This is not new for the most Chinese students today. Even for the first generation of overseas students like myself who came to the US from Tsinghua University in late 80s. My goal was set to change the world.
In those years, we were the top students in China and feeling like on top of the world, nothing we could not achieve in China. It was the pursuit of new challenges, the true world-class challenges, that brought us here. When I landed in this promising land, where we were told the gold were everywhere, we quickly learned there were no gold you could just bend over and pick. Before you were set out to change the world, you needed to make a living first. There were no parents, no relatives, no friends, no government, nobody you could lean on. You had to go out and make it yourself.
My dream was to be a CEO of a world-class manufacturing company to provide the the best products and services to people. I wanted to study business here. However, I did not take long to realize I could not even communicate normal with people, how could I do business here?
Science and engineering requires the least language and culture skills, you only need to work with equations and computers everyday quietly in office cubicles. You don't have to deal with and influence people to survive. That is why most of us, the first generation overseas students were ended up with.
However, as we grew and learned in our professional life, we established ourselves on the jobs, we built our confidence back, and we had more freedom to choose. The "old" flames started to burn again. We spent first 10 years to make a living, and next 10 years to pursue our dreams.
Today, most overseas students have the financial means, they don't have to make a living. They don't need to worry anything but chasing their dreams. Their challenges are they need to quickly learn the reality in the US job market and redefine their goals. Any career planning starts with setting the right goal. The earlier you sharpen your focus, the easier you will get a job upon graduation. So, start at freshman, start now.