Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Fulbrighter in Luxembourg, in Disney GIFs

After months of anxiously waiting and telling people that you "aren't quite sure" what you'll be doing next year, finding out that you have been accepted as a Fulbright grantee feels a lot like this:

Of course, the excitement period can only last so long! There's so much to be done -- sending in your visa paperwork, figuring out housing, and - of course - packing. What do people wear in Luxembourg? How fancy do you have to dress for school? Oh well, best pack everything!

You head off, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and arrive in Luxembourg, two flights and 10+ hours later. It's mid-morning in Luxembourg, but in your jet-lagged head, it feels more like 3 or 4 am.

Jet lag is a pain, but you're prepared. You've done your research: Luxembourg is officially a Francophone country and you've been brushing up on your français. You expect the streets of Luxembourg City to look a little bit like this:

But before you can open your mouth and show off your French skills, you notice that Luxembourgish people tend to greet you with a phrase you've never heard before.


Moien? What is Moien?!

Ohhhh. Right. Lëtzebuergesch. One of the three official languages of Luxembourg and, apparently, the one that all native Luxembourgers prefer to speak. You were feeling pretty good about your language skills ... but now you realize that everyone around you speaks approximately 1.5 million different languages.

At times, it feels like you could not be more inconspicuous.

Despite the inevitable language barriers, you find your way around your new city -- learning how to find bus times, where to grocery shop, and exactly how seriously Luxembourgers take jaywalking. (Very.) But just as life in Luxembourg is starting to feel a little bit more "normal", you take your first in-country day trip ... to a real life fairy tale castleIt is a life-changing experience.

Meanwhile, in your responsibilities as a Fulbright grantee, you've begun to wonder what exactly the Fulbright Commission saw in you. What business do you have leading discussions in university-level English literature courses? Or teaching high schoolers about American history?

Even after the first couple of weeks at your new school, you're constantly forgetting the names of teachers you work with. You're always running into familiar faces on the street (it's a SMALL country, guys) but the interactions always go like this:

And in this crazy multilingual atmosphere where everyone is constantly switching languages ... you feel like you're beginning to lose the ability to speak English!

Between teaching and grading and planning lessons and attending embassy events and travelling for Fulbright meetings and keeping up with friends and family despite a six-hour time difference ... it can all start to feel a little overwhelming!

But gradually, life as a Fulbrighter in Luxembourg begins to make more and more sense. And one day -- when someone mistakes you for a local and asks for directions or when your students turn in awesome essay responses -- it all clicks.

The longer you spend abroad, the more you appreciate the perks of life in another country. Of course, you miss your friends and family in the U.S. (And Target. You really, really miss Target.) But you start to realize that an international career just might be the one for you. 

Sure, Luxembourg might have its quirks ... but do you ever want to leave?


  1. The Fulbright Committee needs this for their recruiting. You are wonderful and so funny.

  2. Preshy smiled during the entire reading of this blog. Love you.

  3. Super chouette! Et mieux encore...J'adore...

  4. Love this to pieces!! Awesome explanation of your feelings. Louis' reaction is the best. :) Yay you!

  5. J'adore ton blog!

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