Immersive experience: Franklin student is the first to win a scholarship in France

For six weeks, she could not use her phone or communicate in English.

The circumstances were not a punishment for Franklin Community High School student Abigail Demaree, but rather a reward. Demaree was accepted into Indiana University’s Honors Foreign Languages ​​program to complete a summer study abroad trip to France. Thanks to an anonymous donor, she became the first Franklin student to receive a scholarship for the trip through Franklin Education Connection, which covered $5,000 of the approximately $6,000 in travel expenses.

The IU program, which has sites in France, Austria and Spain, has been around since 1961. Franklin’s French teacher, Thomas Maxwell, who was himself in the program as a student at Center Grove High School in 2014 , traveled to Saumur, France, with Démarrée.

“There’s a lot of study with grammar and culture, history, a variety of things to prepare students for a trip like this,” Maxwell said. “There was a big orientation in April and we spent almost eight hours with the kids, telling them what to expect living with a foster family, culture shock. We spent time assessing their level of French and to know at what level they would be.

On assessment, Demaree, who had taken four years of French, was classified as intermediate, but quickly became an advanced learner once in France. She and 23 other students from Zionsville, Carmel, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Greenfield, Center Grove, and Indianapolis stayed with host families, took classes in literature, communication, linguistics, and culture, and participated in group activities, such as choir and drama, all of which they did without speaking a word of English, Demaree said.

“It was really weird at first, as soon as something happened I wanted to text my mum and tell her about it. We had one hour of internet a week so there was no easy way accessible to communicate with our friends and family,” she said. “It was really scary, but kind of liberating. I didn’t have anything to go to immediately. The first night I was there I went to my room. I didn’t have a phone and couldn’t read English, our books were in French, so I cleaned the room, put my things away, and fell asleep.

After initially finding her situation difficult, including a warning to students that they would be sent home if they spoke English, she quickly adapted and was able to discuss complex matters with her host family, her classmates and his roommate, a student from Greenfield-Central High School.

“We had a lot of conversations and I was surprised not only at my ability to communicate in a different language, but also to have complex political discussions about France,” Demaree said. “At the time, there were elections. We talked about the differences between the regions of France, we had a conversation about sport and I was surprised at how much, once I touched on a subject, how much I got into another subject .

Demaree described Saumur as a town similar to Franklin, with small businesses in the town center. The two municipalities have an almost identical population, with approximately 25,000 inhabitants each.

“I feel like I can remember everything. There was this market they had every Saturday morning, people could buy their fresh produce for the week, bread, meat and cheese, and it reminded me so much of the market in “Beauty and the Beast”. It was so surreal, like I was in a movie but it was a real place. I really loved it and that’s what I miss the most since I came back,” Demaree said.

While there, the group of Indiana students also visited other areas of France, such as Normandy, Versailles and Paris, Maxwell said.

“We saw a museum dedicated to the Landings, we went to the Normandy beaches and we bathed in the Channel. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We saw castles in the Loire Valley, saw three large castles, and the third and final excursion was to Paris. We spent 2.5 days in Paris seeing the sights and having a great urban adventure.”

The scholarship will help other Franklin students realize they can take such a trip, too, Demaree said.

“It makes me proud to be a part of our school and to help kids know they can do it with the help of our school,” she said. “It makes me proud of our school which can give children the opportunity to travel the world when they might not have been able to before.”

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