By Lizzie Chen
Unlike many Chinese students studying at American universities today, Shiyu Jin says the quality of education was not his sole reason for leaving China to travel to Austin. “I came to [the] U.S. because… this was the only way I can travel independently and be away from my parents,” said Jin. “But most of all, I wanted to experience the American culture!”
Whatever the combination of reasons, China, the world’s fastest-growing economy, is now exporting to the U.S. in ever-greater numbers what is arguably its most precious resource – its young people. Chinese students are flocking to American universities to study, lured in by a diversity of views and a high-quality higher education system. And for some, the reason for studying in the United States stems mainly from a fascination with American culture.
Jin is a case in point. Hailing from just outside Shanghai, he is now a second-year photojournalism graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. When asked about the actual difference in the quality of education between American and Chinese universities, Jin said the curriculum and structure of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas is not drastically different than that of universities in China.
Nonetheless, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Chinese students studying in the United States. In 2010, there were 127,628 Chinese citizens studying here, up 30 percent from a year earlier, making China No. 1 among international students studying in America, according to the Institute of International Education. Most U.S. schools accept Chinese students because of their high test scores, academic strengths, and not infrequently because of their ability to pay full tuition up front. According to the New York Times, admissions officers at prestigious universities give an edge to those who can pay full tuition.
Texas mirrors the national trend. “There has been an increase in Chinese applicants from China at the University of Texas… [and now] Chinese students [represent] the most applicants” among international students, said Catherine Jaroschy, staff at the International Office on campus. The UT Austin ranks ninth in the country in the number of international students admitted, behind the No. 1-ranking University of Southern California.
Jin says he enjoys being in Austin and studying because he is able to learn about American culture while receiving an education at the same time. As China grows as an economic and political power, it is likely that young Chinese will increasingly seek to experience American culture by venturing abroad to bring back degrees to their homeland.