Posts Tagged 'Study Abroad Destinations'

China: No Longer Just Up-and-Coming

I can’t even remember the first time I went to China.  I consciously remember a trip in the winter of 1996 when it was so cold, workers had to de-ice the wings of our airplane . . . with shovels.  But the country has come a long way since then.  The Friendship Store, the one department store, has given way to Prada, Gucci, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, and all the other luxuries of the western world.  When I was younger, passing through immigration was especially scary because the guards – all men – never smiled, ever.  Today, both male and female officers view your passport and you are able to comment on their geniality via an electronic pad with smiley faces.  Oh, how times have changed.

QianmenI’ve returned to China many times since then.  I studied abroad and interned in China for two consecutive summers in 2004 and 2005 and I’ve visited the country once more since then.  The first time I was there China, was an up-and-coming destination, but I feel like the relative lack of international students, especially the lack of Americans, is what made the experience especially meaningful.  Though I lived with fellow American students while studying and interning, it was through our friendships with locals that we really learned about the culture.

For the two summers I lived in Beijing, I derived the most pleasure for learning the language, traveling, and sightseeing.  I’ve always felt that language is the doorway to a culture and without it, you will always be a foreigner.  Traveling was fun, enlightening, and beautiful – we took the overnight train from Beijing to several destinations including Inner Mongolia and Shanghai.  Eating deserves special attention.  I’ve spent more time than you could imagine smelling and eating my way around various countries.  China is the perfect place for such a thing.  Cuisines vary from city to city and from province to province.  From the dim sum carts in Hong Kong to the homely, humble stews of Mongolia, I made sure to try everything Chinese cuisine had to offer.  But I digress . . .

CCTV Tower, BeijingThe main reason I’ve spent so much time talking about China is because of the 2008 IIE Open Doors Report.  For the 2006/07 academic year – the most recent year covered by the report – China hopped easily over Australia and Mexico to secure the number 5 seating in the list of popular destinations abroad.  Other countries experienced drops in participants; several hundred fewer students studied abroad in Mexico and Australia between 05/06 and 06/07.  Meanwhile, the number of students studying in China increased by 25%, or about 2,200 students.  Let’s put this into perspective.  In order to pinpoint a country that experienced a similar percentage growth in students, the eye has to wander down seven spots to number 12: Argentina.  This South American country saw a 26% increase in number of students.  And while 26% is good growth, in terms of sheer numbers it’s only about 800 students.  Compared to Argentina, China has made some serious strides in appealing to study abroad students.  In one academic year, China reinvented its own image by moving its way from up-and-comer to heavy hitter.

It seems that everyone has been to China these days, and the Open Doors Report is just one of the sources that confirms it.  During the 2002/03 academic year, only 2,493 American students studied in China.  Between 02/03 and the 2006/07 academic year, the number of students has increased to 11,074.  That’s a jump of 440%!  So, if you’re looking to study in the rising destination – the numbers will only increase when next year’s report is released – head to China.  While you’re there taste the food, meet the people, and learn the language.  Believe me, you won’t regret it.


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