Overseas students at Fudan University say its holistic approach has helped them understand China better, Cao Chen reports in Shanghai.
The number of international students flocking to China to pursue higher education has been soaring over the past decade.
According to the Ministry of Education, the number was 492,185 in 2018, an increase of about 3,000 students from 2017.
For many foreign students, the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai is the choice destination because of its inclusive learning and social environment.
Goh Qian Xuan from Singapore is one such student. The 23-year-old is among the university’s 10″star graduates” this year and she will now pursue a master’s degree from Yale University.
During her graduate years, Goh was elected as the president of the Fudan University Singaporean Students Association and the Chinese Language and Literature Faculty Student Union, which gave her the chance to work closely with students from other countries. She was able to share her own culture with her peers at the university’s annual International Cultural Festival.
She was also involved in hosting Singaporean delegations that visited the university.
“I didn’t come to Shanghai just to get good grades. I believe that academic and non-academic involvement are equally important in undergraduate study,” Goh says.
“Being part of the local student associations, working with local Chinese and witnessing how things are done has really helped me to better understand Chinese society and its people.”
According to the international students office at Fudan University, there are 16 societies that were specially set up for international students at the university in addition to more than 200 student groups that international students can join to mingle with their Chinese counterparts. Plus, overseas students can participate in summer programs on Chinese culture.
The university also offers extracurricular activities for them to explore the city and the country.
Liu Li, director of the office, says such activities are aimed at creating a cross-cultural environment, which helps international students integrate into campus life in China, as well as help foster closer ties between foreign and local students.
Goh says she felt less like a foreign student only after a year in the student union.
“I took classes and exams with local students, and met my best friends in the association. The environment truly stretched my boundaries and strengthened my foundation for Chinese studies,” she says.
Minh Tien Nguyen from Vietnam, a postgraduate student in clinical medicine at Fudan, participated in an activity held by educational officials in the Yangtze River Delta area last year, visiting Yangshan Port and medical research labs in Shanghai, as well as attending lectures on the development of the city’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park.
“I obtained a deep understanding of the great achievements in the Yangtze River Delta in the past 40 years since China’s reform and opening-up started, especially in terms of Shanghai’s economics, shipping and technology innovation,” says Nguyen. “The skills and experience I have gained in Shanghai can benefit my future career in developing my hometown.”
According to Fudan, which was one of the first mainland universities to accept foreigners, more than 50,000 international students have enrolled in its programs since 1952, and over the past 15 years, that number has increased by 30 percent.
The university presently offers 39 programs that are taught in English for undergraduates and graduates. Those who are proficient in Chinese can also apply for programs taught in Mandarin. Economics, management, Chinese language, international relations, media and medicine are the most popular majors among international students.
To provide international students with a conducive learning environment, the university has a center for student development where they can request assistance in a variety of matters, and take part in tutoring programs, courses and camps organized by various departments. The university also provides financial aid to support undergraduate research efforts, psychological consultations and assistance related to career development and accommodation.
Indonesian student Michael Halim, a “star graduate” of Fudan’s medical college, had an eventful time at the university.
Halim, who has published eight SCI research papers in international science journals, was invited to give speeches in five countries on one of his research papers on diabetes. He has also translated and edited more than 20 Chinese research papers that were later published in journals. He won awards at an inter-university clinical skills competition held in Dalian, Liaoning province.
He has been sharing resources and guiding individuals who intend to take the Occupational English Test ever since he passed four months ago. Apart from his academic achievements, Halim was also involved in extracurricular activities and was among the top 10 contestants in bodybuilding competitions held on campus.
He has also donated a lot of money to a Chinese charity named Di Shui Chou that specializes in helping patients who are struggling financially to pay for hospital bills.
“Fudan encourages students to focus on other aspects of life, including health and overall development as an individual, in addition to academic excellence,” says Halim, who will pursue his postgraduate studies in medicine in the United Kingdom.
“The university has created a campus community where students are encouraged to broaden their minds, to innovate and delve deeper into what we are interested in, and to meet educated and outstanding peers who we can learn from.”
Goh, who is planning to join the Singapore Ministry of Education in the future, echoes this.
“The four amazing years I’ve spent in Fudan have helped to build a strong foundation for my life and career.
“This experience has debunked many stereotypes and put matters into perspective as I now understand the underlying reasons behind the Chinese approach to certain matters.”