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Thanksgiving in Luxembourg

December 5, 2013 Written by In Scott Niederjohn Blog
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Bonjour, Guten Tag, Hello, Moien, Lakeland Friends,

It has been awhile since I blogged, so I thought I would provide an update on my activities in Luxembourg since I last wrote in early October. Just like at home, teaching, meetings and family activities keep me very busy. We try and travel as a family whenever we have a free weekend, or a break at the university, which has contributed to our time here flying by quickly. It’s hard to believe that as I write this update, our Luxembourg adventure is nearing its completion.

After some early-semester adjustments, my class has gone well. I ended up with 48 students and it seems like each week we become more comfortable with each other and with the format of the class (which is quite different than what the students here are used to). We’ve covered American history, including reading the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, and considering the causes of the American Revolution. We’ve compared the American economy to that in Europe in terms of current and historical performance, studied the American Federal Reserve System in contrast with central banks in Europe and looked at U.S. trade policies, tax policies, budget deficits, entitlements—all with an eye towards Europe. The students have read the USA section of The Economist magazine each week since early September, so they are now well versed on current events in America (this has led to many discussions of government shutdowns, the inability to make a healthcare website work and spying on German Chancellor Merkel, who is very popular in Luxembourg.)

We’ve also read a book by Michael Lewis (of Moneyball and The Blind Side fame) that investigates how the U.S.-centered housing crisis quickly spread to Iceland, Ireland, Greece and even nearby Germany. In addition, we’ve read parts of Walter Isaacson’s well-known biography of Steve Jobs as we discussed American entrepreneurs. The students have made presentations on American business people/entrepreneurs of their choosing. Their choices included people as diverse as Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg.

This past week the class met at the United States Embassy here in Luxembourg to tour the facility and to meet with a group of American and Luxembourgish business people. The visit focused on the differences in business norms and culture between Europe and America. The students enjoyed seeing the embassy, but were surprised by the level of security required (no cameras or phones and military with automatic weapons guard the perimeter). One of the staff from the embassy explained that the State Department requires the exact same security precautions around the world, so ultra-safe Luxembourg gets the same treatment as places in much more volatile parts of the world.

Embassy speaker

Luxembourg US Embassy

On Thanksgiving, we hosted the class for a traditional meal and to watch American football. My wife prepared samples of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and pumpkin and apple pie. Almost all of these items were new to the students and difficult to acquire in Europe. A combination of help from the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg, an online American and British grocery store located here and a shipment from family at home, allowed us to pull it all off. Many of the students also brought samples of foods from their cultures. My kids especially liked the Portuguese desserts. The event was fun for everyone and my older boys did a great job of mingling with the students and explaining what was happening in the Packers game (although they became less and less friendly as the game wore on). The students also had fun with a Thanksgiving and American Football trivia contest we prepared. I’ll be awarding prizes to the winners next week that will include a box of Lucky Charms, pancake mix, barbeque sauce, peanut butter, some American flags and, to the first-place winner, a Jordy Nelson Packers shirt. All of these items are a challenge to find in Europe. When Lucky Charms are found, they tend to cost more than the equivalent of $12 per box. My mom sent me all of the items from Wisconsin, which I’m sure the students will appreciate.(Insert Thanksgiving with Students and Thanksgiving with Students 2)

Back in October, during Lakeland’s fall break, I met Chuck Stockman in Dublin, Ireland, to investigate a potential exchange partner university that we had identified last spring. The Dublin Institute of Technology was particularly interesting to us given its many similarities in programming with our Business Division. In addition to having a very strong hospitality and tourism program, it also has studies in the other business areas that overlap with our programs. The meetings went very well, and they are clearly interested in finding a partner school in the U.S. Dr. Stockman is particularly excited about the potential for our hospitality management students given the excellent lab and restaurant facilities D.I.T. maintains.

 Dublin Institute of Technology


In mid-November I represented Lakeland at a two-day student fair here in Luxembourg City. More than 5,000 high school students from Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and France attend to consider their future options. We were one of two American schools represented and we were fortunate to be placed right next to the very popular U.S. Embassy booth. The embassy provides a number of scholarships for European students interested in studying in America. There were universities from all around Europe represented as well as other options for students like the military, police, or firefighting. Many students visited our booth and were interested in learning more about Lakeland. In particular, both boys and girls that want to continue playing sports show particular interest as this isn’t an option at European schools. I’ve been working with the admissions staff and coaches to follow up on some of the leads from the fair. In addition, at the fair I was able to make some contacts with more schools here in Europe interested in exchange partnerships with us. One that was most interesting is called the United Business Institute in Brussels, Belgium. They invited me to visit their campus and I will be doing so next week. They only offer programs in business and all of their classes are in English.

Lakeland College booth

Embassy at student fair

As I described in the last blog, all University of Luxembourg bachelor’s students must complete a mobility semester. I was fortunate to be asked to present to students interested in international exchange (they define this as outside of Europe) on all three campuses here about studying at Lakeland. I’m told there is interest in coming to Lakeland from a number of students for the fall of 2014; however, we won’t get a list of those that applied and are qualified until later this month. I’ve also been working with Jen Siebert (the college’s director of internal programs) and the three Lakeland students that will arrive here in January to study during the spring of 2014 term. I’m hoping our paths will overlap for at least a short time so I can help them acclimate to Luxembourg.

I’ll conclude by mentioning that I’ve also had a full schedule of meetings with various university faculty and staff as well as others in the Luxembourg community. I’ve met with the undergraduate advisors of many of the various programs here to try and encourage them to recommend Lakeland as a study abroad choice for their students. I’ve also met with the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg as he is interested in developing internships for American students at U.S. companies that are located here (the biggest American employers include Amazon, Skype and a number of large banks) during their study abroad experience.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with various Luxembourg business leaders through contacts back in Wisconsin at the Luxembourg American Cultural Society. In some cases, these firms are interested in engaging Lakeland students on projects related to international business and potentially entering the American market. Lastly, I continue to be fortunate to be part of the U.S. Embassy family due to the Fulbright scholarship. My wife and I have had the opportunity to attend some fun and interesting events in the past few months including the European release of a documentary film called The Ghost Army and a reception to kick-off the college basketball season in America. The Ghost Army is about a secret U.S. military regiment in World War II stationed in Luxembourg. They were a group of artists, including fashion designer Bill Blass, who impersonated the army in order to fool the enemy with inflatable tanks and fake troop movements.

On a personal note, my family is excited to have some visitors for the holidays. The kids haven’t seen their grandparents or cousins in almost four months and are counting down the days until a group of our family members arrives. I’ll try and prepare one last blog as my class and work here in Luxembourg conclude and I prepare to come back to Lakeland for our spring semester.

Happy Holidays to everyone at Lakeland,

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Scott Niederjohn

A noted state economist, Scott Niederjohn is one of the nation's top advocates for adding economic education to K-12 curriculum. Since joining Lakeland's faculty in 2004, Scott has led the creation of the Lakeland Center for Economic Education, which works with EconomicsWisconsin to create financial literacy and economics curriculum and other tools for K-12 teachers. His research has been featured in numerous academic journals, and his research and thoughts on public policy and other state issues regularly have him quoted by statewide media outlets.

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