This February, we were honored to work with the State Department’s Fulbright Program to organize the Fulbright Lecturer Program Mid-Year Conference and Spring Orientation in Lijiang and meet the talented and inspiring professors who have come to China to share their expertise. Project Pengyou spent a week with the Fulbright Lecturers from around the United States who were about to start a new chapter in their lives as exchange lecturers in universities across China.
Fulbright: Exchange for Educators
In many ways the Fulbright Lecturer Program and Project Pengyou’s mission are a match made in heaven: we both seek to facilitate educational exchange and understanding between the US and China.
Since the founding of Project Pengyou, we have worked mainly with students and young professionals, so we were glad to have a chance to hear from educators in the U.S.-China space. In the group of about 20 people, there were varying degrees of experience with China and Chinese. Some of the professors were arriving for the first time and some had been coming to China off and on for years; but there was a shared sense of adventure and cultural curiosity among the group.
Given that the Fulbright program is highly selective it is no surprise that these professors were motivated, inspiring, and ready to take on a challenge like adapting to life in China. The Fulbright U.S. Lecturer program is unique in that it facilitates the exchange of American professors in a way that allows them to deeply integrate into their community in China. The program supports the lecturers in finding the right school, and local support staff who help with everything from finding a school for their children to navigating paperwork at their host university.
Educators as Storytellers
The program creates a unique environment where the lecturers can share their knowledge, which is often highly specialized, with Chinese students. In return, the lecturers get to learn from their colleagues, students, and community about life in China in a profound and rare way. Along the way, they inevitably accumulate many stories of their experiences in China, and as educators sharing those experiences with students back home is extremely valuable. Professors are natural storytellers and when combined with the mission of the Fulbright program to encourage cultural and ideological exchange, those stories can be powerful inspiration to those back home.
As part of the conference, we were invited to share a core piece of our Leadership Training with the lecturers: Storytelling for Change. Because of the lecturers’ wealth of knowledge and experience, the ideas behind storytelling for change seem like a perfect fit. We were thrilled to share this tool with the Fulbright lecturers, and we hope they will find it inspiring for themselves and their future students.
All in all, it was an amazing experience to work with such inspiring people involved with the Fulbright Program!
The U.S.-China Fulbright Program is an official educational exchange between the People’s Republic of China and the United States “to provide opportunities for cooperation and exchange in educational fields based on equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit.”