When people visit Troy University, they meet no strangers.
Just ask all eight of TROY’s Distinguished Scholars, who, though they have journeyed half way across the globe, have been “surprisingly” welcomed in south Alabama.
“Many Russians find it difficult to get adjusted to how people always smile,” said Katya Kobelva, of Kirov, Russia.
“In Russia we don’t ask someone how he or she is doing unless we really want to know. Here, at first, it’s a surprise because it’s part of a social greeting. People are very polite.”
XiaoFeng Chen, of China, shares Kobelva’s sentiments. “From an everyday perspective, I’m very touched by people here. People driving have stopped to let me ride in their cars if it’s raining; people hold doors for you and let you pass in first; every day I’m touched by their kindness and generosity.”
Chen, who introduces herself as “Maple” in America, has even adopted some of these “polite” habits herself. “My husband warns me not to smile at everyone, but I’m going to continue to do that no matter where I am. I feel great and warm when people smile at me.”
But Chen, Kobelva and the six other Distinguished Scholars will be in TROY for at least a little longer.
Chen, along with Kaituo Yu and Dongmei Wang, all of China, work with TROY’s Confucius Institute, aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture. The three are employees of Hebei Normal University of Science and Technology in China, a partner of the Confucius Institute, where teachers are sent for one or two years to work in TROY.
Yu, who teaches English in China, serves as the coordinator of culture and events at the Confucius Institute. Wang, a Chinese teacher, assists international students in studying the Chinese language and testing. And Chen, the director of teaching affairs in the College of Foreign Languages in China, works in an administrative role at the Confucius Institute.
Kobelva came to TROY by way of a Russian university partnership with Byatka State University that enables her to teach in Troy University’s Department of English. This is her second time teaching at TROY and her third time to visit the University, having earned her graduate degree at TROY in 1996.
Xiaojuan Li, Hongdan Zheng and Jiangyue Liu are also scholars from China, each working on continuing education at TROY. Xiaojuan Li is an English teacher at the Ningbo University of Technology and is studying English education at TROY; Zheng is an economics professor at the Beijing Jiao Tong University Haiben College, and is studying economics at TROY; and Liu is a computer science professor at Soochow University and likewise studies computer science at Troy University.
Yueru Li, also of China, who teaches Chinese to foreign students at Qingdao University of Science and Technology, has come to TROY to observe classes and enhance her knowledge of American culture.
Aside from Kobelva , who has been to America on several occasions, and Chen, who has traveled to the United Kingdom, this is the first time the scholars have been to an English-speaking country, and that has made quite the impression.
“People here are so nice, maybe the nicest people in the world,” Yueru Li said.
Xiaojuan Li said she and many of the scholars have had the opportunity to travel while in TROY, as well as take educational field trips with history faculty member Joe McCall.
“We went to Tuskegee and the State Capitol in Montgomery and the Civil Rights Museum. It was a good way to learn and get to know American culture here,” she said.
While these scholars have had an opportunity to learn American culture in TROY, they’ve also had a chance to embrace many cultures.
“Troy University is so internationalized,” Yueru Li said. “I think my university can learn a lot from Troy University’s international program. I will encourage more students from my university to come here to learn and visit.”
Kobelva said her experience at Troy University has been similar to how the University website reads, preparing her and fellow students for “life—opportunity—surprises.” “Troy University really prepares people for unusual things,” she said. “(For example), students come to take English composition and they get a Russian professor. It’s unexpected.”
Chen also said she has earned a high respect for professors at Troy University. “University professors conduct research in a more scientific and rigid manner,” she said. “Academic plagiarism is very rare compared to China.”
All scholars said they are grateful for their experience at Troy University.
“I thank (TROY) for giving me such a precious opportunity to learn a lot of things,” Yueru Li said.
Keaton is a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communication.