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Study-abroad tours in U.S. Booming
More and more Chinese middle-class parents have encouraged their children to travel abroad during summer break.
"The study tours have just sprung up in the past decade," said Michael L. Chu, president of Asian American Global Travel, a travel agency in Flushing, Queens.
"It's a good phenomena," he said.
"When I moved to the United States from Taiwan in the 1980s, most travelers I saw with Asian faces were Japanese," Chu said. "But now, you can see Chinese travelers everywhere, which means our country's national strength improved."
Middle-class parents with annual incomes of 150,000 yuan (about $24,000) or higher are sending their children overseas, according to a report on The New York Times' Chinese language website.
Chu said that most study tours cost about $5,000 per person, equal to one-fifth of a middle-class family's annual income.
The tours average 10 to 20 days, and each group is made up of about 20 to 30 students.
"Senior high school students aspiring to study abroad in the future are predominant (in the groups), since their parents think it's helpful to have field trips to U.S. colleges before applying," Chu said.
"When school presidents and teachers call on the students to travel abroad, once the students' families' economic condition permits it, their parents encourage them to go, not to mention most Chinese families have only one child," he said.
Chu said that there are programs designed especially for senior high school students applying to U.S. colleges: Apart from visiting elite colleges and landmarks, English-language instruction and consultation for college applications would be interspersed on the tours, offered by local training institutions.
Lin Qiwei, a senior high school student in China, took part in a U.S. tour last summer. Now she is preparing to apply to U.S. colleges instead of taking the Chinese College Entrance Examination.
"The experience of touring the U.S. confirmed my idea to go abroad for college," Lin told China Daily.
Lin's tour lasted about 20 days, and covering large cities on both the East and West coasts and including several English and U.S. culture courses taught by local groups.
"It kind of forced me to put myself in a wholly English-language environment," Lin said. "Through the courses I took, I learned the differences between Chinese education and U.S. education, like U.S. classes encourage students to discuss in class rather than requiring students to listen carefully speechless like Chinese classes.
"And during the process, I got to know some problems I would have faced if I went to study abroad by myself, like the different eating habits, the slang, the fraternity and sorority culture on campus," Lin said.
"Parents have the hope that their children's language ability would improve after joining in the study-abroad tour, which is unrealistic," said a representative of a Chinese-run travel agency in New York, who requested not to be identified.
"What children perhaps could gain from a short tour are an interest in learning English and a rational understanding of the world," he said, adding that in recent years, the number of students traveling to the U.S. has been steady.
Chu said the main problem for travel agencies in the U.S. is when summer vacations start: Tour guides are in short supply, and sometimes the company has to employ part-time guides, hiring local Chinese students.
"The problem is the people we hire temporarily for summer lack experience," Chu sighed.
"This summer, a part-time shuttle driver we hired left the shuttle with nobody on it in Boston. … And the shuttle window was broken by a guy. Fortunately, the driver came back and stopped a worse result.
"Safety forever is our headache," Chu said.
According to Liu Ting, assistant vice-president of the New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc and director of its overseas study tour promotion and administration center, the market for Chinese overseas study is growing rapidly.
The number of Chinese students touring this year surged by 200,000. Summer tours have taken place in more than 40 countries.
"Study-abroad tours are beneficial for children's growth, but parents should make decisions based on their family economic situation rather than following the trend blindly," said Liu.
"For example, some children have poor capacity to take care of themselves or have poor interpersonal skills, which parents should take into consideration in case their children cannot get used to living and studying abroad, which would make the money wasted."
  Source: Ecns

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