Overseas students in traditional Chinese Hanfu clothing read the Three-Character Classic, an ancient text, during a show at Xinjiang Normal University in Urumqi in December.[Photo/China Daily]
More than 10 percent of visitors studying here are given assistance by government program
Jordanian students at Liaocheng University, Shandong province, hold up paper cutouts during an event in November.
The country is giving financial support to more foreign students. Here, some of those who have applied successfully describe their experiences, and give advice to others who would also like to study in China.
Isabella Greene still remembers how she felt when she was told in April that her application for a Chinese Government Scholarship had been successful.
“I was excited when I received the acceptance letter, I was like ‘oh, my gosh’, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I was speechless. I was surprised because I thought other candidates would be stronger.”
Greene, 30, is taking a one-year Chinese language course at the Beijing Language and Culture University thanks to the scholarship.
The program was set up in the 1950s following the signing of educational agreements by China and the governments of other countries, education institutes and international organizations.
It was established by the Ministry of Education to enable non-Chinese citizens to study at higher education institutions in China.
The program covers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students, as well as visiting students and scholars. It is managed by the China Scholarship Council, working under the ministry.
The number of international students receiving the Chinese Government Scholarship has increased greatly in recent years. Statistics from the ministry show that about 7,000 out of 140,000 international students received the scholarships in 2005. By 2014, the number of recipients had risen to 37,000, more than 10 percent of all international students studying in China.
A ministry spokesman said the Chinese Government Scholarship program has played an irreplaceable role in attracting excellent international students to come to study in China and promoting the ties between China and countries across the world in fields such as education, culture, science and technology, and economy and trade.
There are a number of different programs under the Chinese Government Scholarship banner, including the Bilateral Program, the one Greene applied for.
It was established by the ministry in accordance with educational exchange agreements or memorandums of agreements between China and other countries.
The Bilateral Program includes a full or partial scholarship, and international students apply through Chinese embassies or consulates in their home countries.
Greene applied through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a group of 200 educational institutions. Working with the Chinese embassy in Washington, it distributed 20 scholarships to candidates last year.
Applicants have to be undergraduates attending a university that is a member of the association, and must meet a grade point average requirement.
Applicants submit copies of their passports, the highest diploma they have obtained, personal statements, letters of recommendation and Chinese language proficiency reports, if available, to the association’s office in Washington.
Greene said, “There are reviewers who examine the documents, and they decide who will receive a scholarship.”
Mend Amar from Mongolia was awarded a scholarship in 2003. She met a Chinese counselor while working at her country’s national TV station. Her job was to translate Chinese films into Mongolian, and the counselor suggested that she apply for a scholarship to study Chinese in China.
“I submitted the documents and was selected for an interview, which was conducted at the Chinese embassy in Mongolia,” she said. “Soon after that, I was informed that I had been accepted.”
The 38-year-old went on to study Chinese at the Shanghai International Studies University for two years.
Katerina Galajdova from the Czech Republic applied for a scholarship under the European Union Program, which gives support to students from EU member countries.
Galajdova was an undergraduate studying foreign languages at a university in France, and had been learning Chinese for three years. Last year, a French teacher who taught her Chinese explained that she could apply for a Chinese Government Scholarship.
“At the time, I was trying to arrange an internship in China,” she said. “My teacher, who was the head of the Asian studies department at my university, told me, ‘You have great grades, you have an amazing attitude toward study, why don’t you try the Chinese Government Scholarship program’?”
Galajdova had not previously heard of the program, so she looked for information about it on the Internet.
“I found out that it was a very interesting scholarship and was really suitable for my profile,” she said. “So I prepared all the papers and documents I needed and applied－and it worked.”
A third type of scholarship, the Chinese University Program, provides full assistance for designated Chinese universities and certain provincial education offices to enroll outstanding international students to take postgraduate degrees in China.
To apply for it, international students submit their documents directly to the designated universities.
Shao Jiani, who runs the Chinese Government Scholarship program at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said 30 students at the school are receiving support.
“There’s an academic committee at our university responsible for reviewing the documents. They make decisions on the basis of the applicants’ academic performance, the ranking of their previous universities and their language proficiency,” Shao said.
She said students who apply for courses taught in Chinese should score more than 180 out of 300 in the fifth level of the Chinese language proficiency test, known as HSK 5.
Those who apply for courses taught in English should score at least 86 in the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or six in the International English Language Testing System, she said.
How to stand out
Neither Greene nor Galajdova knew how many applicants in their countries or regions were competing for a scholarship last year, but both said there were very few places and the competition was fierce.
Galajdova believes having some experience of the Chinese language is a must to stand out among a group of strong candidates, and this requires a lot of hard work.
“Studying Chinese is hard,” said the 24-year-old. “I remember that when I started to learn Chinese, I didn’t know what it was. It was so hard at the beginning. There are 100 times I was about to stop, but I didn’t give up.
“After learning Chinese for three years, I applied for a scholarship, and I’m really happy to be studying Chinese in China.”
Greene believes her lifelong interest in China and the country’s culture, which she wrote about in her personal statement, helped her.
She had been interested in Asian culture since she was 5, when she saw some Asians buying goods at a market of her hometown in Tennessee.
Her interest in China continued to grow, and she decided to focus on it at the age of 18.
“The key to being accepted is to be yourself,” she said. “Any way that you can demonstrate your interest in China will make you stand out.
“In your personal statement, say why you want to come to China, and have an idea of what you want to do－whether it is to work for a Chinese company, or to teach English.
“Whatever it may be, make sure you put these three elements in your statement: background, why you’re interested in China, and what you intend to do after you leave China.”
Shao said: “Students should try to demonstrate as much China-related experience as possible.”