May 26, 2017
Hi Matthias, tell me a little bit about yourself— where are you from ? What are you studying? Why did you decide to apply for a Fulbright in the U.S.?
Hi Lauren, I’m from Cologne, where I am currently studying Integrated Design at Köln International School of Design (which is an institute of the Technical University of Cologne) and I’m going to New York this fall semester to study at Parsons The New School for Design. I applied to the Fulbright scholarship for funding because the U.S. is very expensive. I had heard about the exchange through my university and wanted to go because Parsons is such a great school in the field of design. I had also spoken with some students from my university in the years above me who had also studied at Parsons and they said it had amazing opportunities, such as the equipment in the workshops and classes they offer.
Why did you chose to apply to study at Parsons? Did you know you wanted to go to Parsons from the beginning?
We have a very international approach in my school; international students are always coming to us and we are always going to new places as well. For me, it wasn’t really a question of “do I want to go to New York?” because it has always been my dream to go to New York since I was a kid, not especially the United States, but just the city. It had also to do with my background in design— choosing Parsons in New York, as many of my favorite designers live and work in New York. I also thought about the Rhode Island School of Design, but in the end I decided that I wanted to go to New York— Parsons is an amazing school so I applied for that. Fortunately, I was nominated by my school and I’m looking forward to going there.
Is there anything in New York that you intend on doing first?
I want to arrive there a bit earlier to get used to the vibe and fast paced environment of the city, to visit some museums and galleries, mainly to do some sightseeing the first weeks. During the semester, I really want to visit all the neighborhoods and boroughs of New York while I'm there— to really see how multicultural and diverse the city is first hand.
Have you ever studied abroad before or visited the U.S.?
I have, but nothing long-term so far. I did two one-week projects through my university, first to Tel Aviv, Israel, where we partnered with the Shenkar college of Design and Engineering on a project to help improve the relationship between an Israeli bank and its customers through service design. I also went to Vienna for one week, where I worked with the parliament, specifically participating in workshops together with staff from the parliament, which was a really great experience— having these interdisciplinary teams. But this will be my first long-term stay abroad.
What kind of challenges do you think you’ll face during your time abroad?
Well I think it will really be my first time organizing my whole life completely on my own, from finding a flat in this huge, new environment to finding new people to hang out with, but I think I will make it. So really just general challenges that come from the fact that it is my first time doing this. I also think that maybe the study there will be a challenge because at my school the program is very open— I am studying integrated design, which is a general approach to design with many areas of study I can choose to working on. At Parsons, and in the U.S. generally, education is more of a business and requires more weekly assignments to be handed in, which I am not used to.
What kind of cultural stereotypes have you heard about Americans? What are you expecting?
Well it’s hard to say because everyone I’ve spoken to has said you’re not going to America, you’re going to New York, but I think Americans are more open, more easy-going and share their opinion with you no matter what. To be honest, I don’t have too much experience though with Americans, but I am very excited to meet a lot of new people during my stay. It also seems to be a divided country— from state to state the people seem to be pretty different.
What are you most excited for? What do you think you’ll miss the most about Germany?
I am really looking forward to living in New York, being in this creative city and working with creative people at Parsons, soaking up this new style of life. I am sure if it will be different and I am curious to see how long it takes for me to get used to it. I’ll miss my family and friends as well as my university— especially the group of students I work with. But I think you cannot grow as a person unless you really step outside your comfort zone.
The interview was conducted by Lauren Crawford – a Fulbright U.S. Teaching Assistant 2016/2017 in Saxony, Germany. Lauren graduated from Oberlin College, Ohio.
Matthias Grund from the Köln International School of Design (which is an institute of the Technical University of Cologne) starts his Fulbright grant in August 2017. He will study photography at the Parsons School of Design, New York, for one semester.