Why Chinese overseas students tend to group up?

By Wang Jiaxing
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 17, 2014
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"When I was studying for a doctoral degree, one day I went by train to a meeting in another city in Britain, and a professor seated across from me had a good chat with me. When she found out I was Chinese, she asked me a question: ‘Why are Chinese students together all the time?’ She said that she often saw Chinese students doing everything in knots, and sometimes even agreeing to buy something in the small supermarket on campus."This story told by Zhang Yueyue, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Kent, reflects the fact that Chinese students tend to stick together when abroad.

"Foreigners like Americans and British people also group together with their compatriots after they arrive in Beijing. When people arrive in a strange place, they will usually unconsciously look for familiar things – it is human nature.

However, it is harmful for Chinese students to stick together too much. Firstly, it actually reduces the number of opportunities that a student has to communicate with the other culture. Secondly, flocking together too often will make other people feel excluded and will isolate Chinese students. Finally, a lack of communication will also lead to misunderstandings with others. For example, the professor talking with me on the train thinks that Chinese students lack the ability to live independently," Zhang Yueyue says.

"Many Asian students who study in western countries also group together. Compared to them, students who come from the west are more independent and willing to experience new things. And because they make friends more easily than the Asian students, they often participate in a wider variety of activities and make friends with a wider variety of people," Lei Xiying, a student at Australian National University, says.

Students can reduce loneliness by frequently interacting with people who come from the same culture.

To some extent, it is good for Chinese students to group together with people who speak the same language and share the same culture because it will help them dispel the loneliness of being in a foreign country. There are also some legitimate reasons for this phenomenon.

The first reason is language limitations. Although most Chinese students have no problem with basic daily communication, they have trouble communicating further, which prevents many people from blending in with the crowd.

The second reason is a difference in lifestyles, cultures and hobbies. Prejudice is also a deeper difficulty that prevents Chinese students from blending in. Chinese students are often more willing to socialize with compatriots because they think relationships with compatriots will be more useful when they go home.

Moreover, there is also a more objective reason for this phenomenon: Chinese students tend to form a majority in certain majors at universities. For example, data from Britain in 2010 shows that Chinese students made up more than 50 percent of students majoring in international media at the University of Westminster.

In interviews, many students expressed that grouping together cannot be judged without taking individual conditions into account. Jin Ran, the Marketing Director of Education International Cooperation Group, also indicated that there are many reasons ranging from language to culture to psychology that contribute to the phenomenon, and the question of whether it is good or not depends on each student’s attitude. The best situation is one in which Chinese students can keep their cultural identity and actively acquire the new language and new culture. However, if grouping together with compatriots becomes a way of escaping from bad communication and maladjustment to a new environment, it will surely have a bad effect on students.

"There are some Chinese students who discriminate between communicating with compatriots and communicating with foreigners. This is wrong. Making friends based on their interests and personal qualities rather than based on their country of origin is the right thing to do anywhere,"Zhang Yueyue advises Chinese students.

"Chinese students will better acquire the new culture and diversify their communicative abilities when they study aboard,"says John Latham, the president of Coventry University. He has adopted many measures to promote communication between students from different countries, such as holding activities to introduce Chinese culture and encouraging Chinese students to join school clubs.

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