This paper explores new patterns of learning across cultures in higher education through a case study of a cohort of international graduate students at a university in Chinese mainland. North University (NU) has hosted international students in its Chinese language and culture programs for decades. However, between 2008 and 2010, a new Master’s degree program for international students was established. This attracted 75 graduate students from different disciplinary backgrounds, from 21 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. English is the common language to both students and faculty, but a foreign language to all. This program marks a significant shift for China’s higher education as it reaches out to the world. The paper describes this cohort’s lived experiences in China, including academic, linguistic and sociocultural learning. It analyzes the challenges such programs pose for the Chinese higher education system, explores how these challenges have become opportunities for growth and how barriers have been overcome. It also discusses the implications of this case for the upgrading of higher education quality in China.