Portage High School Foreign Language Department Honors Students with Study Abroad Program

Matthew-and-Zoe-IUHPFLThe Foreign Language Department has been hard at work this year preparing students for higher levels of work in all four levels. Each year the third year students in French, Spanish and German are offered the opportunity to apply for a study abroad program in France, Spain, Mexico, and Germany. This is through IU on a program called the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Language, or IUHPFL. Students who are chosen for the program attend a 7-week study abroad program live with a host family and attend classes every day in things like grammar, composition, theater arts, poetry, and speaking. They also take occasional excursions around the country in which they are living. This is called an immersion program, meaning it has a strict no-English policy from the time they take off from the airport in Chicago to the time take off from their host country 7 weeks later.

Getting into this program is challenging. First, students must pass a rigorous test administered by instructors of the program on a Saturday morning in October. The test involves grammar, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. If students successfully pass this test, they are invited by IU to complete a very long dossier with all kinds of forms and letters of recommendation. Based on this, they are either accepted into the program or may require an interview. Most students have to interview. At this time, they are asked questions in both French and English. From there, students are either accepted into the program or not. This is a long and stressful process, but well worth the outcome.

This year, two French students took the test and have begun the process of hopefully getting accepted! These outstanding students are Juniors Matthew Allison and Zoé Spencer! I have had the pleasure of having both of these students in French 1, 2, and now 3, and I feel that they are well-qualified to represent Portage in France! They both exemplify the best attributes that we look for in students at the high school – they work hard, are diligent in their studies, search for profound meaning in readings and in cultural studies, and are able to easily make interdisciplinary connections among all of their courses of study. They take every opportunity to express themselves in French, both in and outside the classroom! I have every confidence that they will be accepted into the program, and I am eager to work with them as they advance through this journey. While no students from Spanish or German signed up to take the test, I am hopeful that next year more students will give it a shot!

The outcomes of this program are immeasurable in terms of benefit to the students. They return from their host country fluent in the language of study, they demonstrate great maturity after having learned to live with a foreign family for an entire summer (and go with very little communication with their own family while in the country of study!), and develop friendships to last a life-time. This program is in every way a life-changing experience for the students!