For China’s International Students, Two Years of Limbo Take a Toll

China’s international schools are rife with cheating scandals, and many international students are finding their time in the country is a nerve-wracking experience. Thousands of Chinese students study abroad each year to reap the benefits of an education they can not access at home. They pay fees that can exceed $16000 per year for what should be two years of quality instruction, but often find themselves cut off from valuable resources once current events make it difficult for them to stay in China past one or two semesters., The frustrations have become so acute that some parents refuse to let their children go back home until they graduate – even if it means decades before returning

China has been known to be strict on their immigration policies. For two years, China’s international students were in a limbo state where they could not leave the country. This was an issue that took a toll on these students and their families. Read more in detail here: when china allow international students to come back .

The epidemic has thrown students’ lives into disarray all throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of overseas students enrolled in Chinese institutions but barred from entering the country for two years have faced unique problems.

Sandra Herrera thinks the most exciting part of her life was travelling to Beijing in 2019 on a scholarship for graduate study. Within seven months, she was back in El Salvador, attempting to salvage her M.B.A. from a distance of 14 time zones and a bad internet connection

Nearly half a million international students have studied in China at nearly 1,000 colleges in recent years drawn by China’s typically generous scholarships and low tuition. The numbers were soaring ahead of the outbreak, approaching the 600,000 Chinese college students who study abroad in the United States and other countries each year.

According to China’s Ministry of Education, more international students are pursuing higher degrees, such as engineering and science, rather than merely learning Mandarin for a semester or two. Thailand, Pakistan, the United States India, Russia, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Laos have all been major sources of international students in recent years.


When Covid-19 struck, Sandra Herrera, a Beijing student, fled to her home in El Salvador and was unable to return to China.

Sandra Herrera is shown here.

Many foreign college students who were formerly eager to partake in China’s prosperity are now dissatisfied by the country’s “zero-Covid” rules, which keep the vast majority of them out.

Prior to Covid-19, President Xi Jinping’s objective of enhancing Chinese soft power and strengthening “people-to-people relationships” via his infrastructure-focused Belt and Road Initiative included presenting China as a hub for higher education.

Due to the epidemic and a lengthy number of disputes with nations, particularly the United States China has become more insular. Even before the Covid-19 limitations, Americans’ desire in studying in China had waned.

Mr. Xi has recently downplayed Belt and Road expenditure. Instead, a “dual circulation” development strategy prioritizes self-sufficiency economics. For for over two years, Mr. Xi has not left the nation.

China is on high alert to keep the coronavirus at bay ahead of the Winter Olympics with mass screenings and lockdowns. The Wall Street Journal looks at how the city of Xi’an’s zero-Covid policy has provoked criticism from people and impacted chip producers. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters, Shao Rui/Zuma Press

China, according to Philip Altbach, a higher education expert at Boston College, is “by far the most severe” in the Covid-19 regulations it applies to overseas students, which he claims has harmed the country’s appeal as an education center in the long term.

“China’s objective is to become a global, cultural, and research power, and [having foreign students in China] is a component of that,” he added.

Wilson Siakah, a Ghanaian, described himself as “a firm believer in [China’s] transformative agenda” and said he enrolled in an oil-and-gas engineering degree at an eastern Chinese institution “to see China’s success story.” Now that he’s back in Ghana, he’s second-guessing his choice.

Students from across the world spoke with The Wall Street Journal about how their Chinese education plans are unraveling as the fifth semester of online training starts. On Twitter and Instagram, legions more have gathered under the hashtag #TakeUsBackToChina and joined the China International Student Union, a network set up as a clearinghouse for developments.


Iraqi national Saleh Al-jubouri is studying medicine at a Chinese institution but has yet to visit the country.

Saleh Al-jubouri (photo)

Saleh Al-jubouri, a medical student, claims to have spent $14,000 in the first two years of his six-year program at a university in western China—despite having yet to visit the country.

Mr. Al-jubouri, 21, of Karbala, Iraq, said he is on pace to get a degree that is now worth less since he has studied entirely online, including for a mandatory anatomy course that would ordinarily involve 20 hours of work on cadavers. “We need some hospital practice.” He said, “We need to work in laboratories.”

Annie Tong Zhou Lafrance, a 23-year-old Canadian artist who was adopted as a baby in China, is enrolled in a master of fine arts program that she had anticipated would allow her to learn textile weaving skills and strengthen her cultural roots in her native country. “Learning about art in China gives me a whole circle of history,” she remarked from Quebec City, where she is now attending lectures via internet.


Annie Tong Zhou Lafrance, a Canadian artist, anticipated that a master of fine arts program in China would help her reconnect with her native culture.

Quang Hai Nguyen (photo)

Last month, Wang Wenbin, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters that Beijing “attaches great attention to the problem of foreign students coming to China.” “We will explore in a coordinated way methods for letting foreign students to return to China for their education,” Mr. Wang stated, “on the premise of maintaining safety amid Covid-19.” Requests for further information were not responded to by the Foreign Ministry.

Ms. Herrera’s scholarship was part of a Chinese package to thank El Salvador for giving China a vital foothold in Latin America by breaking ties with Taiwan and establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 2018. Mr. Xi promised Chinese money for medical treatment, water supply, disaster prevention, and scholarships in exchange for the country’s “correct and historic choice.”

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Ms. Herrera landed in Beijing shortly after, where she was captivated by China’s bullet trains and almost paperless economy. She immersed herself into serious Mandarin studies as well as her financial classes at the Chinese capital’s University of International Business and Economics.

Ms. Herrera escaped when Covid-19 struck seven months later, and China subsequently revoked her student visa. Her training continued online, but the time difference and technological glitches are slowly undermining her China experience. Ms. Herrera said she had sleeplessness and skin problems as a result of the turmoil, which included not knowing what happened to her items.

“We’ve been in this scenario for about two years, and there’s no improvement in sight,” the 27-year-old added. Questions were not answered by her university.


In letters to students, the Shanghai program of New York University has said that certain foreign nationals are authorized to return to school.

Yan Cong/Bloomberg News photo

Many students are hesitant to quit up because it would imply that all of their hard work and money would be for waste. “What students are looking for is basically any form of timeframe,” said one American with a scholarship from a prominent Beijing institution.

Foreign nationals may enter China if they can establish business needs—including a “quick track” for American businesspeople—while Beijing has made exceptions for certain overseas students, particularly South Koreans.

During the epidemic, China isn’t the only country that briefly blocked foreign student admittance, and Beijing has frequently chastised the US and other Western countries for tightening national-security screening of incoming Chinese students. According to a State Department spokesperson, the US granted roughly 90,000 student-type visas to Chinese individuals prior to the autumn semester last year. According to her, around 1% of Chinese candidates were turned down throughout the application procedure.

Some Chinese university administrators informed students that the administration was preparing preparations to welcome back Americans to their campuses around the time President Biden and Mr. Xi met electronically in November. Students at Duke University’s program in Kunshan received a message, but a spokeswoman claimed that American visas had not yet been approved.


Malaysian Lai Shu Xian spent just one semester in China before returning home because to the Covid-19 ban.

Lai Shu Xian (photo)

In letters to students, the Shanghai program of New York University has said that certain foreign nationals are authorized to return to school. In one of them, its vice chancellor, Jeffrey Lehman, credited Shanghai’s government, a partner in the school, for an exemption to the freeze. NYU declined to comment.

Students have returned to smaller institutions, including one at Tsinghua University established by American businessman Stephen A. Schwarzman and a Juilliard School affiliate in Tianjin.

Lai Shu Xian, a Malaysian, spent just one semester at Zhejiang University before returning home because to the Covid-19 shutdown.

The 22-year-old went to the United States earlier this month to take advantage of a cooperation between his Chinese program and the University of Illinois where he will spend the year. Mr. Lai said, “My circumstances that enabled me to come to the United States obviously placed me in a better position than other individuals.”

James T. Areddy can be reached at [email protected]

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China’s International Students, Two Years of Limbo Take a Toll. China has been cracking down on international students for the past few years. In 2016, the government introduced new rules that require international students to leave China after their two-year study period is up. Reference: china student .

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years do Chinese students need to complete school?

A: This is a difficult question that it would be best to ask your teacher.

How much does it cost for international students to study in China?

A: The cost of living in China is significantly higher than other countries. To study there, students will have to pay for the housing and food costs on top of tuition fees.

Is education free in China for international students?

A: Education in China is free for international students.

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