Thought acquisition

Chinese shoppers and students are coming. Here is the list of top 10 countries whose students are enrolling in the US. The stats also shows Mexico at number 9 (CIVET’s countries predominantly present).

Rodeo Drive and Las Vegas aside, I want to play campus tour guide.

First, the weather. Deal with it. It is world apart from the rainy and dry seasons where you are from.

It ain’t cool to carry an umbrella to avoid the sun. Tanning is in….until you get skin cancer (watch out Desperate Housewives from Atlanta!).

Second, homesickness. Yes, you will miss your friends, and occasionally your families. You will miss the food as well.

Deal with it.

McDonald has stuck to its success formula, from milkshakes to McRibs. Go there not only to use the bathroom, but also to see the efficiency model, about which Jacques Ellul has termed “technique”  (RFID, containerization, supply chain and supersizing). The rise of McDonald was credited to a milkshake maker who could make multiple servings at one time.

Third, clash of cultures. This process will have to be confronted head on. As you changed, so will the larger society you  interact with. It’s called cultural reciprocity. Don’t bow your head here. It ain’t cool.

Learn the high fives.

Do lift weights. Students coming from Asia are too small, thus come across as weak. Pick up on the sports page, and glance at People magazine.

You will forever be a minority in a predominantly but ever-changing USA (often times, with internal conflict, culminated at the Civil War, but only tugged away during the Cold War, never fully resolved ).

Lucky you, since you will be moving about campus, where blue jeans and book bags  are your uniforms.

Everybody is here to learn, to thought-acquire and to grow.

It’s a homogeneous environment, although you can feel the difference between a senior and freshman (the former occasionally wear suit-and-tie to interview on campus).

You arrived here in the US both at a right time and a wrong time. Right time because globalization is finally materialized this way by your presence (and your parent’s purses). Wrong time because the US is experiencing a prolonged downturn. Hence, don’t take it personally that everyone seems to be subdued (involuntary austerity). We have yet shaken off the effect of Madoff-ization.

I see that you have chosen to major in Business and Engineering. Great. Among the global top 10 universities, 8 are located here in the US with Harvard at the top (BTW, both MIT and Harvard are presided by women).

I know you will be selective with your time, your major and the company you hang out with (connection). Develop your social skills, and forge connection since these are and will be your soft asset. Join a club, and volunteer to be in a leadership position ( I used to “man” a book table in between classes, and play guitar at lunch time in the International Student lounge. Just to expose myself to passer-by).

Those early activities led me to be a member of the media, an international relief worker and to finally pursue a career in multi-cultural marketing and sales. Even when you came up with the best invention, you still need to convince VCs to fund your project.

Learn soft skills. Ask around and see who would be willing to be your mentor. When I started college, I got dropped in cold (Operation Frequent Wind).

Clueless and without a role model. (A bunch of us, refugee students from Vietnam, grew long hair like James Taylor – Right, you’ve got a friend !).

If I have to leave you with a parting thought, it is this: focus on your intellectual development i.e. learning to learn. That is the one thing that cannot be taken away from you (have you heard of brain stripping if you defaulted on your student loan? They do that with auto repo and home foreclosure, but not learning).

And one more thing: when you finally repatriated, could you leave behind your drive-and-ambition playbook so  America can pick up on that. After Ted Turner of CNN, and a bunch of internet giants , the US doesn’t seem to encourage any more risk-taking ( banks don’t give out loans lately).

We had been number one before dropped down to number 11 in competitiveness. Still in denial.

While you have everything to gain, your presence here has everything to give. Thanks for coming. And don’t get lonely during the holidays. I wish I can have each of you over for eggnog and apple cider. And cranberry sauce too. See, I start living in the past, back to Pilgrim’s days. I need you to help me visualize the future. It will be a crowded one with 7 billion of us in all. At this rate, we will have to send our grand kids to study on Mars. Now, that will be a shock. Future shock.


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