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Online German degree opens the world for OSU Ecampus alum

U.S. Army veteran Hope Nelson stays true to her ‘roots’ and passion

By Becky Barrett
May 4, 2020

What’s the next move for someone with degrees in Russian and international studies, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, someone who has studied five languages and is starting a new career?

For Hope Nelson, it was the right time to pursue another degree in her second-most proficient language, just so she could say that she had a German degree.

People used to ask Hope how she learned to speak German. Hope says her answer didn’t seem adequate. She taught herself using textbooks and audio tools in high school before living in Germany for a year as an exchange student.

But now she is proud to have a German bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University Ecampus, one of the nation’s top-ranked providers of online education, as proof.

Hope’s degree fits her life perfectly. She works in public affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. But communication is an essential skill, no matter what field you are in.

“I firmly believe that communication is something anybody can use, whether they’re in public affairs or if they’re in engineering or mathematics or teaching,” she says. “Our career fields could take us internationally. We have to have that sensitivity to other cultures and the way people communicate. Learning German has just further enhanced that communication ability.”

A desire to keep learning

Hope is originally from Texas. After her high school year abroad, she attended Texas A&M University and participated in the Corps of Cadets, a paramilitary leadership organization. After graduating with her first two degrees in 2012, she served as a military police officer in the Army until 2016.

“Engagement between peers, as well as my professors, was really important because you can’t speak a language alone. … You’re constantly helping each other and building each other up.”

As she was preparing to leave the Army, Hope wanted to continue her education. Although she already spoke German, studying it at the university level would give her life added structure as she transitioned from military to civilian life.

“I really just wanted to further my knowledge in German,” she says. “I started looking into it, and a military academic advisor said that Oregon State was the one with the most robust online German degree program. I looked up a bunch of other places, and Oregon State just shone as the best option for me.”

Hope started the degree program before she left the Army and continued her coursework, one class at a time, as she began a new full-time career.

Hope Nelson, Oregon State University Ecampus German graduate, standing in her graduation cap and gown.Play

As she transitioned out of the Army and began pursuing an online German degree, Hope Nelson received start-to-finish support. Watch video »

Studying a language online is interesting, Hope says, because although there were many reading and writing activities, most of the skills are still verbal. She created video logs that gave her practice speaking new words. Before she recorded, she researched and practiced pronunciation so she could do it perfectly.

Oregon State’s online German degree program is infused with easy-to-use technology that allows both students and faculty to interact in a way that enhances language acquisition.

“Engagement between peers, as well as my professors, was really important because you can’t speak a language alone,” she says. “So it’s nice to be able to engage with peers, even if they’re in different time zones. You’re constantly helping each other and building each other up.”

Reshaping her worldview through language

Hope also learned to take initiative by studying online. She moved twice, from California to Kentucky, then from Kentucky to Pennsylvania. The flexible structure of online classes allowed Hope to make big life changes without losing momentum.

Hope graduated in June 2019. She and her husband, Ian, traveled to OSU’s Corvallis campus so she could participate in the commencement ceremony and receive her diploma in person.

Now she’s encouraging others to learn a new language because of how it reshapes your worldview.

“It broadens your knowledge of your own language, your own culture and your own communication styles,” she says, “but it opens your world literally to more of what’s out there.”

You could say that learning a new language is easy for Hope, the same way it’s easy for most people to learn lyrics to a favorite song.

“All you need to do is hear it,” she says.

And now when people ask her where she learned German, she has a diploma to be proud of too.

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