In the spring of 2018, a delegation from the University of California-Riverside (UCR) embarked on a special mission across the Pacific Ocean.
The trip, the first of two to China within a year, resulted in meetings between educators and officials across several regions, including Guangdong and Anhui provinces. The journey also identified potential new partnerships between UCR medical school and Anhui Medical University.
"We were looking for emerging regions with a strong educational presence, with an interest in collaboration, and Anhui seems to fit those set descriptions," said Paul Lyons, senior associate dean at UCR School of Medicine.
Academic exchanges between Chinese and American universities have played an important role in preparing students for an increasingly globalized economy, said educators, who are on the lookout for collaboration opportunities in a wider range of Chinese cities.
"It helps students understand that there is a global pool of talents, scientific talent, that can contribute to research that will solve important biomedical science questions, that no one country has a monopoly on scientific talent, and that collaboration in science is often global these days," he added.
The idea was also to identify opportunities in emerging regions of China that have strong educational infrastructure, apart from the universities in major, more well known cities, Lyons said.
According to Student.com, cities outside of Beijing and Shanghai have become increasingly popular choices among students.
In 2006, nearly 50 percent of international students in China were studying in Beijing or Shanghai. In 2015, 13 cities across China hosted more than 10,000 international students.
Provinces like Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Liaoning have also been gaining popularity among global scholars.
A joint co-op institute program between the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Chongqing University (CQU) is on track to graduate around 55 students in May.
They are the second cohort of CQU students to enroll at UC, said Thomas Huston, interim co-director of the institute.
The five-year program allows Chinese mechanical or electrical engineering students to take classes in English at CQU for four years, before completing their fifth year at UC.
Huston said the program provides close interaction between domestic and Chinese students.
"I think it builds friendship between the two countries," he added.
Huston is headed to Chongqing to discuss the addition of two new programs — computer science and civil engineering — with CQU officials.
He anticipates adding the new programs will double the current enrollment of 450 students.
A program jointly established by the University of Michigan (UM) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in 2006 is another example of joint collaboration.
According to Pam Byrnes, who runs the institute's US office, "The more young people reach out and develop relationships, the more they will develop networks that they will rely on in the future.
"It's a life-changing experience for the students," Byrnes added.
The Institute of International Education finds that there is more interest among US students to study in China.
Between 1995 and 1996, only 1,396 Americans studied in China; 10 years later, that number had jumped 553 percent to 8,830.
There were 21,975 American students studying in China in 2015, which is 6 percent of the total international student population in China, Student.com said.
In comparison, students from South Korea, the top country of origin, make up 17 percent, or 66,672, of the total international student population in China.