In the past 40 years of reform, the enthusiasm for studying abroad has continued to heat up. The group study ingabroad has moved from “elite” to “mainstream”. Whether it is studying or employment, leaving or returning, the choice of life is more diverse.
In 1978, Deng Xiaoping issued an important speech on expanding the number of students studying abroad. “It is necessary to send thousands of people, not just ten.” The study abroad in the new era of China’s reform and opening up has arisen. In December 1984, the State Council promulgated the “Interim Regulations on Studying Abroad at Private Fees”, noting that studying abroad is a channel for cultivating talent.
Regardless of whether it is public or self-funded, “hard work and self-improvement” were the common theme of international students in the early days of reform and opening up. On one hand, they work hard to earn money to alleviate economic embarrassment; on the other hand, they are studying hard in academics to make progress.
Zhao Nanming, a professor at Tsinghua University School of Medicine, was one of the first public students to study abroad. During his studies in the United States, he did not have a Saturday and Sunday, he rarely left the lab before midnight, and published four papers in two years. Talking about the gains of studying abroad, he said that the biggest gain is to broaden horizons, see the direction and hotspots of international research, and asses his own gap.
After Zhao Nanming returned to China, he made great efforts to create the medical school of Tsinghua University. The early international students who made the same choices with him accepted the new thinking, new technologies and new ideas from abroad and quickly returned to become leaders in their respective fields. In those days, international students were elite and they made outstanding contributions to China’s development and construction.
From the beginning of reform and up to today, the enthusiasm for studying abroad has not receded. According to data released by the Ministry of Education of China in March 2018, over the past 40 years of reform, the number of Chinese students studying abroad has reached 5,194,900. In 2017, the number of Chinese students leaving to study abroad exceeded 600,000 for the first time and continued to maintain the status of the world’s largest student body. Among them, self-funded study abroad was 541,300, accounting for 88.97% of the total number of students studying abroad.
Since the new century, with the improvement of people’s economic level and more diverse path of studying abroad, studying abroad has become the choice of ordinary people’s families. The study abroad has changed from “elite” to “mainstream”. At the same time, the purpose of people studying abroad has also been greatly differed.
The “2018 China Repatriation Survey Report” released by the Global Think Tank and Zhilian Recruitment shows that the new generation of overseas students no longer choose education as their sole goal, but more emphasis on obtaining rich experience in studying abroad, experiencing the culture and life of other countries, and honing independence.
After the end of the 2014 college entrance examination, Yao Yichun embarked on a journey to study in South Africa. Although this is not the choice of most Chinese students, Yao Yichun feels that he has gained a lot. “I have seen a lot of different people and things, learned to be tolerant and understanding, and my personality is more cheerful and assertive. I feel that I have the courage to face the challenges of life and to see a broader world.”
Corresponding to the continued growth of going abroad, the number of overseas returnees has also increased year over year. According to statistics, from 1978 to the end of 2017, 3.132 million international students from all types of overseas students chose to return to China after completing their studies, accounting for 83.73% of the total number of completed international students. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, 23.136 million people have returned to China, accounting for 73.87% of the total number of people returning to China during the reform and opening up.
China’s great achievements since the reform have been an important reason for attracting returnees from overseas students. The broad prospects for development in China have injected confidence. In addition, the various preferential policies formulated by the state for returning to the country also contributed to the growth in return.
“When I was riding a small yellow car on the streets of London, I knew where my future would develop.” After obtaining a doctorate, the international student Prince Wang returned to China for development. In his eyes, he learned the geography. Learning can have a better development platform in China. “This is a big trend.”
The tremendous changes brought about by the 40 years of reform have affected the life trajectory of overseas students studying abroad. They are overseas and learn from their leaders. Whether they stay in the local area or return to school, they are closely connected with China and synchronized with the reform and growing up.
Songzi Li/ Editing Manager
Translation by Philip Park