US universities go to China to meet with students

Updated: 2014-06-18 06:36

By ADELINA ZHANG in New York (China Daily USA)

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US universities go to China to meet with students
Student volunteers at Ohio State University's pre-departure orientation in Beijing. [Photo / Provided to China Daily]

With an increasing number of Chinese students attending colleges in the United States, several schools are going to China to meet with the students before they arrive to give them a sense of what's ahead academically and culturally.

Universities are holding orientations in major cities in China, mainly Beijing and Shanghai, for the students and their parents.

"It starts to get the students connected to school resources, academic expectations, fundamental skills and the city," said Vern Granger, associate vice-president of undergraduate admissions at Ohio State University.

Ohio State's orientations will be held in Beijing and Shanghai from June 14-20 and the school expects 350 students and 500 parents to attend.

"The information that they will provide will help get them used to campus and life in Ohio very quickly," said Jingan Zhou, who will be a senior at Ohio State and was a volunteer at last year's program. "It's harder for the parents to understand what life is like in America. They will feel less concerned because there is a lot of faculty to help the students. If I had these orientations then it would have helped me get used to life in America."

"I am a little bit worried about the safety issue because the crime rate in US schools is higher than that in Chinese schools," said Peter Zongrong, an incoming Ohio State freshman from Beijing. "And there is a language barrier. Habits and customs also vary from country to country."

In April, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that more than 290,000 Chinese students are attending schools in the US, the largest group of international students among the 1 million in the country.

Michigan State University, which expects to have about 1,000 students from China, has had an orientation program since 2009.

This year, the university has about 300 students in each of its orientation programs in Beijing and Shanghai, at which faculty and student volunteers will participate. Michigan State will be presenting information on what students will do when they arrive, what they should expect when they meet with academic advisors, and how to safely arrive to their dormitory.

"Not only does [the program] help them get started here, but it has also been giving some comfort to the parents and it has been very popular for that," said Peter Briggs, director for the office for international students and scholars. "If they remember that the other students here are having a really good experience and wanted to share that with them, then that is memorable."

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is having its first orientation this summer and expects 100 students to attend in Beijing and 50 in Shanghai.

"There have been surveys and data that reveal that they are not prepared for their journey," said Ravi Shankar, director of the international office at Northwestern. "Data says we should look for different ways to deliver orientation materials. No matter how much information you send on the web, students don't tend to read them. It's better to hand it to them face to face."

The University of Southern California is hosting its third year of pre-departure programs in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

In addition to providing information on academic and cultural expectations, it gives students the opportunity to register for classes, which other universities don't offer. Academic advisers and current students at the university who live in China for the summer will participate

"This puts the students at ease for the summer and they will have a better transition from one country to another," said Melissa Turk, associate director of the orientations program. "They will also feel confident coming in and knowing students who are already enrolled."