For 25-year-old Mathew Shauer, China is always a fascinating and exciting place.
"I had long been interested in Asia, and I told myself that I had to pick a language to learn and a country in Asia to go to," said Shauer, who is from the United States.
"This big country is mysterious to me. But what attracted me most is that it has a vigorous economy and many opportunities," he said.
Shauer is enrolled in an exchange program at Shanghai's Fudan University. This is his second trip to China. Shauer's first trip was in 2009, when he was still a senior at the University of California, San Diego, and spent almost two years studying Chinese at Peking University and participating in a Model UN conference.
"I have really enjoyed my stay in China and I hardly have felt any culture shock," he said. "Both Beijing and Shanghai are open and tolerant cities. You can choose whatever life you want. When I first came to China, I thought, 'Oh, this is just like America. You have McDonald's, you have Starbucks.'"
Shauer said he eventually did notice some differences in the people, "but these differences never stand in my way and prevent me from living the life that I want," he added.
Shauer has met a lot of interesting and friendly people in China. "Chinese students are extremely smart. In the top schools like Peking University and Fudan University, the students that I meet are intelligent. They really know how to study and work much harder than my peers back in the United States."
Shauer also met his girlfriend at Peking University. "We do have arguments like other couples. But few are related to cultural differences. We think alike to a large extent," he said.
Shauer is planning to apply for graduate school in China after a brief return to the US.
"I want to do some research work on China's Hukou system (residence registration system). That's a very interesting issue, and our country doesn't have a similar system," he said.
"I really like the vigorous atmosphere here in China. Unlike back in the US, where people think that they are the best in the world and stop making improvements, you can see changes almost every day in China. People are working together, making their lives better. I want to be one of them. I want a life filled with passion."
George Zhao, a 26-year-old Chinese American, said his experience in China has also been rewarding.
"Although I grew up in the US, I have always wanted to know more about Chinese culture," Zhao said.
After he earned his bachelor's degree in the US, Zhao came to Fudan University in Shanghai to study. He is planning to apply for a master's degree in sociology.
"I thought I might face some difficulties before I came here. But I feel really comfortable living in Shanghai. Shanghai is such an open and international city, and has a diversity of cultures and languages," Zhao said.
"Young people in China prefer popular things abroad. They like things from Japan, Korea and the US. But I also find that China is building its own popular things, such as entertainment TV programs, popular music, comics and animation," he added.
"I haven't decided what to do after graduation. But I want to stay in China."
(China Daily August 21, 2011)