Date of this Version
2011 Dec 12 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
My Thursday afternoon flight from Shanghai to Chicago exhibited a curious phenomenon. United Airlines Flight 836, which went from China to Midwestern America on August 19, 2010, had the most homogenous set of passengers I had ever seen. They were all in their late teens and early twenties, Chinese youth dressed in the trendiest fashions and carrying the latest electronics. I was so impressed that I broke my rule about photographing people, popped up in my seat in the corner of economy class, and took their picture.
Whether United knew it or not, my flight was a modern school bus, ferrying Chinese students to (or back to) school at American colleges and universities, in search of what Vanessa Fong has called “flexible citizenship.”1 Arriving in Chicago, the Chinese students scattered, many boarding transfers elsewhere and a few following me on my flight back to Lexington, Kentucky, where I am an assistant professor. Their photo I kept with me, and used it in my orientation lecture for new M.A. candidates in the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of International Commerce and Diplomacy. These students, I argued, were (or would be) totally bilingual, globally educated, and locally connected. And they would be the wave of the future.