Grad’s life-changing trip inspired her to think globally
Before her freshman year at York College of Pennsylvania, Hannah Copenheaver didn’t think much about world travel.
Her only foray outside of the U.S. was a visit to Canada. Her family tended not to stray too far from their home in Central Pennsylvania. She didn’t even have a passport.
That all changed when her Geography professor, Dr. David Fyfe, approached her about joining a service-learning trip he was planning to India. With her interest in education, he thought she’d be the perfect candidate.
Hannah found herself traveling half way across the world where she spent three weeks working with children at an orphanage and absorbing all aspects of Indian culture – from impoverished rural areas to the dense, bustling streets of Delhi.
The experience was life changing. Hannah entered York College planning to study Elementary and Special Education. But after India, she started thinking bigger – more globally.
“I have to contribute my career path to Dr. Fyfe because he opened my eyes to a world beyond Central Pennsylvania.”
Overseas trip sparks new vision for career
The summer before her junior year, Hannah decided to change her major from Education to International Relations with a minor in International Business. She thought that one day she could work for the United Nations or the World Bank.
Despite changing majors relatively late in her college career, Hannah took extra courses and still graduated on time with the rest of her class. And she did it all while serving as president of the German Club on campus for three years (she was vice president her freshman year), and participating in Dance Excel and Enactus, the largest business organization on campus through which she led numerous projects.
Hannah was a commuter student and said that some days she’d arrive on campus at 8 in the morning and not leave until 11 p.m. when dance practice was over.
“I always make time for the things I really want to do,” Hannah says. “People say, ‘There’s not enough hours in a day’ – but you can make it happen.”
She went on to get a Masters of Arts in Global Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and a master’s certificate in International Trade and Development from the Graduate Institute Geneva while working full time at World Trade Center Harrisburg.
Today, Hannah is a marketing specialist at global infrastructure firm Gannett Flemming, where she puts many of the skills she learned in York College to practice.
Since graduating from York College in 2013, Hannah has continued to maintain her relationship with the school – particularly through Enactus. In fact, it these Enactus connections that led her to yet another job: teaching International Business classes at her alma mater.
“I always thought I wanted to be a teacher,” Hannah says. “But, I never thought about teaching at the college level so early in my career.”
This fall, Hannah started teaching International Management; in the spring, she’ll teach a new course that combines international management and international marketing, called Global Management and Marketing.
She’s thrilled about the opportunity. During her time as a student at York College, she said she had instant connections with several faculty members who she’d turn to for mentorship and advice.
“I hope to do that with my students,” she says. “What I can offer is someone who is still integrated in the day-to-day business practices of a firm that’s global.”
Hannah adds that being able to share up-to-date information and practical experiences will allow her to connect the theory to the practical business applications.
Being back on campus isn’t weird, Hannah says. She comes back all the time for alumni events.
“What was very surreal, was the first time I wrote Prof. Copenheaver.”
Taking advantage of opportunities
When asked what advice she’d offer high school students considering York College, she says they should take advantage of as many opportunities as they can – even if they fall outside their comfort zone.
She offers India as an example – even though it was far away and expensive, Hannah found a way to go and it changed her life.
When she was a student, Hannah also made sure to look for internship opportunities – at the World Trade Center Institute in Baltimore, at the YWCA in York and at the World Trade Center in Harrisburg (which she managed to roll into a full-time job after graduating).
In addition to taking on internships, Hannah recommends students seek out events with an alumni presence.
“It’s all who you know,” she says. “Personal relationships are important to growing your career.”