Each summer, some students stay home working or vacationing with their families, while others travel to Europe to live with a host family and learn about a new culture firsthand. Students are offered this opportunity through Indiana University’s Honors Program in Foreign Languages, also known as the IU Honors Program.
Junior Lauren Fogel said she heard about the program from her Spanish teacher and from friends who had gone in previous years. Fogel is most excited to visit the city of León because she has heard stories of positive and rewarding experiences.
According to Spanish teacher Greer Trapkus-Harris, the IU Honors Program helps students grow not only in speaking their foreign language but also in understanding different cultures as they experience living on their own. She said she would recommend the program to any student interested, although most participants are juniors.
“I’ve had students who were a little weaker (at Spanish) go on the trip and come back stronger and more comfortable with the language,” Trapkus-Harris said. “They also will pick up accents from the part of the country they’re in, which is really cool.”
IU offers the program to not only Spanish students, but also to French and German students as well, according to the program’s website.
In each of the 10 cities offered, students are expected to learn from and follow three principles: language commitment, academic instruction and host family experience. Senior Courtney Blackington traveled to Brest, France last summer with the IU Honors Program and said the experience has helped her make decisions about her future.
“I wanted to go because I loved French and wanted to learn more about the French culture,” Blackington said. “The experience made me certain that I wanted to major in French and study abroad there for a year in college.”
Trapkus-Harris said it is not uncommon for opportunities like these to spark students’ interest in world travel if they do not already see the attraction of other cultures.
For Fogel, the interest is already there. She said, “I have relatives in Europe and have visited them and really loved it; that’s one of the reasons I requested Spain instead of Mexico because I really wanted to experience another European country.”
Although students are excited to spend a summer abroad, many worry about being away from their families for so long. Blackington said living in another country can be overwhelming at first but soon it will be fine.
“Don’t be scared because it seems like a long time away from home or you’re afraid you will have a horrible host family,” Blackington said. “You are always busy so it’s hard to be homesick and the directors do a great job at matching the students with the families. They will feel like a second family by the end of the second week.”