China attracting a growing number of foreign students
Published: Jul 31, 2017 06:53 PM

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Summer school is a topic that Chinese parents who plan to send their children to study abroad are constantly concerned about. Many elite universities in the United States promote their summer school programs every year to show off their academic atmosphere and campus culture to attract young talents from all over the world and give students a chance to get to know the school before a final decision is made.

For families who can afford these programs, it definitely pays off. Every year I notice my friends send their children to the US for all kinds of programs based on the child's interests and strong points. They tell me that the programs help their children become more determined and responsible for their own future, both academic and career-wise.

We Chinese have to admit that there is much for us to learn from Western universities. Most students with overseas experience achieve self-improvement in many aspects including independence, survival skills, diligence, team building and crisis management. Sadly, some Chinese students who are studying abroad are just burning their parents' money by living a luxurious lifestyle with full uncontrolled freedom far away from home.

On the other hand, I also worry about our society's "brain drain." Take myself as an example, as a handful of my middle school and university classmates are now American or Canadian citizens. They used to be top students, but now most are working in management for companies or institutions in Western countries rather than contributing to China's economy and culture. We can agree that, 20 years ago, staying in Western countries provided them with better options as far as salary, career development and social welfare are concerned.

We also agree that China's fast and stable development in recent years has reversed the brain drain issue, with more talents now eager to return to China. Of course we also keep in mind the fact that the US and other developed countries have tightened their policies granting immigrants citizenship.

My concerns were relieved last month when I happened to have a chance to interview foreign students of the Shanghai Summer School (3S) program, a scholarship program launched by the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission as a window for international cooperation. It aims to set up a platform for educational exchanges between Shanghai and the world while attracting talented foreign students to study in Shanghai and learn the Chinese language while experiencing local culture.

During this one-month program, foreign students engage in intensive language learning and cultural exploring activities through various projects provided by dozens of colleges and universities in Shanghai. During their short stay, the foreign students pay visits to local families to get a closer look at the Chinese people's daily life and interact with local students of their ages. They visited traditional State-owned companies and newly established innovative enterprises, they practiced kung fu and calligraphy, and they got to use WeChat and AliPay - China's own rising-star technologies - for the first time.

According to my observations during the weekend we spent together, the younger students from more than 20 countries described this program as an "eye-opening" experience. They found that the country and its people were very different from the stereotype they used to imagine.

Quite a few told the Global Times that they wish to have the chance to study in China for a master's or bachelor's degree in order to achieve their Chinese Dream and serve as grass-roots ambassadors, so that their country and ours can develop mutual understanding and further exchanges.

Those who are already enrolled in a Chinese university expressed to the Global Times that it would be great if they could also find a job in China in order to gain more experience in learning our advanced technologies and other skills. I'm more than happy to see that, thanks to the great development of our country, we are no longer in a brain drain dilemma or talent deficit situation. Quite the contrary!

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.