Hong Kong has always been a gateway to China. China's Belt and Road Initiative, which is spearheaded by the Chinese Government to foster bilateral trade and cooperation between China and emerging economies in Asia, Africa, and Europe, beckons young and dynamic talents who already see themselves beyond the confines of the HKUST campus and Hong Kong.
"Brunei is one of the few Muslim-majority countries among the study abroad destinations," says Mia Ling, a fourth-year chemistry major who took courses at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam in the small Southeast Asian nation. Prior to her journey, Mia had little contact with the Muslim world. The budding scientist enrolled in a month-long programme which included courses on sustainable development and also history, culture, and the Malay language, and stayed with a host family in rural Brunei. "After my experience in Brunei," Mia says, "I have learned to see things from multiple cultural perspectives. I have also found out that the level of gender inequality in the Muslim world is different from country to country."
Unlike Mia, advancing his understanding of geopolitics was the reason for Sam Yeung to study at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. The second-year Global China Studies major believes Russia still exerts considerable influence in Asia. What better way to begin understanding a nation than to see it with his own eyes? Therefore, Sam set off for Russia and took courses on Russian history and demographics. He also travelled around Moscow, which was challenging for Sam because, knowing no Russian, he needed to decipher letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. But the language barrier did not deter him from attempting to speak Russian with the people he met, which turned out to be a great ice-breaker. "Russians may be a stoic people," Sam says, "but I have always been impressed by how they take everything seriously." Sam's learning now allows him to consider the Russian perspective more thoroughly, particularly when he works on Sino-Russian relationship in his Global China Studies courses.
As local students headed overseas, Mexican student José Amador Jaime went to China to get a taste of the exciting startup scene there. An aspiring entrepreneur, the second-year technology and management dual degree major wants to start his own business. He was attracted to the two-week programme at Tsinghua University because it allowed him to visit some startups and entrepreneurship hubs in Beijing. "Chinese Government invested a great deal in innovation," José explains, "and China is no longer just the world's OEM that merely copies technologies developed by others." The new insights have replaced his past stereotypes about China.
While studying abroad is a popular option for many HKUST undergraduates, the costs associated with going overseas may be a hurdle for some. To encourage students to hit the new Silk Road, the Wong Chak Chui Charitable Foundation made a new pledge to set up the Wong Chak Chui One-Belt-One-Road Enrichment Scholarship to help students defray the costs of participating in academic exchange programmes, internship, competitions, conferences and community projects in Belt and Road countries.
Mr Roland Wong, Director of the Foundation, hopes that students' effort to broaden their horizon will help them become internationally minded leaders for Hong Kong. Indeed, the generous gift helps HKUST train young people who are curious about different peoples and cultures. Through taking part in immersion activities, the scholarship recipients will be able to develop cultural understanding and sensitivity that are important attributes for thriving in tomorrow's world.