By Brandi Wylie ’24

Joshua Todd ’26 met with Jou Chou, a Wofford College teaching assistant from Taiwan, at least once a week during the 2022-23 academic year to improve his Chinese language skills.

Her ability to relate to students makes the time fly and the experience productive.

“She learns specific facts about you then pulls them out in conversation,” says Todd, an undeclared major from Greensboro, North Carolina. “She wants to know students on a personal level.” 

Wofford’s Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures hosts teaching assistants each year through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (FLTA). The department also brings international visiting faculty to the college through its study abroad partners, the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). These scholars from around the globe enrich the student experience.

“Having language assistants has enhanced the program so much because some of our students have never left the country, and they now can meet a native speaker who is not their teacher and who might in another circumstance be intimidating to converse with,” says Dr. Catherine Schmitz, professor of French. “Because of these visiting teachers and scholars, Wofford students have the opportunity to explore more about the culture they are studying.” 

Schmitz works closely with Ninon Potelle, who is from the North of France, to create projects and assignments as well as event planning. Potelle is studying for a degree in comparative literature from Sorbonne University (University of Paris), so her teaching assistant experience at Wofford allows her to compare French and English literature in her dissertation.

Specifically, Potelle researches and creates exercises for culture-themed lab assignments for Schmitz and her colleague Dr. Jocelyn Franklin, assistant professor of French. Potelle meets with each French student three times a semester and organizes Table Française, Café Français and Francophone Film Nights, all community gatherings for people who want to practice their French.

“She helps us pick movies to watch, pick dates for events, and even bakes traditional pastries,” says Eliza Williams ’23, a mathematics and French double major from Augusta, Georgia, who serves as co-president of the French Club. “So much of her time is dedicated to helping the French Club engage with students.” 

The Spanish program had two international visiting faculty from Spain in the fall, Rafa Valor and Beatriz Armada; they came through CIEE. Maysaa Abushawish, who is from Palestine, is a Fulbright language teaching assistant in Arabic this spring along with Potelle and Chou.

Chou is part of an impressive line of Fulbright teaching assistants from Chinese-speaking countries that started in 2005 when Dr. Li Qing Kinnison, professor of Chinese, first applied for a Fulbright teaching assistant. 

“Those who take the Chinese speaking class with our TAs do better in their Chinese language learning and become more fluent,” says Kinnison. “Chinese 241, taught by Chou, gives students an extra hour to practice Chinese, which they cannot do during a typical class.”

Chou says that Wofford’s small, community-oriented campus allows her to develop mentoring relationships with students. She says she has found the 20 Wofford students in the Chinese department to be organized with a passion for learning Mandarin. 

“I am just so grateful that I am here,” says Chou. “South Carolina changed me a lot, and I hope I have had a positive impact on my students as well.”