Not Here Or There
Chinese students at Ohio University just try to be themselves.
A lot of Chinese people who live in Athens, they just study every day.
(They) don't have some ideas, don't have some dreams, but we're different.
We have some plans for the future.
I should study hard with English.
I can get a lot of opportunities for jobs, for my future.
I enjoy mixing some culture, because the world, I think the globe, is one family. Maybe after 50 years they are same language, it's just my dream, they are same culture.
Andy Liu showed up at his dorm room in Perkins Hall long after midnight. He hesitated for a few moments before stepping past a poster on the front door that featured Chairman Mao, with the text "Let's Party." He mumbled a greeting to his American roommates dragging behind him the nearly empty black rolling suitcase he had brought from China. The suitcase now contained nothing but sheets, a pillow and a change of clothes.
Andy stole sideways glances around the room. A torn page from a magazine with a bare-breasted blonde was taped to the otherwise unadorned, generic wooden closet. A poster of a bronzed model in skimpy lingerie with the text "15 reasons why a beer is better than a woman," decorated the stained, yellow walls. Workout clothes were thrown arbitrarily around the room, and pizza boxes littered the floor, avoiding the three overflowing plastic trash bins. A five-pound tub of whey bodybuilding protein sat next to the microwave.
When his roommate asked if he needed help unpacking, Andy froze. His English listening skills are not very strong, and he hesitated long enough that his roommate, unsure how to respond to the awkward silence, gave up and returned to his computer. Andy spread his yellow and pink striped sheets and floral print comforter on one of the two wooden bunk beds. He unpacked a change of clothes for the next day, and promptly left for the library. It was three weeks into the quarter, and this was Andy's first visit to his dorm. He will end up spending most nights with his girlfriend, Popo Huang, at her off-campus apartment.
Andy came to Ohio University in 2009 as part of a boom of Chinese student immigration. China's economic growth has created a burgeoning middle class with expendable income that, due to the one-child policy, places intense emphasis on children's higher education. China's strict university entrance requirements and a lack of higher educational institutions limit the opportunity for study, which compels more and more Chinese students to study abroad.
Sometimes you don't have confidence because you don't have hope, you can't see hope. You study the same things again and again… you see some new students, some freshman. You can't see the hope. —Andy Liu
In 2010, 603 Chinese undergraduate students came to Ohio University compared to 17 in 2004. That same year, 81% of all international students at OU came from China. Dr. Gerry Krzic, director of the Ohio Program of Intensive English, says this is a global trend. "All ESL (English as a Second Language) programs follow a cycle. Right now we're in the Chinese, [and] the Saudi Arabian cycle. It's really a result of world economic and political conditions."
In 2007, Ohio University began to work on a larger scale with Chinese recruiting agencies in order to increase the number of Chinese undergraduate admissions. Vicki Seefeldt West was hired as the Senior Assistant Director for International Recruitment at Ohio University. West helped form relationships with partner agencies in China that advertise, recruit and help students with the application process. Since OU began working with agencies, enrollment of international students from China has increased by 70%.
West believes that the agency model is mutually beneficial, easing the application process for students while upping the universities international enrollment. "Some regard these agencies as these evil, unethical entities whereas in a lot of cases they really are providing services for the families," says West. "Yes, you'll find some agencies that are unethical but you'll find that in any business model and that's why we have to be careful and diligent in working with them."