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Scholarship enables teen with financial struggles to read computing abroad

True to its philosophy of providing equal opportunities to everyone, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University gave deserving students like him a chance to pursue further studies

With his father not able to work due to illness, Mr Srijan Srivastava (far left) would not have been able to pursue his studies overseas if not for The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Entry Scholarship. PHOTO: SRIJAN SRIVASTAVA

As a teen, Mr Srijan Srivastava had always had a goal to attend a reputable research university. But he had to abandon his dream when his father had a paralysis attack in 2017.

Recalls the 23-year-old: “My high school years were literally the hardest I had ever studied, as I was determined to ace the challenging Joint Entrance Examination (in India, where I’m from) and enter an engineering college. But life had other plans for me.”

With the sole breadwinner of the family out of action, the then-18-year-old had to step up and work part-time to support his family instead of studying for his exams. In addition, most of the family’s savings that had been painstakingly set aside for his education had been wiped out in a matter of months.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University is centrally located in the city and boasts a modern and beautiful campus. PHOTO: THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

In the midst of the challenges, Mr Srijan saw a glimpse of hope. There was still another shot for him to achieve his academic ambition.

He says: “I then found out about the scholarship schemes offered by other countries and cities, among which Hong Kong stood out as the most promising. The Undergraduate Entry Scholarship with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) was simple to apply for – the application and interview could be done online easily – and all I had to do was keep my grades up in school.”

PolyU, an equal opportunity advocate, offers various types of scholarships to local and non-local students who are outstanding not just in grades, but also those with special talents such as in sports or leadership. The university will also identify students with great potential – something that it has consistently been doing over the years – and develop them to their fullest abilities.

There are also scholarships for students from under-represented nationalities, as well as for applicants from the Belt and Road regions such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia and Thailand.

For Mr Srijan, PolyU’s Department of Computing appealed greatly to his love for computer science – cultivated from young under the mentorship of his late uncle – and desire to become a researcher in this field.

He says: “My seniors and other former students told me that PolyU and the Department of Computing actively promote inter-departmental research and offer opportunities to participate in research projects on a part-time basis under the guidance of notable professors. Equally important, the university has integrated a robust Work-Integrated Education (WIE) component into its undergraduate curriculum.”

PolyU is the first tertiary institution in Hong Kong to incorporate a mandatory WIE component into its undergraduate curriculum, which allows students to pick up precious work experience, expand professional networks and prepare them for their careers after graduation.

Also, international students with their WIE experience will assimilate into Hong Kong's multi-cultural work environment seamlessly.

A tertiary gem in the heart of Asia

Like many cities, Hong Kong was greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. But those days are over as the Pearl of the Orient welcomes students and talents back into the city with favourable policies and immense resources.

This return to normalcy is good news for the Hong Kong economy, as analysts predicted strong growth this year.

As such, it is perfect timing for those looking to work and study in Hong Kong. Students will be definitely greeted with opportunities upon their successful application into PolyU, thanks to Hong Kong’s advantageous position in Asia and beyond.

The cosmopolitan city is also known to be a melting pot of cultures, which helped Mr Srijan adjust quickly. Despite it being his first time overseas, in a foreign culture, he made friends with fellow students from Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

These interactions with peers from other nationalities and ethnicities dissolved his unfounded worries about the language barrier and cultural differences.

Mr Srijan outside the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo, where he went on an exchange programme. PHOTO: SRIJAN SRIVASTAVA

On track to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree with honours in Computing in July this year, he has since gone on a fully funded exchange programme to the University of Waterloo in Canada; had a stint as an undergraduate researcher with PolyU’s Department of Applied Mathematics and even interned remotely with London-based software engineering company Instant Pickup on its sustainable projects.

And he plans to go even further by pursuing a PhD, “doing quality research for the betterment of society”, or even leading his own research project with real-life applications.

“I come from a lower-middle-class family in India, and I am studying in one of the costliest cities of the world,” he says. “Without PolyU and its scholarship scheme, I would have never achieved the dream I had never thought of while supporting my family. It really means a lot to me.”

He also adds that he remits home his salary from his part-time job on campus and also pays off a portion of the family’s debts using his scholarship grant.

At the top of her game

Mr Srijan is but one of the many international students at PolyU that have benefitted from the university’s diverse opportunities and its sharp eye for young talents.

Case in point: Ms Jeong Habin, a recent graduate is now working full-time as a management trainee under the Global Future Leaders Programme at Rosewood Hotel Group, which has a combined hotel portfolio of 41 hotels in 19 countries to date.

Ms Jeong Habin graduated from PolyU’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management in 2022 and is now working in Rosewood Hotel in Hong Kong. PHOTO: JEONG HABIN

Clinching such a coveted role was not sheer luck. The 23-year-old’s university education at PolyU’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) helped greatly, thanks to its long-standing reputation as a world-leading hotel and tourism school.

This year, PolyU is ranked 10th in the world under the Hospitality and Leisure Management category, according to the QS World University Rankings. This annual standing is based on an institution’s academic and employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, research impact and internationalism performance.

She recalls: “I had initially planned to study business but PolyU’s admissions talk opened my eyes to an interactive and dynamic learning environment in the university as well as the hospitality and tourism industry. It struck me how much I love travelling; anywhere in the world, I always pay attention to how a hotel works.”

True to her passion, the globetrotter hails from South Korea but had been studying in Indonesia. She was attracted to PolyU not only for its renowned SHTM course and accessibility, but also to the city of Hong Kong for its vibrance and opportunities at every turn, especially when the economy in Asia looks to be on an upward trajectory at the moment.

Ms Jeong (far right) is grateful that her experience from the SHTM Student Chapter of the Club Managers’ Association gave her exposure and opportunities to build connections. PHOTO: JEONG HABIN

Of course, Ms Jeong’s diverse experiences as an undergraduate impressed her current employer as well.

On campus, she served as an Internal Vice President at the SHTM Student Chapter of the Club Managers’ Association, a platform for its members to interact and learn from members of the private club industry. This means she organised various events such as site visits and career talks, while engaging with fellow club members and professionals.

“This helped my personal growth as I gained confidence in leading groups and public speaking, while making sure the events went as planned. There were also plenty of networking opportunities with managers from other multinational giants and professors, which helped me to find my first internship – The Hong Kong Country Club in 2019, with the food and beverage team – and enabled me to establish connections that would be useful for my future career,” she says.

In June 2021, five SHTM students, including Ms Jeong, were selected for the Elite Management Programme at Hotel ICON. Her stint lasted a year and three months, giving her the chance to learn the ropes across different departments. This equipped her with insightful knowledge, practical experience and the big-picture view of hotel management.

That same year, she served as a student delegate at the Young Hoteliers Summit, a student-led hospitality conference by Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, the top hospitality school in Switzerland. Through SHTM, Ms Jeong had the rare chance to attend the three-day online conference with talks by experts and professionals and learn from the best in the industry.

She participated in group work that culminated in a presentation on the real-world problem of retaining talents in the hospitality industry.

Thanking PolyU for “the golden opportunity", she says: “I got to meet students reading the same major as me from around the world and was able to work with them.” 

The learning journey continues

Students like Mr Srijan and Ms Jeong have clearly benefitted from PolyU’s programmes and have been given precious and unique opportunities to push their personal limits to fulfil their potential.

Despite the success of the programmes and initiatives, the university is always striving for better, in order to give its students wider opportunities.

Undergraduates now have their first academic year to think through their options before specialising in Year 2. PHOTO: THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

To keep pace with the evolving societal expectations of technological advancement and to enhance the competitiveness of its students, PolyU recently introduced a more flexible curriculum and new core modules.

The departmental scheme-based admission has been adopted from the academic year 2022/23 onwards. With this refreshed admissions scheme, undergraduates study common subjects from their department in the first year, which helps them make an informed decision on selecting their major in Year 2, except for some specialised programmes such as Bachelor of Science with honours in Nursing.

PolyU’s core curriculum has also been further enhanced with two new elements, Artificial Intelligence & Data Analytics, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Undergraduates can choose to declare a secondary major in either area and will take modules from their second year onwards. Students graduating with a secondary major will be awarded one award parchment, bearing both the title of their major programme and the secondary major.

Application for The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s 2023/24 entry is open till February 7, 2023. Submit your application here. Visit the website for more information.

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