Chinese students question futures in U.S. after fatal Asiana Airlines crash

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) photo shows Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. Credit: Reuters
U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) photo shows Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. Credit: Reuters

The Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash that killed three Chinese teens, Wang Linjia, Ye Mengyuan and Liu Yipeng, and injured more than 180 passengers at San Francisco International Airport on July 6 has stimulated fiery debates online in China, with other international students now questioning whether to pursue an education in the U.S.

All three girls killed in the accident were from the same high school in Zhejiang Province, an affluent coastal province in China. They were among 34 high school students from Jiangshan School heading for a summer camp at West Valley Christian School outside of Los Angeles. This is the second tragic loss of Chinese students’ lives in the U.S. in just three months. Just weeks before the crash in San Francisco,  Boston University student Lu Lingzi was killed after a bomb went off near where she was watching the Boston Marathon with friends.

The incidents have given students a heightened awareness when it comes to safety while in a foreign country. Due to the “one child policy” in China, all three victims of the crash were very likely to have been their parents’ only children, as was Lu.

“It is very tragic because children are not supposed to die before their parents,”  said Cheng Renduo, a senior studying architecture in Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. “They might spend the rest of their lives in deep sorrow.”

There are about 764,495 international students studying in the U.S., according to an Open Doors 2012 report by the Institute of International Education. China ranks first in sending students abroad to the U.S., with a total of 194,029 Chinese students in the country in 2012. Students told Metro that despite the heartbreaking accident, they won’t be deterred from studying in the U.S. “It doesn’t make sense to stop doing what you have always wanted to do because of a plane crash,” said Bai Xiaqing, a junior at the University of Minnesota obtaining a double degree in psychology and economics.

Even in the wake of the crash and public scrutiny, students said they tend to consider it a special case and aren’t letting fear get in the way of pursuing their college degrees in the U.S.  “I believe it is just an accident,” said Chinese student Chen Feida, a junior at the University of Minnesota studying chemical engineering. “If someone got hit by a car while he is walking on the street, it doesn’t mean we should not walk on the street anymore.”

High price for higher education

International activities aimed at cultural immersion and improving English skills have become an increasingly popular activity for well-off families in China. The majority of Chinese students studying in the U.S. rely primarily on family funds. Most are not eligible for borrowing money for their education from the U.S. government, so it is usually a family decision when it comes to whether or not they will study abroad. The Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash has lead parents to question the risks of sending their children away from home.

“It costs a lot of money to send a child onto such programs,” Bai said. “For some parents in China, they have to even utilize a huge portion of their money to send their children abroad.”

Cheng said it would cost at least one million Yuan (approximately $162,999) for him to complete a U.S undergraduate degree. Like Wang Linjia, Ye Mengyuan and Liu Yipeng,  he went on a summer camp in the U.S. when he 16-years-old, where he toured west coast cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. “I was able to see the U.S. in person and formed a preliminary impression of this country,” he said of his experience. For other students, their motivation is simple: to get a better chance at admission at the most selective American colleges.

“I think the girls came here to fulfill their dreams,” Chen said of the crash victims. “They wanted to experience a different culture and lifestyle, and to gain an advantage in their dream of going to an American college.”

 


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