Ambitious and Anxious

How Chinese College Students Succeed and Struggle in American Higher Education

Yingyi Ma

Columbia University Press

Ambitious and Anxious

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231184588

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£30.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231545563

312 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£30.00

Ambitious and Anxious

How Chinese College Students Succeed and Struggle in American Higher Education

Yingyi Ma

Columbia University Press

Over the past decade, a wave of Chinese international undergraduate students—mostly self-funded—has swept across American higher education. From 2005 to 2015, undergraduate enrollment from China rose from under 10,000 to over 135,000. This privileged yet diverse group of young people from a changing China must navigate the complications and confusions of their formative years while bridging the two most powerful countries in the world. How do these students come to study in the United States? What does this experience mean to them? What does American higher education need to know and do in order to continue attracting these students and to provide sufficient support for them?

In Ambitious and Anxious, the sociologist Yingyi Ma offers a multifaceted analysis of this new wave of Chinese students based on research in both Chinese high schools and American higher-education institutions. Ma argues that these students’ experiences embody the duality of ambition and anxiety that arises from transformative social changes in China. These students and their families have the ambition to navigate two very different educational systems and societies. Yet the intricacy and pressure of these systems generate a great deal of anxiety, from applying to colleges before arriving, to studying and socializing on campus, and to looking ahead upon graduation. Ambitious and Anxious also considers policy implications for American colleges and universities, including recruitment, student experiences, faculty support, and career services.
From the first word to the last, Ambitious and Anxious is eye-opening, provocative, and replete with original details. Yingyi Ma has produced a trove of valuable interviews and survey results that challenge unexamined narratives about Chinese students in America and illustrate their daily lived experience in ways that will shape our understanding for years to come. Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
This is an engaging, richly informative, and beautifully written book that reveals many new and important insights about the motivations and experiences of Chinese students who attended college in the United States in the 2010s. Scholars, students, and educators will have much to learn from its nuanced analyses of many different kinds of data, ranging from national-level statistics from China and the United States to responses to an online survey to interviews with prospective students and their educators in China as well as with Chinese students currently attending a variety of different colleges in the United States. Vanessa Fong, Amherst College
This highly engaging book illuminates the diverse experiences of Chinese students from various backgrounds in American higher education. Sociologists of education will appreciate the connection of cultural perspectives in the field to a timely topic. Higher education professionals will welcome the thoughtful discussion of concerns expressed by international students from China, along with the closing insights about how to support meaningful connections on campus. Emily Hannum, University of Pennsylvania
Despite their increasing presence in American colleges and universities, the experiences of Chinese students have been disappointingly ignored by the scholarly community. Ambitious and Anxious offers a much-needed corrective to this neglect by comprehensively and compassionately depicting the challenges faced by and accomplishments of these students. This impeccably documented and engagingly written book should compel its readers to reassess their assumptions regarding international students and higher education. Brian Powell, Indiana University
Ambitious and Anxious is a compelling account of international students from China attending American colleges and universities at the turn of the 21st century. Through thoughtful and sensitive analysis of multiple sources of data, Ma reveals the stressful and paradoxical educational experience of Chinese undergraduates as they navigate through simultaneously familiar and strange terrains in China and America. The book contributes significantly to the deeper understanding of complex sociocultural issues related to international education. Min Zhou, University of California, Los Angeles
The number of Chinese undergraduates in American universities has grown dramatically over the past two decades, but we know little about them. If you’re interested in how these students make their way in what can often be a chilly American educational and social environment, you should really read this book. Syed Ali, Long Island University-Brooklyn
Acknowledgments

1. Ambitious and Anxious: Chinese Undergraduates in the United States
2. A Love for Separation: Study Abroad as the New Education Gospel in Urban China
3. “From Hello to Harvard”: The Pathways to American Higher Education
4. Navigating and Comparing Chinese and American Education Systems
5. Protective Segregation: Chinese Students Hanging Out Among Themselves
6. College Major Choices, Rationales, and Dilemmas
7. Think Before Speak: A Real Conundrum for Classroom Participation?
8. Changes and Reflections
9. Stay vs. Return: That Is the Question
10. What American Higher Education Needs to Know About Chinese Undergraduates

Appendix on Methodology
Notes
References
Index

About the Author

Yingyi Ma is an associate professor of sociology and senior research associate in the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, where she is also director of the Asian/Asian American Studies Program. She is a fellow of the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on United States-China Relations.