Learning a language

Altoona alumnus uses language study for travel, discovery – Penn State News

Summary

It’s not uncommon for college students to complain about having to take a required language course. They can be one of the most challenging parts of a student’s education. Penn State Harrisburg alumnus Haldan Jacobson could have fulfilled his language credits as quickly as possible and moved on, barely to remember even a few words soon after graduation.

Instead, the further he progressed, the more he realized that language is a key that unlocks doors of opportunity, discovery and tra…….

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It’s not uncommon for college students to complain about having to take a required language course. They can be one of the most challenging parts of a student’s education. Penn State Harrisburg alumnus Haldan Jacobson could have fulfilled his language credits as quickly as possible and moved on, barely to remember even a few words soon after graduation.

Instead, the further he progressed, the more he realized that language is a key that unlocks doors of opportunity, discovery and travel.

The First Door

When Jacobson’s Jewish grandfather was forced out of Germany in 1939 due to threats from the Nazi regime, authorities also revoked his citizenship. In 2011, Jacobson and other family members were offered restored citizenship as part of Germany’s reparation program.

Jacobson was proud of his Jewish ancestry and German citizenship. Still, it wasn’t until his first year at Penn State Altoona, when taking his first German course, that he began to appreciate this connection and nourish his roots. “I started to really get into it and grow to understand it. I began to learn about German history and see it as part of my own.”

In 2019, after two full years of German courses, Jacobson had the opportunity to try out his fledgling German skills through a volunteer program that took him to the tiny town of Hermeskeil in southwestern Germany.

“I saw traveling to Hermeskeil as the culmination of my studying and immersion in German language and history. It was a way to push all of that.”

And to push himself. Shortly after arriving in the country, as Jacobson was trying to figure out the train and bus system, he found himself sitting on a bus stop bench, alone, somewhere deep in rural, southwestern Germany with no wi-fi. “The fact that my German was at best conversationally fluent for a primary schooler did not faze me. It was a little bit frightening but also empowering and liberating. I was there, and the only person I could rely on was myself. That was the point.”

Jacobson managed to get himself to the correct location—Grimburg Castle. For ten days, he stayed in the halls of the castle, where he and others in the volunteer group helped maintain the structure and its grounds, set up a Renaissance Festival for Father’s Day and worked at a local museum. He visited and explored nearby towns, interacted with locals, went on hikes and attended music festivals.

But it wasn’t those things that had the most significant impact on Jacobson. It was sitting around the fire at night sharing bier, borscht and backstories with other members of the volunteer group that really moved him, fostered a sense of connection and bolstered his role as a citizen of the world. Volunteers included young adults from Hong Kong, Vietnam, Ukraine, Turkey, France and Russia. “Sharing our personal experiences and listening to those of others creates bonds that transcend …….

Source: https://www.psu.edu/news/academics/story/altoona-alumnus-uses-language-study-travel-discovery