Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What Am I Doing Here?

Mëttwoch, 11 November.

I have officially been living in Luxembourg for two whole months (although it occasionally feels like much longer). I thought I would mark this momentous occasion by explaining exactly what I'm doing here ... since I've realized that a lot of people actually don't know.

Well, what ARE you doing?

Okay, so first things first. I am here on a Fulbright grant. (More on that here.) That means that I am given a stipend by the Fulbright Commission that pays for me to live in Luxembourg. In exchange, I work part-time as an English Teaching Assistant at both the university and high school level.

Where are you living?

I live in a university residence in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg's second-largest city. Esch is located in the south of the country, just a few kilometers from France. (As in walking distance from France. As in people go to France to do their grocery shopping.) Esch is smaller and not quite as picturesque as Luxembourg City, but it's very lively and easy to navigate.

Although I was a little apprehensive about living in student housing after four years of dorm life, I'm absolutely loving life in my university residence. I have my own room but share the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms with nine other students. We come from all over the world -- France, Germany, Mexico, USA, Italy, and Slovakia -- but communicate primarily in English. However, the Italians and Germans are currently learning French and the French girls and I are working on our German ... so who knows what we will be speaking by the end of the year!

Where and what do you teach?

I teach two days a week at the University of Luxembourg, which is located on a brand-new campus in Belval, just a few kilometers west of Esch-sur-Alzette. This semester, I'm assisting with three courses: American Studies I: Ideas and Ideals and two literature courses called "Text and Context" (where we discuss the context of books like Pride and Prejudice and Heart of Darkness) and "Reading and Writing" (where we focus on developing an argument and writing strong analytical essays). The students in my courses are primarily English Studies majors in their first year of university-level study. Many of them want to go on to study English in the UK and become professors, but several are just following the program to improve their level of English.

I'm also teaching at a local high school, the Lycée de Garçons. (Contrary to its name, which literally means "Boys' School," it's a normal co-ed high school.) I work with three supervising teachers and with students ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen. My role in the classroom differs from class to class: some of the teachers will ask me to prepare a specific lesson, while others have pretty much given me free reign for the semester.

Click here to see photos of the University of Luxembourg campus at Belval.

What is the Luxembourgish school system like?

Oh lawd. This one is still a bit of a mystery ... I feel like every day I learn something new about the secondary school system and am a total stranger to Luxembourgish primary schools. Stay tuned for a blog post about Luxembourgish schools!

Name one thing that is different about Luxembourg.

Multilingualism. Americans are, on the whole, monolingual. With the exception of people learning English as a second language and those who speak a second language at home, most of us communicate exclusively in English. In the States, it's common to learn a foreign language in school, but I'd argue that most people who take 3-4 years of French or Spanish don't become truly proficient. Plus, it's rare to see American students take more than one foreign language. Luxembourg, on the other hand, is the poster child for multilingualism. Children who go to school in Luxembourg are taught in Luxembourgish, German, and French before learning English in high school. While French is the official language of the government, Luxembourgers typically converse in Luxembourgish or German. Luxembourgish children with foreign-born parents may also speak yet another language, such as Italian or Portuguese. As a result, it's not uncommon to hear native Luxembourgers switching between languages in the same conversation. How cool is that?!

What do you do when you're not teaching?

A little bit of everything, to be honest! For the first week four or five weeks, I spent a lot of my free time dealing with administrative issues: getting my residence permit, opening a bank account, etc. Now that I've finished with some of the more time-consuming aspects of settling in, I am hoping to get more involved in the community!

I am already involved in a Living Monuments project with the Luxembourg American Cemetery and would love to volunteer at the Musée national de la Résistance (located just around the corner from me in Esch-sur-Alzette) and  In addition to learning more about Luxembourg's unique World War II history, one of my biggest goals coming into this grant was to work on my language skills. This semester, I am taking a German class through the University of Luxembourg Language Center. Next semester, I hope to take an introductory Luxembourgish class and maybe audit a course or two at the university.

Obviously, I'm trying to make the most of this experience and get as much out of it as I can. But I'd be lying if I didn't add that I've spent an afternoon or twelve curled up in my bed watching Luxembourgish Netflix. But that's okay! I learned while studying abroad that it is exhausting to be constantly on the go. Although that mentality works great for a weekend or a spring break backpacking trip, it's not a sustainable way of thinking for a long period of time. Plus, Luxembourgish Netflix is a LOT of fun.

Where have you traveled so far and where are you going next?

I've Skyped with a couple of friends in the past week or two and it seems like everyone has commented on how much I've been travelling. But honestly, I have yet to leave the country for anything but Fulbright-related events!

During September and October, I spent some time in France as part of a trip to Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, and Amiens with some other Fulbrighters. I have also been back and forth to Belgium a few times for Fulbright events. Most of these events have been in Brussels, including my Fulbright Orientation and ETA Training in September and the Ambassador's Reception in October. Most recently, I attended a day trip to Mons with Fulbright Belgium, which a few other Fulbrighters and I combined with a quick visit to Liège. For the most part though, my travel has been limited to day trips within Luxembourg. (This is due partially to the plethora of things there are to see here ... and partially to the fact that I'm actually required to spend most of my grant period in-country.)

Although I don't have any big travel plans for the month of November, I am looking forward to going back to Brussels in December for a Fulbright holiday event and (hopefully) a taste of Belgian Christmas markets! Also in December, I'm hoping to visit a few more cities within the so-called Grande Region, or Greater Region of Luxembourg. Do you have any suggestions?

Click here to see where I've been travelling within Francophone Europe.

Click here to read my Fulbright Bucket List.

When are you coming home?

I'll be home briefly for Christmas. Otherwise my grant ends on June 28, 2016, and I'll be coming back to the States in mid-July. (That means that I'll theoretically have a few weeks to travel, restriction free, at the end of my grant period ... just in case anyone wants to come visit!)

Have any questions about what I'm up to here in Luxembourg? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Heureuse de te trouver et toujours heureuse de te lire. Profite de tout ma jolie...

  2. I just smile the whole time I read your posts!