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Alumni Feature: Madelyn Neal

Madelyn Neal came to the International School of Indiana (ISI) in 2002 as a 3 year old in the French language track, staying until she graduated in 2017. 

After her time at ISI, Madelyn was prepared to continue her academic career first at Miami University of Ohio for her undergraduate degree and accelerated Master’s degree, and is currently attending New York University for her Ph.D. in French. 

Madelyn credits the language learning programs at ISI for guiding the course of her life and future career, with future goals to become a French professor for university and graduate students.


With benefits like language immersion, the tight-knit community, or the IB Diploma Programme, what drew you most to ISI? 

The language immersion program was definitely why my parents chose to send me to ISI, and why I chose to stay at ISI for as long as I did. Growing up in small-town Indiana, I knew how rare it was to learn French at almost the level of your native tongue and it was an experience that I never took for granted. 
Later, to participate in this sort of elite program like the IB, while certainly daunting, was another bonus. It gave me lots of college credits and time management skills, and really helped my confidence to know that I could take these advanced-level tests and do well. The IB experience is so unique and is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it prepared me more than I could ever say for any academic and professional challenge. There’s no way I could have handled the rigor of graduate school without first having those experiences in high school. 

How does what you learned at ISI help you in your current endeavors? 

I went to Miami of Ohio after graduating from ISI, and double-majored in English Literature and French, with a minor in Spanish. This was a direct effect of my experience at ISI – my higher level classes in IB were English A, French A, and Spanish B. With all of the credits and knowledge that I learned from ISI, especially in French, I was able to do an accelerated Master’s degree in French at the same time and still graduate in 4 years. 
Now I’m at NYU, about to start the second year of my French Ph.D., and I can say that learning French with the ISI immersive method completely guided the whole course of my life. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
In your experience as an ISI student, how do you think High School at ISI differs from other schools?
More than anything though, the teachers were the ones who truly made my experience. Classes with Mrs. Sinitsky, Miss Bramhill, and Mme. Garner especially were always challenging, but even as a student you knew how much they cared about you and how much they wanted you to succeed. It felt like they were on your team, working together to succeed in IB exams – there were times right before IB exams when I would be struggling to learn something, and their doors were always open for encouragement, help, and a coffee. 

What advice would you give to parents considering ISI for their children? 

That’s a hard question because every student is different, and ISI’s smaller community won’t be right for everyone. That said, if your child thrives in an environment that really embraces independence, responsibility for their own education, and motivation, then going to ISI is a no-brainer. 
The immersion program when I was younger kick-started my language skills, and I would wholeheartedly encourage all parents of younger children to consider it. There’s no better way to learn how to speak another language, and I think we can all agree that learning about other cultures and having international experiences is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. 
ISI was a challenging school, but the one-on-one connections I had with teachers, small class sizes, and the way my specific academic goals were fostered and encouraged impacted my whole career and life for the better. 

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