Miami University's John E. Dolibois European Center (MUDEC) recently celebated its 55th anniversary
Miami University's John E. Dolibois European Center (MUDEC) recently celebated its 55th anniversary
At home in Luxembourg
It's been 55 years since the first group of Miami students set sail for Luxembourg, a country that could easily be the setting for a Disney fairy tale. The beautiful landscapes and architecture, fresh air, and clean streets lined with art and culture could be the place Belle longed to be in “Beauty and the Beast.”
Luxembourg, despite its small size, is far from provincial. It is the only Grand Duchy in Europe and a center of international diplomacy, serving as the crossroads to several major European cultures. The country is an intersection for multiculturalism, where residents speak multiple languages such as Luxembourgish, French, English and German.
“Each year, we witness hundreds of Miami students embark on a remarkable journey to Luxembourg,” Miami University Provost Elizabeth Mullenix said. “The John Dolibois European Center (MUDEC) becomes their academic home away from home. The center is a testament to Miami’s deep commitment to educational excellence and a reflection of the transformative power of international experiences.”
Since the program’s inception, more than 13,000 Miami students have studied in Luxembourg. This semester, more than 150 students are taking classes at MUDEC or completing an internship in Luxembourg City.
“The significance of MUDEC lies not just in the courses taken or the academic credits earned but in the transformation that occurs within each student," Mullenix said. “Beyond the classroom, these students immerse themselves in the cultures, languages, and traditions of Luxembourg. They learn not just from their professors but from the vibrant communities they become a part of.”
MUDEC, which has had three previous locations in Luxembourg, recently marked its 25th anniversary in the Chateau de Differdange, which is located in the city of Differdange in the south-western region of Luxembourg. The Chateau has classrooms and study spaces for students, administrative offices, event space, and faculty housing.
Impact on students
Miami’s educational objectives continue to flourish in Luxembourg and have a profound impact on students. Abby Showalter, a junior Pre-Law major from Park Ridge, Illinois, said that the Luxembourg program was a really big part of her choosing Miami.
“It was really important to my parents that I study abroad,” Showalter said. “They were really pushing for me to study abroad from the day that I began looking at colleges. Miami having a program in Luxembourg was very much a big draw for them because of how accessible the program was. They liked how the credits would transfer. They liked that it is a central location and I would be able to see the world as much as I could.”
Along with taking architecture, physics, and management classes, Showalter has an internship at ARA City Radio station in Luxembourg City, a nonprofit community radio station that aims to inform and entertain Luxembourg’s growing international community.
Showalter said being in Luxembourg has encouraged her to be more outgoing and communicative, especially her internship. “I want to work in entertainment law,” she said. “So it’s really cool to be on the other side of that industry where I can be the entertainer rather than the attorney and just see legally how that radio station works.”
Luxembourg offers free public transportation, which allows students to easily travel to internships and around Luxembourg. Through the support of an alum, Miami has also expanded its housing options for students by recently acquiring space in the Gravity Differdange, which are within walking distance of the Chateau.
Abeyenu Madison, an Architecture student from Dayton, has always had a fascination with traveling.
“It’s something that I always wanted to do as a kid,” Madison said. “…I used to collect maps just dreaming of traveling the world.”
Since beginning his study abroad in Luxembourg, Madison has traveled to Belgium, France, and Germany. He is especially excited to be traveling to Venice and visiting the Venice Biennale through his Luxembourg 101 course, which helps students get acclimated to Luxembourg and traveling abroad.
Madison, who grew up in an international family, has always interacted with diverse communities; however, he says this study abroad experience opened his eyes to another version of life.
“Coming here made me realize that opportunities do not end at the borders,” Madison said. “There are opportunities, there’s jobs as careers, there’s an entire world and professions and lives that I can live in other places. And so it really feels like the doors have been opened. I’m able to see that with my own eyes.”
Nearly 150 alumni traveled to Luxembourg to commemorate the 55th anniversary. Chris ’97 and Jana Holland ’98 were especially excited to return to Luxembourg for the celebrations because of their son Joey Holland, a Business Economics major from Columbus who is currently studying at MUDEC.
“So I was here back in fall of ‘95 and I haven’t been back since,” Jana Holland said. “It’s so just special to be back for the anniversary and also because our son Joey is studying here. The timing just came together and worked out so well for us.”
Chris Holland studied in Luxembourg during the 1994-95 academic year. This is also his first time coming back to Luxembourg. He said it was great just seeing the city and walking across the bridge. “We were here when the campus was just in the middle of the city," he said, “so to be able to see the Chateau for the first time was just amazing.”
Although Chris Holland and Jana Holland didn't study at MUDEC at the same time, Luxembourg holds a special place for them.
“We both had a summer job and he had like three jobs before he was leaving for a year in Luxembourg, and the only reason I wanted to talk to him at the training of one of the jobs was because he was going to Luxembourg,” Jana Holland said. “That was part of his introduction, so that’s how we met and that's how we started talking. We just feel like Luxembourg is a huge part of our story.”
Aside from connecting him with his future wife, Chris Holland’s Luxembourg experience has had an impact on his career. He believes that his study abroad experience, where he had to adapt to new spaces, situations, and environments prepared him for his current role.
“Recently, over the last few years, we’ve done some mergers and acquisitions where I have traveled all over the world — into Brussels, into Tokyo — and I was the one that they wanted to send and just because I was able to interact with a lot of the other companies on a better level,” Chris Holland said. “I was like an ambassador of our company as we acquired new companies.”
Rollin Seward ‘80 was told that he was only the second Black male student to study at MUDEC when he came to Luxembourg during the 1978-79 academic year. As an International Studies major, emphasis was placed on getting study abroad experience.
“I think it changed my life, broadened my perspective,” Seward said. “I had a great family I lived with. They had a brother who was like 19 and one that was 9 — my Luxembourg brothers. The 9-year-old had his Communion, so I went to all the Communion stuff.”
“I was here for a year-round program, so we had a lot of faculty sponsored trips. I went to Russia right before the 1980 Olympics,” he said. Seward also traveled to Spain, Scotland, Greece, Crete, and the lands that were formerly Yugoslavia.
Although the diversity in Luxembourg wasn't what it is today, Seward said he had a really good experience. He returned to Luxembourg 30 years ago to visit his host family and said returning for the 55th anniversary has been wonderful.
“I really like the diversity now and I do like the high- tech transportation system they have here, and still the core of the city is still the same,” Seward said. “I love the beautiful core … the valleys and the parks and the bridges. It’s beautiful here.”
Kristine Nau Dowd was a student at Ohio State University when she studied at MUDEC during fall 1997. She was a part of the first cohort of students to take classes at the Chateau. Dowd said what impacted her most about studying at MUDEC was that it empowered her to venture out as a young 20-year-old who had never been abroad.
“It allowed me the security to venture out into different cultures knowing that I have a safe, secure place to come back to,” Dowd said. “And when I came back, the knowledge and education that was provided by my classmates and by the local community, my host family and the professors continued to build my self confidence and really gave me the spirit that eventually transcended into my life today as a mom and as a wife.”
From students to employees
Matt Osborne ’94 was the student activities coordinator who helped MUDEC transition into the Chateau de Differdange 25 years ago. He was instrumental in getting the Chateau changed from a 15th-century chateau to a 21st-century university.
“I was overseeing a group of French electricians and Portuguese masons,” Osborne said. “So 26 years ago now, I was here, and every morning I’d open the doors and they would come in and they would do their things. It’s amazing now to see how incredible this place is.”
Osborne and his wife lived in one of the studios in the Chateau during his time as a coordinator. “I was joking that our first house as a married couple was a 15th-century chateau," he said.
Prior to being employed at MUDEC, Osborne was a MUDEC student in 1992-93 when it was located on Avenue Monterey. It has been 16 years since he’s been back to the Chateau, and it was an experience of absolute nostalgia.
“The chateau was amazing when I was here as a coordinator, " Osborne said. “It is light years ahead of that now.”
Kimberly Miller ’06, assistant director for Miami in Luxembourg, uses her experience as a MUDEC student to guide current MUDEC students. As a first-generation college student, living, studying, and traveling abroad felt like a fairy tale. However, after studying at MUDEC in spring 2004, she realized she could do incredible things.
“It made me fearless, open to making mistakes and learning, as well as pushing myself outside my comfort zone,” Miller said. “MUDEC changed me in such a profound way, and for that, I am most grateful.”
After her time in Luxembourg, she knew she wanted to travel and have a job that had an international or global component. “My career path wound around and led me back to Miami where I get to celebrate my alma mater and work with the next generation of MUDEC students,” she said.
Miller sees herself as a resource for students because she has been in their shoes and knows how they are feeling.
“I’m always happy to be a resource to them for any questions or concerns they have since I have gone through the program and know that I can provide perspective that may make their experience even better,” Miller said. “I am excited to see them go on this journey with their own goals and experiences, and return back to Oxford excited to share their stories.”
Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Health professor Mark Walsh is teaching two courses in Luxembourg this semester: Physics in Sport and Sports Nutrition. It’s important to him that students have an opportunity to study abroad and see the rest of the world while progressing towards their degree.
Walsh studied abroad in Germany when he was in college. He said it was a great life experience.
“I think there’s data out there that shows now if you’re culturally fluent, to interact with people from different cultures, that you’re more marketable, and that you may be better off later on,” Walsh said. “I’m not sure how hard that data is. I think there’s always this conventional wisdom that is a good thing.”
Walsh is leading one of the week-long study tours, taking students to Germany to a sport university that is also an Olympic training center. Taking advantage of the free transportation, he also takes students exploring on the train and has even taken a trail that leads all the way to France. “We’ve walked or biked to France four times since we’ve been here,” he said.
He believes the faculty benefits of teaching abroad are just as great as the student benefits.
“I see them more, so we interact more, and so it’s kind of a “you get to know your students a little better here,” which is probably a good thing,” Walsh said. “I think it's good for all of us.”