Headline, June03, 2014



SOME American Colleges are so well known for their large Chinese enrollments that they have spawned many jokes, said Jordan Dotson-

Who advises students in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen about the American college-application process. ''If you want to improve your Chinese, go to America, because you'll have many, many classmates from Beijing,'' he said.

If the surfeit of Chinese students at certain institutions risks turning some students off, others may be discouraged by the difficulty of getting into elite American colleges, despite excellent grades and test scores.

To put it in perspective, this year some 150  students from a single top Shenzhen high school competed for admission in a handful of select American colleges. That nearly equals the total number of international students in Harvard's freshman class.

If they are rejected by leading American colleges, Mr Dotson's students will attend highly ranked institutions outside the United States, including the University of Hong Kong, the University of Toronto and Yale-NUS College in Singapore. Next year, he said, their younger classmates might not even bother applying to America.

''The top kids understand that it's tougher for them to get in to U.S. universities,'' he said. ''It's insanely competitive.''

If getting into college is competitive, so, too is the job market awaiting graduates in both countries.

In South Korea, the employment rate for college graduates has fallen to just 60 percent in a shaky economy. Graduates of a vocational programs have a better job placement. In China, it's a numbers game:

With seven million graduates, the unemployment rate for the class of  2013
is nearly  18 percent, according to the Chinese Academy of National Sciences.

A foreign degree was supposed to benefit job seekers in a tight market, but now it might even be a disadvantage.

Returning students often find that they lack the connections needed to land a job, said Mr Choi of SUNY-Korea. Despite the growing numbers of international students, most career-services offices at American institutions are focused on placing students closer to home.

'' In Korea, kinship is important. It's a very relational society,'' Mr Choi said. ''You have to have a good network in your school to get a job. Those students who study in the States don't.''

The first of the surge of Chinese undergraduates,  -writes the research author,  -undergraduates at American colleges are only now beginning to return home. But a study of earlier Chinese returnees working in venture capital found that they were actually less successful:

Than their counterparts who had remained at home, a finding that the study's author Wei Sun, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore, attributed to a possible mismatch in skills and weaker social networks.

A survey last year by Zhillian Zhaopin, of Chinese recruitment firm, found that 70 percent of the employers would give no hiring preference to over-seas educated applicants; nearly 10 percent said they would prefer not to hire them.

The Chinese have a name for those who return home after studying or working abroad: ''Haigui''  or sea turtles, referring to those with one foot in the homeland, another overseas. But a new term is catching on for those who have gone abroad:

''Haidai'' or seaweed, referring to those who float between two countries and cultures, unable to anchor in either.

Of course, not all the reasons behind the declining interest in study abroad are negative. One important factor is that educational opportunities once obtainable only overseas are now more readily available at home. 

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