Luckily, I won't be leaving the country behind feeling like a total outsider. Since my last post, I have made the acquaintance of four Luxembourgish students, all aged twenty or twenty-one, and have hung out with them on two separate occasions, with our final encounter being this upcoming Friday, my last night here.
I met the students on the night before my birthday, November 20th, which was also the night before we left for our five-day study tours and then subsequent pre-finals five-day travel break. They had come to our Thanksgiving banquet at MUDEC and were at the local bar frequented by Miamians when I made their acquaintance. For the first time in four months, I was not the outsider in the situation; they were. In a room full of American students, they were the only four Europeans.
This made for an interesting dynamic, and I have to wonder; would I have hit it off with them if I was the outsider at their bar? I can't say for sure; but what I can say is that out of all the MUDEC students that were present at the bar that night, I am one of the five or so that actually took the time to say more than a few words to the Luxembourgers. As the fifty or so of us that were there that night have spent an entire semester together, we know each other very well. We have developed our own social circle. We have inside jokes, favorite songs, and shared memories. We know each other's quirks, what they love and what they hate, and the students from Belval University are not privy to any of those things. They are completely uninvolved in our social construct. Thus, every single observation that I have made about myself in a European context was now true for them and not applicable to me. I had switched roles. I was back on the inside.
The roles had the potential to switch again when they invited me to attend their house party that was happening on the next Saturday. I was the only one that could potentially make it, as everyone else would still be traveling but I was planning on being back in Luxembourg by then. Unfortunately, I ended up not being able to attend, but I can predict that had I been in town to go, I would have been back in my role of outside observer. Nonetheless, the contrast was striking, and having experienced the feeling of being an outside observer (in multiple different countries) for the entirety of this semester, I recognized it instantly.
When we met up with them again this past Wednesday, it was a much more balanced group - myself, my roommate, and one other MUDEC student with the four of them. We met up at the local Christmas markets and walked around together, eating food, riding the Ferris wheel, and drinking hot wine. We talked about everything; exams, university, Luxembourg, America, relationships, clothes, travels...it was just as it would be if I spent time with my American friends. This was interesting to me, since we were in Luxembourg, the place that I have been on the outside of for four months, and with Luxembourgish students, the people that I have been on the periphery of for an entire semester, and yet, I felt completely comfortable.
However, the differences that I have noticed as an observer were still present; the students would occasionally fall into speaking in Luxembourgish with each other, because all though they speak English very well, it still is not their native language, and they had to explain lots of things to us, such as the tradition of mulled wine and the fact that we could return our mugs to be refunded three euros. I think that the feeling of being accepted came from the fact that we had both agreed to meet up with each other to spend time together on our own accord and were thus spending time together as friends, as equals. Nobody was uninvited, and therefore everybody felt included.
Although I wish I had made the acquaintance of the students before the last lingering weeks of the semester, I am so happy that I was able to spend some time with them at least (especially for the purpose of this study!) For all the differences that exist between young American adults and Luxembourgers of the same age, there is so much common ground as well.