An international friendship that has remained strong for nearly a decade was made evident again as Faulkner University hosted three professors from Xiangyang, China, last week.
The visit was a part of a cultural exchange program between Faulkner University and Xiangyang Vocational and Technical College (XVTC), which began in 2010. At a welcome luncheon for the Chinese guests, Mr. Rongbao Yu, a literature professor at XVTC, gently opened a long, red satin box, lifted and unrolled a large scroll, and explained an inscription written in traditional Chinese calligraphy to several Faulkner faculty and staff:
“May the friendship between China and the United States, between Faulkner University and our college live long,” he said as Mrs. Jumin Zhang, an English professor at XVTC, interpreted. “Thank you. Thank you very much. The culture of Faulkner University and its faculty have impressed us very much.”
While presenting the scroll as a gift for the university to Dr. Jeff Arrington, the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Faulkner, Mr. Yu continued, “We have set up a friendship bridge between Faulkner University and our Xiangyang Vocational and Technical College and between the Chinese people and the people of the United States. Everyone who visits here leaves with good memories. The teachers at Faulkner give us a good model to learn from.”
Arrington thanked the visiting guests, Yu, Zhang, and Mr. Baocheng Wang, a computer engineering professor. “Your gift is a representation of your country, of your culture, and our work as educators,” Arrington said. “Thank you for your time and energy to make this trip. We are enriched by your visit with us.”
“This is a testament of our common work as educators and the task of showing our students the human element of learning humility, self-discipline, and curiosity and our responsibility to also show them that we learn so we can share our knowledge and service with them.”
Following the welcome luncheon, the Chinese guests enjoyed a week of activities, which included touring the Faulkner campus, meeting Faulkner administrators, faculty, and staff, touring the capitol, the Rosa Parks Museum, and other historic sites downtown, traveling to the beach, shopping at EastChase, relaxing at the Blount Cultural Park, eating American and Southern meals, and gathering with Faulkner faculty, staff, and graduates and others for a cookout and singing.
At a farewell luncheon, Mr. Yu gave traditional gifts of Chinese fans, intricate paper cuttings, and hand-embroidered coasters to the administrators and faculty present. Faulkner University President Mike Williams presented Yu, Zhang, and Wang with Faulkner pens, pins, notebooks, and medallions commemorating Faulkner’s 75th anniversary as tokens of friendship.
In addition, the guests were presented with a plaque, an original wood-burning by Nizhoni Thompson, a student at Faulkner. The plaque depicted an atlas of the world. The countries of the United States and China were outlined in color, and the cities of Montgomery and Xiangyang were identified with hearts and joined by an arched line of dashes, symbols of long-lasting friendship, neighborly love, and goodwill, the “bridge” that unites the two institutions, cities, and countries.
“We are honored by your visit, and it is a tremendous honor for us to send our students and faculty to China to understand your rich culture, history, and contributions to our world,” Williams said. “Most of all we are most enriched by understanding that we are more alike than different.”
Dr. Jon Wright, the English Chair at Faulkner, helped begin the exchange program in 2010 and has taken many students to China over the years. Wright has also hosted several groups of visiting Chinese professors and students from XVTC and helped provide them with academic and cultural learning opportunities in Montgomery and other cities in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
“Our goal is to show them what love looks like, and time after time, we are shown love by our guests, and when we visit China, by our hosts as well. What we find is that their culture has many fine qualities,” Wright said. “They care for their people and their guests and show compassion for their students and encourage them, things we would never know had we not had a chance to meet and interact with them.”
Dr. David Johnson, Associate Dean of the Harris College of Business, and Dr. Matt Sokoloski, Associate Professor of Humanities and Director of International Programs, have also taken groups of Faulkner students to China and presented lectures at XVTC. Upon graduation, several Faulkner students have taught English at the Chinese college over the years.