Meihong Jiang, who has adopted the name “Susan,” has fallen in love with life in Lynchburg. The visiting professor from Foshan University in Guangdong, a province on the South China Sea, teaches English and is thrilled to be spending time in an English-speaking country for the first time in her life.
“We’re always curious about what real life is in America,” she said. “I really feel lucky and excited to be here.”
Susan said she chose Virginia because of its history. She is using her six-month sabbatical here to improve her already good English, to learn how English is taught here, and to reach out to Chinese students in the US to find out what they wished they had learned in China before coming here to study. She is interested in the cultural adjustments required, not just language challenges.
Alex Akulli, director of LC’s Center for Global Education, said a former faculty member’s son was teaching in China and helped make the connection to LC. Now, Akulli said, LC has an important connection at Foshan University, where he would like to establish an exchange. “We have a lot to gain from her being here,” he said.
Susan said one of the main differences she has seen between schools here and in her homeland is class size. She said Lily’s class in China has 49 students, and at the university level, she typically has 35 students.
English is an integral part of the school curriculum from preschool on in China, Susan said. Her 7-year-old daughter, Lily, who came with her to Lynchburg, is flourishing in first grade at Bedford Hills Elementary School. Susan said Lily is learning English idioms faster than she is.
Susan’s husband was unable to come to Lynchburg with her, but she says they chat daily via the Internet.
Susan and Lily are staying with Chris Gibbons, director of community involvement, so Chris is able to get her to and from the college. Susan said she cannot believe how kind everyone has been to her. “What surprised me the most is that people are so friendly and warm-hearted,” she said. “I just feel at home.”
Susan is teaching Chinese twice a week to 15 students and faculty, and is attending classes of Dr. Rich Burke, Dr. David Lipani, and others. She said she loves having time to read novels, something she rarely gets to do at home with a full teaching load.
Lynchburg is also more like her native hometown of Guilin in northern China. She is excited to be able to see and hear woodpeckers and other birds. “I think it’s wonderful here,” she said. “I love everything here.”