Lew Zi Syuen has lived in five different countries in the first 10 years of his life. The quintessential third culture kid, originally from Malaysia, attended international school before he decided to study in Hong Kong. Today, he’s enrolled at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), working towards his dream to forge a career in this bustling financial hub after graduating, and maybe start his own business too.
Hong Kong has many charms — this, Lew knows well. Apart from its strategic location, Lew believes that the opportunities and connections in one of the world’s leading international financial centres are unrivalled. Only two hours by flight to China, home to the most legendary and instructive entrepreneurial success stories today, Hong Kong makes an ideal study abroad destination for a business major like Lew.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to study in Hong Kong and whether you’ll need to be fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, here’s what the 21-year-old had to tell us in an email interview:
Tell us about yourself. What made you decide to study abroad?
I am Malaysian by nationality, but I am also very much a third culture kid. For the first 10 years of my life, I lived in five different countries because of my parent’s job. As a result, I have always been enrolled in an international school, allowing me to gain knowledge and exposure from different cultures.
That period of my life has definitely transformed me into someone who loves travelling and exploring life in different countries. By choosing to study abroad, I knew that I would be opening myself up to a broader range of opportunities, along with the ability to continue travelling and exploring different cultures.
Why did you choose to study in Hong Kong? What do you like most about studying there?
I chose to study in Hong Kong because I believed that it was located in an extremely strategic location in between the Southeast Asian countries, East Asian countries, as well as mainland China. As a business student, I believed that the opportunity and connections here would be extremely valuable in the future.
My favourite aspect of studying in Hong Kong so far is how I am able to visit other countries so easily. In the first two years there, I managed to go on a day trip to Macau and go on a short trip to Taipei.
Why did you choose HKUST, and what are the best aspects of studying there?
There are a variety of reasons why I choose HKUST, but for me, it boiled down to three main reasons. These include the abundance of major choices and exchange opportunities, employability ranking, and tuition fees. Prior to entering university, I wasn’t too sure about what major I wanted to pursue within the business field. I knew that I was more of a qualitative person, but I still wanted the opportunity to explore before making any decisions.
As such, this is where HKUST comes into play. The first time I heard about HKUST was through a student ambassador sharing at my high school. Because of that moment, I was able to learn a lot about the abundance of major choices within the HKUST business school as well as the many exchange partners and opportunities HKUST has to offer. This piqued my interest because it would allow me to have a taste of all the 10 different majors before I made my decision in my second year of university. At the same time, I also knew that by coming to HKUST, I wouldn’t have to forfeit my chance of experiencing what a US university would be like because I would be able to go on a semester exchange through the HKUST exchange programme.
We all strive to attend a top-ranked university; however, from a long-term point of view, our end goal is typically to get a job and kick off our career in a well-known company. With this in mind, one of the rankings I was super impressed with was the employability ranking. As of 2019, HKUST was ranked 10th in the Global University Employability Ranking. This showed that graduates from HKUST could also compete with those from Ivy Leagues in the US in terms of employability, a point that definitely stood out.
Lastly, the one factor that I’m sure everyone looks into is the tuition fees. In a nutshell, HKUST’s fee in comparison to its world rankings is a true bargain. As someone who applied to nine US universities and one Hong Kong university with seven acceptances total, the one phrase I always tell everybody is, “the tuition fees for one year in the US is roughly equivalent to three to four years in Hong Kong.” This exemplifies the stark difference in pricing, which is why my decision on this aspect was quite simple.
One of the best aspects of studying here that you definitely can’t get in other universities is the beautiful view of the ocean. If you haven’t taken a look, you definitely should go check it out now.
Tell us about your most memorable time at HKUST?
My most memorable times at HKUST are honestly just spending time with close friends, eating and chilling in the hall or even just chilling at night by the seaside listening to the ocean waves. The joy of waking up to an ocean view, studying hard, and then unwinding maybe with a jog near the seafront is definitely something that I’m sure will stick with all of us even after we graduate.
What advice do you have for others who want to study in Hong Kong or who may be interested in applying to the same course or university as you?
My first advice for upcoming university students is to definitely do your research on the university during those final few years of high school. Make sure you know what the university requires and looks for. My second advice would be to show that on top of your academic achievements, you are also a very well-rounded individual. This will definitely help you stand out in the application process.
Lastly, when writing your personal statement, make sure to let them know even more about who you are as an individual. Showcase your personality, values, etc., and don’t just write about what is already in your report card. A side note: a lot of people think that you need to know Mandarin and/or Cantonese to be able to study or live here; however that’s not the case at all, so don’t worry and just go for it!
What are your plans for the future?
Just like how I founded the Badminton Club in my high school and how I recently founded the Hong Kong Malaysian Student Association (HKMSA) in university, I aspire to start my own business in the future. While I seek for that gap in the market to achieve my dream, I will first be looking for a job here in Hong Kong after graduation. With a Hong Kong university degree, especially one from HKUST, I wouldn’t want to miss out on any good employment opportunity that comes my way.