MSU Education Sparks a Life Abroad

A cove with docks and a few ships

After spending a year in Germany on the Academic Year in Freiburg Program, alumna Caroline Murawski knew she was meant to live abroad. Graduating from Michigan State University in 2009 with a double major in Hospitality Business and German, Murawski has lived and worked in Germany for the past 7 years. Currently, Murawski and her fiancé own and run Big Break Hamburg, an escape room business. We recently spoke with Murawski over the phone, where she gave some insight into life as an expatriate.

image of girl with arms outstretched in a field, buildings and mountains in the distance
Caroline Murawski

Q: What has been your career path so far?

A: After I graduated, I returned to Germany as an Au Pair for one year in Munich. After that, I returned and lived in Chicago and worked for the German government for a year and a half. When I first moved back to Germany after my time in Chicago, the most important thing was getting a visa, and the easiest way to do that was to work at a language school teaching English as a second language. After that, I worked at Ericsson. I did that for almost two years, and then after that, my fiancé and I decided to be self-employed, so we moved to Hamburg to open our escape room business.

Q: What originally pushed you to try living as an expatriate?

A: I would not be living in Germany if it wasn’t for the MSU Year Abroad in Freiburg. I started learning German in high school, and I continued at MSU, but I knew I wasn’t actually going to become fluent unless I lived abroad, and that’s why I did the program. It was a great year to adjust culturally, but I still wasn’t fluent. I knew that if I was really going to become fluent in this language, I needed to go back, and that’s why I became an Au Pair. That’s when it really started to click, and I can say with confidence now that I am fluent in the language.

skyline of germany during a sunset, mountains in the distance
German skyline at sunset

Q: How did your education and experience with the study abroad help you with the transition?

A: As far as language preparation, I had a good base when I came here. The Academic Year in Freiburg program itself was very helpful because they offered courses just for students. They put me in a class that was suited just for my needs with other American students. It was beneficial because it helped me adjust.

Q: What are some challenges that you face living as an expatriate?

A: First of all, missing family. It’s not like I can meet my mom for dinner every night, and the 6-hour time difference can be a bit of a struggle. Another struggle is the cultural difference. Originally, it was very hard for me to accept the cultural differences between Germany and the United States. I was very much living in a bubble, and I thought that Germany would be just like the United States except they would speak German.

man and woman standing on the beach, posing for a picture
Murawski and her husband at the beach in Germany

Q: What has been your favorite part about starting a career in a different country?

A: I’m always up for a challenge. I feel very comfortable now doing business in German. When we first began, I was hesitant to even write emails in German. I used to try to hide the fact that I wasn’t German, but now I’m at the point where I think ‘why not?’ Overall, it’s been a good experience. I feel very confident running my business in German and abroad. I feel like I know the ropes now.

Q: Can you describe what an Escape Game is?

A: Yes, It’s a new free-time activity. Groups of people are locked in a room and have to solve puzzles and riddles in order to get out of the room within a one-hour time frame. It’s a very interesting business because you can really let your creativity flow. We design our own games, we come up with the puzzles ourselves, and we build them ourselves. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun because we get to see how happy it makes people.

logo with white text
The logo for Murawski’s escape room business

Q: What was the inspiration behind creating an escape room business?

A: We wanted do something interesting and creative and be our own bosses, but we weren’t sure what we wanted to do until we played an escape game ourselves. It was so much fun. I quit my job within a week.

Q: What are the themes of the games that you create?

A: We opened the business in June of 2015 with one game, called “Jailbreak,” which is where you’re locked in a prison cell and have to escape. In the past two and a half years, we’ve expanded and now we have three games in two locations. We’ve added “Insomnia,” which is a dream world where you have to conquer your inner demon to wake up from the dream, and we’ve also created a time travel game where you have to travel through time to correct the mistakes of someone who time-traveled before you and messed everything up.

sunset in background with buildings in Freiburg in the foreground
Freiburg at sunset

Q: What advice do you have for graduating students looking to move abroad after graduation?

A: Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t be afraid of differences. It might take some time to accept those differences, but they will become normal to you. Having new experiences is what makes you stronger as a person. Living abroad forces you to grow and change and become more mature and open.

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