By Michael Melia
The multitudes of Chinese students attending American universities are approaching college as less of a life experience and more as a transaction, educators worry, leading to measures to help them integrate — including broadcasting football games in Mandarin and giving them orientation before they even leave Asia.
While students of similar backgrounds naturally flock together anywhere, the integration question is being discussed with urgency in relation to Chinese students because of their sheer numbers. On American campuses, where they number in the hundreds or thousands, it is easier for them to find friends who speak the same native language and form insular communities.
The experience of Anyi Yang, a 19-year-old University of Connecticut sophomore from Beijing, reflects some of the challenges.
When she arrived in the United States, it was a member of a Chinese student group who picked her up at the airport. An applied math major, she has gotten to know some of her American peers through coursework, and she cheered alongside them as she watched a broadcast of the women’s basketball team winning a national championship. But she spends nearly all her free time with Chinese friends. She had expected Americans to be more welcoming.
“They are friendly, but some I thought would be more interested in talking to me,” Yang said. “Actually, they seldom speak to me if I don’t speak to them.”
Where administrators and analysts of US-China relations see missed opportunities for exchange, some professors also see a disconnect affecting their classrooms as Chinese students, in general, participate less in discussions.
“They like to stay with each other, and it’s getting the attention of a lot of our professors,” said Yuhang Rong, an assistant vice provost for global affairs at UConn, which counts more than 300 students from China in its freshman class.
With the rise of China’s middle class, the number of students it sends to the United States jumped to 274,439 in the 2013-2014 school year from 61,765 a decade earlier, according to the Institute of International Education. Graduate students account barely for the biggest group, but undergraduates from China have been gaining quickly. Read more