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I live in an Asian country (not China) and completed my master's in Math in June 2020. I wanted to do a PhD in math, but didn't apply in China for session 2022 due to some reasons. I do not believe doing a PhD in my country is a good option due to severe racism and corruption and related issues.

I have been thinking of writing to professors in universities in China whose interests align with mine to discuss the possibility of an internship. This would help me get my foot in the door, and hopefully strengthen my PhD application. However, I don't have funding.

My thought was to send an e-mail that explained my situation in the Statement of Purpose (including past hardships, issues in my country) along with providing my CV and master's thesis

Is this the best way to approach professors in China about the possibility of an internship? Is this likely to work out (assuming I am qualified, etc.)?

Edit 1: I don't speak chinese

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    Chinese universities are not very well regarded for PhDs in pure math. There isn't a culture of truly innovative work. Are you sure you can't do better? May 18 at 16:09
  • @AlexanderWoo I think I can , but I have been so much victim of racism and harassment by my own thesis advisor and referees of LOR that my life is hanging to a straw.
    – user135061
    May 19 at 9:04

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I'm from China and a mathematician, so I think I know the game quite well. It should be possible to do informal unpaid internships; just send them an email. I know a few people who have done these. There are no paid opportunities though. However, there are some problems and serious practical difficulties, so I urge you to reconsider:

  1. Chinese universities are not very well regarded in pure math, so I don't know if getting a PhD in math from a Chinese university is a good path to go down (in fact, if you want a faculty job, most Chinese math departments that are even moderately prestigious want only foreign PhDs! of course there are always outliers, but those are not the norm). If you want to apply for a PhD in a different country, I'm afraid this will help little;

  2. visa policy. Currently China only allow select classes of foreigners to enter, and I'm afraid an unpaid internship wouldn't allow you to apply for a proper visa that allows you in. Normally you'd just get a tourist visa, but no tourists are allowed in currently. No one knows when this would change;

  3. language barrier. Most Chinese universities work in Chinese and Chinese only, and there is no hope of attending seminars, etc., if you don't speak Chinese. You will also have lots of problems living;

  4. trouble finding an advisor. This is actually an extension of 1: some areas (like PDE and geometric analysis) are way too over-represented in the Chinese math community, while many areas (e.g. abstract algebraic topology) are very under-represented. You might have some trouble finding an appropriate advisor. Also, if you intend to work with a big-name professor, chances are they're going to ignore your email. Only a connection would get you in in that case; however, if you have that kind of connections, you might as well consider another country.

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  • Thank you very much for your answer!
    – user135061
    May 31 at 12:20
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First of all, my native language is Chinese. I have never heard of funded internship in Math in China. I am not sure if it exists. Even if it does, I think it's rare.

assuming I am qualified

You assume you are qualified. May I ask you a question: do you speak Mandarin Chinese?

I think if there is some funded internship in Math in China, you have almost zero chance getting it if you don't speak Chinese. I think almost no one would hire an intern who does not speak their local language, not to mention funding. If you apply for PhD or postdoc, that would be a different story.

However, if you are exceptionally excellent and if you happen to know someone who can get you in touch with some big math prof in China, you still have some chance. In that case, you don't need to cold e-mail. A phone call will do it.

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  • No, I don't speak chinese.
    – user135061
    May 19 at 9:05

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