Students are pictured at the entrance of the Maison du Savoir at the University of Luxembourg, in Belval, on 13 September 2019 where a full day of events was organised to welcome new students. Photo: Delano
With a student body comprised of 56% non-Luxembourgers spanning 125 different nationalities, the University of Luxembourg is one of the most culturally diverse universities in the world. Delano attended its first day back to find out why it appeals so internationally.
Watching the sea of students gathering for the first time at the university Belval campus on Friday 13 September, few can imagine the journeys some of this year’s new entrants have made to reach this moment.
And the first day meant different things for all of them. Alongside the excitement and trepidation, some like Eritrean national Gilai, were elated, saying the day was a “dream come true”. Gilai worked as a teacher in Eritrea and a soldier under the rule of forced military service. His career and studies were interrupted by the political upheaval in his country and he has been in limbo the last ten years, first in a refugee camp in Israel, then awaiting refugee status in Luxembourg, which he received in October 2018. The 35-year-old will study a masters in wealth management. “I feel very privileged to be here,” he said. “I paid a big price.”
For 30-year-old Iranian psychotherapy masters student Fatima, pictured below, the elation was evident on her beaming smile. Fatima chose Luxembourg because her partner is doing a PhD there. Later, she plans to complete a PhD. She has spent the last two years trying to get on a course at the University of Luxembourg. Fatima posted a note on the international board at the student fair on Friday on which she wrote “It’s my dream come true”.
The low cost of tuition fees was part of the attraction for Mauritius maths student Luciano. The 21-year-old said he’d considered studying in the UK and US, but the cost was off-putting. He was also attracted to the international demographic of the university and the small scale of the country. “I prefer to be in a small country. It’s like a small family,” he said.
US national Alexis, who is living in the same student accommodation block, agreed the international profile and size of the country were attractive. The 22-year-old, who is starting a Fulbright scholar programme teaching assistant post at the English faculty, said she was looking forward to learning German and getting involved in volunteering in Luxembourg.
Making new friends
While some new students came to the open day with friends, others didn’t waste any time in making new ones. French national Jenna and Japanese national Rina had been chatting like old friends when I spoke to them, but before Friday, they had never met. “It’s my first time in Europe so I’m a bit nervous but people are so friendly,” Rina explained. The 20-year-old is studying science, economics and management. She said she was also looking forward to learning other languages as part of her studies.
Aged 17, Jenna was among the youngest of the new students. About to begin a bachelor in law, the student will live at home with her parents, a 30-minute drive over the border in France. She was attracted to the university’s international demographic.
Another cross-border student was Hannah, a 20-year-old German student of psychology living in Konz, Germany. The competitive element of the course mean she had been disappointed by several German universities and was thrilled the University of Luxembourg had accepted her. She was on a waiting list for student accommodation in the country. Until then, Hannah will travel 1.5 hours each way to study.
Future under construction
Not everyone was so new to the university. Audit and accounting masters student Moushumi came to Luxembourg for her husband’s job over five years ago. Her career in HR was put on hold because she was unable to get a work permit and didn’t speak all the required languages. For her, the first day of university was the first step in a new career direction. “The future is under construction. I want a better future,” she said. Also a mother of two, of which her youngest is ten months old, Moushumi said she was a little apprehensive about juggling studies and family. “There’s a lot going on in my head right now.”