Rise From Failure – Discover Your True Calling (Episode 2)


Shelly Leung

MSocSc in Clinical Psychology, HKU

MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL

BSc in Biochemistry, HKUST


“Your major doesn’t define your future and you can do whatever you set your heart on”. We might have heard of this phrase numerous times. However, this statement has been overused to an extent where it becomes nothing but a cliché.

Following “A Day for Failure at HKUST”, we are going to share five science alumni stories on how they live out this statement, especially on how they picked themselves up after overcoming their limitations, and then went on to accomplish what had been deemed impossible.

If you are someone who has always wanted to follow your dream but never gained any traction, we hope that their stories could inspire you to search for your passions!

What major did you study at HKUST?

I did my major in Biochemistry with two minors in Bioengineering and Social Science. respectively.

What are you doing now? 

Clinical Psychologist

When is your defining moment in your career?

After graduating from HKUST, I went on to pursue a Master of Science in Cognitive Neuroscience degree in University of College London. I became deeply interested in learning about the mind, brain and behaviour. Upon completing the master degree, I had my first full-time job as a research assistant in studying mental health issues in Hong Kong. I had the valuable chance of interviewing people from different socioeconomic backgrounds about their mental health conditions. I saw mental health issues among Hong Kong citizens were more pervasive than I thought of, yet, they received less awareness than they should.  That was my decisive moment on the path to promote mental health awareness and help individuals develop and understand their psychological needs.

Have you ever had moments of tough times, failures or adversity in the journey of pursuing your passions? How did you handle that and move on?

I first learnt about Psychology and developed a growing interest in this subject when I was in secondary school. I wanted to major in Psychology in university.  I felt lost after I failed to get into Psychology which  was my first choice for university’s major at that time. With much disappointment, I was not sure if I would ever return to my interest one day.  I took a detour in biochemistry at HKUST, while sparing no effort to learn and explore other things during my three years of undergraduate study. In particular, I gained a better understanding of Biochemistry and related sciences; I made new friends at Residential Hall; I participated in drama productions; I went on an exchange to Korea as well as volunteered in Cambodia and China. After all these years, I was more determined to resume my path in Psychology even though it would be a long journey without any prerequisites.  I pursued to apply for a master degree in clinical psychology knowing the entry to the program is highly competitive.  My trial and error continued despite my first two applications to the program were rejected.

What advice would you give to your fellow classmates for pursuing their goals and dreams?

Confidence and perseverance were my values I held onto during tough times.  I found myself looking inwardly through self-understanding, self-exploration and self-reflection helpful when I was dealing with challenges and failures.  The more I reflected upon my failures, the more I learnt about myself which helped me to adapt to the environment and gain exposure to other opportunities. When I looked back on my long journey in searching for my lifelong career, I realized that every moment of adversity shaped who I am today. If I became a clinical psychologist earlier, I might not have the confidence, maturity or determination as I have now.

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