blagnac Airport no later than 2:00 p.m. on the first day of the program to board a chartered bus to Auvillar and depart no earlier than 8:00 a.m. on the last day of the program (see 'Dates' above); additional information will be provided upon admission.

Note: Admitted applicants will be asked to complete a form regarding dietary restrictions. Restrictions can be accommodated but only if this information is provided well before the program begins as the local chefs need adequate time to prepare (purchase) accordingly.


For course content questions contact instructor Colleen Kinder. For general program questions contact the Study Abroad staff.

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Review eligibility requirements, the application process, and deadlines:

How to Apply