China now stands as the third most popular place for international students to study. Young people come from neighboring countries, some as far as the Americas.
CGTN’s Grace Shao visited a few schools to find out what it’s like to be an international student in China.
Alexandria Williams is one of the many students studying in China. She’s from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.
“What attracted me to China was the multitude of opportunities,” said Williams. “I was able to receive a scholarship for full-funding. But if you would notice there are a lot more students from all over the world coming to Beida every year. I feel really excited, just really excited to be here every day!”
Last year, more than half a million Chinese students went overseas for a post-secondary degree. Nearly 400,000 international students went to China in pursuit of higher education. Tsinghua University, founded in 1911 and one of the oldest universities in China, now hosts 35,000 students from 116 countries.
“The global economy and social development has greatly changed the world we live in. China has risen as the second biggest economy and has a more important role globally,” said Gao Hong, Vice Provost and Director of International Education at Tsinghua University. “The Chinese international policy includes the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative and the rapid development of Chinese higher education. All these factors have made China an ideal destination for overseas study.”
South Korea, the U.S., and Thailand are China’s biggest sources of foreign students. Enrollees from those three nations make up close to a third of China’s international student population. Coincidentally, the three countries are also China’s top trading partners.
“There are about 2,000 Thai people in Beijing and about 60 at Tsinghua,” said Ponkk Monthinee Kovirulskul, a Thai student at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. “The reasons they are coming is because of the scholarships, and they believe that China will help them with better job opportunities in the future. Thai people now need to speak Chinese, because so many are going to Thailand for business.”
While the Chinese government is trying to attract more international students, only 10 percent of foreign students receive Chinese government scholarships and the remaining 90 percent are self-funded. According to the 2016 QS World University Rankings, 41 Chinese universities made it to the top 500; Tsinghua University, Peking University and Fudan University were among the top 50.
“I think the quality of education in some universities is definitely on par with Australia,” said Kate Smith, an Australian student at Tsinghua. “Obviously in China there are so many universities, and there is a big difference between the lower and the higher. For me the main thing I wanted to get out of being in China was the Chinese language, the Chinese culture, the Chinese point of view. That’s something even if I was at the best university in the world I wouldn’t be able to get.”
For more discussions on his experience of studying abroad in China, CGTN’s Elaine Reyes is joined by Cale Holmes, student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism