December 5, 2008

Number of Students Studying Abroad in China Rises Quickly

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On Nov. 17, the Institute of Internal Education released a report revealing that record numbers of American students are studying abroad. According to the Institute of Internal Education’s Open Doors Report, China is now the fifth most popular study abroad destination.
The report emphasized that American students are “increasingly seeking non-traditional study abroad destinations [and that there is a] strong growth in students going to China, India, South Africa, Argentina and Ecuador.”
According to the report, the number of Americans studying in China last year rose 25 percent and the number of Chinese students studying at American universities rose 20 percent. In the 2006-2007 academic year, 11,064 Americans studied in China, a stark contrast to the 1,396 students that studied there a decade ago.
According to The New York Times, American students used to study in China in order to study Chinese history and language. But now, given China’s rising presence as a super power in the world, students also study in China to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese economy and politics.
At Cornell, about 800 to 900 undergraduate students study abroad each year. According to Richard Gaulton, director of Cornell Abroad, about 500 students study abroad through the University’s office while the others study abroad through exchange programs administered by one of the school’s undergraduate colleges. While Italy and the United Kingdom are the most popular study abroad destinations at Cornell, Gaulton said China is rising on the list.
“There has definitely been a rise in student interest in the past couple of years. Also, there has been an increase in the number of programs and opportunities for students studying in China. Past programs were typically focused on language and the cultural study of China, but now there are business programs and programs that will let [students] focus on economics, public health, ethnic relations, environmental studies and more. There’s a broader cross section of students looking to China as a place to study.”
Last year, 15 Cornell students studied in China through the Cornell Abroad Office as opposed to the 54 students that studied in Italy, Cornell’s most popular study abroad destination. An additional 10 to 15 students studied in China through Cornell’s full-year Asian Language Concentration Program, 12 went through the China and Asia Pacific Studies major and a small number of others through individual college exchange programs. The College of Human Ecology, College of Engineering and the School of Hotel Administration all have exchange programs with China.
With this increased number of students interested in studying in China, many universities have had to make their programs more selective, expand their existing programs or create additional trips to China. Fortunately, Cornell has not had a difficult time keeping up with the increased demand. Students can go on any program that is approved by their individual college.
Amy Lin ’08 studied abroad in the fall of 2007, when she was a senior at Cornell. Lin traveled to Beijing with IES Abroad — a Chicago-based, not for profit, study abroad provider. According to IES, Lin chose to study in China to pursue her linguistic interest in Chinese. “I thought it most productive for me to go to China and really work on my Mandarin and improve…[and in Beijing,] they speak standardized Chinese,” she said.
Lin explained that the Mandarin she learned and the exposure with Chinese culture she experienced will help her in the future with business. “For the U.S., a lot of our businesses will be related to China. That skill is useful, and now, not only do I understand their language better, but their culture too. From working with the Chinese I can understand cultural norms a lot better than an American who just studied the Chinese language.”
According to The New York Times, Princeton freshman Vanessa Folkerts explained the rising importance of studying China. “These days, nobody questions why you take Chinese and go to China … It has its obvious uses.”