Ivan Fyodorovich wrote:I'm trying to finalize my decision for where to attend but there's one slight thing nagging me. One of the potential advisors I'd like to work with at one of my choices is Chinese, and it seems like he tends to have Chinese students and postdocs. Now, it is a small theory group and the professor didn't have any real difficulties with English from what I could tell, but I could easily see there being difficulties interacting with his other students or postdocs, especially in a case where they attended undergrad in China. Has anyone been in a situation like this or known someone in one and have any thoughts on the possible difficulties that may arrive?
I am in this exact situation right now. I am the only native English speaker in my group and while there are some that have no issues conversing in English there are others that talking with them is trying to say the least. However, I wouldn't let that stand in my way, the research is too interesting to me. You will find that where communication really matters, assuming all parties are really invested in the research, it's not as hard as it seems. Things improve and you start to find that not only does their communication get better you strain less and less as you get familiar with their speaking style. You pick up their mannerisms and they are forced to use English regularly which improves it. Emails tend to be no issue too, so don't hesitate to use that in the beginning to make sure on very important things you don't get lost in translation, plus it helps having them to look back at. Overall though, I would actually recommend people get involved in an very internationally diverse group if possible, this is reflective of the way things are in the world. It's better to now get a feel for how to handle situations like this than when you graduate. Physics has no boarders, as a result we have to become comfortable with people from all over the world, at least if you want to be apart of the community, contribute to it, and take advantage of its contributions to your goals.