Graduates encounter difficulties in US

Updated: 2013-05-10 11:18

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Sophia Su, who will graduate with a master's degree in communication from Michigan State University this year, seems relaxed, even though almost all of her classmates are anxious about their next destination after graduation.

"I know how hard the US employment situation is for foreign students this year, so I found myself another way out a few months ago," she said. She will be continuing her studies at New York University, with another degree in film. Although she might be in a more competitive position in China, she still hopes to attract job offers in the US after receiving her second degree, she said.

Su is among the increasing number of Chinese students who make up the country's largest group of foreign students. That number increased by 23 percent to more than 194,000 in 2011-2012, according to the Institute of International Education.

But according to China's online recruiting agency, 72 percent of Chinese students with overseas study experience are unable to find long-term jobs overseas, with the majority returning to China after graduation or after completing short-term overseas work.

"The visa policy only allows Chinese graduates to stay for a limited time in the US after graduation," said Fu Chen, a Beijing native who received a master's degree in sewage treatment studies.

"So even if I was lucky enough to get an internship during this period, I wouldn't have been guaranteed an H1B visa, which can cost American employers a lot of money and time."

After spending more than $60,000 in tuition fees for his education in the US, Fu found himself to be uncompetitive with English native speakers for US jobs, even though his English was good enough for academic study and daily communication.

He recently got a job at a Beijing-based public relations company. "No matter in China or the US, I can't find a job related to my degree," he said. Before going to the US, he studied at China University of Mining and Technology, and worked at the fashion magazine Vogue for one year. also reported that more than 70 percent of employers in China claim that they won't give preferential treatment to applicants with foreign university degrees.

Xu Zhenglong, a visiting scholar in the Confucius Institute at San Francisco State University, said that most Chinese families still prefer to send their children to the US for an education even though a US diploma is no longer a golden ticket.

"They want to experience the cultural diversity and they acknowledge the passion and motivation of American peers who came up under a different education system," he said.

Every year, about 200 Chinese students come to SF State University, and the number is still on the rise, he said.

He noted that higher education spending in China is also rising, so studying in the US is still a reasonable education investment for many Chinese middle-class families.

"Most of the Americans in my classroom believe Chinese language and culture study would be helpful for them due to the close business connections between the two countries," he said.

Caroline Berg in New York and Yu Wei in San Francisco contributed to this story.

(China Daily 05/10/2013 page10)