"Unless you can go to Ivy League schools, don't bother to come to the US."

International Chinese students have expressed regret in choosing to study at American universities.

The Ministry of Education reported that 544,500 Chinese students went abroad to study in 2016, with the US being the top choice. According to Global Times, a number of these students are regretting their choice.

Roy Zhang is one such student, who had dreamt to study in America. Fulfilling his dream by attending one of the country’s top 30 universities, he is now regretting it.

“Studying abroad is like a siege; the people outside of the city want to get in, and at the same time, the men inside the city want to get out,” Zhang said.

“I lost so much studying in the US, and some of what I lost is irretrievable. Also, I don’t think the results can pay back what my family invested in my study abroad.”  

Academically, Zhang is excelling and could have enrolled in a top Chinese university such as Zhejiang University or other universities in Shanghai, but he instead opted for America. For Zhang, the trade-off is simply not worth it.

“If you can go to a top 10 university or a universities participating in project 211 or project 985, don’t come to the US and settle for a top 30 university,” Zhang said. “You will find that the quality of your classmates are generally lower, and your chances of making useful business connections are fewer.”

“You will never get to see what real elites are like and are not able to blend into the mainstream community in the US.”

He would encourage other students to forget about coming to the US to study unless they were incredibly rich.

“My advice is that unless you can go to Ivy League schools or good universities in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, don’t bother to come to the US because it’s just a waste of money,” he said.

“The reality is that I am going to a university that is not as good as the one I could have gone to in China, and our family is out 2 million yuan ($302,000).”

Hang Wei graduated with a bachelor’s degree in media from Purdue University two years ago but regrets it.

“I didn’t have a clear goal. I did not know what I wanted to achieve when I decided to study overseas, so I just came back with an average degree and slightly better English language skills,” Hang said.

She found that her experience in the US did not provide her with an advantage over other domestic students and shares Zhang’s concern about the burden of debt.

“When I came back, I didn’t have any advantages over domestic students in the job market,” she said. “I earn 7,000 yuan a month, just like most recent graduates from local universities.”

“I don’t know whether I can ever repay what my parents invested in my study. I feel so guilty that I spent so much of my parents’ money, and my parents have to live paycheck to paycheck to support me.”

Instead, Hang feels the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

“We should have used that money to buy an apartment in Beijing, which would’ve yielded better financial returns. But we can’t because the money is gone,” she said.

Xi Yingzhi, a freshman at a small town university in the US, expressed security concerns. Because she opted for cheaper rent and a quieter study environment, she has to commute to class by bus.

“In winter, after 7 pm, the whole town just shuts down leaving just dim street lamps and barely any people. I always get scared and lonely, and when other people look at me, I hold my bag tightly to my chest and walk as fast as I can,” Xia said.

“After the abduction and shooting incidents, I got even more scared and even slipped into depression. I go to campus counseling from time to time.”

In July 2017, 26-year-old Yingying Zhang, who attended University of Illinois, went missing. It has been assumed that she was kidnapped and law enforcement believe she is “no longer alive”.

According to Zhang Fan, a manager at kmf.com – an institution that coaches students who plan to study overseas – Chinese students and parents abandon who fear security issues tend to forget their study-abroad plan entirely.

“Many potential students just abandon their plan to study overseas, not just plans to go to the US, other countries as well,” Zhang said.

However, he also added that most of the students who study abroad go through a rough patch but never regret their overall experience.

“My students have moments of regret, like when they can’t sleep for days because they have a deadline to meet or their American flatmate smokes marijuana all day and makes their dorm all stinky,”he said. “But in the end, they never regret the experience of being able to study and live in another country.” 

Nonetheless, concerns by Chinese students are having an effect on statistics. According to NBC, the US is facing a drop in international students. Nearly 40% of the schools reported a significant drop in applicants from China, India and the Middle East according to a report by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Last month, a parliamentary report found that 90% of Chinese students would reconsider studying in the UK due to government neglect.