Two sophomores selected for IU summer program

Dravis and Henry will live and study abroad for six weeks


Ashlynn Bakemeyer

Sophomore Ben Dravis completes an assignment in Mrs. Kathy Darnell’s E period Spanish class.

Andrew de las Alas , Reporter

Immersion is one of the most efficient methods to achieve language acquisition. After all, it’s how we pick up “momma” and “daddy” as toddlers. Unfortunately, true immersion is difficult in largely monolingual Indiana.

Luckily, two sophomores, Ben Dravis and Rachel Claire Henry, have found a solution. 

The Indiana University Honors Program for Foreign Languages enables students to study abroad in multiple countries where they will live with a host family for five to six weeks. During their stay, students are not permitted to speak any English. Students will have the opportunity to truly learn about the culture, exploring historic sites and trying new foods, all while forming relationships with other students on the trip. 

Dravis has a family history that convinced him to apply. “My sister did (this program) two years ago. She went to Ciudad Real in Spain, and I heard about it through that,” he said over the phone. Dravis said he also hopes to spend time in Spain, although “maybe not the same city as my sister.” 

Aside from Ciudad Real, Oviedo, León in Spain, the Bloomington-based program offers Spanish students a chance to study in Viña del Mar, Chile and Merida, Mexico as well. The French program takes place in the French cities of Brest, Saumur and St. Brieuc.

Her second visit to France

Henry said over Zoom that she doesn’t have a preference where she studies in France. This would be a second time for Henry, who visited France for two weeks in fifth grade through her middle school, St. Richard’s. However, the trip was “more touristy and my family some English,” said Henry.  

Languages have drawn in Henry since she was 3 years old when she first began French exposure. Her experience has been one of expansion, writing in an email that “learning about different people and cultures” are her primary motivators. Henry also was introduced to the IU program through family. “My mom actually works at IUPUI, so she heard about it (there). We also heard about it through a friend who did it in past years and had a really good experience,” she said. 

At first, Henry was “a little bit on the fence because it was a lengthy process.” Explaining the application, Dravis said, “First you had to fill out 28 short answers so they could know more about your interests and academics. After, you reach out to teachers and one non-academic influence in your life. Then, you send your transcript.” Eventually, Henry concluded that “there was no reason not to try.” And it turned out well. 

While in Spain or France, Dravis and Henry would be expected to continue their education, so students must be in good academic standing. It also allows the IU program to determine if a student “would be able to survive and put in the effort to live in Spain,” said Dravis. 

Aside from their foreign language teachers, Dravis and Henry chose another instructor with whom they felt they had developed a strong relationship. Dravis chose Miss Ria Pereira after taking computer programming, Java and now AP Computer Science A. Henry chose Mrs. Elizabeth Bradshaw, her composition teacher and Girl Up moderator.  

Covid will delay trip by one year

Traditionally, the summer immersion takes place the year after you apply. But due to Covid-19, students who applied and were accepted will travel overseas in 2022. Henry said, “They canceled this year’s program on (Feb. 23), and I got my acceptance on (Feb. 26).” 

But despite the postponement, Henry said, “I think it’ll be a really good opportunity and I’ll become pretty proficient in the language. The pros outweigh the cons.” Fluency is absolutely a goal for her, and Henry said, “I think being immersed in the language will help because when you’re in America there’s just not as much room to speak French.” 

Dravis feels similarly and believes it’ll be a great way to “see how Spanish fits in my life.” Dravis’s sister, senior Abygail Dravis “had a great time in Spain,” he said. “From what I’ve seen and heard I think it’ll be a great experience,” said Dravis.