Wherever You Go, a Buckeye Has Already Been

When I came to Kyrgyzstan, I did not expect to meet anyone who had heard of Ohio State before, let alone someone who had studied there. But that is exactly what happened. Jing Li, an alumna of OSU’s East Asian Languages and Literature Department, also teaches at the International University of Central Asia (IUCA). After studying Chinese language pedagogy at Ohio State, Jing finished her master’s degree in 2014, and has taught in IUCA’s Chinese program since 2015.

Jing has now lived in Tokmok for over a year, and is almost halfway through a three-year service commitment. Jing first came to Kyrgyzstan in 2013 on a mission trip. After returning to the United States to continue her studies, she felt a calling to return to Kyrgyzstan, understanding her presence could make a difference in the Kyrgyz community. For social and economic reasons, the education system is poor and many children come from single parent families. Jing, her colleagues, and organization aim to alleviate the social problems that stem from a lack of education and broken families.

Jing serves the community through the Hope Clinic and Hope Center, non-profits that provide health and education services to Tokmok and the province of Chuy. Like me, she has thoroughly enjoyed her time in Tokmok, and working at both the University and the Hope Center has allowed her to connect students with the Hope Center. Many students have gained experience as translators and learned about volunteerism through the Hope Clinic.

She has also become a trusted confidant of female students who complain about the pressure to marry at young age. Other students have thanked her for helping them understanding how they can personally improve their community. One student told Jing he always felt he had to be rich to help others, but now understands everyone has something to contribute and share.

It is a pleasure to know Jing, and we had a long conversation about Ohio State, Columbus, and missing the Oval. Although Jing was born and raised in China, she considers Columbus her hometown because of the deep connections she made there at her church and with her fellow graduate students. And while it is always a pleasure to meet a fellow Buckeye, the circumstances and Jing’s generosity made this meeting especially memorable.