Lexy Chiu, 20, Hong Kong, lived in Beijing from 1998-2011, graduated from International School of Beijing (ISB), currently attends Boston University
Martin Chow, 19, Hong Kong/Canada, lived in Beijing from 1997-2011, graduated from ISB, currently attends University of British Columbia
Amy Wan, 18, Beijing, lived in Beijng from 1993-2003 and 2008-2011, graduated from Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA), currently attends The College of William and Mary
Samuel Tan, 18, US, lived in Beijing from 2000-2011, graduated from ISB, currently
attends Northeastern University
University years have a reputation for being fueled by parties and alcohol. Many parents with kids around university age worry about what their kids will or do get into. Do universities keep the students safe, or is it worse than we think? beijingkids spoke with four sophomore university students (who went to high school in Beijing) to get their take on the realities of modern university life.
What was the biggest challenge in transitioning from high school to university?
Lexy: For me, the hardest part was trying to keep up communication with my friends from high school. It’s really hard to stay connected.
Amy: For me, it would be actually going to class, because after a while I stopped. When you’re [at home,]your parents tell you to go to sleep, and you have to go to school. At university, nobody cares. It’s your choice whether you want to go or not.
Martin: You suddenly get a lot of independence and freedom, and you have to know how to use it. I lived in an apartment my first year, so I had to cook and clean and that was a little challenging, because here in Beijing we have maids to do that for us. And because I can’t drive yet, I had to take the bus everywhere, so buying groceries was a hassle.
How has being an international student prepared you for your first year of university?
Samuel: The IB program was pretty tough; it definitely prepared us for our first year. A lot of stuff I learned in IB, I learned in my first year [of university].
Martin: Yeah, and also in university there are kids from all over the world, so with this background of ours, it’s easier to make friends because you’re less prone to culture clash.
Amy: In my school, there [are]not that many international students, so to them I’m super-interesting, because I’m from China; it’s a good conversation starter. All I heard for a year was: “Wow, you’re from Beijing, that’s so cool!”
What’s your take on the drinking culture in university?
Lexy: I feel like people do drink more in college. In college, parents aren’t there anymore, and kids feel more free, so it’s hard for them to control themselves.
Amy: It’s not out of control. People maybe at first don’t know how to handle themselves, but later they learn.
Samuel: At my school, people definitely do drink a lot more but they don’t know how to take care of themselves; there are always people who end up in the hospital every week.
The drinking age in Canada is 19; in the US, it’s 21. Do you think these drinking ages are fair?
Martin: I definitely think it’s fair [in Canada], because you gotta be mature enough, you have to have that mindset that you can control the amount you consume.
Samuel: I think 21 is a little too high. Age is really just a number; people mature at different times. I think around 19 or 20 [would be a better age].
Amy: I don’t think there’s really a fairness to [the drinking age in the US]. I don’t think [it]has stopped people from drinking.
Is it ever enforced?
Samuel: I have rarely seen people get in trouble and be punished for [underage drinking]. Even if they do, it’s not a severe punishment; maybe just get a ban for a few weeks, that’s about it.
Lexy: [Boston University] partners up with the local police. My
floormates were stupid enough to get drunk in our dorm; they all got brought to the BU court and some of them got fined.
Amy: We have a lot of police cars going around at night, and at the doors of frats, they have to mark you if you’re under 21 so that they don’t get in trouble. But I don’t know what happens when you do get in trouble.
What safety measures does your school have for its students?
Lexy: At BU, we have a student escort service; they send you home if you’re drunk. They also provide this service for students who are studying at the library until midnight, and who don’t want to walk home by themselves.
Samuel: I think we have the same thing, but [if you’re drunk]you get a warning or something.
Amy: We have a student escort service. They want people to be able to reach out for help if they’re drunk. They don’t want people to think “Oh, I’m going to get in trouble, so I’m just going to drive home or walk home by myself.”
If you were a parent, how would you prepare your son or daughter for going to university?
Samuel: I would definitely let them party a few times before college so they actually know what it’s like and know what to do. I might even consider getting them drunk and trashed, so they don’t want to do it again. It’s a learning thing.
Martin: I would put them in our position, in an international school, because it was an easy transition to university.
Lexy: I’d let them experience partying before they go to college, so they won’t go crazy because they weren’t allowed [to]in high school.
What advice do you have for students who will be entering university?
Lexy: Don’t miss out on the parties, because it’s a way to meet new people, but at the same time, don’t forget about your work; you have to stay on task.
Samuel: I agree. First year is honestly probably the easiest year you’ll get, so you might as well enjoy it while you can.
Martin: Try to meet the right kind of people, people that suit you, friends that you know you’ll like and can benefit you in the future.
What advice do you have for the parents of new students?
Martin: Don’t worry. Most people graduate, so there’s nothing to worry about.
Lexy: Give [your kid]some space, so they can have their own privacy. Let your kid come to you, they will eventually, because they’ll miss you and they will call you when they miss you.
Martin: That is a good point. I realized my connection with my parents became deeper [after]being away from them for a year.
Amy: Just be there for them when they do need you. And don’t criticize them too much. Just know that everybody makes mistakes and try to comfort them and help them.
Samuel: Let them experience the world themselves. Parents should give [kids]space and let them grow up on their own.