Groups Working to Help Students Adapt to Their New Lives Abroad

October 6, 2018
Editor: Liu Yang

Studying abroad may appear attractive to many college students, but not all of them are prepared for the stresses it can bring.

"Some students are sensitive. When they study in China, their sensitive character might not show through easily," said Shaojian Chen, a psychology professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a member of the Mental Health Support Group for Students Studying Abroad.

"If they leave their hometowns to study in other provinces, this might show a little bit. But studying abroad is harder than that. The environment and language are totally different from China. Students who are sensitive may struggle," he added.

As students from China are studying overseas at younger ages, organizations at home and abroad have hosted numerous events to make them aware of the challenges they may face, and how to get help.

This year, the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, and the Mental Health Support Group for Students Studying Abroad, a public organization responsible to the Ministry of Education, launched a sensitivity assessment that they distributed to students.

In March, the center, in cooperation with NetEase Education, broadcast a series of lectures on safety while studying abroad, which received 600,000 internet page views on a single day.

Li Tonggui, a psychology professor at Peking University and a member of the Mental Health Support Group for Students Studying Abroad, said: "This is a nice try. It exceeded our expectations. So, we are trying to cooperate with (international online station) Radio Himalaya and put our lectures on this platform so students will be able to access them.

"We also want to put the assessment system on the WeChat subscription of the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange. This way, we can know the WeChat accounts of testers and provide more services for them."

Zilin Wang, president of the Boston University Chinese Students and Scholars Association, said the organization hosts three major Chinese student orientation sessions in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, each year to help new students adapt to the environment in Boston, United States.

To help students get a better sense of potential problems, the Chinese student associations and the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange host lectures for new students.

Stacy Tang, a new student at Emerson College in Boston, said the lectures might help students to know what they can expect.

"I graduated from an international school, so I knew a little about what life would be like studying abroad through my fellow alumni," Tang said. "For others, they may need lectures like these. Unfortunately, I did not know we had these kinds of lectures."

Li acknowledged the limited accessibility of the program to students paying their own way through school.

"Now, more and more self-funded students are studying abroad," Li said. "So, we are using the internet and cooperating with universities, international schools and study-abroad agencies to provide mental health services."

The Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, and the Mental Health Support Group for Students Studying Abroad hosted 88 mental health lectures in all China's provinces and autonomous regions last year. Academics recommend that international students learn about the lectures through universities and the internet.

Chen, the psychology professor from Tsinghua University, advises students that before they enroll, they should learn about the history and culture of the country they will be studying in to help them to adapt to life overseas.

Learning about the physical ailments that could result from mental health issues is also crucial, Chen said, adding that students should pay more attention to the use of everyday English as well as professional English.

(Source: China Daily)

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