Students go global through international travel program

For Elkhart Central High School students Will Nolan and Amy Wyse, the opportunity to travel extended beyond the borders of the United States and into Spain and Chile. Both students traveled through the IUHPFL (Indiana University Honors Program for Foreign Languages) program.

Nolan, a current junior at ECHS, first learned about the IU program through his sister’s participation seven years prior when she traveled to France. “Her experience sparked an interest in me that lasted all the way up to these past couple of years,” said Nolan. “I knew that I wanted to do the program this summer, but it required me to be in a year 3 Spanish class. I had just finished my freshman year with Spanish 1 and decided to learn the Spanish 2 curriculum over the following summer. I was able to get into the Spanish 3 class at the beginning of my sophomore year and could apply for the program.”

Nolan’s travel experience took him to the city of Oviedo, a city of 220,000 residents with a rich architectural history dating back to 9th Century, located in northern Spain. There, Nolan participated in a full-immersion Spanish program, meaning he did not speak any English while there. He was part of a class of 34 students who studied grammar, linguistics, literature, and culture classes every day under the guidance of four professors. Like many who travel, Nolan’s experience was about much more than language. “Obviously the program helped me learn Spanish, but it also taught me a lot about maturity and cultural acceptance,” said Nolan. “I was able to realize that the world is so much larger than I thought.”

Wyse, a current senior at Elkhart Central traveled to Chile, but learned about the opportunity through Elkhart Central World Languages teacher April Schneider, who recommended her to IUHPFL for the program. Wyse’s program was also a full-immersion program, where she was required to speak Spanish.

“I learned so much about the Spanish language and Chilean culture,” said Wyse. “It didn’t really hit me until I landed that I was traveling 5,000 miles away and not going to be allowed to speak English for six weeks.”

Wyse’s experience was in Vina Del Mar, a city of 320,000 residents, where she stayed with a family in the city. “The other students lived in houses on the outskirts in a neighborhood called Recreo, which is where our school was located. I had to learn how to take the public transportation there, which was a little different than in US cities.” There, Wyse participated in a class of 27 peers with four instructors, where she also learned grammar, linguistics, literature, and culture. “By the second week, I began thinking in Spanish and it was no longer hard to converse and understand. Every Friday, our program would take an excursion to another city to explore Chile and immerse ourselves more into the culture. With my friends, we would find restaurants, explore the city, walk to the beach, go to the mall, and so many more things. My friends and I took surf lessons and surfed in the city for the first time!”

For Wyse, the experience was also one that grew a special bond between her and her host family. “The host family experience was probably the best part of studying abroad for me. I loved spending time with my host family, which included my mom, dad, little sister (13) and older brother (27). By the end of the trip, my host family told me that I would forever be a part of their family and could visit whenever I wanted. One thing I miss about Chile is the food, and I especially miss my favorites that my mom cooked: pastel de papas and charquican.”

Nolan agrees with Wyse in terms of building relationships with his hosts and friends. “To spend a whole summer with a new family and a new group of friends is something that most people won’t experience in their lives,” said Nolan.

It’s an experience both clearly enjoyed, love discussing, and are encouraging others to try.

“I think that anyone should take the opportunity if it comes up,” said Nolan. “There are so many great and interesting people who are raised in different cultures, and we’ll never meet them if we don’t leave our comfort zones.”

“This trip made me grow in self-confidence and realize I can do anything I put my mind to, since this was a very challenging experience,” said Wyse. “This study abroad experience was definitely the best experience of my life. I learned so much and it makes me want to study abroad again in college. I would definitely recommend traveling abroad for a high school student, but only if he/she is completely sure they want to, because it is a huge commitment.”

About the IUHPFL program:
The IU Honors Program in Foreign Languages (IUHPFL) has been providing language-intensive summer study abroad programs for Indiana high school students since 1962. Language learners have opportunities to further their language studies through “total immersion” programs in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. Students travel to one of eight countries for five or six weeks during the summer after their sophomore, junior, or senior year of high school. IUHPFL students not only gain an exceptional knowledge and understanding of the host culture while abroad, but also make significant strides linguistically. In addition to daily academic instruction and afternoon activities, students learn the host country’s rich history through cultural immersion, visiting museums and memorials, and participating in regional and overnight excursions.

Registration for next summer’s program opens September 15th and goes through November 15th. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to attend an upcoming information night at Indiana University South Bend (Thursday, October 04, 2018; 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM; Indiana University South Bend; Administration Building, Alumni Room). Additional information about the program, including requirements, costs, and registration can be found on the IUHPFL website: