In December 2016 a Ferrari 488 was totaled after colliding with another car and then plowing into a barbershop in Champaign, Illinois. Luckily no one was hurt or killed but the damage to the business and both cars was extensive.
The list price for the model of Ferrari involved was somewhere around $250,000, give or take a few grand. The driver, an 18 year old University of Illinois student from Asia, was ticketed for reckless driving and improper lane usage. He later received 1 year probation, community service and was required to attend a safe driving course. I’ve attached a link to a video showing the damage.
It’s hard to sympathize with a kid who just totaled a car that almost none of us will ever drive, much less own; a car that cost more than a lot of houses owned by the average working adult in this country. When I was that age I drove a 1970 Chevy Impala that I bought for $500…with my own money saved from working a part time job while in high school.
None of this is all that surprising for those of us who live around the University of Illinois campus. And if national statistics are any indication, we aren’t the only university witnessing these obnoxious displays of wealth and privilege from those barely old enough to shave.
The US has become the go to destination for wealthy college students from Asia, specifically those from China, seeking a top tier education abroad. Based on data from the University of Illinois website, international enrollment in 2017 was 10,834 and represented students from 113 countries. This is a bit misleading, however, because if you look at the breakout 9,405, or 87%, of those students were from Asia, and over half of those were from China. European enrollment? 504 students. Africa? 5 students. So those 113 countries the university promotes, while accurate, are heavily weighted in one region.
The student who totaled the Ferrari was in no way an exception, of course. A drive by the Engineering library on campus recently highlighted this fact. Parked on the street in front were a Mercedes SUV, a high level Audi (A8 I believe), and a Porsche. All of these appeared to be newer models. I’m sure there were some I missed as well. I also drove by one of the newer luxury apartments on the north side of campus and it was like attending the Chicago Auto Show, with Mercedes, Audis, Porsches and even a Maserati entering the parking garage.
I don’t see anything wrong with accepting so many international students. I’ve actually always viewed the diversity as one of the major advantages to living in a college city. These students pay far more in tuition, just as students from out of state do, and they come here to get a quality education, more often than not, in the various fields of Engineering. Also, many of these students will make significant contributions to their fields of study, both now and in the future. An educated population is always a good thing for all of us. Add to that the money they, or rather their parents, spend while attending college and it can be a huge boost to local economies.
All of that said, there are a couple things that annoy me about this. For one, it’s off the charts obnoxious and arrogant, if not downright irresponsible. Then again, most of these drivers are 18-22 year old males and you and I both know this demographic isn’t where you would typically look to find examples of humility, level headedness and rational behavior. And let’s be completely honest; if we were 18 again we would absolutely accept a Ferrari or other high end car from our parents…in a heartbeat.
What’s perhaps more confusing is why a parent, even with incredible wealth, would send their 18 year old sons off to an unfamiliar country with cars so powerful and so fast it would be a surprise if something bad didn’t happen. Besides the in your face, “look at how rich my parents are”, mentality, what I can’t help thinking is where they will go from here? I mean, if your first car is a new Ferrari, what’s next? Isn’t there a risk of disappointment when as adults they can’t have it all? But then I realize, people like this don’t suddenly start driving Toyota Camrys or Honda Accords. Their families are so wealthy that it will almost certainly guarantee they never have to go without, no matter what bad choices they make in life.
To be fair, these students aren’t the norm from the countries they come from. Local car dealers say an overwhelming majority of international students buy Toyotas, Hondas or similar used cars and just as many don’t own a car at all. They take full advantage of public transportation, bikes or their own two legs to get where they need to go.
None of what I’m saying here comes from jealousy, I want to point out. While it’s true I would love to own a beautiful high performance car it in no way makes my life any less satisfying because I don’t. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment knowing that what I’ve built and created in my life has come from my own hard work and persistence, not from my parent’s bank account.
The 18 year old who totaled the Ferrari isn’t necessarily smarter than me, or even more motivated than me. In fact, because of his privileged circumstances he may have a very distorted view of reality which I see as a huge disadvantage. His major accomplishment in life thus far isn’t really even an accomplishment. It’s the fact that he just happened to be born into a wealthy family. That in itself takes absolutely no skill, drive, or intelligence. It just takes random genetic luck. Lots of things impress me but that’s definitely not one of them.
So best of luck, I say, to all the new rich, the new entitled, the new privileged. May life provide you with plenty of challenges and plenty of adversity; not purely for the sake of suffering but for the sake of experiencing real life and real growth, which we all know can only come through getting smacked around a little and having to dig yourself out of holes that you yourself have dug.