As part of the Honor Code, students commit to speaking the host language for the entirety of the stay — five to six weeks. While the Language Commitment enables students to think, dream and speak in the foreign language, it is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the Honor Code. The Language Commitment is key to achieving optimal linguistic gains and fundamental to the total immersion environment of the program.
By pledging the Language Commitment, IUHPFL students agree to:
- Speak only the foreign language at all times: Inside and outside of school, with other students of the program, with their host families, and with any and all individuals in the host culture.
- Significantly limit communication with their family and friends back home: Students are permitted to call home once, upon their arrival to the host country. No other calls to friends or family may be made without the permission of the onsite student coordinator. Exceptions are made in emergency situations.
- Limit access to the Internet to one consecutive hour a week, using that hour to communicate with friends and family. Students can use either their native language during this hour, or the foreign language; the choice is theirs.
Students must understand that agreeing to forfeit speaking English (and their native language, if their native language is not English) in favor of speaking the foreign language at all times is no easy feat. However, successful participants achieve language skills that far surpass results from regular classroom settings and often catapult language capabilities to a fifth semester college level.*
If accepted into IUHPFL, students receive helpful tips on how to maintain the Language Commitment during Orientation and the IUHPFL Pre-Departure Handbook.
*According to research conducted at Indiana University, Bloomington.
The focal point of the program is intensive study conducted entirely in the foreign language. For five to six weeks, IUHPFL students participate in daily classroom instruction, followed by daily afternoon activities in choir, theatre and/or dance. Each site is led by a team of two to four experienced instructors and an onsite coordinator who is native to the host country. IUHPFL instructors are either graduate students enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington or seasoned middle school or high school teachers, many of whom have lived abroad themselves. IUHPFL instructors can be native or non-native speakers of the foreign language.
IUHPFL students participate in four to five hours of daily courses and activities, designed exclusively for them by their instructors:
- Academic classes include grammar, culture, communication, literature, introduction to linguistics and phonetics. The courses carry compositions, projects and daily assignments. The objectives for all classes onsite aim to improve the four basic language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Each class has between eight and thirteen students, allowing individuals to maximize participation while at the same time instructors are able to give special attention to each group of students.
- In addition to formal courses, afternoon activities are designed to enhance a student’s progress in the foreign language and to promote unity among the group of students and instructors. Each program site offers choir or theater three times a week, while sports activities are offered once a week. Sports may vary by site and may include activities such as soccer, yoga, dance and hiking. At the end of the program, students present a farewell show to their host families which incorporate the choir and theater pieces they have prepared throughout the duration of the summer.
- Students receive feedback from their instructors intermittently throughout the program. Instructors provide formal evaluations in each class as well as other aspects of the program experience at regular intervals. Students receive a copy of the final evaluation in early fall after the program is completed. The student’s high school also receives a copy of the evaluation for their records.
IUHPFL is not a summer “off” nor is it a cultural vacation abroad. It is an academic experience, an experience that will require significant work and effort outside of the four to five hours of daily courses and additional afternoon activities.
Students are matched with a compatible host family to live the host culture through daily interaction, meals, evening and weekend activities. For many students, their host family becomes their second home and a foundation for lifelong friendship.
Though taking classes exclusively in the foreign language is beneficial, living with a host family forces students to speak the foreign language with native speakers in real-life situations on a daily basis. Such spontaneous and natural conversation inevitably contributes to the students' linguistic progress. Living with a host family enables students to experience the culture of the host country firsthand. Students are introduced to new foods, local holidays, the experience of daily household activities and social customs, enabling them to assimilate more quickly to the host culture.
A host family's companionship and emotional support may help alleviate the homesickness students will likely experience during the first few days or even weeks of the program. Students can rely on their host families' daily activities to keep them engaged and “in the moment,” rather than thinking about how much they miss their customs, traditions and daily routines of life in their home country.
Living with a Host Family
To say that living with a host family is challenging is an understatement. Both student and host family are required to communicate openly about aspects of daily life to realize a successful host family stay. Students are required to be flexible and willing to step out of their comfort zone when living with a host family. No matter how different or similar a host family's composition is from that of a student's U.S. family, some cultural differences and potential misunderstandings will inevitably surface and require resolution. Students should keep an open mind and a sense of humor. Expecting to make some mistakes while making an honest effort in communicating openly with their host families will help students overcome such obstacles much easier.
Living with a host family and integrating oneself into the host family's environment requires hard work, effort and time. It is not the same as simply coming and going from the family's home when one pleases, using the host family's home as a source for meals and a place to sleep.
While being a part of the host family implies feeling comfortable in a host family's home, it also implies following household norms, as well as participating in family activities, including meals and chores like a member of the family. In fact, IUHPFL host families agree to host program students under the assumption that the student shows a genuine interest in living with another family, is communicative, open-minded and flexible.
Selection of Host Families
All IUHPFL host families are vetted and selected by native onsite coordinators. Host families are chosen on the basis of their willingness to help IUHPFL students assimilate to the host culture, learn the foreign language and uphold the Honor Code. The program emphasizes finding suitable host families who wish to invite a U.S. student into their home as another member of the family. IUHPFL host families receive monetary compensation for their hospitality. All host families agree to follow a specific set of IUHPFL host family guidelines.
Students and host families are matched by the onsite coordinator of each site. The onsite coordinator seeks to find the most compatible arrangement based on the IUHPFL student's Host Family Placement Form, a form submitted with the student's acceptance materials, and the coordinator's knowledge of the host family's hobbies and interests. If a student is selected to participate in the program, it is of utmost importance that he or she completes the Personal Information Form as honestly and thoroughly as possible to give the onsite coordinator an accurate depiction of him or herself. Should a student be accepted into IUHPFL, an extensive dialogue regarding the host family experience and its specific challenges and rewards will take place at the IUHPFL Orientation.