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Study Abroad China Essay Topics

My New Life As A Study Abroad Student In Beijing, China

I landed in Beijing on Wednesday, and after being here for 4 days, the jet lag is slowly subsiding. If anyone was wondering, I can legit say that a 14 hour flight to Beijing isn’t nearly as bad as you’d think. Everything has been great so far, but it’s definitely been a bit of an adjustment (kind of expected when you go half way around the world). I was ready for some parts, and not so ready for others. Either way, here’s a look at some of the things that influence my daily routine here in China.

I can’t drink tap water

Between the chemicals used to treat the water and the minerals leaching into the water from the old pipes of Beijing, water straight out of the tap is out of the question. If I do want drinking water, I have two choices: Boil it in the kai shui machine on our floor, or buy it bottled. The general rule is that if it didn’t come in a bottle or it’s not a hot drink (i.e. tea or coffee), don’t drink it.

I can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet in my dorm

The CET sewage system can’t handle any amount of toilet paper. After taking care of your business, you throw the used toilet paper into a little trash can in your stall. On a somewhat similar note, some public places don’t provide toilet paper at all, meaning you have to bring your own. I now carry a pocket pack of tissues everywhere I go just in case.

If I’m not in my dorm, there’s a possibility I won’t have access to a Western toilet

There are Western toilets in Beijing, but they’re not exactly prevalent. An Eastern toilet is essentially a urinal inserted into the floor (see picture to the left for visual). You squat over the hole, make sure you protect your pants, and then throw your toilet paper into the trash can. My quads should be beastly after this experience.

I check the air quality on a regular basis

There’s an instrument on top of the U.S. Embassy here in Beijing that measures the air quality every day. It has an index of 0 to 500 with 500 being the worst possible quality the developers of the instrument could conceive of. Last year, Beijing hit 562 – take that L.A. Basically if it’s over a certain point, I’ll only go outside if necessary.

I use chopsticks at every meal

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all eaten with chopsticks. Luckily I’m pretty good with chopsticks, but I’d still rather eat a chicken wing with my hands.

I can feast at most restaurants for only a couple $US

I can get an entire plate of 15 – 20 dumplings and a few beers for 30 kuai, or about $5. And as an added bonus, there’s no tipping here. Yeah, I do have to buy my own breakfast and dinner every day, but with prices that low (and that’s for quality food), it’s not a huge concern of mine.

I can take a girl to Pizza Hut and it would be considered a good date

While KFC has a massive cult following over here in Beijing, Pizza Hut is the one that got reinvented. Pizza Hut actually resembles a high class restaurant in the U.S., and while it’s all under the exact same company, I’d be willing to bet they’re doing much better over here.

I’m definitely a minority

It’s no secret, I’m white and stick out like a sore thumb. Apparently it’s semi common for Chinese girls to befriend young, male (good looking) students like me, bring us to a bar for a drink, then bail on us while the owner brings over a check that would make you think you bought the whole bar. Haven’t heard any direct stories about that one, but apparently it’s true.

When I walk out the school gate, I’m usually taking my life in my own hands

Traffic lights mean nothing, and crosswalks might as well be invisible. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and every other motor vehicle contraption all believe they have the right of way.  Traffic jams and gridlock are an everyday occurrence, and the funny thing is that they’re just as likely to happen on the streets of Beijing as they are in a supermarket aisle. Pretty exhilarating.

Facebook and Youtube are blocked

When you Google Facebook or Youtube, an error message just pops up.  Of course everyone and their mother knows how to get around it (thanks to the magic of a VPN) so I can still keep track of everyone back home.

The most important thing is that I’m loving it all. There are no real negatives here (although I’m still in the euphoria stage), there are just cultural nuances that take a little while to get used to.

Once you come to grips with going to the bathroom in a hole, you don’t ask why people do it or complain about how gross it is…you just do it. And it’s not like toilet paper doesn’t exist, you just have to bring it yourself. I’m always amazed at what people, including myself, are capable of doing when we get rid of preconceived notions about what’s normal and/or acceptable.

As far as school goes, this week has been packed full of orientation fun. It’s one of those necessary evils when you go to a new school, and while orientation isn’t always the most upbeat activity, everybody here has made it very bearable. The staff here even took us to get some Beijing kaoya (Beijing roast duck – one of their most famous dishes) for lunch yesterday. I was stuffed.

I’m still as happy as ever that I made the decision to come here. I was at this awesome rooftop party in the middle of Beijing a few nights back (we belonged on an Adidas or Corona commercial) and I had one of those moments where the magnitude of what I was doing hit me.

At 22 years old, I could be back in Manchester scouring the classifieds for a job I’m not sure I really want so I can start making money, or I could be in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, partying on a rooftop decorated with Chinese lanterns, drinking beer that cost me about 75 cents, and learning one of the most popular/useful languages in the world that will probably help me get that job when I’m actually ready.

I take my language pledge (i.e. I can’t speak a word of English, watch English movies, or leave my door open while Skype-ing my mom in English) bright and early Monday morning, and start classes that same day. No question it’s going to be hard, but I already speak to most people in stores and restaurants in Chinese anyway (without getting a look of disgust) so I can only go up from here. And as a little bonus, starting to actually learn more Chinese should definitely help my game with members of the opposite sex. My current pickup line is “Ni hui shuo Yingwen ma?” – “Do you speak English” – and it doesn’t usually go over to well.

The rooftop parties will come to a halt for about a month while I get used to the workload, but CET has a million other great things planned (Great Wall, the city of Xi’an, a kung fu show) and I’m pretty pumped for all of them (with the exception of maybe the Opera). Internet’s spotty so my post frequency is going to be somewhat sporadic, but I’m going to try and keep up a regular schedule.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!

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My Day to Day Life

Mr. Guan is a successful architect in Shanghai, who came back to China after studying abroad in the U.S. His success is an example of those Haigui (nickname for the Chinese students and scholars returned from overseas). From 1978 to 2003, a total number of 700,200 Chinese students and scholars studied in 108 countries and regions all over the world, covering almost all disciplines. With encouragement of government policy, more young people are leaving China to study abroad. These Haigui brought back the advanced technology and management that China needed badly in its economic take-off and in the mean time, they succeeded in their career development in China. "Study abroad" spurred economic development, but at the same time also brought in some other problems such as the Western ideas and culture flooded into China, some students stayed in foreign countries after they completed their study, some others could not find jobs after they returned to China. How does study abroad impact China's modernization? Discussion questions on both sides of the issue are presented after a brief introduction.

There are more and more Chinese students studying abroad now. Some of them are still studying in foreign countries, some have returned to China after studying abroad, while still others have stayed in foreign countries after competing their studies. How does "study abroad" affect China's rising? Let's review some historical background.

China was the most powerful country in the world in ancient times. In modern history, China was defeated by the gun boats and modern technology of the West. China was forced to open its door by the Western powers after the Opium War1 in 1840.

Intellectuals realized that the lack of modern technology and democracy caused China's weakening. In the May 4th Movement2, they called for learning modern science and technology from foreign countries. Before the founding of the People' Republic of China, there were already a lot of Chinese going abroad for further education in order to bring home knowledge that could help build a stronger country. After the establishment of new China in 1949, the Chinese government decided to send students and scholars to the former Soviet Union and other socialist countries to study advanced science, technology and management skills. But in the 1960's and 70's, study abroad became static due to the political atmosphere in China and the Cultural Revolution.

Since the reform and opening up3 in 1978, work related to students and scholars studying abroad has seen rapid developments. China sent the first group of scholars to study in the U.S after the Cultural Revolution in 1978. In harmony with the socio-economic development, a management and implementation system related to students and scholars studying abroad has been set up in higher education institutions as well as in science and technology research institutions, from the national to local levels. This system mainly consists of three complementary channels for students and scholars, namely, state-funded, employer-funded and self-funded.

According to the Ministry of Education of P.R. China4, from 1978 to 2003, a total number of 700,200 Chinese students and scholars studied in 108 countries and regions all over the world, covering almost all disciplines. Both the quantity and scale was unprecedented in the history of China. During the same period, a total of 172,800 returned. As for the 527,400 who had not returned, 356,600 were still studying, doing research or visiting as scholars in foreign higher education institutions. In 2003, the total number of students and scholars studying abroad was 117,300, among which 3,002 people were state-funded, 5,144 employer-funded and 109,200 self-funded. In the same year, a total number of 20,100 students and scholars returned from overseas studying, among which 2,638 were state funded, 4,292 employer-funded and 13,200 self-funded. In the past, U. S. attracted a large portion of the total number of Chinese students studying abroad. But statistics show that Chinese students have increased drastically in countries like Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany and France in recent years. Statistics show that young people studying abroad under 22 have increased at an annual rate of 40 percent over the past three years.

China tops the world with the number of people studying abroad according to People's Daily report (June 18, 2002).5

1. How does "study abroad" affect China's modernization?
• What did China learn from the foreign countries?
• Without "study abroad" could China's economy have developed so rapidly, especially in science and technology? Why or why not?
• In addition to science and technology, what else should China learn from foreign countries?
• Will "study abroad" also bring Western ideology into China? How does it affect China's modern development?
• Do you think China should learn from or copy social systems from more industrialized countries?
• Can Western democracy help China's modernization?
• What do you think China should learn from the advanced countries most?
• Are students trained abroad better than those trained in China in the same subject areas? In basic education? In application of the learned knowledge to work practice? Why?

2. Questions About Returned Students:How should China treat those who return from study abroad?
• Do you think these returned students would have more opportunities in China than in remaining abroad?
• Should these returned students be given preferential treatment by the government over those trained in China?
• Should these returned students be given better living conditions than ordinary Chinese?
• Should these returned students be given more research funding?
• Should these returned students be given higher positions?
• Can these returned students be trusted to be government or party officials?
• How do you see the fact that some returned students could not find jobs they wanted after they returned to China?
• Some returned students succeeded in careers after they returned to China, while others were less successful or failed. What do you think are the main factors causing their success or failure?
• With more and more students going abroad and more and more returning from abroad, the competition in job market for these returned students is even tougher. Do you think those who are still abroad should stay in foreign countries or return to China?

3. Questions About Students Who Stay in Foreign Countries:Do these students still contribute to China's modernization?
• What may cause these students to stay in foreign countries?
• Will these students staying in foreign countries have more opportunities in career than going back to China?
• How can they help with China's modernization?
• How should the Chinese government treat them?
• What do the Chinese people think of them?
• Since 1978, among the Chinese students studying abroad, more stayed in foreign countries than returned to China. Do you think China should still encourage students studying abroad?
• Do you think the resident countries benefit from these Chinese students staying in their countries?
• Does their stay cause problems to the resident countries? What sort of problems might they cause?
• Does their stay cause problems to China? Why or why not?

Continue to 'Education as a Social Ladder' »

1. Ch'ing China: The Opium Wars (Washington State University)

2. The May Fourth Movement (Asia for Educators/Columbia U.)

3. China's Economic Reform: Past, Present and Future (Perspectives)

4. Ministry of Education (The People's Republic of China)

5. People's Daily Online

This Companion was written by The College of Staten Island's Modern China Studies Group, an interdisciplinary program involving several departments, including Business, English, History, Modern Languages, Media Culture, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work.

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