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March 2015

At the age of 16, Pennsylvania native Hope Schmid found herself in Belgium, immersed in a new culture, and adjusting to speaking a new language. As a high school exchange student who was honing her French speaking skills, Schmid found herself learning a great deal while also facing the difficulty of being unable to fully communicate her feelings to those around her.

It was then that Schmid began to see the beauty of language and the importance of communication.

“I loved it, but it was also really hard,” Schmid said. “I couldn’t speak English, which gave me insight into communication and the challenges that occur when someone is unable to communicate their emotions.”

Schmid’s time in Belgium ultimately led her to Penn State where she now is a triple-major in French, linguistics and communication sciences and disorders – all while a member of the Schreyer Honors College.

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Schmid, who found a home in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), is one of those HHD students, and this is her story.

Schmid arrived at Penn State certain she wanted to study French, but was unsure what area to select as her second major.

“Penn State gave me that freedom to explore so many different majors,” Schmid said.

Schmid’s exploring first led her to linguistics, completing her planned double-major. Through her linguistics courses, Schmid also became fascinated by the anatomy and physiology of speech and hearing, which led her to CSD. After a talk with Joel Waters, pre-major and major academic adviser, Schmid decided to add CSD as a third major.

“It gives me the more practical view of what you can do with linguistics, what you can do with language, and how we can help others who have problems with language disorders or hearing disorders,” Schmid said. “It put everything into perspective for me. It solidified what I want to do with my future. If I hadn’t discovered CSD I wouldn’t know I want to help people with speech and hearing disorders.”

As an honors student, Schmid is working on a thesis where she examines how people use pitch and how it correlates to their gender identity. Outside the classroom, Schmid serves as a research assistant at the Center for Language Science and is president of the Buddhism for Peace club. Following graduation, Schmid plans to attend graduate school, studying either speech pathology or audiology.

“It has been a mixture of both the roughest times of my life and yet the most incredible experiences of finding out who I am and exploring myself,” Schmid said. “This has been a journey that has been challenging because I came here not exactly knowing what I want to do and enrolling in different courses to find out what I enjoy doing to finding out who I am as a student and who I am as a person in the community.”

Ultimately, Schmid hopes to have her own practice after working in a medical setting to gain a broad range of experience. One day, she hopes to work closely with the LGBT community “because I think that communication often involves who we are in our identity, encoding who we are in our identity, and I want people to be able to express themselves no matter who they are.”

In addition to CSD, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Biobehavioral Health, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management. Learn more about HHD.