Mundell’s Vienna semester includes work at U.N.
Nathan Mundell spent two months in the spring semester of his junior year studying German at the Goethe Institut in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. From there, he went directly to Vienna for a semester of study and work through the Central College Vienna Program.
What was best about the Goethe Institut?
I found it very helpful to be attending class with other students who were also learning the language from around the world. It made it easier for people to talk freely without any fear of messing up since no one in the class was an actual native speaker of German. Schwäbisch Hall has only around 40,000 inhabitants, so it was easy to acquaint myself with the surroundings. While in Germany it felt as if everyone was very intent on meeting new people and learning the language.
What has your Vienna experience been like?
Vienna is a large city at around two million inhabitants and makes for a little bit more of an adventure in seeing all the sights. I still sometimes take a subway to a random stop and wander around with a map to try and find my way back to a familiar place. Studying in Vienna is a lot more like what I am used to in the United States because there are preformed groups of friends that have been attending the same university or living in the same city for a while, usually. However, the dorms we live in are a great opportunity to meet Austrians and other international students. For example, I live with an Austrian student, and we speak to each other back and forth between English and German so that we both can practice our foreign language.
What have your classes been like?
I am taking classes in German here that require me to read a lot and that allow me to not only expand my knowledge of great literature, but also greatly improve my German knowledge. It is great to read novels in their original language; it makes for a better experience. And I am learning so much from everything I am doing in Vienna. The Austria in Context course is a great way to understand the history of this once large and powerful empire that Vienna was the headquarters of.
How about your internship?
In my internship with the International Progress Organization, I have been able to research some of the many international organizations that are located in Vienna. Among my duties is to read through publications that are going to be published as a collective journal and create an index for the publication. I have also attended United Nations conferences as part of my job. One dealt with the usage of hard or soft power in dealing with conflicts, which was all in German. Another conference I attended was about what a chaplain’s duty is while employed at a prison. I think that the work of groups like IPO is more and more important in the world these days because I have come to believe that there needs to be a nonpartisan moderator to better assimilate happenings in the world.
What’s best about studying German at Cornell?
The block plan is a great way to learn the language. Because we have one course at a time, a student can immerse him or herself in the language and speak it for four hours a day. Studying German at Cornell allows for the closest thing to immersion that I have experienced because at a semester college or university one has to worry about other classes on top of German and learning a language is all about, in my opinion, practice, practice, practice.