Chinese students follow their dreams abroad

Updated: 2012-08-09 08:08

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily)

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A dozen high school graduates in Shanghai, who will begin studying in foreign schools soon, recently filmed a documentary titled Why on Earth Do We Want to Go Abroad?

They want to tell the public the reasons for their choices and to be viewed objectively as students studying abroad, rather than as spoiled Chinese children squandering money and aiming to secure a place in the fierce job market at home with a foreign diploma.

"Making the video also helped us to clarify the reasons in our own minds," said He Jiaying, an 18-year-old in Shanghai who initiated the activity. She published her idea online in March and found her companions.

A graduate of Shanghai Luwan Senior High School, He interviewed 30 peers out of the nearly 400 who responded to her idea. The team made this 20-minute documentary, which has been uploaded to video sites.

Jiang Zige, one of the students in the video, said he chose overseas study in order to be in an environment that supports his dreams.

"I'd like to do what others want but may give up," said 18-year-old Jiang, who has a rap group with a friend and regularly uploads self-made satirical news to the Internet.

"The videos usually draw lots of applause and encouragements on Facebook, so I really feel happy in that atmosphere. Chinese people don't have special feelings toward my works because they think in a conservative way."

Jiang said his time at a college in the United States in summer 2011 made him more determined about overseas study.

"The education environment is diverse, embracing students from around the world and their cultures and ways of thinking," said Jiang, who will study at Swarthmore College.

"Students contributed different thoughts when doing group assignments. It amazed me to think about how diverse ideas can be," he said.

Zhu Meng'ou from Shanghai agreed.

"Almost all students in Chinese colleges are Chinese. I've already studied in such an environment for 12 years, so I want a change," she said. She is leaving to study at Harvard.

Another reason they opt for a new environment is they will be able to learn more solidly, the students said.

Wang Yue, 19, finished one semester at a Shanghai college.

"The six months couldn't have been more boring, and what we learned could have been totally learned by self-study," she said. "US universities are more demanding, and we will be able to acquire more knowledge."

Xing Hao, who is going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "There are only four years of university life, so I need to make it more meaningful."

Domestic universities seem to place more emphasis on generating profits than on academic development, the students said.

"We want to absorb thoughts about justice and fairness from abroad, and influence the people and the country," said He Jiaying, who turned down a place at a famous university in Shanghai. "We want to make the world a better place."

The short film is only a prelude to what the team plans to shoot: A four-year documentary of their life overseas. Five students - heading for different types of schools in different states and coming from different family backgrounds - will be tracked during the next four years.

"It's true that our families may be economically stronger to send us abroad, but we want to build our futures by ourselves and be recognized more for what we've done," He added.

(China Daily 08/09/2012 page5)