Saturday, July 17, 2010

Luxembourg


First and foremost, I would like to say, " Moien, Bon Jour, and Guten Tag", which all mean good day in Luxembourgish, French, and German, respectively. A unique greeting such as this one seems in order since Luxembourg, a most interesting and unique destination, was my next stop! This country is one of the smallest in all of Europe and is landlocked between Belgium, France, and Germany. Because of its close proximity to these other countries, Luxembourg is a melting pot of sorts, borrowing customs, sharing traditions, and becoming a trilingual country where German, French and Luxembourgish are all official languages! Over a half million people live in an area of approximately 999 square miles. Most people think of Luxembourg as a small country, but I prefer to think of it as a big country in a small space!!!

I was fortunate enough to be invited by both President Hodge and Dr. Theirrey Letterre from Miami University to guest lecture about dyslexia and supportive technology at the Miami University Dolibois European Center (MUDEC) in Differdange, Luxembourg!

Dr. Theirry Leterre

Here's a little history about MUDEC: This university center was named after John Dolibois, a native Luxembourger, a Miami University graduate and Vice President, and the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1981 to 1985. This international school was founded in 1968 and the heart of the institution lies within Differdange Castle. Students who attend here live with local host families in the town and attend their classes inside the castle by day. By night, no students are permitted to sleep in the castle, therefore, it was a supreme honor for me to stay the week as an overnight guest inside the castle walls! It was surreal and I felt like a real life princess!

Miami University Dolibois European Center of Luxembourg

When I first arrived at the castle, my mom and I were escorted up the stairs of the winding castle turret, and shown to our guest rooms. The amount of space was unbelievable! We both had huge rooms complete with a stocked kitchen, en suite deluxe bath, and we even had our own family room area with a comfy sofa, television, and computer station.

Luxembourg Castle

We quickly unpacked out suitcases and set off for a tour of our temporary home! Directly across from my room were two French style windows that opened up to a gorgeous view of the castle courtyard. Every morning I could hear the sounds of church bells beckoning through these very windows and I would migrate to this spot to drink my coffee and enjoy the view. Amazing!

View from the Castle

Later that morning, we set off to explore Differdange. Despite its small size, Luxembourg has such a wide range of beauty. The quaint and charming town was peppered with medieval churches, picturesque castles, and beautiful rolling hills. Everyone we met as we journeyed through the town was so genuinely welcoming and inviting. One local Luxembourger even took time to explain the fact that most of their citizens love Americans because they remember how American troops liberated their country during World Wars I and II. Hearing this made me so proud to be an American and so honored to network with other countries in a way that only the Miss Teen International title would allow. What an honor!
Statue of Guillaume II on Horseback in Luxembourg City

We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the capital and enjoyed the beautiful stained glass windows, intricate mosaics, and centuries old statues.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City

Again, I took time to light a candle in memory of my Grandpa Mike at the Mother Theresa Memorial which was set up within the church. We strolled down the ancient streets, shopped until we dropped, and soaked in the vibrant culture that is unique only to Luxembourg. What a memorable experience!

Lighting a Candle for My Grandpa Mike

After a quick lunch, it was time to head back to the Differdange Castle to give my lecture on dyslexia and supportive technology. The conference hall where I spoke was an enormous space standing two stories tall with a grand double door entry. The room was filled with beautiful woodworking, fabulous velvet drapes, and was adorned with flags of countries from all around the world. Positioned just behind the podium were both the Luxembourg flag and the American flag, side by side in perfect harmony. I was a beautiful sight to behold and I felt so proud to represent Miami University, the title of Miss Teen International, the International Dyslexia Association, and the United States itself!

I was amazed at how interested and attentive my peers were. There were over 150 people in attendance and they had lots of questions to ask about dyslexia. Several students even approached to share there stories about dyslexia- one had the reading disability herself and the other's mother suffered from it.

Guest Lecturing to 200 Students

As I've always said, this is my favorite part of my role as Miss Teen International- connecting with people and reminding them that they aren't alone! When I speak out about my struggles, share my strategies that helped me persevere and overcome, and talk about the technological advancements that will surely change the face of dyslexia, it never fails to forge a connection with people.

At the Podium During the Dyslexia & Technology Lecture

After the lecture concluded, Dr. Leterre held a cocktail party at his private residence in my honor! Faculty and students alike were invited, food and drinks were served, and I can honestly say that this esteemed honor left me speechless (and its rare that I'm without words)! I met so many wonderful new friends and gained so such insight and respect for the MUDEC staff and program. The professors who teach in this program are the most fascinating people with such cultural diversity. What a gift it would be for any student to attend here. In fact, by the time I left, I was already planning a summer semester in the MUDEC program. It is so terrific!

With Several Students After Lecture

On my last night, I was invited to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with the students! They took me to all the fun spots in town where I was able to sample local cuisine and mingle with the locals! What great times, amazing stories, lifelong friends, and spectacular memories I made during this trip!

Words alone cannot express the gratitude that I feel for the hospitality shown to me by Dr. Leterre, all the faculty and staff at MUDEC, my fellow classmates and friends, and the Luxembourg locals. The combination of all of these ingredients added up to a perfect recipe for one unforgettable experience. I was already thinking about when I'd go back to Luxembourg before I left it's city limits!

Au revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, and Addi (goodbye in French, German, and Luxembourgish)

Jessica Byington

No comments:

Post a Comment