Alumna Interview: Michaela Durinova

June 8, 2020


What year or years did you attend AIS-Salzburg at what grade levels? 

I first attended the summer language program in 2004 and then moved into Moosstrasse 106 a few months later as a full time boarding student – I was in 9th grade. I attended all the way through high school and graduated in May of 2008. 

What is your fondest memory of attending AIS-Salzburg?

Everyone probably says this, but it’s everything! I look back on my high school experience 12-15 years later with nothing but fond memories and a profound appreciation for just how special the experience was and how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to live it. Not many people around the world can say that their high school weekends were spent skiing in the Austrian alps or climbing the Untersberg, for example. Having attended a small boarding school where it’s impossible for a student to just be a number among thousands or a line on a spreadsheet is a value proposition on its own – the relationships that you form with your classmates who are also your “housemates”, with your counselors, and your teachers all translate into a wonderfully tight knit community that is completely unique. 

Have you remained in contact with any former AIS-Salzburg classmates?

Definitely – although “staying in contact” in the traditional sense is more difficult for us – we all live in different countries, even on different continents. A group of us from AIS attended the University of Miami at the same time. Marco Vicel (who was in my graduating class) and I were even in the same class in business school later on by chance! My younger sister also went to AIS (2006-2009), so we obviously are in close contact and it’s lovely that we share some of these memories. 

What have you done since graduating from AIS-Salzburg?

After leaving AIS, I attended the University of Miami to study marketing for my bachelor’s. Post graduation, I dabbled in entrepreneurship and very quickly stopped dabbling when I realized how difficult it was. I then chose to get my MBA and found a passion for management science, six sigma, LEAN, and other continuous improvement methodologies. By complete coincidence I accepted a really cool job as a six sigma practitioner at a Spanish-language media company in Miami. It worked out pretty well, as I still work at the same company to this day – I am now a vice president within the sports broadcasting division. 

What aspects of your education at AIS-Salzburg assisted you in the success that your further academic and professional achievements represent?

The boarding school experience taught me to be emotionally mature and independent much earlier than my peers who lived at home until their late teens. Although I must admit I developed a pretty serious knowledge gap when it came to doing my own laundry. At AIS this was done for us, so in that respect, university was a slightly rude awakening.

Jokes aside, the academic curriculum is very challenging compared to the requirements to receive a “regular” US high school diploma. Given the school is so small, there is no option other than taking hard classes and challenging yourself, you can’t take any easy way out. But it’s a good approach, I believe it gave us all grit which is a vitally important driver of future success. I took around 12 or 15 Advanced Placement exams in my last two years and I didn’t find them difficult; the rigor of the in-classroom education along with the guidance of my teachers prepared me almost completely. 

Do you have any advice for students at AIS-Salzburg or applicants to the school?

Applicants: You’re making a very wise choice – read below note to current students.

Students: You are SO LUCKY! Make the most of this time in your lives and of the time at this school. It’s easy for me to say now as Monday morning quarterback (more like Wednesday at this point), but these are your most formative years and you’re really very fortunate to grow into the great people you are going to be in such a nurturing, caring, yet challenging environment. I know study hall and lights out are annoying. Now. You will yearn for it later on, I promise. The possibilities for what you can make of your education and out of living at Moosstrasse 106 are endless – you will get out of it exactly what you put in; it’s up to you. Living in Salzburg is so much fun (except the night of the Krampuslauf), living with your friends is so much fun! Sachertorte,  kaiserschmarrn, and leberkaese are all so good; as soon as you get to university the food will start to get worse. All of your teachers are amazing and they care so much about your education – appreciate them, take what they have to offer you. Be in the moment and be mindful, you will never forget the moments you’re living right now.