At the start of a new school year, universities across China are providing accommodations for parents as a way to tackle separation anxiety. While new students are enrolling in classes and settling into their dorm rooms, many schools are providing accommodation in the form of tents in gyms for their parents while they say their goodbyes.
Tents of love spring up across campuses
For many freshman students, the journey to college is the first extended stay away from home, and their parents do not want them to travel alone. Also, because of China’s one-child policy, many parents find it especially difficult to say goodbye to their only child. Once they arrive at their destination, parents sometimes find it difficult to find accommodation near their child’s school. There are also parents who simply cannot afford the cost of a hotel room. This is when the university steps in and provides accommodations in the form of tents in gyms for the parents of new students.
The practice of providing tents for parents of first year students who want to ensure that their children are fully settled into their new surroundings began at Tianjin University four years ago. Since then, the practice has morphed as an increasing number of universities provide what is commonly known as “tents of love.” Beside the tents, schools may also provide mattresses, blankets, drinking water, and shower facilities for parents.
Images of gyms packed with parents sleeping in or sitting outside their tents have been widely shared on Chinese social media, prompting a debate on whether China’s only children are too coddled. Some see it as symptomatic of a society that has produced a generation of “little emperors” who are often doted on by parents and two sets of grandparents, and are unable or unwilling to take care of themselves. The universities themselves are debating whether the practice is undermining young people’s ability to be independent, despite its increasing popularity.
It’s only normal for parents to worry
Despite the criticism, many in China consider it normal for parents to join their children for their first few days of college. One netizen from Henan was sympathetic to the situation, as reported by What’s on Weibo:
“The people who hate on these parents bringing their kids to university are crazy. Some students have to cross the entire country before they can study. Some have had very little contact with the outside world before going off to college. It’s only normal for parents to worry about them and coming along, and also it is a chance for them to make a trip. It’s just very good.”