Like (most) American undergrads, Chinese students come to college for one reason – to learn.
By: Jordan Deschenes
I. “I have a younger sister and an older brother, Leo” – Seamus DiCaprio
Small-framed with black hair, he wears suede-tipped shoes and Wayfarer-style eyeglasses. He goes to the gym a total of four times a year, or “once per season”. Seamus DiCaprio occasionally rides his roommate’s old Bart Simpson-style “cruiser” skateboard back from class to their apartment in North Amherst, but it’s going to be winter soon.
In his home city of Shijiazhuang, China, Zhenxing (振兴) decided on a name to call himself when he went to the United States. He had a certain American actor in mind when he made his decision…
“Oh, have you met my brother?” DiCaprio often asks this rhetorical question to those he meets for the first time. He’s joking, referring to Leonardo DiCaprio – most are unapologetically intrigued by his name.
As an undergrad at UMass Amherst, Seamus DiCaprio represents a relatively small circle of Chinese students who have been exposed to Western culture in the city.
In the 2013 school year, 886,552 international students studied in the United States, or four percent of higher education students, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report. Massachusetts ranks fourth in the country in total number of international student enrollment, with around 51,000 statewide in the 2013/14 school year, a 10.2 percent increase over the previous year. Of this total, 30 percent are Chinese internationals.
Out of institutions with the highest number of international students in the Massachusetts, UMass Amherst comes in fifth with 2,343, behind Northeastern, BU, Harvard, and MIT. Data provided by the UMass Amherst Office of Institutional Research affirms that 609 of these students are undergrads – 240 of which are Chinese.
This number of undergraduate Chinese international students has roughly quadrupled between the 2012 and 2014 fall semesters. This sharp increase is part of a rather large retrospective trend – in 2006, there were only 9 undergraduate Chinese international students at UMass Amherst. In the fall 2014 semester, 240 were enrolled.
Zhenxing (Seamus) Gu (pictured center) with his mother, sister, and father