On Monday Mar. 12, 2012 in the Markosian Library, the SLCC International Steering Committee presented Culture and Academia: A Fulbright Perspective.
This event was a unique opportunity to hear the cultural differences and academic perspectives from two visiting Fulbright scholars, Dr. Baohua Wang and Dr. Baboo Surnam.
Dr. Wang is a teacher and doctor of medicine from the Chinese Capital Medical University in Beijing. His focus is on the classic theory of acupuncture and he is SLCC’s first Fulbright-in-residence.
Dr. Surnam is a mechanical engineer from the University of Mauritius and Senior Fulbright Scholar at Texas A & M University. His research is in the field of atmospheric corrosion which he is here to present at a national conference in Salt Lake this week.
“I went to Dr. Surnam’s lecture on Friday on atmospheric corrosion and was interested to hear what else he had to say,” said Abigail Ryder, a SLCC student studying engineering who attended this event.
“He also gave us a talk on Mauritius, his country. I want to travel more and see more of the world. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the opportunity to apply for a Fulbright scholarship myself but I really enjoy hearing what people from international cultures have to say about our culture versus theirs and maybe the advantages and disadvantages of the educational systems.”
SLCC’s Dean of Arts, Communication and New Media, Dr. Anna Szabados was the discussion facilitator for this event.
She asked the Fulbright scholars questions such as what inspired them to choose their professional careers to how their perspectives of the world changed as a result of their experience as Fulbright scholars and what they thought of our educational system here.
“The teachers here pay more attention to inspire the students to think more, to make their own thoughts,” said Dr. Wang when asked how the teaching style in America compares to that of his country.
“The students here have so many questions. This is not the way in China. The classes in China are really quiet. After I go back I can make more questions to ask of the students and [help them] try to make more of their own thoughts.”
As Fulbright scholars, both have left their home countries to travel abroad and learn about new cultures and further their careers as academics.
The Fulbright scholar award is for students, teachers, scholars and professionals to gain international experience by traveling to different parts of the world and to share knowledge of their fields and cultures of their country.
“Since I came here, no one knows about my country here,” said Dr. Surnam when asked what challenges he faces being here. “The challenge is to make people know about my country first because people don’t know about my country. This is something that I need to repeat every time. Mauritius –where it is.”
Not only has Dr. Surnam shared his knowledge and studies in the field of engineering but has given people a geography lesson as well.
Mauritius, he said, is an island about 500 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. There are approximately 1.2 million people who live there of varying ethnicities.
He said that during his time in the United States since January he has only met one person that had even heard of his country Mauritius.
Dr. Surnam felt the need for an international exposure for himself and also making others aware of his country.
During the discussion he was also asked to share with the audience a favorite moment from his experiences here.
“When I came here for this scholarship at the University I didn’t have the right to use the labs and the problem is that my study basically involves a lot of experiments,” said Dr. Surnam.
“But then my advisors, PhD students, they started helping me and some of the students had their research work and on top of that they helped me for more than 6 hours of experiments and this over several days, several of them helped me and I didn’t expect that and I’m very thankful to them and now most of my experiments are nearly completed.”
Both of the scholars shared how much they have enjoyed their experiences here in the United States.
Before their arrival here they had only heard about America through the news, movies or people who had a negative opinion of the culture here. They had heard that people in America were cold and that only bad things ever happened here.
They were both surprised to find out how warm and welcoming Americans are and what great resources and educational systems that America has.
“It’s only when you come over here and find out how people are over here [that you] find openness and interaction between Americans and the international people,” said Dr. Wang.
Dr. Wang will be here at SLCC until May when he returns home to his country. He will be giving a lecture to faculty, staff and students on March 27 at the South City Campus.