By Alex Endress
Nelson Song, a senior at The University of Texas at Austin, is one of a growing number of China-born students who choose to further their education at American universities. The 23-year-old biology major from Changsha, Hunan China, transferred to UT after studying one year at Wuhan University. Yet even in China, Song acquired paternal Longhorn influences at a very young age.
“I chose Texas for several reasons, but partly because my father came here,” Song said. “He graduated from the business school and now works in Dallas.”
Song is thankful for the education he receives at UT, but he doesn’t miss out on the fun either. For one thing, he relishes the recreational opportunities available in Austin and its vicinity. He particularly enjoys playing basketball, exploring Sixth Street, and hiking around parks like the Greenbelt with his friends.
However, if he had a choice, Song would choose China every time. “I have quite a different social life here,” Song said. When at home in China, he sees many of his close childhood friends and family that aren’t around in the U.S. A Chinese version of karaoke is one of their favorite pastimes.
“We like to sing KTV (an abbreviation of karaoke television). I don’t do that very much here,” Song said. “There are more venues for my friends and [me] in China.”
Speaking of friends, Song has made several American born-pals, although he enjoys the company of other China born students much of the time. “We spent our childhood in China,” Song said. “We can share these experiences with Chinese friends. Americans don’t always understand us, just like we don’t always understand them.”
The state of Texas has the third largest population of international students of U.S. states and UT ranks ninth in the institution category. The University of Southern California holds the No. 1 spot, according to a study by Open Doors, a non-profit organization that promotes international education and development.
“We consider students from all over the world, so we make sure that we don’t accept students from only one country,” said Deana Williams, Assistant Director of Admissions at UT. “We try to achieve diversity.”
The Admissions Department at UT reviews Chinese students on the same basis as any American applicant, with the exception of the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which measures the applicants English-language proficiency. However, foreign applicants must be exceptional. Only 3 percent of UT admission spots are set aside for international students, according to Williams.
“It’s very competitive,” she said. “We have limited space. Most international students must have a 4.0 to be considered, as well as an outstanding Scholastic Aptitude Test score. Many applicants consult agents.”
As for Song, his family was used as a resource. “My Dad helped me out a lot with my essay grammar and criteria,” Song said. Although he didn’t have to take the SAT (since he was a transfer student), his father helped him with any part of the application that involved English. Because of this, Song didn’t need to employ agent as other applicants often do.
Though he might have had a little fun along the way, Song hasn’t forgotten his purpose here in the United States. “I came because the U.S. has the best higher education in the world,” he said. “That’s important to me.”