From the Readers

Cultural exchange key to bringing US students to China

Updated: 2010-11-19 16:29
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James comments on "Students waves should flow East too" (, Nov 19)

Actually prestige is one thing but not that big, mainly because American students have little to no idea about which Chinese universities are good or not. Some know Peking University and Tsinghua, but that’s it. Actually, what I have found is that US universities that partner with Chinese universities can almost always find students to attend those programs if they are shorter in duration, such as a semester or a summer. Longer terms generally turn students off.

I definitely think undergraduate students often go abroad to get life experiences and go to pubs/clubs to see things in a different country and get a different experience. Europe is a draw because clubs and bars are similar to US culture and more easily understood and relatable, compared with Chinese KTV's, which as an American I still do not fully understand the appeal. Also, as an American who lived in China for a year, I did miss heading to the bar for happy hour or to watch sports a couple times a week. Something which is uncommon in most of China. In areas of Chinese cities with foreigners you see this, but it is not known to foreign students who are considering going to China. Which is sad because Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Shanghai (I have been told) have great night life and it is continually improving.

As for suggestions, I think the biggest thing is making it easier for US students to get to China and access to universities easier. The easiest way to do this is to encourage more partnerships with Chinese and US schools. Encourage semester or summer programs at first, which seem to garner more attention and can gradually ease students into Chinese culture and society. Also, Chinese universities should do a better job of showing foreign students how Chinese students have fun, and encouraging the students to hold more joint parties/events so that they can share experiences and share different ways the different cultures have fun.

More open-style classes and more thought-provoking classes at Chinese universities would also be helpful. Foreign students who have studied in Chinese classrooms almost always complain about the boringness of the classes and lack of any real debate or thought-provoking questions. This is more structural though, and will take time to change.

Also, one thing I do notice a lot is the maturity difference (as in life experience) generally between US students and Chinese students at universities. Many US students have worked jobs or internships, volunteered places, played organized sports, or been a part of many clubs, which is in sharp contrast with many of their Chinese peers. It makes it hard to relate on a student to student basis sometimes. Finding common interests between US and Chinese students could also help bridge this gap.

I also don't want to sound like I'm bashing on Chinese students who study abroad, but one of the big things at my university is that Chinese students don't really entice people to want to study in China. What I mean is that they keep to themselves, they don't often participate in student activities, or in the culture of the campus. I am not saying all do not, but just a trend I have noticed at my university, which has been confirmed by students at other universities. If China wants to attract more students, then Chinese students at universities need to sell China, make friends with US students and tell them about the good things about Chinese life and encourage people to want to come.

I love Chinese food, have come to enjoy KTV at times, and saw many amazing things and met many amazing people in China. But Chinese students need to let people know about the positive things about China, which means they need to interact more with students who are unlike them. From personal experience in China, when I have shown interest in learning about Chinese culture, Chinese people want to ask me more about my culture. The same is true of all people, if Chinese people show interest in learning more details about US culture, then Americans will want to learn more about China.

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