Michael Mungiello - 2014 Program Participant

Tornado sculptures by the Konzerthaus

Lovely tornado sculptures by the Konzerthaus. Photo by Michael Mungiello

What inspired you to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to know two things much better: the German language and myself. While I had studied German for two years at an intensive university level, there remained a desire to utilize the language in an everyday sense, which one simply cannot do within the four walls of a classroom. So many circumstances, from explaining where the best bookstores are, to asking where the vacuum cleaner is, remain beyond the reach of an academic curriculum.

Living in Freiburg promised me an opportunity to turn a language into an entire worldview, while on the way letting me live on my own in a land where I knew nobody. It was an opportunity to become self-sufficient and grow.

What made you select Freiburg specifically?

Many abroad students feel the need to choose between a rural location and an urban one. Frankly, I didn't want to choose - I wanted it all! Freiburg presented me with the possibility of exploring a vibrant city while always being a few minutes away from the Black Forest, one of the (I feel I can say this now, having spent countless hours in it!) most beautiful natural sites in the world.

Cobblestone streets in Freiburg

A serene morning scene on the cobblestone streets. Photo by Michael Mungiello

What were your housing arrangements like in Germany?

My housing arrangements consisted of 12 roommates, a large homey apartment, a spacious single-bedroom, and a location right next to the Botanical Gardens. I got to know plenty of native-speakers who were students at the University!

Why would you return to Germany if you have the chance?

While seeing the Black Forest and experiencing more of the cultural scene (which I barely scratched the surface of, there's so much there!) would be high up on the list, my top reason for returning would be to reunite with the friends I made! Forming lasting relationships with Germans was one of the greatest things this IES Abroad program gave me the opportunity to do.

How have your experiences studying and living in Freiburg impacted your life?

My experience studying abroad in Freiburg has made me much more environmentally conscious. I became aware of the importance not only of composting/recycling, but also of the carbon implications of what we eat. Learning from flatmates about the huge amount of emissions one could cut down on simply by not eating meat, I became a vegetarian and still am to this day! That's without a doubt one of the most noticeable parts of my IES Abroad experience that has stayed with me.

Basel, Switerland at night

A shot of nearby Basel, Switzerland at night. Photo by Michael Mungiello

If you could change one thing about your study abroad program, what would it be?

Well, if I could change one thing about the experience it would be this: I wish I had spoken German more often outside the classroom! While I utilized German with actual Germans, improving my language skills incalculably, I do wish I had made more of an effort to avoid English at all costs. It may sound a bit strange, but this study abroad semester really was an outstanding chance to speak only German. Perhaps this is a fact I appreciate most now that I'm home, where, surprise of all surprises, there aren't as many opportunities to say Genau or Stimmt. It's the small things you miss, so get in as many of them as you can while you can!