The international experience: faculty version

Anushka K.C.

Staff Writer

Lirona Joshi

Staff Writer

Troy University’s pride of being an international university comes not only from the cosmopolitan student body it hosts, but also from the number of international faculty who have added to its vibrancy.

“Here in United States, we have very efficient and simple system,” said Vitaly I. Voloshin, professor of mathematics, originally from the Republic of Moldova.

“The class here is three hours a week. My country has classes of two hours, 45 minutes each with a break between them, because we have it in pairs. First pair, second pair, so on. Here it’s shorter.”

Professors find discrepancies are not only in the hours that are taught but also the way classes are structured.

“In the case of United States, when you look at the syllabus, it tends to provide a very clear guideline and how knowledge should be absorbed,” said Margaret K. Gnoinska, associate professor of history from Poland.

According to Gnoinska, the strict attendance policy that U.S. universities encourage, which is quite different than the rather lenient one of Europe, keeps students busier.

“From what I understand, the European system—they can have a little more freedom with how they live and how much class they attend.  (Here) students are busier with schoolwork and also with their clubs.”

The student-teacher interactions that are an integral part of any educational institution are also greatly affected by the institution of education.

Alberto Arteta, an assistant professor of computer science from Spain, commented on the role that tuition plays.

“In the European countries, almost everything is funded by the state government,” Arteta said. “(Here) students need to work to pay tuitions—you see students take their studies seriously, and they demand good education.

“They want to have a degree, and they want to learn, but they want quality in what they learn.”

The quality demanded by students is not restricted to the classroom.

“The instructor is not merely an instructor in Troy,” Arteta said. “When students go to the faculty, the instructors try to understand the personal situation.”

But the relationships aren’t the same from where some international professors have come from.

“In South Korea and Asian countries in general, we typically think (of) our teachers as our masters,” explained Joungbin Lim, assistant professor of philosophy, originally from South Korea.

“That means we usually think what they tell us is true, and we have to respect what they tell us. It is really hard for the students to object to the teacher’s theories, concepts and arguments.

“In my area in philosophy, arguing against one another is a necessary component of philosophy education,” Lim said. “In teaching classes here, students bring objection to teacher’s arguments, theories and concepts.

“My feeling is that students feel teachers are like their friends here, and it promotes dynamic interaction between them.”

For Karen Hovsepian, assistant professor of computer science from Armenia, the politeness of the students in American universities is impressive.

“Only a few times I have told my students to leave the class because they were checking their phones … or were being disruptive,” said Hovsepian. “Maybe it’s got something to do with the South.

“Also, the university is quite diverse. There is different culture, ethnicities, of course racial different makeups.  Overall, students are more polite, and they give the due respect,” Hovsepian continued.

Even though these professors have a primary job of teaching and guiding their students, they also link students to ideas from other parts of the world.

“Demystifying the stereotypes” is what Gnoinska calls her role in Troy University as a faculty member with international background. “By sheer fact of being here, I am able to interact with students who have never been abroad and bring to them in touch with different perspective on life,” said Gnoinska.

“Interacting with them, I show them it’s possible to work and live in places that you did not grow up and be a successful person. My job is also to build confidence with this regard. Go to a different town, go to a different city and be more tolerant when you meet new people on your job in the future.”

Gnoinska stumbled upon Troy as the South had more job prospects during the 2010 economic crisis, whereas Arteta came because he found his department to be dynamic.

But for whatever reason it was that this region first caught these professors’ attention, they all agree that the weather and environment caused them to stay.

“When they learned from me that I got a position in Alabama, they said, ‘Where do you go? No one returns from Alabama,’” said Voloshin. “And I said, ‘Yes. Because it’s good.’”

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