Students study abroad in China, learn of upcoming superpower

Jake Hong

China’s rising prominence is likely to encourage greater enrollment of UT students in study abroad programs to the country, said Tracy Dahlby, the journalism professor with the Reporting China Maymester program.

The growing interest among UT students coincides with the Obama administration’s goal of doubling the number of students studying abroad in the largest Asian country by 2014. First lady Michelle Obama also stressed student travel to China at a Wednesday speech at Howard University in Washington, D.C., which came shortly after the Obamas welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao at a state dinner at the White House.

Currently, 18 UT students are enrolled in the 2011 Maymester program, which runs from May to June. Dahlby said he expects student interest in China to increase because of general curiosity and the country’s greater presence in the professional world.

Dahlby said study abroad programs help young individuals understand the relationship between the United States and rising superpowers. He said the programs are long-term investments, not institutions designed to generate immediate results.

“We won’t see the exact shape of things to come,” he said. “But we can see the vector.”
He said China is emerging as a world superpower because of its technological and economic expansion.

Foreign exchange programs allow students to view different nations and cultures on an individual level in lieu of viewing different countries on a collective level, Dahlby said.

“Study abroad programs are beneficial because it gives students the opportunity to experience different countries and cultural values,” said Tommy Ward, China program coordinator of UT’s International Office.

Multimedia journalism and economics senior Simrat Sharma, who participated in the China Maymester in 2009, said she gained experience in the country by witnessing different cultural interactions.

Sharma said Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington, D.C. signified improvement in the often strained relationship between the U.S. and China.

“Simply engaging in talks is a great step into U.S.-China relations,” Sharma said.

Advertising junior Suchada Sutasirisap said she saw the changing nature of China as well as its traditional roots when she studied there in fall 2010.

“In a city like Shanghai, there is a mix of Chinese and Western culture,” Sutasirisap said. “It is a very developed city but you also see people hanging clothes. In some ways, you see China is still China.”