Michael Griffin in classroomName: Michael Griffin
Graduation year: 2011
Majors: German, History (Secondary Education)

What are you doing now?
I’m currently in my fifth year of teaching German (and occasionally history) at Romeo High School in Romeo, MI.  I lead a very active German Club throughout the year and also sponsor the Ski & Snowboard Club.  Every second summer I help lead a group of students to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We have a very active and popular program; I am one of two full time German teachers at our school, which is somewhat of an anomaly for a German program.  I’ve met and heard of many teachers who are the lone German teacher in their entire district or region, so I consider myself very fortunate to be able to help such a successful program continue to grow. 
 
Why did you chose to study this area?
I come from a family of educators-- according to my mom, I decided at a fairly young age that I was going to move to New York City or Chicago and become a social studies teacher that changed his students’ lives.  I suppose I wasn’t too far off from my prediction… although Romeo is no big city, it is my hometown.  I was hooked on learning German in no time after taking it my freshman year at RHS.  Upon graduating, a couple of teachers left me especially inspired to be the same kind of teacher for future generations.  I chose to attend Central for its reputable education program, and in my first introductory education course I was encouraged to make myself more marketable by having a second major in addition to my favorite subject of history.  German was always a favorite class of mine in high school, but never one that I considered myself good enough to teach.  It wasn’t until I continued learning and applying the language as a student at CMU that I realized I wasn’t too far from making that a reality. 
 
Mike Griffin on mountainDid you study abroad? If so, can you explain your experiences?  
I was always nervous about pursuing a career using a foreign language because I always felt that I would never be good enough at it as a non-native speaker.  Spending a semester abroad in Bielefeld, Germany completely changed everything for me.  It was truly the best way to become proficient in a foreign language--   I came home feeling more confident than ever that I could speak German well enough to have it be the focal point of my professional skills. The classes I took in Germany allowed me to master many of the grammar and vocabulary intricacies that had frustrated me in high school or intermediate language classes my freshman year. Complete immersion in the target language and culture for the entire day gave me the confidence needed to use the language professionally,  not just as a student or enthusiast. There is no better way to understand the perspectives and people in a culture being studied than to experience life there firsthand.  I lived with a wonderful host family that I still keep in touch with, and I have had the chance to visit them twice since graduating from CMU.  Studying abroad was undoubtedly the most rewarding and beneficial part of my college experience.  
 
How did the World Languages and Cultures program at CMU prepare you for your future?  
The Department of World Languages and Cultures (WLC) gave me numerous opportunities to prepare for my future.  In addition to the experience and knowledge gained from coursework, events such as student forums and research symposiums helped my public speaking and presentational abilities.  My field placements in elementary and secondary foreign language classrooms helped me prepare with practical experience teaching a wide range of learners and ability levels.  I truly felt cared for by the faculty of the WLC, they provided invaluable mentoring and advising throughout my time at CMU. 
 
What was your favorite thing about learning a language? What is your favorite thing about studying another culture in depth?
Learning a foreign language is an incredibly rewarding personal experience.  Being able to speak another language brings a sense of exclusivity with it.  About 1 in 4 Americans can carry on a conversation in another language-- the margin is even wider for those that can do so in German.  It’s like I’m a part of a best kept secret that my family or friends have no idea about. I get a lot of personal enjoyment from continuing to learn German and explore the culture it has to offer.  The ‘German side’ of my life feels like this other world that I get all to myself-- that is, until I get my students interested enough to find enjoyment in it too. 

What advice do you have for fellow students in World Languages and Cultures classes?
Make friends with the foreign exchange students while they’re studying at CMU--as awkward as it may feel to speak with them in the conversation hours that your professors may require, some of them can become friends and international connections that you could have for a lifetime!  You never know when you might be able to reach out to them and find a friend to stay with and show you around while travelling abroad.    
 
What’s next for you?
While teaching high school German has been a great start to my professional career, it may not be the only field I pursue a career in.  Given the close economic relationship between many Metro-Detroit and German companies, the field of international business has always intrigued me.  As much as I love my students and sharing my love for the German language and culture, I’d like to continue challenging and improving my German abilities.  A shift in careers may be the perfect way to continue learning the language I fell in love with at CMU.  Time will tell!​