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More Go Abroad, but Ready to Come Back
Despite years of study in a Swedish university town, Ji Ming, 24, still believes his hometown, Shanghai, is the ideal place to build a career.

"On the one hand is an oriental metropolis with a population of 16 million, and on the other hand, a little town with 90,000 people," said the recent Lund University graduate, "Naturally I'd choose to come back to Shanghai. It's fast growing and full of potential."

Ji majored in environment science. "That experience has opened up my horizons and what I've learned in Europe will be fully exploited here in China," he said.

China has seen a return of talented people who have studied or worked abroad over recent years, and latest figures show that one in every three Chinese students studying abroad has returned.

Some attributed the tide of returned talents to the tremendous opportunities offered by China's fast-growing economy, its entry into the World Trade Organization and the 2008 Olympic Games to be hosted by the nation's capital, Beijing.

But a teacher with the Beijing-based New Oriental School, a privately owned school that prepares students for various English proficiency tests, has his own analysis.

"In the 80s, when China's living standards lagged far behind developed countries, few had the chance to study abroad -- and those few who did make it sometimes chose to stay abroad after they completed their studies," said Zhou, who has been with the school for ten years.

Today, going abroad is no more a big deal for the average Chinese, who have access to the most updated information and vast resources on the Internet, he argued.

"On one hand are crowds of people who have returned after years of studying or working abroad, and on the other hand, those who are preparing to acquire advanced expertise and modern management concepts from other countries," he said.

The Shanghai branch of the New Oriental School, which opened two years ago, recruited 40,000 students in 2001, 60 percent of who said they were preparing for further study abroad.

Li Jun, a second-year graduate student at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, is preparing for the general record exam in November. What she dreams of is the master of business administration (MBA) course at Northwestern University.

"Just have a look at their background -- nearly all the senior executives in the transnational companies in Shanghai have either studied abroad or got MBA degrees," she said.

Back in 2000, the year Li completed her undergraduate studies, over 20 students in her class -- nearly 30 percent of the total 70-- went to the United States or Britain for further study.

"They are concentrating on finance, law, public communication and other areas that promise good career opportunities back in China -- and when they do come back, they are more likely to survive the heated competition in the domestic job market," said Li.

Chinese constitute the largest group of international students in countries around the world, according to a survey by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Some 380,000 Chinese students were studying in 103 countries by the end of 2000, making up 24 percent of all the international students worldwide, said the survey.

Many well-off parents, worried by the high competition for a higher education in China, have sent their teenage and even pre-teen children to study abroad -- the youngest was reported to be only five years old.

"If I fail to be admitted by a domestic university, I will attend one overseas," said Liu Yue, who just sat the July 7-8 national college entrance exam.

Before the annual exam -- the hardest challenge for teenage students and virtually the only way to a higher education in China-- Liu claims her parents had collected brochures from several overseas universities and had been saving money to sponsor her education abroad.

(Xinhua News Agency July 11, 2002)

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