At a meeting of the Oxford City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the council announced that Differdange, Luxembourg is being named Oxford's "Sister City," an agreement meant to signify the bond the cities share and improve cultural understanding between the two communities.
This announcement was formalized Monday, March 20 at a public signing at Oxford's Lane Library. The signing followed a weekend visit from two delegates representing Differdange, both public officials in their home city.
Tom Ulveling, a councilman in Differdange, and Henri Krecki, secretary of Differdange, spent the weekend attending various meetings around Oxford and at Miami University.
Differdange, the third largest city in Luxembourg, is no stranger to this sort of relationship. The town is home to the Miami University Dolibois European Center, well-known to many Miami students and faculty who have spent summers, winters, semesters and year-long stints on the Luxembourg campus.
The center has hosted the well-attended study abroad program since the 1960s, boasting hundreds of graduates. It is also home to the Summer Humanities Institute and is a stop on FSB's summer abroad tour.
The concept of "Sister Cities" was first initiated by President Eisenhower after World War II and was designed to promote these kinds of bonds between culturally different areas, and, by doing so, to initiate "citizen-to-citizen" diplomacy.
Karla Guinigundo, director of global partnerships in Miami's Global Initiatives program, thinks this partnership will encourage just that.
"This will build on what is almost a 50 year relationship between the university and the city of Differdange and expand that relationship into people in the communities," Guinigundo said.
She noted that this new designation is not unexpected.
"The Sister City concept has been discussed for a while, and with the reorganization of the Global Initiatives department at Miami, establishing the formal Sister City relationship has become a priority," Guinigundo said.
Although the communities of Oxford and Differdange have many differences, Miami's Luxembourg presence has created a certain kinship between them. Across the street from MUDEC is a bar with a Miami flag hanging from the ceiling and walls so crowded with signed t-shirts from previous cohorts that the Miami student signatures number in the hundreds.
In Oxford, returning faculty and students bring home knowledge about Luxembourgish culture, new language proficiencies and a tangible bond grounded in that place.
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"Both Oxford and Differdange display a great deal of integrity towards their communities and the diverse populations they host," said junior Sophia Marcum, who attended the MUDEC program in the Spring of 2016. "I have confidence that becoming Sister Cities will only strengthen endeavors to serve their respective citizens. I hope this arrangement will create opportunities"
In many ways, this announcement has served to formalize what is already known to many Oxford and Differdange residents alike; that each of these communities embody a sense of home that spans their municipal borders, and that each can provide to the other a place for cultural exposure, education and enjoyment across the world.