Originally from the Chicagoland area, Tom since 2015 now calls Munich, Germany home. He runs Abroad American and is currently studying his Masters.
Q + A with Tom
WHERE YOU ARE FROM IN THE USA? I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago, with your typical suburban catholic-school upbringing – complete with summers full of baseball, cabins, and camping. After getting my bachelor’s in civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I moved into Chicago, where I lived for a couple of great years in Lakeview.
WHERE YOU CURRENTLY ARE BASED? WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE? I’ve lived in Munich, Germany since October 2015 – when I moved here for a 2-year master’s degree program at the Technische Universität München (aka the Technical University of Munich, see German isn’t so hard!).
WHAT BROUGHT YOU OVERSEAS? While I’m here for the master’s degree, I originally had the idea to move overseas after traveling solo to Ireland and Germany in September 2014. That original idea was to travel indefinitely for a year, and to return to the US after. After quickly realizing that was neither exactly financially viable nor prudent, were I to return to the US job market, I searched for other options. I settled on getting my master’s in Germany, and applied to 4 different programs across the country.
DID YOU STUDY ABROAD IN THE PAST (OR PRESENT)? IF SO WHAT PROGRAM AND WHERE? In short: during my bachelor’s, no, but for my entire master’s, yes. Currently, I am getting my master’s degree from the Technical University of Munich, in the Transportation Systems program.
No, during my bachelor’s degree, I did not study abroad, though I definitely wanted to. I feel that part of the reason I ended up deciding to get my master’s in Germany was precisely because I did not study abroad during my bachelor’s. As for my current master’s degree studies, this program in Munich ended up as my final choice for a few reasons. First, the program here was at a very well-known and established university, with a sizable international presence. TUM is an old university with a long list of innovations and accomplishments through the years.
Second, the program fit perfectly as both a continuation of my bachelor’s degree and as a step in the particular direction I wanted my career to go in. I’m a student in the Master’s in Transportation Systems program. The program is about exactly what it sounds like – transportation systems. Within the program, there are three separate areas of focus, and I’m within one which centers around travel demand management. Essentially, I focus on who travels when, why, and how, and how best to manage that demand for movement. The focus area covers urban planning, public transportation, personal vehicle demand, neighborhood mobility, system modeling, and a host of other transportation and mobility based fields.
But that’s more than enough technical jargon for this short introduction. The final reason why I decided to move to Munich for this program is much simpler. Munich is Munich. This city is constantly highly-ranked on city livability indices for good reason. It lies an hour away from the Alps in a region with several large lakes and beautiful countryside. Its population is relatively large and diverse. And, of course, it happens to have great beer, and a relaxed, very comfortable beer culture. It’s just a very pleasant city to live in, with lots to do.
ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR FUTURE YOUNG AMERICANS? To young Americans, specifically those thinking of living, studying, or even traveling abroad, I have but one word of advice. Go. If you can make it work financially, and you have the right mindset of openness and willingness to change, going abroad is something that will change your life. If you let it, it will change how you think about the world, as well as America. I’d heard from far too many other young Americans that they’d love to travel or even live abroad, but that it just wasn’t feasible right now or it was too hard or too far away. I call bull on that claim. If you’re in a position where you have a halfway decent paying job, you can save up to travel and live abroad with no problem. All that’s holding you back is your decision to do so.