Chinese Students in American Universities

by Joe

Chinese students attending US higher education institutions have increased dramatically over the last dozen years. Starting in 2004, when Chinese student populations across all US universities was slightly over 60,000, attendance has exploded with a 530% increase. In the 2015/16 academic year, Chinese nationals attending American colleges and universities exceeded 330,000! With growth like this, it is not surprising to learn that China leads all other nations in terms of sending their students to our institutions of higher learning. India and Saudia Arabia follow in numbers. In addition, Chinese nationals now represent a little more than half of the total number of foreign students in the US.
Studies on this trend have revealed a number of important contributing factors.

Many Chinese students are attracted to the American system which is based on an open avenue to academic pursuit. Students are free to select any major they desire. The same cannot be said for China where academic test results decide which career paths are open to each student. Another important, contributing factor is China’s economic growth as the nation has adopted more of a market economy. Improvements in relative affluence have made it possible for China’s wealthier families to educate their youth in our nation.

As attractive as Chinese students do find our education system, the experience is still a struggle in many ways for these foreign learners. The research shows that there are five factors that have the most impact on a Chinese student’s success in US colleges and universities. The first factor is ‘personal dynamic’ – this is another term for internal motivation. Elements include a desire to study abroad, career goals and social status aspirations. ‘Reverse motivation’ includes parental influence, international experience and demographics. ‘Globalization’ is a measure of a student’s relative degree of Westernization prior to starting the college experience or the desire to adopt Western culture once residing in the US. ‘Outlying factors’ include status of relationships and knowledge of study abroad opportunities.

Language also plays a major role in a Chinese student’s success in our country. Many Chinese students have difficulty adapting because language education in China is focused on written not oral communication. Even with the focus on the written word, the sheer volume of reading and writing required in US programs makes education here a daunting prospect for any non-native speaker, not just limited to the Chinese! Finally, there is a very wide cultural divide between China’s millennia old culture, steeped in tradition and Confucianism and our western traditions, values and way of life here in the USA.

As a new academic year begins, Word 4 Asia welcomes all Chinese students to our nation and our colleges and universities.  Next to actually traveling to China, we suggest there may be no better way to learn about Chinese culture than to open your home to a Chinese student.  Your family can play a role in helping a Chinese student learn about our way of life too.  We know you’ll enjoy and prosper from the experience!

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