by Hannah Sroka, MUDEC student
In January 2020, Olivia Casey packed her bags, grabbed her passport, and flew to Luxembourg for a semester at MUDEC. Casey, a sophomore at the time, picked the MUDEC program because she had always wanted to study abroad for an entire semester. She was looking forward to volunteering at the international school and traveling all over Europe.
When she arrived, she quickly fell in love with the Château and Luxembourg. “I loved the architecture, furniture, and artwork. It all felt so authentic and timeless,” she said.
Casey is a middle childhood education major from Cleveland, Ohio, and she loved her EDT221 class with Professor Jeannie Ducher. She was looking forward to the class study tour to Copenhagen. She lived in nearby Niederkorn and could be found doing homework in the library, hanging out with friends in the Cave, or getting a pastry from Berto.
More than anything, however, Casey wanted to travel. “Paris was at the top of my list,” she said. “Pictures don’t do it justice. It was everything I imagined and so much more.” She loved Munich and its lively city life, and has fond memories of The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria. She saw the Alps, went to Cologne for Carnival, and visited Trier, Metz, and Interlaken. She enjoyed meeting new people in hostels or around new cities.
But eventually, things began to go downhill. “We started hearing about COVID more and more in February, and then Milan had an outbreak. One of my friends was studying abroad in Florence and was sent home. From then on, we knew it was only a matter of time,” she said. Sure enough, in mid-March it was announced that Americans abroad should return home in the next 48 hours. MUDEC students received an email saying that the program was cancelled and they needed to look for flights home.
Casey felt absolutely devastated. She wanted to find some way to stay, but knew it would be impossible. “I remember sitting in the Grand Hall and crying to my mom on the phone because every flight was sold out,” she said. She was the last student to leave the Château, which meant she was able to avoid crowds at the airport, but this gave her little comfort. “Quarantine was awful,” she said. “I kept looking at the weeks ahead and thinking, ‘This weekend, I should be in Greece. This weekend, I should be in Spain.’ MUDEC was one of the reasons I came to Miami, and now it’s been cut short.”
At first, MUDEC from home was difficult. Casey’s classes were asynchronous and not too difficult, but she had little to no motivation. “I was much more excited about travel than classes, so it was hard to ignore the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere,” she said. “The staff tried their best to communicate with us, and they sent us the weekly newsletters, but it was really hard for everyone."
By the time the semester ended, Casey had accepted the fact that Europe was long gone and began to focus on the positives. She started being social, having fun, and looking into new study abroad programs. She wants to student teach abroad, which would take her back to Luxembourg.
Casey looks back on her MUDEC experience fondly, despite all its hardships. “I enjoyed every moment in Europe,” she said. “COVID only gave me a month and a half, but I was able to immerse myself in a different culture. I met so many new people and absolutely want to go back.” She also discovered a new passion for travel. “I’m a believer of the lifelong learner perspective,” she added, “so there’s always more information for me to observe. I learned that the world is made up of so many different people, and I want to meet all of them.”
When asked what she would say to her February 2020 self, Casey laughed. “Buy a mask! Invest in mask companies—and get ready for a wild ride!”