From HKU’s Class of 2014: Advice from the Graduates & Alumni

May 10, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

Every year, close to 10 000 (give or take 1000?) students graduate from The University of Hong Kong. Every year, approximately the same number of students enter. As these thousands of graduates leave, they take with them the wisdom they’ve accumulated over the last three or four years – advice valuable to every student who will soon follow in their footsteps. They’ve been through all the ups and downs: the infuriating job applications, feeling livid over seat hogging in the library, struggling with their GPAs, trying to balance academia while enjoying their college freedom and social lives…you name it.

As this academic year comes to a close, we decided to ask them what the rest of us should know before we graduate, and compiled a few common, golden tips from them for us to keep in mind as we get through the coming years. No matter how far along you are in your HKU journey, their advice will most definitely apply. Happy reading everyone, and congratulations, seniors!

 GRADES AND ACADEMICS
Grades are important, there’s no denying it. But there are always other things you can use to prove yourself with, so never get too worried. Work hard and push yourself (after you finish procrastinating, of course), but always remember that the most important aspect of your university life won’t be your grades. Years down the line, you’ll look back and remember your experiences that you had – especially the ones that prepared you for practical life.

That said, also always remember to develop a work ethic. It’ll take you a long way, especially once you begin your professional life and your GPA might make a pivotal difference in certain internships and jobs, for a few select majors in particular. It’s all about finding the perfect balance.

COURSES & PLANNING AHEAD
Your freshman year is more important than you think: take out a day to create a tentative plan for your years in university. If you’re really worried, then do extensive research on what your degree of desire entails, and list out the courses you want to take – especially common cores. It’ll save you tons of time, and give you the right amount of direction.

Group work is extremely important – make diverse groups, and you’ll achieve the learning outcomes that are necessary. If you’re always working in your circle of friends, you’ll never widen your perspective.

University is probably the only time in your life where you have the freedom to choose courses based on your interest. Once you start working, you’ll rarely have time to explore fields beyond your job, so be sure to pick your courses not solely on whether they’ll get you good numbers, but also on whether they’ll develop your thinking or fulfill your interests.

Don’t take common cores for granted – they might not be your compulsory faculty courses or the hardest courses, they widen your knowledge and broaden your perspective. People mistakenly assume that common cares give you easy grades, but try your best to learn from them as much as you can.

Most importantly, go into university with an idea of where you see yourself after you graduate: it’ll keep you focused and inspired, and it’ll be the foundation to your guide on deciding how to achieve your goals.

TRAVEL
Travel, travel, travel.

 Whether its backpacking close by to somewhere you’ve never been, or exploring Asia on a budget, you’ll never get as much free time as you have now. Use it wisely: Hong Kong is a great base to travel around Asia, so make the most of those long weekends and reading weeks.

CEDARS AND EXTRA-CURRICULARS
When in university, CEDARS is your parent (especially if you’re a non-local). Know them well…it helps.

Spend your time taking part in extra-curriculars; have a life outside your academic one. University will be the best time for you to spend doing things you really want – whenever you want. Non-locals, the language barrier is understandably immense, and a major drawback to fully immersing yourself in HKU’s “society” life, but try spending your time doing those things away from the typical society system. And if you speak Putonghua or Cantonese and you find yourself interested in a society, give it a try! You might end up pleasantly surprised…

FIND A MENTOR IN ONE OF YOUR PROFESSORS
Befriend at least one or two of your professors, and definitely find a professor who will be your career mentor. This will go a long way.

BE A GOOD FRIEND
A sincere/honest friend is better than 100 casual friends

“Show me your close friends and I can tell who you are” – this is truer than you’ll realize. Choose your friends wisely and surround yourself with people who are honest and sincere. It’s always better to have one true friend instead of ten casual ones, and don’t forget that saying: you meet your closest friends in university. Be interesting and nice yourself, and help anyone who needs it.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES
These aren’t as easy to find as they seem. Be prepared to fight for jobs, and to face what might seem like a long list of rejections. Don’t lose hope though, and work extremely hard on job applications, especially in your final year. Stay as calm as you can during the entire process, it helps to know that everyone around you is going through the exact same thing.

COMPARISON
Try not to compare yourself to others: this might be easier said than done, but ultimately you have no idea what kind of opportunities others have had or how much they’ve worked for it. Be grateful for what you have, don’t underestimate others, and focus on bettering yourself. It’s always what lies ahead that deserves your attention.

ENJOY YOURSELF
Every single senior emphasised this point: just enjoy yourself. Your three or four years here will finish in the blink of an eye, so be outgoing, be spontaneous, and laugh (and party!) as much as you can. You’ll make unforgettable, raw memories, and it’ll help you let go of all that work-induced stress.

Use your weekday nights well – go out and do something crazy occasionally; walk around the city, or go on a night hike – just be spontaneous. Those plans are, more often than not, always the best ones. And once you start working, the only time can enjoy weekdays only if the next day is a public holiday.

Say yes more often, and try things that scare you. Also, eat, because food here is great.

LAST REMINDERS
Keep trying to get best out of everything, and use your time here to mould your life the way you want it; shape yourself to be the kind of person you want to be. When people say that university is the time to find out who you are, and what defines you, it might sound bizarre, trite, and cliched. Regardless, it’s true. Use this time to observe yourself, your reactions, and understand the kind of person you are. Define your priorities, and avoid following others aimlessly.

 Keep learning – university is a comfort zone, and your time here is limited. There’s always so much to learn, and at the end of your short journey here, you’ll wish you could stay just a little while longer, learn just a little bit more.

And lastly, don’t try to be too luxurious – you will live the luxuries once you earn. They’ll taste sweeter then, too.

With that, congratulations once again to the University of Hong Kong’s graduating class of 2014 – we wish you all the best in your upcoming endeavours and adventures, wherever they may take you.

Disclaimer: A massive, massive thank you to all those seniors and graduates who took out the time to help me with this article by giving me their unique and indispensable advice – you all know who you are, and you’re all amazing.

Disclaimer #2: Our hKUDOS editor, Karen Cheung, is also finishing up her third year this semester, and proceeding to travel and study over the next year. Karen, thank you for everything – we love you. (Click here to read her blog)

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