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Feature: Studying in China gives young Americans insight beyond textbooks

Xinhua,November 30, 2017 Adjust font size:

by Xinhua writer Yang Shilong

NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Sabrina Kostusiak is paying her third visit to China in January as a program assistant for the CUNY (City University of New York) Brooklyn College China Study Abroad Program.

An alumnus of Brooklyn College, Kostusiak originally from Buffalo, upstate New York, visited China in 2011 when she was in her junior high school, and again in 2016 as a junior in the college on similar short-term study programs.

"I feel really humbled and blessed to be someone who is able to travel back and forth between the two countries," Kostusiak told Xinhua in a recent interview. "China is such an incredible country and it's the future of the world."


Studying abroad in China is trying, yet it is transformative and rewarding, Kostusiak recalled, "That experience was most challenging but the best of my life."

Though she studied mostly in Luoyang, Henan Province in central China where Chinese civilization originated, Kostusiak travelled widely around Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Nanjing and Hong Kong.

Living and interacting with local Chinese and immersing herself in Chinese society, Kostusiak got a new way of visualizing the world and insight that just does not come from textbooks.

"Every time I go, I learn something new. I meet more people," she said. "I realized how important it is to understand people not only through their language, but their history, tradition and customs."

"Well, in American education, we don't really learn too much about China, we don't learn about anything outside U.S., so it was like this mythical country that I did not know anything about," she said.

"I knew there are a lot of misconceptions about China. I think Americans are taught a lot of things that are just not true about the Chinese, I went there, I found all these things are not true."

Chinese people are as friendly and inclusive as New Yorkers, Kostusiak said.

"All the people are so kind and wonderful and welcoming to me and all of my friends, that is one of the things that stood out to me so much as I went, the welcoming, wonderful greetings we had over there," she said.

Alexander Lopez, a senior at Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey, was also impressed by the Chinese hospitality when he was in China on a two-week program in May.

"Everybody was so interested and curious in you and willing to ask questions or to speak to you," Lopez said. "I think that goes beyond just me being sort of different, I think a lot of it is a genuine curiosity to understand other people."


Like many of their counterparts, both Kostusiak and Lopez became fascinated by China's deep history, diverse culture and dynamic society.

"That was so impactful, seeing and experiencing China," Lopez said. "I know China is one of the most ancient civilizations, but I have never imagined that it be so deep,'s one of those things that are often talked about, at least for me, but never really understood."

A major in English and Education, Lopez was amazed to find that in addition to the official Mandarin, Chinese language consists several major groups of dialects and each have their own variations.

"Just follow one line of something about China, I guess the dialect, and comparing them from the north and the south, you get to recognize the huge puzzle that China really is," he said.

Kostusiak said she appreciates most that Chinese culture is so much based on family.

"I think that that's so important, I think that's often missed out in American culture," she said. "We tend to push for better jobs and push for greater economic opportunity all the time, Chinese do that too, but mostly for the betterment of their family."

Every time Kostusiak met with Chinese, she was introduced to their whole family. "It was so wonderful and something that I really miss out here in the U.S. because it seems everyone was so individual. I think that community that comes with the family is very important."

"I think study abroad and learning about a culture that's different from your own is one of the most important thing you can do for your own growth," she said. "If I had never gone to China, I would have never known anything that I know now, I wouldn't be where I am today."


With its rapid economic growth and technological innovation, China is actually one of the faster growing destinations for U.S. students studying abroad.

According to the Institute of International Education, China ranked sixth among the top 20 destinations for American students studying abroad in 2016. Approximately 12,000 Americans were studying in China in 2015-2016.

The education exchanges between the United States and China has been "transformational" over the years, said Elizabeth Howe Bradley, President of Vassar College in New York in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"In the beginning there are very few Chinese students that will come to the United States and almost no American students that would go to China," Bradley said.

"Today China is one of the most exciting destinations for the United States students to go, and we Americans benefit from so many Chinese coming to U.S. for college," she said. Now about 350,000 Chinese students are studying in the United States.

"Education is fundamental to understanding, to tolerance, to really deep engagement on important issues," Bradley said.

"The model of education we use as a college is deep in the liberal arts, meaning people engage with important narratives from our past, to come to a common understanding that can actually influence decision-making in future."

Kostusiak agreed.

"We're the leaders of the world and should be interacting together and getting to know one another, I think it will in the long run create a better understanding of each other," she said, adding her dream job would be helping U.S. students to go to China, and help Chinese students coming to America.

No group is more poised to alter the trajectory of the U.S.-China relationship than young Americans and Chinese studying abroad in each other's country, commented a story posted by about a survey on U.S. students in China.

"Those who become fluent in both China and America - not just both languages, but both cultures, modes of doing business, and frameworks for interpreting the world - are likely to thrive in the new century as much-sought, and much needed, cross-cultural natives," it said.

China and the United States decided to further promote two-way overseas study and enhance bilateral exchanges among educational institutions and scholars during the first China-U.S. social and people-to-people dialogue held in Washington D.C. in September.

According to the action plan of the dialogue, the two sides will adopt a "double 100,000" two-way overseas study plan, which will allow China to send 100,000 government-sponsored people to study in the United States and permit 100,000 U.S. students to study in China in the following four years.

Besides, China will provide 10,000 scholarships in the coming four years to encourage excellent U.S. students to study in China on a short-term basis. Enditem