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Film Tries to Tackle Stereotypes of Chinese Students in U.S.

A group of Chinese students in America try to tackle their image as spoiled rich kids with a short film about their experiences.
Director Yung-Jen Yang (fourth from left) and Producer Cathy Jiang (fifth from left) wrapping up the first day of shooting "Study Abroad."
Director Yung-Jen Yang (fourth from left) and Producer Cathy Jiang (fifth from left) wrapping up the first day of shooting "Study Abroad." Courtesy "Study Abroad"

To many in China, Chinese international students are spoiled rich kids riding a wave of prosperity back home that has washed ashore at college campuses across the United States. Now, a group of those students is challenging that characterization with a short film to be screened today at the Helen Mills Event Space in New York.

Inspired by real-life events, "Study Abroad" focuses on three Chinese students studying in the U.S. and the personal and academic struggles they encounter along the way. Producer Cathy Jiang, a 27-year-old marketing analyst from China, said she put up several thousand dollars of her own money to finance the 30-minute film. Her hope is that by reflecting the true stories of Chinese international students, she can educate people back home who believe that Chinese students studying overseas are wasteful and live carefree lives.

“We do work hard, we do study hard, we do have our own difficulties,” said Jiang, a graduate of Fordham University’s MBA program.

Between 2013 and 2014, nearly 275,000 Chinese were enrolled in American universities and accounted for 31 percent of the entire international student population, according to the Institute of International Education, a non-profit that tracks such data. Jiang said that Boston University, which ranks 12th among American schools with the most number of international students, recently contacted her about screening “Study Abroad” at its campus.

With so many other their students now attending American universities, Chinese media coverage of incidents like the 2012 robbery and fatal shooting of two Chinese graduate students in their BMW at the University of Southern California has helped create a false impression back home, Jiang said, that all international students “are super rich” and “wasting a lot of their parents money.”

“In the end, I want the audience to see that international students are normal people, and that we are not just partying and having fun in life,” Jiang said.