In 2014, according to the Institute for International Education (IIE), over 304,000 Chinese were studying at American colleges, almost one-third of the total international student population. Do the broad freedoms of information, assembly, and religion of which the United States is so proud open students’ eyes to new ideas and modes of thinking? Or, as some have reported, do Chinese students stick perhaps too tightly together, forming insular communities that sustain their old habits and worldviews until they are ready to return home?
A Foreign Policy investigation suggests that the reality of Chinese student life in the United States defies both of these narratives. Chinese students in the United States learn much from the contrasts between America’s education system, media, and social and intellectual life and those they find at home. And they often emerge with more admiration for the United States as a result. But they also gain more respect for the enormity of the task involved in running China — and learn that America’s streets aren’t exactly paved with gold.
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