As part of the Honor Code, students commit to speaking only the host language for the entire 5 or 6 weeks. The Language Commitment is perhaps the most challenging apsect of the program; however, it produces remarkable results. It enables students to begin thinking, dreaming, and speaking in the target language. It is the key to achieving optimal linguistic gains and is fundamental to the total immersion environment of IUHPFL.
By pledging the Language Commitment, IUHPFL students agree to:
- Speak only the target language at all times during the program
- Give up their smart devices during the program and use program cell phones without internet capability for local calling and texting only
- Limit communication with family and friends back home to written (typed) messages (in English or the target language) via the internet during one hour per week (no phone calls or video chats permitted)
- Be patient with themselves, as each student will aborb the language at his or her own pace
- Encourage and help their peers to become more proficient in the language
Although the first week or two of the program can be extremely challenging, while students learn to navigate a new culture and to speak only the host language, each participant marvels at how well they can understand and speak the language by the third or fourth week. Furthermore, the high proficiency developed during the program, as a result of the Language Commitment, serves as a solid foundation that leads to ever-increasing fluency, as the student continues to study and use the language.
A key focal point of IUHPFL is intensive study conducted entirely in the target language. Students participate in weekday classes in Culture, Grammar, Literature, Communication, and Linguistics. Coursework involves compositions, presentations, projects, and brief, experiential homework assignments designed to enhance a student's interactions with their hosts and their knowledge of their communities. Classes are small in order to allow instructors to give each student the individualized instruction needed to learn and excel.
After morning classes and lunch, students enjoy Afternoon Activities, which include theatre, dance, choir, and sports. Sports activities vary by site and can include soccer, basketball, yoga, and hiking. These activities are designed to expedite each student's progress in the language, to provide opportunities for exercise and creative expression, and to foster friendship and unity among the students.
At the end of the program, students present a Farewell Show to their host families, which incorporates the choir, theater, and dance pieces they have prepared throughout the duration of the summer, as well as any solo performances students wish to give.
Each site has a team of two to four experienced instructors, who travel with the students on group flights to and from the host country. IUHPFL instructors are educators - either Indiana high school teachers or assistant instructors or non-tenure-track lecturers at Indiana University - who specialize in the target languages and who have lived and traveled abroad themselves. Whether native or non-native speakers, IUHPFL instructors have outstanding knowledge of the target languages they teach.
On a regular basis, students receive feedback from their instructors pertaining to their coursework and their progress in the language. After the program is completed, students receive their Final Student Evaluation, which encompasses all aspects of the IUHPFL experience. The student's parents/guardians and the world language teacher who completed the application appraisal also receive a copy of this final evaluation.
IUHPFL is an academic experience that requires significant effort and self-discipline, all of which culminates into one of the most rewarding and transformative experiences in a student's life.
Based on common interests and other considerations that students and parents/guardians share after acceptance into the program (such as medical conditions, dietary needs, and pet allergies), participants are matched with a carefully selected host family. Through these homestays, participants become members of their host families and their communities. The daily conversations, meals, board games, walks, and weekend outings that students experience with their families result in priceless memories and lifelong bonds. Host families provide students with a home away from home and are vital teachers of the language and culture. Most program alumni express a deep fondness for their host families and nurture those relationships through ongoing communication and visits to their host communities.
Living with a family enables students to experience the host culture firsthand. Students are introduced to new foods, local holidays and festivals, household activities, and social customs, all of which enables them to assimilate more quickly and to overcome the homesickness they might experience during the first days of the program. Students can rely on their host families to keep them engaged and to give them the care and support they need.
Patience, flexibility, and a willingness to step outside of one's comfort zone are key when living with a host family. Students should keep an open mind, a sense of humor, and an expectation that they will make mistakes and struggle to communicate from time to time. Misunderstandings can happen, and when they do, students can turn to their instructors for help, if necessary. Such situations are typically resolved quickly and can be quite humorous in hindsight.
All program host families are vetted and selected by IUHPFL onsite coordinators, who are residents of the host communities. Host families are chosen on the basis of their willingness to welcome IUHPFL students into their homes as members of their families, to help them assimilate to the host culture and learn the target language, and to uphold the Honor Code. IUHPFL host families sign a detailed host family agreement in their languages and receive some monetary compensation for their hospitality. Consistently, they go above and beyond what is asked of them, because they are kind-hearted and wish to give students a fun and memorable experience.
Each program site will offer at least one Community Engagement Activity that will take place two or more afternoons during the program.
These projects allow participants to:
- interact with local residents in settings such as schools, retirement communities, and animal rescue centers
- act as excellent representatives of IUHPFL and the U.S. in their host communities
- understand and experience yet another layer of the culture
- see themselves as members of their host communities
Community Engagement hours count toward the International Baccalaureate Diploma when applicable.