Studying abroad gains popularity in China

Studying abroad gains popularity in China
A group of Chinese students have lunch in Britain during a summer camp. Many Chinese parents are enthusiastic about enrolling their children in such programs, which usually cost several thousand dollars.

In 2012, Beijing resident Zhang Ying made a decision that she has never regretted. That summer, she paid about 40,000 yuan (S$8,020) for her 13-year-old daughter Jingjing to go to a summer camp in New York.

During the three-week programme, Jingjing not only attended English classes with dozens of foreign students, but also visited the White House and many other places of interest.

She took in-depth tours to famous universities in the city and nearby, including Columbia University, one of the schools Zhang hopes her daughter might attend in the future.

"The summer camp boosted her academic performance, but most importantly, it exposed her to a different culture and opened a door for her to a broader world," Zhang says.

The experience also helped Jingjing psychologically prepare to lead a life among foreigners, important because her parents hope Jingjing will go abroad to study after graduating from high school, Zhang adds.

She was so pleased with the effect of the camp that in 2013, Zhang paid almost the same amount of money for Jingjing to enjoy a similar camp programme in the English city of Cambridge.

Many Chinese parents are enthusiastic about enrolling their children in such costly but view-broadening programs.

"The demand for overseas summer camps from Chinese families is huge and is increasing exponentially," says Louisa Tao, a market manager with EF Education First, a company that works on cultural exchange and study programs abroad.

Since entering the Chinese market in 1993, the Switzerland-based EF Education First has organised overseas study trips and summer camps for about 100,000 Chinese students, Tao says.

The dynamics behind the growing popularity of such service is complicated, but the main driving force, Tao believes, is that parents are willing to pay more so their children can gain overseas experience, especially when more and more Chinese prefer foreign universities to domestic ones.

Such parents are likely to be aged 35 to 40 and well educated; some have overseas work or education experience. While they expect a lot from the academic portion of overseas summer camps, the cultural experience is at least as important-maybe more, Tao adds.

Wu Jiang, a mother of two girls in Shanghai, recently started a business in organising trips for Chinese children at summer camps abroad.

The inspiration came from her own experience. She and her husband are world travelers, and even though their daughters are now only 2 and 6 years old, they have taken the girls to dozens of countries.

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