Education: Variety is the spice of academic life
Updated: 2014-05-05 08:02
By Zhao Xinying and Zhang Yue (China Daily)
Pan echoed that view: "Back in the 1990s, only a full scholarship could secure a student visa to the US. With so many limitations back then, the generation of students that studied abroad didn't have much room to make a choice."
Lack of restrictions
The restrictions that hampered Pan's generation no longer apply, and students have begun to make choices about the major they will study in accordance with their own needs. One of the most important considerations, though, is the employment prospects.
For example, Sun is studying for a double major in energy business finance and journalism. She said that when she was deciding which course to study, one of her major concerns was "whether I would be able to land a good job when I graduated. I selected the major along with my parents. We all regarded it as a reasonable choice because Energy Business Finance is a major that few people study, but it's in great demand on the Chinese job market."
Wang said taking employment prospects into consideration when deciding on a major is typical of today's Chinese students studying overseas.
"This explains why majors related to business and management are now the favorites among Chinese students - you have a great chance of finding a respected, highly paid job in the field of business if you graduate with one of these majors," he said, adding that other majors such as math and computer science are favored for the same reason.
According to Zhang, almost all the students who consult her about study opportunities overseas ask two questions. The first is: "Will it be easy to find a good job if I graduate with this major?" The second is: "How does my major rank among all the universities that offer this course?" which is also related to employment prospects to some extent, because the esteem in which a major is held can directly affect graduates' chances in the jobs market.
For Wang, other crucial factors in the choice of majors are the students' personal interests and preferences. "Chinese students are becoming more independent in making decisions about which major to study. Some of them tend to take a major in which they feel a strong interest and passion, even though their parents may oppose the choice because the job prospects after graduation are not bright," he said.
That was certainly the case for Hua Lei from the northern municipality of Tianjin. She remembers that almost everyone she knew expressed reservations about her plans to study for a master's in journalism in the UK.
"Most people said that studying journalism would put me in an awkward situation after graduation because it would be hard to find a job," recalled the 29-year-old, who refused to change her mind and began studying for her master's at the University of East Anglia in 2012.
A year later, having gained her degree, Hua made repeated efforts to find work, lining up time and again at returnee recruitment fairs in Beijing. However, media work was hard to find, and she began to feel that the warnings given to her by family and friends may have been justified.
"Despite that, I've never regretted my choice of major," she said. "I'm just interested in journalism and was happy to study it as a major without thinking too much about what it could bring me."
Meanwhile, some students are still attempting to find a balance between job prospects and intellectual interest. For Penn State's Sun, both of her majors are of equal importance. "I've been interested in journalism for a long time, and I thought it would be a pity if I didn't study it, so I decided to undertake a double major," she said.
Although she has to work harder and spend more time on her studies than single-major students, Sun is satisfied because she has performed well in both disciplines.
"I'm proud of my choice and I believe it will make me more competitive in the future," she said.
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