Work stud­ies ap­peal­ing for Chi­nese in US

Prac­ti­cal train­ing pro­gram sees seven straight years of growth

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The num­ber of Chi­nese stu­dents tak­ing ad­van­tage of an Op­tional Prac­ti­cal Train­ing (OPT) pro­gram in the United States, has seen growth for seven straight years, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased on Tues­day.

The OPT pro­grams al­low grad­u­ates to work in the field of their ma­jor area of study for a year in most cases.

The num­ber of Chi­nese grad­u­ates in such pro­grams reached nearly 60,000 in the 2016-17 aca­demic year, an in­crease of 14.6 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year and more than five times the fig­ure in the 2009-10 aca­demic year, ac­cord­ing to the 2017 Open Doors re­port by the In­sti­tute for International Ed­u­ca­tion.

OPT is a tran­si­tional pe­riod in which international stu­dents may be able to change from the sta­tus of stu­dent to em­ployee. The large num­ber of OPT stu­dents re­flects the value stu­dents see in ac­quir­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter grad­u­a­tion, which makes them more com­pet­i­tive in the job mar­ket, said Pauline Kao, a pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer at the US con­sulate in Shang­hai.

“In fact, in the STEM ar­eas — science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics — the OPT pe­riod can last up to three years,” she said.

Nearly 80 per­cent of Chi­nese stu­dents in the US wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence in­tern­ships or reg­u­lar em­ploy­ment in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted and pub­lished by Men­torX, a Cal­i­for­nia-based on­line ed­u­ca­tion com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in ad­vis­ing Chi­nese stu­dents in the US.

In May the sur­vey polled more than 1,600 Chi­nese stu­dents who grad­u­ated with bach­e­lor’s de­grees from US uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges over the past two years.

“In the US job mar­ket, there is an em­pha­sis on prac­ti­cal skills, and about 70 per­cent of new em­ploy­ees were pre­vi­ously in­terns,” said Frank Zhang, gen­eral man­ager in China for Men­torX. “There­fore OPT will be of great value to Chi­nese stu­dents if they seize the op­por­tu­nity.”

The Open Doors re­port also showed that China re­mains the lead­ing place of ori­gin for stu­dents go­ing to the US for the eighth year, com­pris­ing 32.5 per­cent of all international stu­dents study­ing in the coun­try.

In the 2016-17 aca­demic year, 350,755 stu­dents from China were study­ing in the United States.

“Most un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents are self-funded. That re­flects eco­nomic pros­per­ity: Chi­nese fam­i­lies are be­com­ing more ca­pa­ble of send­ing their chil­dren to the US, and they place high value on US ed­u­ca­tion,” Kao said.

Last year Chi­nese stu­dents at US col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties con­trib­uted about $12.6 bil­lion to the US econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to the US Depart­ment of Com­merce.

An­other rea­son for the num­bers is the five-year visas avail­able to Chi­nese stu­dents go­ing to the US. Such visas usu­ally cover the en­tire length of their study, said Wil­liam Weiss­man, a US con­sular of­fi­cer in Shang­hai.

The re­port also found that 11,689 stu­dents from the US were study­ing in China in the 2015-16 aca­demic year — an 8.6 per­cent de­crease from the year be­fore and part of a de­clin­ing trend over the last four years.

“The rea­sons may be that Amer­i­can stu­dents can now take up Chi­nese stud­ies in the US and don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to come to China for those pro­grams,” Kao said. “But we are very much en­cour­ag­ing Amer­i­can stu­dents to come to China to study,” she said.

“Dur­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s visit to China last week, he and Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping en­cour­aged greater ex­changes at all lev­els, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural ex­changes,” she said.

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