An English educator’s ‘most unexpected year’ in Romania

Melanie Shoffner

1/12/2017 |

Melanie Shoffner, associate professor of English Education, is in Romania until July through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar program, an international scholarship program that aims to increase understanding and support peaceful relationships between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Shoffner joins a number of College of Education faculty members who are Fulbright Scholars: David Eichinger, Kathy Obenchain and Wayne Wright.

Shoffner is a visiting professor in the Faculty of Letters of Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. “What they consider a faculty is effectively what we consider a college – that has as many students as the entire university of Purdue,” she says. “Over 40,000 students are studying literature and languages here. On purpose. Because they want to. Because they’re encouraged to.”

Shoffner is teaching essay writing and pedagogical approaches to literature, as well as young adult and adolescent literature. Students in Romania can have up to 30 contact hours of class a week – the equivalent of 12-15 classes. She describes Romanian students as “overwhelmingly sharp, thoughtful and well-educated.”

Shoffner chose Romania because she has always been intrigued by the history, culture and landscape of Eastern Europe, especially given her interest in World Wars I and II. She said, “After a brief visit to Bucharest a few years ago – and after talking with Kathy Obenchain about her experiences there – I thought Romania would be a good fit for my Fulbright year.”

She cites the importance of doing herself what she tells her students to do every day: experience something new, understand something different, try something difficult, and learn. “Just as I want my students to learn more of the world around them, I want to expand my world – and myself.”

She says, “Being a Fulbright Scholar is an amazing honor but, as my being here attests, an achievable one – much the same as traveling the world and living in another country for a year. I want others to feel the same way!”

You can stay up-to-date with Shoffner’s adventures at

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Above: Photo of Melanie Shoffner by Vincent Walter.