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美国少年对大学生活的看法

已有 9661 次阅读 2009-7-29 20:23 |个人分类:生活点滴|系统分类:海外观察

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Guest Blog by my #1 Grandson 大外孙子的客串博文

我的大外孙子, Daniel, 二十岁了是 Drexel University 的二年级本科生. 他在美国出生长大同我相隔二代,思想与我全部不同,也不会同中国青年一样. 所以我请他客串写一篇博文,讲一讲他对大学生活的看法.

(英文备注: My #1 grandson, Daniel,  is age 20 and a sophomore at Drexel University in Philadephia (Drexel is primary a science and technology university more similar to Tsinghua and different from Baida.   For Chinese readers, her claim to fame is that the son of Chairman Jiang Zeming 江泽民 received his ph.d. degree in Electrical Engineering there. I once by chance sat next to this  ph.d adviser on an airplane trip  and he told me that he was received by Chairman Jiang as 太子师 when he visited China during the 90s - a honor and reception he will never forget). Daniel is native born and two generation away from me in upbringing and thinking. I thought Chinese college youth might enjoy reading "how and what a US college student thinks?" So I invited him to write something about college life  entirely from his viewpoint. Below is his un-edited contribution.  I shall also be happy to transmit any comment and question Chinese youth may have for him.)

(by Daniel Kim) When you are an American high school student choosing your college for the first time, only one thing matters. “What is the furthest possible distance I can put between myself and my parents?” That’s a joke but it does ring true to the process of choosing a college for American students. You would think that one would choose a college based solely on academic merit and its programs. That would be the most logical way to go about it. However, for American students, there are a number of other factors, that some may argue are less important, but weigh heavily in this decision.

Location, location, location

When my mom was young, growing up as the daughter of two immigrants, she had only one college in mind. Harvard. It was, in her mind, and her parent’s minds, the best college in America. Therefore there was no reason to go anywhere else. Plus it was close to Lexington, where they lived. Thankfully, she went there and enjoyed going there. It was not as if she was forced to and being a Harvard graduate is no small task. However, she definitely did not go through the college selection process the way kids do today.

               For many people, one of the most important factors in choosing a college is where the campus is located. This may seem silly to you, but many people have chosen not to go to a certain place simply because of where it is. If you think about it, it is actually not that silly. When choosing a college, you should keep in mind that this is the place you will spend at least four years of your life, In which case the environment should be somewhere you enjoy, where you will be happy. My sister is off to college in the fall, one that is located in California. California is very sunny and usually has great weather. My sister does not like New England because of the New England winters and cooler climate. For this reason, she searched mainly for colleges in warmer places. I myself currently attend Drexel University in the city of Philadelphia. For me, going to a city school was important because I love the hustle and bustle of a city. There is always someplace open to go eat, even at 3 AM. That especially comes in handy when you are pulling an all nighter to finish a paper.  And you will because American students have an overwhelming tendency to leave things to the last minute.

Social Life

               Another thing that matters to most American students is the people at the college. Again you are going to be living there for four years or maybe more. So you want to make sure that you are going to have a good time while you are there. For instance, what is the ratio of girls to boys at your school? My sister again, did not want to go to a certain school because in her words, “It had too many Asians.” This is ironic as she is Asian herself. My school Drexel unfortunately has a 3:1 guys to girls ratio. That means there are 3 times as many guys as there are girls. Other things to consider are what Greek Life (note 1) is like, if there are any good clubs or bars near campus, and what kind of clubs exist at that school.

               So as you can see, it is not always the colleges with the best test scores or the best courses that Americans look for. Often it is the ones with the nicest locales, or the best extracurriculars. After all, you are going to stay there for a while. Might as well enjoy yourself.

(note 1 added by YC Ho: Greek life means fraternity life or simply party life since all fraternities use the Greek alphabet in their names)

(Notes added by Yu-Chi Ho 7/29/09): The traditional Chinese thinking about higher education is that it is a ticket to a better life. Thus you go to university to learn a skill that you can use. In the olden days, it is to learn the classics (四书五经) and more recently science and technology. But in America, college is a chance for you to discover yourself and to develop independent thinking which is what a liberal art education all about. You learn a specific skill, be it science, law, or medicine, only in graduate school. Nor does everyone need to have a skill or a profession. What an undergraduate education does is to provide young person with a general knowledge of the world and basics to be able to learn to do anything and/or any job (i.e., 通用人才). In that sense it is probably closer in spirit to the old Chinese systems of studying the classics. More recently, CP Snow’s view of “The two cultures” made educators realize that science and technology are also a necessary part of the general education of a person. The nature of a liberal arts education is also undergoing subtle changes.  
There is some virtue of the need to develop independent thinking in college versus the acquisition of useful knowledge. Too much of the latter - “stuffing a duck” - style of education stifles innovation and promotes conventional thinking. This is a common complaint about Chinese graduate students in American universities – they excel at answering questions but lack training in asking the right questions. On the other hand, people do question the wisdom of educating EVERY college graduate to be a “specialist in the general” but without specific knowledge or skill in anything. They are concerned with the small number of technically qualified youth we are producing and our reliance on foreign students. It is a trade off that is constantly being debated.

 



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