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The Communicator


A well-timed trip to Happy Valley

German student finds 'heaven' in Bellisario College

Hevidar Jankir while hiking
Hevidar Jankir, a German exchange student, spent at semester at Penn State and embraced the opportunities provided by the Bellisario College.

Hevidar Jankir says he was lucky to arrive at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications when he did. It was the Fall 2021 semester, and not only had in-person classes returned, but the Bellisario College had just debuted its state-of-the art Bellisario Media Center. Jankir was in heaven.

“When I got here and saw the equipment students were using, I was blown away,” he said. “All the screens and connection possibilities, it’s amazing.”

Jankir is a German exchange student who spent last semester at the University Park campus learning in and enjoying the American college experience. At the Bellisario College, he found an outlet for his unique interest in using and developing cutting-edge communication technology.

“I love media and I also like tech, so I decided to combine both of these worlds,” Jankir said. “It’s not just what’s in front of the camera, but what’s inside and behind … how does it work?”

Areas of particular interest include virtual reality, multimedia and audio/visual work. “I’m a big audio guy,” he said. “I love immersive, interactive storytelling.”

That enthusiasm shined in the classroom. Associate teaching professor Will Yurman said Jankir adjusted to the American classroom seamlessly. He brought a knowledge of the language and culture that helped his projects flourish.

“What I saw in my class was Hevi’s interpersonal skills, and his skills as a storyteller,” Yurman said. “I think those will serve him well. He was also comfortable with technology and learning.”

Hevidar Jankir standing Beaver Stadium

For his television film production course, Jankir and his classmates led a broadcast of the 2021 Penn State Homecoming parade. Class lecturer Bill Hallman said Jankir’s job preference was an unusual choice, but, due to his passion for audio work and eagerness for challenges, not a suspiring one.

“Hevi gravitated to one of the most complex jobs in my class. Almost no one volunteers to be the audio operator,” Hallman said. “I think Hevi’s background in media technology and engineering helped make that type of ambition possible.”

Hallman recalled seeing Jankir wearing two headsets during the Homecoming broadcast – listening to the show hosts in one and listening to the director’s instructions in the other – all while carefully adjusting levels and balancing audio output.

“I realize how hard that job is when doing it in your native language,” Hallman said. “The fact that he was doing it all in English blew my mind.”

Jankir’s time at Penn State was sponsored by a scholarship from the German government that provides funding for students to study in the United States. As a part of the program, Jankir shared his experiences in blogs and online videos. In October, he was accompanied by a German film team that recorded a weekend in Happy Valley through the eyes of Jankir.

“They came in for the Homecoming football game and for the parade,” Jankir said. “I felt a little bit like a movie star.”

The video crew taped Jankir’s magic behind the soundboard at the Homecoming parade, as well as him working in the CommRadio studio. They also followed Jankir around to his favorite campus spots to get a taste of his Happy Valley experience.

Jankir said the difference between American schools and German schools is stark. Classes are bigger at German schools and there is virtually no campus life. Penn State’s large campus, active student life and school spirit were exactly what he was looking for.

“Because we had such small class sizes at the Bellisario College, it was easy to make connections with classmates,” Jankir said. “You could talk to professors easily and they knew you by name.”

Jankir also lauded the energy and beauty of the University Park campus. He said the “White Out” football game versus Auburn was a highlight.

“I had never experienced anything like that before. We were in the student section. It was amazing,” he said. “We don’t have anything that big in Germany.”

In a project for Yurman’s advanced multimedia production class, Jankir got to capture a little Penn State life himself. For a story called “The Late Shift,” he videoed the raucous late-night environment of El Jefe, a new Mexican restaurant in downtown State College that is open until 4 a.m. every day.

“Hevi brought all the things we learned in class to this project,” Yurman said. “He found strong characters and told a rich and entertaining story. It was technically well done, but more than that, it had a heart to it.”

Jankir spent a few nights from midnight to 4 a.m. at the restaurant. Management gave him full access – and some food. “Some places can be restrictive, but El Jefe really let me do my thing,” he said. “I really enjoyed the experience and how the project turned out.”

Now back home in Germany, Jankir is nearing graduation. He says returning to the United States may be his best bet for jobs and other career opportunities. He said he really embraced his experience abroad. He encourages his fellow classmates – both German and American – to spend time in other countries, out of their comfort zones to learn as much as possible from a new perspective.

“When you go abroad, you realize what you have back home,” he said, “but you also realize what you’re missing.”