Evan Harris

German Studies: Sydney Glickson

Sydney Glickson did not plan on being a German studies major. At least, not until this year. Glickson was originally going to major in physics — but in the world of private equity, she felt that a physics degree would not be that useful.

“If you asked freshman year me, she probably would have said getting a German major was dumb,” Glickson said.

But now, she’s realized that learning a foreign language helps you learn skills “that you can’t touch in other classes, and that you really need in other parts of your life.”

Glickson founded a startup called Ascend Speech and Debate, which is an online debate camp that took off during the COVID-19 pandemic. She thinks majoring in German studies has helped her with the operation of this business, which she recently sold.

“The skills you learn operating a company, you cannot learn in college,” Glickson said. “But in a weird way, I think language learning approximates a lot of problem solving skills you need in [operating a business].”

One of these skills is being put on the spot and having to speak a foreign language — like ordering at a restaurant in German. Glickson studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, in spring 2022 and in Jena, Germany, in the summer.

Glickson’s experience in Jena seemed most impactful to her, as she lived with a host family whom she had only emailed once before meeting in person.

“The first comment they had is, ‘Oh, you’re not fat. We thought every American was fat,’” Glickson said, laughing. “I thought they were joking, but no.”

While there was an initial culture shock, Glickson quickly grew to appreciate the Germans’ cultural differences. The “fix-it” mentality of the East German host family was something that struck Glickson. 

“Instead of spending my time, my money, my energy on accumulating stuff, I should accumulate experiences,” Glickson said. 

Glickson gave some parting words of advice to any students considering studying abroad: 

“If you’re considering it, I would definitely go for it…I wrote a journal every single day of what I did, and it is the best souvenir I had…that journal is one of my most prized possessions in life.”

But it wasn’t just her study abroad experience that stuck with her. Glickson appreciated many professors in the German studies department, but especially Dr. Rebecca Thomas, her first 200-level German professor. 

In the 100-level German classes, students were just learning their colors and basic sentences. But when Glickson got to her first 200-level class, Thomas said, “I’m just going to talk to you in German, and we’re going to read a book,” according to Glickson.

Diving straight into speaking and reading German was rewarding for Glickson, and she believes it was one of the key skills that has helped her in her career.

This summer, Glickson will be working as a growth equity analyst on a technology team at Summit Partners, a private equity firm. She will return in the fall to complete some credits, as she took time off school to run the startup, but doesn’t know yet what she will do after graduation.

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