A growing trend goes against the tide of stereotypes about students and universities in relation to China. The old adage goes something like this: An ocean full of the Middle Kingdom's "sea turtles" travel every year to western universities to take advantage of their supposed top-notch education. These students then supposedly paddle back to China to utilize that worldly expertise in their homeland.
However, a new Sydney Morning Herald article details a growing trend that completely opposes that old (and frankly unflattering) narrative. The piece begins by boldly declaring: "There are more Australians studying in China than ever before, as the tide of the one-way student exchange turns back towards the booming Asian business market."
The article goes on to describe how the number of Aussies studying in China has not only increased by 83 percent since 2011, but has also jumped by 37 percent in the last year alone, bringing the total of Australian students to 5,000. These figures are especially impressive given the fact that China did not even rank in the top 10 locales for Australian international students.
Samantha Murray, a second year student who hails from Sydney and is studying Mandarin at Peking University, tells the Bejiinger that studying in China was a "no brainer” because of its rapidly economic and social development both of which, in her eyes, provide more opportunities than anywhere else in the world, especially her native Australia. That might come as a shock to many people, who might see Australia as nation with a robustly developed economy, a gorgeous climate, and a rich culture.
However, Murray says some of those very attributes – especially the economic ones – can make Australia far from ideal for young students and professionals like herself. She explains that: “In Australia, it’s very hard to get your foot in the door. Most businesses want you to have experience, and they’re not talking about part-time university experience, but real proper job experience. So unless you can land yourself a graduate position or job, it’s hard to get your foot in the door.”
Murray says coming to China was a "no brainer."
Murray says that China, on the other hand, has far more internship opportunities that can help foreign students like her get a head start. She says another advantage is that, “the expat community is so tight here, that once you know one person, they can lead you to another person and another to help you attain your goal.”
Other Australians say the benefits last long after their time in China. Louis Wakley, who comes from Brisbane, studied at a Chinese university for two years and became nearly fluent in Mandarin. He says maintaining his Mandarin back home in Australia, "is very easy ... as I work as the only Caucasian in my team at my workplace and our customers are 95 percent Chinese. Knowing the language opens China up to you, but also opens the doors to the Chinese populations in Australia and the majority of the countries of the world. This is why knowing Mandarin is a skill of global importance, and Beijing is the best place to pursue it."
Li Haitao, the associate dean of the MBA program at Beijing's Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, told the Herald that China’s current post secondary advantages can be attributed to a few factors. Chief among them, in the case of Australian students, is the The Land From Down Under’s transition to a skill service based economy as opposed to manufacturing. He went on to say that: “Local Chinese companies are rising, they are becoming more and more competitive. Economic growth, a more service-orientated economy, a more technology-focused economy have all contributed.”
However, an equally big draw for Australian students is likely the prospect of learning Mandarin in an immersive environment. Many Aussies have former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as a sterling role model in that regard (whose putonghua has been lauded in China, even when some of his comments about China have been criticised.
Other students are likely inspired by outlets like TutorMing which recently noted: “While it is doubtful that Mandarin Chinese will become the lingua franca, it will definitely open up more opportunities to work, live, communicate, and understand a country that will continue to play an important role in the world’s future.”?
Peter Drysdale, a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy and an expert on economic ties between Australia and China, says the trend is not only beneficial for students, but also their homeland. He tells TBJ: "The automatic knowledge that on-the-ground study brings to commercial dealings makes the difference between success and failure, between being able to play into the Chinese market or looking at it from a distance."
Are you an international student studying Mandarin or another major at one of Beijing’s universities? Tell us your thoughts about the pros and cons of pursuing your post secondary education in the Middle Kingdom by writing int he comments section below. - the beijinger
Photo: Cermba.com, Samantha Murray
17 Dec 2017
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