Millions of young Chinese aspire to study in the United States.
They all think it's the best place to go and learn whatever they need to know in order to achieve their career goals.
Some work very hard. They keep a full-time job but in the evenings and early mornings they're busy studying GMAT, TOEFL, GRE, practicing writing essays and their verbal skills as part of the application process.
I heard of one middle-aged man who studied very hard for a year and even practiced doing an interview with a native English speaker. He asked her for suggestions on good answers to give and memorized them. In the end he got a scholarship to an Ivy League school where he is now studying public policy administration.
Another young woman I know is determined to get her Masters in journalism at Columbia University. She just had her GRE written English exam today and will finish the rest of the exams in June. Every morning she has been waking up at 6am to memorize hundreds of words in the vocabulary section. She even has them downloaded on her mobile phone so she can study them on the bus.
But I also know a few dreamers too.
One young man with a few years of work experience under his belt asked me which was the top university in Canada. I asked him what he wanted to study, as different post-secondary institutions are better at some fields than others.
He only repeated his question, which made me realize he only wanted the name of the university on his resume than actually study what he was passionate about or help him improve his work performance.
Yesterday I met a fresh graduate who has a bachelor's in international business. She's very sweet, but a bit naive and ambitious.
She works for a Chinese boss who used to study and work in the United States. And she is very admiring of him. Originally she had plans to study in Germany and join her sister who is in Munich. However, he has now influenced her to think she should study in the United States -- in a top Ivy League business school and get into the heady world of investment banking.
He even thought the English name she chose for herself was too old fashioned and gave her a new one instead.
While it sounds like he's trying to create an ingenue, her former flatmate says she's full of talk and no action. She says she wants to do many things but in the end hasn't actually done much to achieve what she says are her goals.
This girl peppered me with questions about whether it was better to live and work abroad than in China and I tried to explain that it's about where you want to be. I said if you study in the US, you may not like it. So why stay? The wheels sort of turned in her head, but not enough to turn a light bulb on.
It's too bad she doesn't have enough street smarts to realize her boss is putting ideas in her head. She may find out the hard way that either she's not academically strong enough to get in, or she may discover working for a big investment bank wasn't really her dream after all.
But for those who have a goal, their determination is incredible. They will do their utmost to reach it despite the financial burden. But there are only a few who are realistic and really understand what they are undertaking is not only a giant step up in their job prospects, but also a chance to see what the outside world is really like.