While college freshmen in other parts of the world are quick to break free from their parents, students in China need time — for the first few days of classes, at least.
Across the country, universities set up tents that accommodate parents who just brought their kids in. For one, Shantou University in Guangdong prepared 28 tents for the move-in period at the end of August, Quartz noted.
Schools are currently divided over tolerance of the practice, which started four years ago at Tianjin University. Independence is part of growing up, but family ties are paramount in Chinese culture.
One Weibo commenter defended the custom (via Whats On Weibo):
“What’s wrong with parents seeing off their kids? Who says it is a sign of their non-independence? When I just went to university, my parents also went with me. They stayed in a hotel, I stayed in my dorm room. After the registration process was finished, we went out to see my new town and new university together. It was like a family trip. I don’t see what’s bad about that.”
The fact that most Chinese families only have one child is also part of the picture. One parent, Eve Zhang, said her daughter, Zhang Yan, has never stayed in a dormitory:
“We were very worried. So her father and I took ten days off and accompanied our daughter to Shanghai. Not until we saw for ourselves that she was settled did we feel relieved.”
Shantou originally let parents stay in classrooms, but they had no beds. Its tent accommodations had mats and air-conditioning, but most importantly, they were free of charge. Hot water and shower facilities were also available.
Two-person tents were mostly shared by couple parents, but sharing with strangers is not surprising. Huang Yiming, whose child was admitted to an engineering program, slept with another person:
“We couldn’t find an affordable and convenient hotel near the school because they were already fully booked, and there were dozens of other parents in a similar situation.”
These parents can’t wait for the holidays, when kids finally come home. But as they leave the comforts of these tents, calling and texting seem to be the most convenient options to keep up.