Hannah Jacobsen, '15

Hannah Jacobsen, '15

November 30, 2012
Experiences abroad open doors for international studies student

Full immersion has been the operating philosophy for Hannah Jacobsen, ’15. The international studies major has ventured to destinations as far flung as the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, to Spain, Portugal, and Italy. But those travels are never about seeing the sights. For Jacobsen, the only way to understand the world is to become fully steeped in local cultures while traveling abroad.

Her global perspective isn’t new. Jacobsen grew up traveling, hosting exchange students, and has a love of languages. Latin classes in high school gave her a foundation for studying Italian, and she’s since added Arabic to her linguistic repertoire.

At the University of Richmond, Jacobsen continues to fill her passport. During spring break of her first year, she performed throughout Spain and Portugal with Schola Cantorum, the University’s choral ensemble. A few weeks later, she returned to Europe to spend five weeks in Italy to fulfill her language study requirements.

“I stayed with a host family on my own, which was really terrifying at first because I didn’t speak Italian very well,” Jacobsen says. “The first week was kind of hard, but after that it was amazing. I would learn so much just being at home. They helped me a lot with the vocabulary and grammar.”

Now a student in the Global Health, Medical Humanities, and Human Rights Sophomore Scholars in Residence program, Jacobsen spent fall break closer to home. She and her classmates volunteered with Remote Area Medical to provide free dental, medical and vision care to residents in Grundy, Va. But over Thanksgiving, she ventured out yet again, this time traveling to the Dominican Republic, where she and her classmates met with the non-governmental organization Esperanza, which provides low-interest microcredit loans to women.

The experience in the SSIR is helping Jacobsen find a way to connect her varied global perspectives and apply them to a common goal.

“I’m really interested in empowering women around the world,” she says. “I’m so fortunate to have been blessed with such strong women in my life. People had high expectations for me and that’s what made me believe in myself, and I want every girl to have that same experience.”

Whether Jacobsen ultimately ends up working for an NGO abroad, in the foreign service, or for an organization at home, she’s knows a global perspective will come into play.

“It’s really important to not just read about, but to understand and live in the cultures,” she says. “You need to go see things for yourself. There are people who don’t like anything that’s not American, or not Western. I think that really hinders progress, especially in this world where it’s becoming so much smaller and so globalized. We all need to figure out how to get along.”