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Jenna Holzapfel

Jenna Holzapfel had an opportunity to experience college life and get a head start on her classes before the busyness of the fall semester.

Now a freshman Kinesiology major at University Park, Holzapfel completed two courses in the summer as part of the Learning Edge Academic Program for first-year students through Summer Session at Penn State.

Enrolling in summer courses allows students to get ahead with their studies, stay on track for graduation, catch up on missed requirements, make progress on a minor, or focus on a challenging class.

For Holzapfel, a Delaware native, the program proved beneficial in a variety of ways, including giving her a head start on her major requirements.

“Taking only two classes allowed me to really focus on my studies without distractions,” she said. “This was especially important for the English 101 class I took, which required a lot of reading and writing. I was able to get additional help when I needed it.”

Additionally, Holzapfel said Summer Session prepared her for full-time college life. Through her classes she made new friends who became her study partners, learned her way around campus, and established a new routine.

“I met all of my best friends in Summer Session,” she said. “When I started school, I already recognized some faces in my classes from Summer Session. I didn’t feel as overwhelmed as I might have had I not already been exposed to some aspects of college life.”

For Holzapfel, Penn State seemed like a natural choice. Most of her family attended the university, and she has visited campus many times throughout her childhood.

“I decided in high school that I was interested in pursuing studies in physical therapy,” she said.

Her interests developed after taking anatomy in high school, in which Holzapfel discovered she loved learning about the human body and its systems. She also took a course in physiology and had an opportunity to visit a cadaver lab, which she found to be fascinating.

“I knew I could hone these interests through the Kinesiology major. That really helped with my decision to attend Penn State,” she said.

Holzapfel said she hopes to one day pursue a career in pediatric physical therapy, and is particularly interested in rehabilitation after sports injuries.

“Physical therapy is something I could see myself doing every day,” she said. “I was grateful to be able to take Summer Session to get a head start on my education.”

Rawan Ali Jaffer Al Lawati

For Rawan Ali Jaffer Al Lawati, taking Summer Session was a way to complete courses for her major that required more focus.

As a child, Lawait struggled with certain pronunciations and her classmates bullied her for the speech impediment.

After time with a speech-language pathologist, Lawati improved her pronunciation. Today, she is an undergraduate student at Penn State majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and minoring in Psychology with a goal to help others.

“In the summer, class sizes are smaller and you get one on one time with professors while easing the burden of the fall and spring semesters,” Lawati said.

When taking a break from studies, Lawati enjoyed a variety of activities on and around campus.

“Besides classes, I got to do a lot of activities like hiking and barbecues outside,” Lawati said. “The weather is great, the town is great, and you get to experience State College when it’s not crowded.”

Ultimately, Lawati wants to return to her home country of Oman where she said more support programs are needed.

“I know what kids are experiencing and I don’t want kids to experience what I experienced,” Lawati said.

In addition to completing Summer Session courses, Lawati also completed a summer internship at a speech and hearing clinic for children in Oman. While there, she observed therapy sessions with children.

“I learned that you can’t generalize; each client is different from the other. You have to take into account their personal experiences and how they’ve grown up,” Lawati said. “I came into CSD knowing this is what I want to do, and after this experience I’m more sure.”