HKUST has been committed to enrolling students from around the world to foster campus diversity and advance internationalization. To continue broadening the non-local student mix, the University introduced a “Counselor Fly-in” program in 2018 to let high school counselors from Central Asia and Middle East have a deeper understanding of what opportunities HKUST can offer to their students. The program continued in March 2019 with some 30 high school counselors from nine Western European countries joining. Here we meet two students from Kazakhstan and Turkey who share with us what brought them to Hong Kong.
Fourth-year Biotechnology and Business student Kamila ABDRASSILOVA from Kazakhstan witnessed the increasing number of students from her home country – when she started, there were only seven and now the number has doubled to 14.
When it was time to make her choice for post-secondary schooling, Kamila did her homework in finding the university she wanted to attend. She was particularly concerned about the university’s academic and employability rankings, scholarship opportunities and whether it has a diverse student body. HKUST was number one in employability in Greater China, with rankings close to Harvard and Columbia, and abundant internship and exchange opportunities. As an IB graduate, Kamila could also secure a scholarship for full tuition and living expenses. After all, it didn’t take long for her to make the decision - choosing this young and innovative university.
But it was not all smooth sailing shortly after Kamila’s arrival. “At first it was hard moving to Hong Kong, I was missing my family and there were political problems in Kazakhstan that made me worried. Luckily I received support from the counseling and wellness center at HKUST which is free for students. This was an incredible help,” she recounts.
It was the open environment and people on a similar wavelength that helped the Almaty native settle seamlessly into life in Hong Kong and at the University. Kamila actively joined different organizations such as the Student Innovation in Global Health Technology (SIGHT), a group that allows her to come up with pragmatic solutions to current problems with other SIGHT members. Along the way, it helped enhance her design thinking and project management capabilities.
She also had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of California, Berkeley, where she not only enhanced her knowledge but also was able to discover and experience American culture. And she completed an internship at HSBC’s Hong Kong headquarters in Growth and Innovation. These precious experiences have helped her develop a global mindset, which is one of the most important skills to thrive in the future of work.
All these opportunities to progress herself have quickly made Kamila become an advocate for HKUST, helping to organize and lead a trip to her home nation to promote the University.
Year one Economics student Zeynep AYDIN from Turkey chose HKUST over Ivy League schools such as Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth College. That decision might seem unorthodox to many, but the forward thinker followed her heart to come to Hong Kong wishing to learn to be a successful entrepreneur in the growing markets of Asia.
Her interest in studying aboard stemmed from her passion for Model United Nations (MUN), an educational simulation and academic activity in which students can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and how the United Nations operates. Zeynep joined the MUN club in her school in ninth grade. She was so good at it that she created a start-up named MUN College that turned aspects of MUN into educational curriculums designed for first-timers that aim to raise 21st-century individuals who are adaptable, skillful and creative.
Given Zeynep’s strong desire to pursue entrepreneurship, when she was looking for overseas universities to attend, she was confident that she would fit perfectly into HKUST. Right now, Zeynep already felt right at home and has actively participated in many campus activities, while trying to meet academic requirements. “Campus life is super easy, and cultural difference was not a problem at all,” she says. “HKUST students are smart and global thinkers, they made me see the world from a whole new perspective and made me feel welcome.”
Although relatively new to HKUST, Zeynep has a piece of advice for non-local students who are pondering to study here. “One can always prepare from an academic point of view, but you need to be able to get ready to be independent, and you need to mentally prepare to be a confident and strong individual,” she says.
Kamila has another suggestion for newcomers. “Make the most of any opportunities to pursue extracurricular activities that help you build genuine friendships and a ‘family away from home’, and ensure you strike a healthy balance between studying and your social life.”
Graduating in 2020, Kamila already has an eye for a career in the healthcare or biotech industry in Asia. She is confident that majoring in Biotechnology and Business has equipped her with the required skills and knowledge that help her excel in the emerging field of biotech, and conjure up innovative products to improve our everyday life.