Helicopter parents

Illustartion by Shenuka Corea

Do Parents Hover Over NYUAD?

At NYU Abu Dhabi, where students are just as compelled to achieve academically as in the Ivy League schools, does the same helicopter parenting also exist?

Dec 11, 2016

Deans running the Ivy League schools often complain about helicopter parenting. A helicopter parent can be defined as a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Examples of this phenomenon, as Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, points out, can include talking to children multiple times a day and swooping in to personally intervene whenever something difficult happens.
“[Helicopter parents have] been hobbling their children by trying so hard to make sure they succeed and by working so diligently to protect them from disappointment, failure and hardship,” Lythcott-Haims told the Washington Post, explaining why parents feel the need to hover and micromanage.
At a school like NYU Abu Dhabi, where students are just as compelled to achieve academically, does this type of parental involvement also exist?
Regarding classes and picking majors, it appears that while some students talk to their parents for advice on their major decisions, the decisions lie with the student at the end of the day.
Freshman Archita Arun and sophomore Atoka Jo conceded that their parents care about what they are learning in college, but they do not have an influence on their final decisions.
“I’m a potential theater major and my mom doesn’t really approve of it, but they don’t really have an idea of the classes I take. I think they would expect me to tell them when I finally do declare a major, but they really don’t have an influence on what I major in,” said Arun.
For Arun, the areas where her parents have the most influence on her lie outside of academic life.
“They really do influence a lot of the decisions I make when I’m not studying … like when I’m moving around my social circles and talking to people, talking about where I’m from … they’re obviously connected to me in that way.”
A possible reason for the lack of direct parental involvement in students’ lives can be the location of our campus on Saadiyat Island, far away from most students’ homes and separate from the city of Abu Dhabi.
Students have various ways of bridging the gap between themselves and their parents.
“I text my mom every day. But in terms of actually calling, I think it’s about once a week,” said Jo. Some students talk to their parents every day while others can go for months without communicating with their family members.
Arun also added, however, that the level of influence her parents have on her at college can be attributed to cultural factors.
“There are so many conversations I’ve had with people, talking to me about Indian parents specifically. I think because my parents are Indian they have a lot of different expectations from me — and I don’t think all parents generally expect this much.”
Jo feels a similar way when it comes to cultural factors and her having to choose classes.
“In terms of classes and majors, I feel like my parents don’t really get involved because since they are from Japan, they really only know the Japanese education system — it’s not that they don’t care about what I’m doing, it’s more like they don’t really understand it, therefore they don’t intervene.”
The multicultural environment of NYUAD, as well as the location of Abu Dhabi, limits direct influence from the outside allowing for more independent decision-making.
“In high school, I commuted from my house, and so I would actually get direct influence. Whereas here, there’s more distance so … what I say is filtered because it’s through my own lens, so I feel like I am getting less influenced,” Jo commented.
Unlike other contexts, where parental presence is more greatly felt, the distance and uniqueness of NYUAD allows students to exist outside of the blades of any would-be helicopter parents.
Larayb Abrar is Features Editor. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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