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US Ambassador to China: Overseas experiences make youth next generation leaders

Max Baucus, US ambassador to China addresses students, exchange scholars and the media yesterday afternnon at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Photos: Rebecca Lin/

Max Baucus, the new US ambassador to China, Tuesday afternoon (May 6th) addressed young students and exchange scholars waiting for visa interview at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He recalled his own experiences as a foreign student and urged all Chinese youth to go overseas because of his belief that the unique experience would be so important that it will benefit the rest of their lives.

The day was actually the "special day for student's visa", so only students and exchange scholars applying for study in the US were allowed to get in. Justin Higgins, the deputy spokesperson for U.S. Embassy, told that they would have this event periodically for students to have their visas processed and meanwhile provide them free consultation service, and this time, the recently arrived Ambassador Baucus could also use the chance to learn how the visa-processing operation here works. After American Vice President Biden's address to visa applicants in the hall last year, Baucus was the second high-level government official who came to meet applicants personally.

Baucus recalled his participation in an exchange program with France in 1962 when he was attending Stanford in California. Unfortunately, because he lived with other American students, the six-month program failed to enlighten him with French culture and language.

“Because I hadn't learned much, I decided that I would backpack around the world for one full year,” said Baucus. And in that year, he travelled through Europe, Africa and Asia. According to him, it was the most important year in his whole life and the experiences overseas helped generate interest in public service. “I get to know people around the world have the same expectations—they want health, to study, to take care of their family, or to be on a vacation. And there is no country in the world that could have monopoly over culture, virtue and religion.”

He also expressed that it is the overseas experiences of China's late leaders like Deng Xiaoping (邓小平) and Zhou En'lai (周恩来) that led them to open up China and it was because of an international perspective that China eventually became integrated with the world economy.

Besides the above message, Baucus used his speech to focus on three points—one was that “Americans really love students regardless of where they are from; the second was that the visa process is extremely easy and efficient now after improvements in hands-on operation and introduction of online application system, although Baucus also advised students to do research and preparation one month prior to the due day for school; and last but not the least, Baucus promoted the Education USA to be the most trusted official organization for source of information about study in the U.S.

Erik W. Black, education officer and also director for Education USA later told that their mission is to teach students and their parents the process of DIY.

When asked for comments about Chinese students' common practice of using agents for application, Black said that “in the US, the academic culture is different from here in China and they tend to stress the importance of doing it yourself." 

According to him, the higher education system in the US boasts of 4,000 universities and colleges. Last year, there were 800,000 international students to study in the US, only occupying less than 4% of the total enrollment of students in the country. "We have big state universities, small private schools and community colleges; we have all kinds of different options for international students to choose from. So Education USA would only teach you to do it yourself, represent who you are, write your own essays and be the person you say you are on the application, and then you go to the right school and have the best opportunities to be successful." 

Outside the waiting hall for visas, Erik W. Black, education officer (left) and Amber Baskette (middle), the consul-general have a brief press meeting.  

Although Baucus noted that 40% of students' visa issued by the US are for Chinese students, a recently issued report by the Council of Graduate Schools indicated that the number of Chinese students applying for graduate program in the US has dropped for a second consecutive year.

Reacting to the news, Black said that Education USA only refers to the famous Open Doors Report as it surveys 3000 American universities and colleges while the survey by the Council of Graduate Schools would only interview 500 graduate schools.

When the consul-general Amber Baskette was asked about why Chinese students are issued one-year visas while in India and Taiwan, applicants could get five-year visas, she said the problem has already been put on the agenda of Baucus and would be one of his priorities in the near future.


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