Shanghai top pick for US students with eye in mainland
American students are zeroing in on Shanghai more than any other mainland city as a place to further their careers, a new report shows.
Shanghai now ranks as the 20th most searched-for city on Google by those hoping to study overseas, according to the leading search engine. Only three other destinations in Asia, including Hong Kong, score higher in terms of hits.
Brittany Haney sees the financial hub as the perfect place to launch her career in foreign affairs because of the importance of Sino-US ties and the abundance of related news being generated in the city.
She is taking a master’s degree as part of Shanghai International Studies University’s China Studies program. She hopes to one day work for the State Department.
Shanghai has a reputation for being more internationally minded and user-friendly than other Chinese cities.
“A lot of American students say they have no idea what China is like. They want to become integrated into Chinese culture while still having something related to their own culture,” said New Mexico’s Chris Hornung, a graduate student at the same university as Haney.
In 2014 over 56,000 international students came to Shanghai to study, up 13,000 from 2010. Americans (5,600) formed the second-largest group after South Koreans, according to the city’s education department.
While most students from the US prefer to take shortterm programs in Shanghai to learn about China’s culture and economy, while also studying Mandarin, some have other plans.
Braxton Luke studies international trade and Mandarin at Donghua University. The 20-year-old from California studied the language for four years at high school before moving to Shanghai in 2012.
“I took Chinese because I saw China’s growing role and dominance in the global economy, and how powerful of a tool the language would be to leverage in any future opportunity I might want to pursue,” he said.
Luke’s view on China is increasingly common among American students, said Yu Hai, a professor of sociology at Shanghai’s Fudan University. Yu teaches international students about the development of Shanghai and China.
“They are highly goaldirected. One of their major goals is to learn Chinese,” he said. “Both American and European students recognize the importance of Shanghai and China in terms of business and the economy. But they want to know more.”
Some students express concern that they will not be able to provide for themselves as they cannot legally work here on a student visa.
But problems like this are already being addressed. For example, the amount granted to promising foreign students by a Chinese government scholarship fund was recently raised.
The total package of a doctoral student’s scholarship now stands at 99,800 yuan ($16,000) per year. Graduate students can receive up to 79,200 yuan while undergraduates can get 66,200 yuan. They are also allowed to take internships that are closely related to their courses.
This year 50,000 international students will receive financial aid to study in China. Nearly 4,000 of them will land in Shanghai.
To attract even greater numbers, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission is helping universities design courses and build faculties. Since 2011 the commission has been dispatching teachers to Canada and Australia each year.
“Both are immigrant countries with lots of international students. Our teachers go there not only to make academic improvements, but also to learn how to teach international students,” said Yang Weiren, director of the commission’s International Cooperation and Exchange Division.
“Study in Shanghai” (studyshanghai.org) is another of the commission’s programs. The website guides international students through the process of applying online and helps them find cultural activities to participate in Shanghai. A mobile app is also available.
A service center for international students is also due to open this year to help them deal with issues relating to residence permits, find places to live and learn Mandarin.
Brittany Haney, second from left, is