Home Opinion ACT Column Studying abroad in 2021, the restart of the "diversified" era

Studying abroad in 2021, the restart of the “diversified” era

“Starting from Beijing, after a month of long visa waiting, crowded check-in, flying, transfer, and entry, I finally arrived in Boston.” This is the real experience of MIT student Yuxuan this year. The visa center was overflowing and the flight ticket prices were rocketing. In this seemingly disorderly “chaos”, a glimmer of light projected itself on millions of families as studying abroad finally restarted in 2021 following a year of suspension. Besides a select number of students who choose to study abroad like Lei Yuxuan, a majority of students choose to start their studies at home in the mode of online classes, or even switch to a Sino-foreign cooperation in running schools.

In a changing world where uncertain factors are increasing, the discussion on the purpose, approach, and value of studying abroad will be altered completely. Everyone will  begin and complete their studies with different aspirations and standards. Studying abroad is rapidly entering the era of diversity and as it does, everyone involved in studying abroad will need to make more choices. As study abroad restarts, it may usher in more intense competition.

How big is the impact of a sudden epidemic on international students? You will find that the vast majority of international students have chosen to continue studying abroad despite the uncertain status quo. The report issued by QS on the impact of the new crown epidemic on international students at the end of 2020 shows that no more than 5% of students in China believe that their study abroad plans would be completely terminated.

Although it is currently impossible to prove that there will be a “retaliatory” blowout of studying abroad in 2021, the results of a special interview on LinkedIn indicate that many guests believe the competition for studying abroad in 2021 will be more intense. Wang Mengyan, general manager of ETS China, stated in his data analysis that since the beginning of this year, the number of applicants from mainstream schools in the United States and the United Kingdom has exploded in varying degrees. However, the overall number of degrees offered has not seen a significant increase. Charles Ellison, the principal of Shanghai Harrow School for Children of Foreign Personnel, also stated that at any point in time, the yearning for top universities from all over the world is unabated. There is no doubt that this yearning has not been weakened or changed by the epidemic. However, due to a large number of students postponing enrollment in the 2020-21 academic year, some courses and universities have already over-subscribed applications, thus resulting in corresponding measures to manage the number of students.

Whether it is persisting in going abroad through hardships, learning through online courses, or choosing Sino-foreign cooperation in running schools, study abroad shows a diversified change for all students. Principal Charles Ellison believes that the entire world has learned to adapt more flexibly as people are witnessing a combination of online and offline learning. Yang Xiaoyan, Assistant Dean of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, believes that the epidemic has accelerated the advent of online teaching and office work. To a certain extent, this has provided more opportunities for diversified channels to expand international horizons.

Despite the increasing opportunities associated with online teaching, it is unclear whether online courses can provide the full value and experience of studying abroad.  Xiao Jingdong, founder of Yi School and columnist of FT Chinese Network, believes that studying abroad is not only academic study, but also requires immersion into the university community and interacting with professors and classmates. Therefore, the lack of an overseas learning environment will inevitably affect the future experiences of students.

Due to the passivity in education, the “diversified changes” are relatively concentrated on the methods of studying abroad. However, as society’s perception of studying abroad has gradually undergone a fundamental change, the question that international students are thinking about is whether to stay or study abroad. What is the purpose of studying abroad? What competitive advantages can studying abroad bring? The answers to these questions will also change based on the changing of the “talent outlook” of the whole society.

As studying abroad has gradually become a common and relatively popular way of education, a foreign diploma is no longer a “golden sign” for employment. Therefore, there is no direct link between studying abroad and increased personal competitive advantage. The greatest significance of studying abroad is the expansion of international vision, which can serve as an important source of unique advantages for international students. Studying abroad may contribute to developing yourself and your academics as well as soft skills such as communication.

Although the momentum of study abroad in the early days of the new century has ceased, the international education needs of Chinese families requires more and more children to stand on the world stage and speak Chinese. The trend of studying abroad in the future cannot be stopped. However, after experiencing the stress of the pandemic, studying abroad will gradually expand from one traditional method to multiple platforms.The definition of studying abroad may no longer be a single “learning abroad module”, but a process of acquiring a global perspective across borders through multiple methods.

In addition to the traditional form of study abroad that still has strong appeal, new methods such as “online study abroad” and “sino-foreign cooperation in running schools” are also injecting new vitality into studying abroad. We have now seen that some international higher education institutions are experimenting with Chinese-foreign hybrid teaching models. Students can spend part of their time with online lessons in China and part of their time overseas. Some overseas colleges and universities are also seizing this opportunity to develop branch schools in mainland China to expand more channels to provide courses to Chinese students and international students living in China. With the continuous enrichment of school experience and improvement of domestic international schools, better foundations and conditions for enrolling students may be established globally. Additionally, this will further enrich the domestic study abroad industry.

From “academic theory” to “view of vision”, from “gold-plating” to “experience”, from “going abroad” to “on the Internet,” study abroad is throwing multiple questions at students. What is the purpose of studying abroad? Can domestic education give enough room for development? Can the diverse and new ways of studying abroad in a broad sense be acceptable? What are your expectations for employment after returning from studying abroad? The answers to these questions will help international students make a decision suitable for them that they will not regret.

Songzi Li/Editing Manager

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