Tuesday, September 11, 2007

HKU: where you'll never have to worry about being a grown-up (even if you want to be)

I have figured out the mission of the University of Hong Kong, and it essentially the opposite of the mission of most universities in the United States. Most U.S. colleges view themselves as intermediary points between childhood and adulthood, a place where students can come, grow, be forced into some independence, and from that experience, learn. Here, the idea is to educate you without letting you in any way take responsibility for yourself or lead anything that remotely resembles an adult life. Everybody knows the stereotype of the overprotective Asian parent. When the child must leave home to continue his or her education, the university apparently steps seamlessly into the overprotective parent role. It serves their agenda, rather than the student's.

Which would be infuriating enough if the university was actually good at doing things. But it still isn't. I've already lamented the level of organization that has been involved with their treatment of foreign students. This week, my experience getting my student ID card (finally) was even more painful. I had to sign a paper, to wait for my name to be called, so that I could give them my passport and collect a number and move to the other side of the room. When my number was called, they gave me back my passport and a few papers and sent me back to the first side of the room. Once there, I waited for my number to be called again, at which time they led me into a back room, took a picture, and took back the papers they had just given me (even though they contained information for me and were not filled out or edited in any way). Then they called my name, gave me my card, and gave me back the papers they had just taken away, unaltered.

This process took approximately 1.5 hours.

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