Grace journalism student examines French speakers in northern Indiana

Micaela Eberly/ Photo provided

WINONA LAKE — When Micaela Eberly, a journalism and French double major at Grace College, was given her senior capstone assignment to write an investigative journalism piece related to the local area, she began brainstorming a way to incorporate her passion for the French language.

After some research and several conversations with her adviser, she set out to investigate the experiences of French speakers in and around Warsaw. Her complete five-part series, entitled “An Analysis of the French-speaking Population in northern Indiana,” is now being published in the Times-Union.

“I love telling people’s stories, and I have a passion for learning about cultures, so I thought interviewing French speakers in the area would be a fun and interesting way to combine all of my interests,” said Eberly.

According to Eberly, finding the interviewees was not as easy as one might think. She relied heavily on Dr. Lindsey Richter, director of the modern languages program and the Institute for Global Studies at Grace, to find her sources, which include nonprofit organizations that support immigrants in the area as well as several French-speaking individuals, including French missionaries, a Haitian refugee and a Belgian small business owner.

Although their stories are unique and their backgrounds are varied, Eberly was able to find some commonalities among her interviewees.

“One of the common threads that I saw both in the research and through the stories was the importance of a support system,” said Eberly. “As they learn a new language or law, it is important that people have someone who can teach them so they aren’t trying to figure out this new environment on their own. It can also be a huge help for someone to just listen to their stories. Showing you care will remind them that even as they go through the difficult transition, they have a friend along the way.”

Beyond the findings of the report itself, Eberly found the process behind the report to be equally beneficial.

“The capstone project was the culmination of my major thus far,” said Eberly. “It’s the thing I’ve worked for, even if I didn’t realize I was working for it. The project allowed me to take control of my writing, closer to what I will be doing in future jobs, and it was a chance to see how much I’ve grown in the journalism program at Grace.”

Dr. Lauren Rich, chair of the Department of Humanities, would second that sentiment.

“It’s truly amazing to watch students like Micaela grow in their ability and confidence over the course of their college education,” said Rich. “As an educator, it is a joy to watch students take ownership of these capstone projects and focus on areas that most interest them. The intention is that these projects serve as a springboard for students as they launch into their careers, graduate school or whatever comes next.”

For Eberly, who plans to study abroad next year in Dijon, France, through Grace’s study abroad program, this project only deepened her passion for cross-cultural relationships and sharing that with others.

“I hope that these articles give people a better appreciation for other cultures,” said Eberly. “Everyone around you has a story that is unique to them, and when people grow up in a different culture than you, there is such an opportunity for you to learn and grow by just listening to them. Life can be so different for people, no matter if they grew up in the same neighborhood or across the world from each other, and listening to other stories is a beautiful reminder of how special God made each of us and how much we can learn.”

The first of Eberly’s five articles can be read at