IUHPFL began in 1962 when Mr. Munford, a former official of the Ford Foundation, approached Professor Merle Simmons, of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, about using Ford Foundation funds to create immersion programs abroad for high school students.
The goal of the new programs, as described by Professor Simmons, was the total immersion of talented high school students in a host culture and the development of their linguistic skills in the corresponding foreign languages of said host culture. Initially, three program sites were chosen: St. Brieuc in France, Trier in Germany and Oaxaca in Mexico.
Over time, the program has expanded significantly, adding languages and sites with programs on four continents.
The program in Austria began in 2015 in Graz—the first German-speaking program in Austria. Graz is located in the southeastern Austrian state of Styria.
The program in Chile began in 2014 in Viña del Mar—our first program in South America and newest Spanish-speaking site. Viña del Mar is located in central Chile in the Valparaíso.
The program in China began in 2014 in the city of Hangzhou, China, located in the Yangtze River delta.
The program in France began in 1962 with a site in the city of St. Brieuc, in the region of Brittany; the St. Brieuc program site has been maintained until this day. A second city was established in 1994 in the same region of France, the city of Brest. Brest also remains a current program site.
Due to the increasing number of high school French students applying to the program, a third site was established in Saumur in the Loire valley in 2010.
The program in Germany began in 1962 in Trier and moved to Krefeld, a city along the Rhinenear Düsseldorf and Cologne, in 1964 where it remained for 50 years until 2014. Summer of 2015, the new German-speaking program site took place in Graz, Austria.
The program in Mexico began in 1962 in Oaxaca, but moved to Monterrey after two years. After a few years in Monterrey the program moved to San Luis Potosí because of its safe and manageable environment as well as the paucity of tourists and other distractions there. When disturbances in the north of Mexico began in 2011, the program site was moved to Mérida on the Yucatan Peninsula where it remains today.
The first program site in Spain was established in 1996 in the city of Valencia. The sites of Ciudad Real and León were established in 1999 and 2005, respectively. Oviedo, the fourth site was added in 2007. Due to the growth of the city and an increase in tourists, upper level administration at Indiana University determined in 2013 that Valencia was no longer an optimal site for an immersion program.