Many Chinese students like studying commerce and economics when pursuing a foreign degree. According to the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, one third of Chinese students studying abroad in 2013 were enrolled in business schools. On many campuses, especially in English-speaking countries, the majority of the international student community is Chinese. However, the issue ofconformity among Chinese overseas students does not stop at choosing majors. Chinese students’ different lifestyles and eating habits also drive them to form their own communities; their different attitude toward studying abroad influences their choice of universities; and China’s rising economic power means many of them choose to pursue business degrees.
21st Century interviewed students and experts in top overseas study destinations in the US to explore how conformity influences Chinese students behavior while abroad and shapes their study experience.
Time abroad not just about studying
Lu Hong, 21, an economics major at the University of Southern California, is happy about pursuing his master’s degree 10,000 kilometers away from home.
He has made new friends in various societies organized by Chinese students, knows all the best Chinese restaurants in the local area, and can even download translated versions of the reading materials from an online sharing website.
“I feel very secure and very efficient in both my personal and study life,” said Lu.
To an extent, he should feel at home. With one of the largest Chinese student bodies on campus, the University of Southern California has 3,771 students from China among its total population of 9,840 international students in 2013 (the figures for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University are even higher).
For many students, a Chinese-compatible student community is an important consideration when applying for study abroad programs, according to Chen Xia, a senior consultant at a Beijing-based study abroad agency.
“For safety, lifestyle, and study reasons, both students and parents tend to choose universities with a large Chinese student population,” said Chen. “California has the US’ biggest Chinese population, which makes it attractive for Chinese students.”
It’s not that an environment that is less likely to cause culture shock is a bad thing.
But Dayle Smith, former associate dean of the business school at the University of San Francisco, said that Chinese students should get out of their comfort zone to get more exposure to local and international culture in their social and study life.
“While the presence of Chinese students on campus is a valuable asset for the university, some of them seem not to be ready in terms of their survival, social, and academic English skills,” said Smith.
According to Smith, the value of studying abroad is not limited to following courses. It’s a comprehensive experience of adapting to a new environment in order to expand horizons and acquire a new set of skills.
Following a different path
Different from her compatriot Lu, Wang Linna, 22, chose to apply to a liberal arts school in Nebraska, US.
“I applied for a literature degree, which is a less common choice,” said Wang. “I think studying abroad is more about having an adventure than following courses. So I want to go somewhere special to avoid people who share my cultural background.”
According to Xinquan Overseas Education’s survey of 12,000 students applying for US institutions in 2013, Wang’s approach is gaining popularity with Chinese students.
More and more of them are choosing less pragmatic majors, such as business, and going for such fields as arts, literature, or philosophy in less high-profile destinations.
“For arts and literature, there was a 6 percent and 9 percent spike, while applications for other majors all experienced a decline in 2013,” said the agency’s report, which was released recently.