Study abroad ‘camps’ big busi­ness

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Amelia Yao

With the long and hot sum­mer nearly over, the crowds of young trav­el­ers one of­ten sees in China’s in­ter­na­tional air­ports have less­ened as school re­opens.

The younger chil­dren usu­ally wear the same color T-shirts and caps. Some even carry the same color school bag. The older ones, those in high school and col­lege, are of­ten in small groups, wear­ing Beats ear­phones, play­ing on their smart­phones and tak­ing self­ies. They are all a part of the sum­mer study abroad tour groups.

Their par­ents pay a lot of money for them to par­tic­i­pate, but what ex­actly do they hope to gain?

Some study abroad tour groups are more like a hol­i­day group. They take stu­dents to all the fa­mous scenic spots and dis­tin­guished uni­ver­si­ties in a coun­try. For ex­am­ple, in a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can study tour group, you would start from the East coast and hit Times Square and the Statue of Lib­erty in New York, the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment in Wash­ing­ton DC, and the statue of John Har­vard, the founder of Har­vard Univer­sity, in Cam­bridge Mas­sachusetts.

Apart from vis­its to scenic spots, the tours would in­clude classes at some fa­mous uni­ver­si­ties. The truth is they just bor­row some of the class­rooms at these schools. Not many lo­cal stu­dents have classes dur­ing the sum­mer, so there are many va­cant class­rooms. For ac­com­mo­da­tions, the stu­dents would mostly stay in a ho­tel, just like reg­u­lar trav­el­ers.

Some study abroad tour groups al­low par­ents to tag along with their kids, which makes the whole trip more like a hol­i­day fi­esta.

The sec­ond type is the op­po­site of the first.

The stu- dents stay at a school or univer­sity for the en­tire trip. They also take classes that are spe­cially de­signed for them. For ex­am­ple, kids or ju­niors might at­tend a sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math (STEM) camp, a scout camp, or a sports camp. High school stu­dents and above can take univer­sity cour­ses that are spe­cially de­signed for them and taught by univer­sity fac­ulty. In­ten­sive English, ro­bot­ics and Amer­i­can cul­ture are some of the sub­jects they might pur­sue. There will be some sight­see­ing over the week­end, but the pri­mary fo­cus is on study­ing. Most of them will stay on cam­pus or with host fam­i­lies ar­ranged by the school or univer­sity.

Sur­pris­ingly, Chi­nese par­ents tend to fa­vor the first ar­range­ment more. They think that with all the money they have paid, the more places their chil­dren visit, the more they will learn, and it will be worth it.

I fa­vor the sec­ond type. The main rea­son for at­tend­ing such camps is to learn new things about other peo­ple and top­ics. The best way to do so is by stay­ing with lo­cal fam­i­lies and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their daily lives first­hand. This is some­thing you will never ex­pe­ri­ence as a tourist stay­ing in ho­tels.

See­ing a dif­fer­ent world does not mean only vis­it­ing fa­mous scenic spots. It is more about see­ing how the lo­cals live and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their way of life.

With more Chi­nese par­ents in­vest­ing heav­ily in their chil­dren’s fu­ture, you don’t need to be a ge­nius to see that this is big busi­ness. They send their kids to these “camps” for many rea­sons. Some even feel peer pres­sure if they don’t. But it would be good if they se­ri­ously con­sid­ered what their chil­dren would get out of these trips be­fore sign­ing them up.

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