In completing the (many) administrative procedures below, your parents will likely be very involved. For the typical incoming Flagship freshman, spring of senior year is usually at least as busy, if not more so, than any previous semester. We understand that in many cases, your parents will be acting as your “proxy,” at least until you have fully committed.
That being said, please remember that the primary goal of Chinese Flagship on the national, long-range scale is “to create global professionals” In that spirit, we want to encourage you to begin as early as you can to take the reins.
A general concept in Chinese culture is that those in lower social positions do most of the “footwork” and must show that they are always acting with the interest of the group in mind. This means inconveniencing oneself in order to keep things convenient for the teacher/director, who is overseeing overall processes for the entire group. It also means being ready to take corrective action quickly when a problem arises. When students’ default behavior is to “delegate” all administrative procedures to their parents, they often end up behind the curve and rubbing our faculty and other Chinese administrators (like those at Shanghai University) the wrong way. In China, where relationship management (关系 － guānxì) is one of the foundations of society, students who do not develop an intuition and effective strategy for such procedures become a social liability to themselves and to our program.
This concept is often at odds with American culture, where students by default act in their own interests, making decisions based on what appear to be the full range of choices afforded to them, at least up to the point that established rules allow. Students often assume that, as long as no one has warned them (often with one or more reminders) to notice something, they are free to continue on the most comfortable and convenient course they know. Developing an intuition for this aspect of Chinese culture is by no means an easy process. It is something we are tasked with teaching Flagship students, and it is a process that arguably never ends. Students who begin early, however, and who learn to show in various ways that they are consciously working at self-improvement, tend to have better interactions with our teachers and better experiences overall in our summer programs. By the time they reach Capstone, they are noticeably better-prepared than their peers. They receive (subtle) preferential treatment when interacting with Chinese teachers and administrators abroad (who may have only partial, incidental understanding of American culture) and tend to have better outcomes at every stage of Capstone (apartment selection, course selection, roommate selection, obtaining an internship, etc.)
This process begins with having the ability to take quick action on tasks, which in turn, requires prior experience in administrative processes, and perhaps more importantly, prior experience in learning things for the first time, or “learning how to learn.”
Getting used to bureaucratic administrative processes is a very basic feature of understanding China and navigating its society effectively. Submitting your immunization records, for example, may not seem like a useful life skill, but when you apply for a long-term Chinese student visa for Capstone, you will find that providing medical documentation to a Chinese university is a far more involved process than faxing your records to Ole Miss. Signing up for housing and orientation are also important, as you will do similar things as early as next spring when (most of) you are getting ready to go to Shanghai.
To succeed in Chinese culture you will have to be in the habit of taking quick action on tasks, which in turn, requires prior experience in administrative processes, and perhaps more importantly, prior experience in learning things for the first time, or “learning how to learn.” Parents can serve as mentors for this process, but you will need to be able to act .
Also, often by age 18, young people no longer wish to be taught by parents, preferring instead to do things for themselves, or more likely, to rely on the advice of their peers. It is good for them to be taking initiative and learning for themselves, but they must become aware of the limits of their own knowledge and experience and suspect of the advice coming from friends, who are often no less knowledgeable than themselves. If you do not feel comfortable being your parents’ “apprentice,” please reach out to our Flagship staff. We do not want you to remain overly reliant on your parents as you move through your undergraduate career, but neither do we want you to remain overly reliant on yourself. It’s a much slower learning process that can be costly in both your money and your time.
Parents, we do want you to be involved, not just in getting your child (or rather, “young adult”) ready for full autonomy, but also in following, promoting, and improving our program. We are open to your ideas and want you to be connected with each other. We cannot require students to include you in their college experience, but as long as they are willing, we do hope that you all connect via the most convenient media for everyone, which changes from year to year and group to group. We do not have the time or means to coordinate this, but we can give you a platform to get started:
Some suggestions on topics that parents might consider discussing:
- How to help promote our program, both locally and nationally through local schools and social media. Remember, we offer a free, credit-granting residential high school summer program every July called StarTalk, and we can help bring a trained Chinese teacher to a local high school for $10k per year (the school pays this stipend while our university waives tuition for them to complete a master’s degree on our campus during the summer months).
- How to develop Flagship-specific scholarships for students of exceptional academic abilities and/or financial needs. Students in our program come from vastly differing socio-economic backgrounds, with some needing lots of help and others in a position to act philanthropically. The University Foundation is always happy to help set up scholarships in the most strategic ways, and we can provide some suggestions in what would be most beneficial to recipients. For example, we have long wished to partner with those who have ties to business in China who might benefit from taking on a Flagship student as an intern before and during the Capstone year (Capstone requires a semester-long unpaid internship, which we believe could be bolstered by experience with a company, perhaps even stateside in a summer prior to Capstone participation.) With or without a dedicated scholarship component (obviously not in place of internship pay), such an arrangement could have profound benefits to the student as well as a company seeking highly competent, long-term employees. Almost all of our students have a second major, ranging from business and/or finance, international studies (with a international economics and business track), computer science, all strains of engineering, accounting, etc., and a few are also members of our manufacturing minor (CME).
- How to design, order, and distribute Flagship-branded “swag,” such as hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, stickers, etc. for both students and their families. These items are restricted from our grant budgets, but we believe they can add a sense of community and pride to everyone involved. After all, students bear the brunt of the stress and workload, but they can’t succeed without the strong moral (and often financial) support of their loved ones. Wearable items are also great conversation starters and word-of-mouth advertisement far beyond the reach of our very limited recruiting budget.
Note: parents are welcome to contact us for clarification, or even to offer constructive criticism; however, in almost all cases (crises excepted), even when it seems less efficient, we will always direct our communications to students. Getting students to each of Flagship’s proficiency benchmarks is no easy task. We cram as many as 7 years worth of classroom instruction into 5. Preparing students to face China as a “global professional” with full cultural competence is even more challenging. No textbook can be written to act as a roadmap. Practicing autonomy is perhaps the first, and most important step.
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