Through an established company, I write an average of four academic essays every week, totaling generally around ten to fifteen pages. Our clientele is completely Chinese, with the general consensus that the manner essays are written in China is vastly different from the analytical, hyper-structured style common in the United States. Or New Zealand. Or the United Kingdom. Or any other Western school.
Essays in China tend to value items such as storytelling finesse, artistic use of words, and professors judge regarding the overall beauty of their finished project. This contrasts starkly with the highly regimented, formulaic approach Western academia has taken. The vast difference between these two approaches to essays should be no surprise given Chinese isolationist tendencies and difference structurally between America’s phonetic vocabulary contrasted with China’s symbolic.
In regards to our clients, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them, because they’re managing to do something brave and terrifying. Almost all are international students who have managed the gargantuan task of becoming somewhat proficient in the English language and been accepted to study abroad. The schools they attend range from Harvard to Arizona State University, from University of California Berkeley to the University of Aukland, and beyond. Meanwhile, I only have fluency in a single language and a grab bag of phrases in several others.
Out of all the questions friends and family ask about my job, the most common is: “Can’t they just write the essays themselves?”
The short answer is obviously, “Well they could, but then myself and everyone who works with me would be out of a job.” But the longer answer is more nuanced than that.
Most college or University students have at one time or another encountered an international student. Lauded by the administration to represent diversity in the student body, considered somewhat of a mythical presence by the less travelled students around them, and somewhat out of their element.
Chinese students represent a growing minority in student politics, a presence that has taken a sharp increase in recent years. Students in China are trained under a regimented academic system that values dedication, humility, and the ability to continue working from the early morning to late into the night. Under these values, Chinese students are not defined by an unwillingness to work and achieve. But they are highly competitive, and their willingness to succeed in their academic environment goes beyond something many Westerners can understand.
Many students continue placing orders into the writing system well into the summer, evidence of their willingness to continue in their studies when many have stopped for the season. The bulk of these come from Chinese students located in United States universities, where students come to escape the rigidity of the Chinese system.
Most recent data from the 2013-2014 academic year shows that over 274,000 Chinese international students chose US schools. Chosen so they can decide their own course of study. Chosen so they have the freedom to work wherever they choose following their graduation.
While this may be considered by many to be a violation of academic standards, how they choose to use the material they request is up to them. I remain along for the ride, absorbing coursework on everything from finance to urban planning to modern politics in Tibet.