BY MARK HOUSER
For a grand tour this summer of the American West, Colonial Couple Manuel Bitschnau '99 and Yvonne Guckland Bitschnau '98 brought their sons, Cedrik and Niklas, as well as Manuel's mom, aunt, and uncle. Before venturing out to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, the Pueblo cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco, the Bitschnaus made a stop in Pittsburgh to see old friends and visit their alma mater.
Manuel is Austrian, Yvonne is German. How did you two wind up at Robert Morris?
Manuel: We both came to Pittsburgh to work as au pairs, living with families and taking care of their children. Each of us took classes at CCAC and transferred to Robert Morris. The Downtown campus, where I went, had a high-quality hospitality degree program, and Yvonne was impressed with the economics degree program and the campus in Moon.
So you were so close, and yet still in two different places. How did you finally meet?
Yvonne: I was president of the international students organization, and we hosted an international dinner on campus. Manuel came and we were introduced, and it was love at first sight.
How long did you stay in Pittsburgh?
Yvonne: I worked at Mellon Bank for a year until Manuel graduated. Then we went to a university in Monaco and got our master's degrees, and then we moved to Austria and got married in 2002. Friends from Pittsburgh, and even RMU, attended the wedding, which actually took place on a lovely mountain peak.
What is it like where you live?
Manuel: We live on a mountainside 3,300 feet up, in a wonderful town called Bartholomäberg near the Swiss border. We also rent guest rooms to tourists. I work as the tourism manager of the region (see www.montafon.at) and get to deal with happy people every day. My company also runs the sports and leisure parks in the region. Yvonne: I work as a financial controller for a large construction company that mainly focuses on building tunnels. Our boys live an amazingly happy and unspoiled live in the midst of this beautiful nature. We still travel as much as we can
When you were at Robert Morris, what thing from home did you miss the most?
Manuel: I missed skiing, Yvonne missed German TV, and we both missed the food — cheese for me, chocolate for Yvonne, and bread for both of us.
And what is it that you miss now about America?
Yvonne: I miss being able to shop in the evenings and on Sundays. Here the stores are closed then. And I miss Oreo cream pie. Manuel misses American breakfasts and ranch dressing.
When people in Austria find out that you went to college in Pittsburgh, what is the first thing they say about the city?
Manuel: "Isn't that a steel city?" But Pittsburgh is quite known for the university hospital. Also for Andy Warhol, Bayer, Heinz ketchup, and the Steelers.
You're the local tourism manager, Manuel. When your friends from America visit, what do you show them?
Manuel: We usually take them up on a mountain by cable car. They all love the mountains, Lake Constance, and Neuschwanstein Castle. We always enjoy great Austrian food with them.
What was it like for you to come back to RMU and Pittsburgh?
Yvonne: I hadn’t seen Pittsburgh in 10 years. It was great to see all the new developments at RMU and Pittsburgh in general, yet it felt like coming home. It was quite emotional to see all my friends there again.
Would you be glad if one of your sons decided to go to RMU?
Manuel: We raised them as little world travellers and really hope that they also will enjoy an education abroad. Why not RMU? It offers so many possibilities.