Friday, December 26, 2008


There are few countries in the world today that are more complicated, more fascinating, or more important than China. Indeed, as its influence in world affairs grows by the year, and as its political system remains in as great a state of flux as it ever has, students would be very well advised to consider studying there for college. There is nothing at all to lose from spending four years in China-the language skills that will be acquired, the cultural sensitivities that will be gained, and the understanding of the culture of the country itself and the region as a whole will be drastically important in the coming years as this so-called sleeping giant continues to awaken and influence the world of the 21st century to an ever increasing extent.

It seemed for decades that China's relative insularity would serve to isolate it from a world grown ever more advanced, and ever more reliant on the kind of changes facilitated by capitalism's relative openness. This, however, has not been the case, and the ways in which China has developed over the course of the past decade have changed the world to such an extent that it is virtually impossible to overstate. Some experts have even made the claim that American students should be required to learn Chinese while still in the middle grades, as it is a language whose importance on the world stage will only continue to grow, and which will, indeed, be necessary in the coming years for the completion of many international business transactions.

The country itself is a fascinating amalgam of ancient culture and modern technology, of rigid governmental control and freewheeling development and manufacturing. It is impossible to pin down China, and attempting to define it in one specific way or another is an effort in futility. Indeed, if one is to begin to understand China, one must make peace with the fact that there are certain paradoxes that cannot be overcome.

The history of China goes back thousands of years. In fact, "China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization" ( It developed its own writing system, language, and technologies wholly separate from those of the western (European) civilizations with which most Americans are familiar. Its history is a complicated one; what matters to today's student who is considering attending college in China is this: The riches of its culture and the history of its land are arguably second to none in the entire world, and the academic and intellectual gains to be made are nothing short of astounding.

Because of the vast size of China, there are many regions in which you may choose to study. From the smaller cities to urban meccas like Beijing and Shanghai, students may have an infinite number and variety of experiences there. Most, however, do choose to study in the bigger cities, simply because they are easier to get to, more conducive to academic experience, and more receptive of foreign students. It is important, however, to research each of them and choose carefully: The cultural differences between them can be vast, and you should make sure that you consider your options carefully and choose wisely.

Many students are scared away from studying in China because of the supposed difficulty of the language. And indeed, it is quite different from English or any of the Romance languages most of us are familiar with. But that doesn't mean you cannot learn it. Though the characters may seem daunting at first, once you get the hang of it, you will likely not struggle nearly as much as you initially expect.

It is possible to discuss China at quite more length. The most important thing to realize is that China is a country whose riches are waiting for you to discover them. Your life will be changed in ways you may never have thought possible if you make the decision to spend your college years in China. The hardest part, in fact, is deciding to go. For once you do, the skills you gain and the experiences you have will make you not only more marketable in the business world, but also a much more interesting person than you ever were before. And that's what college is all about

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