A Decision without Regret

‘Coming to Cambridge to pursue a master’s degree in cultural studies right after my bachelor in Global Business Studies surprises many of my friends’ Cynthia Ng remarked. She is the first recipient of Ho Tim Foundation Scholarships at Hughes Hall which is a full award for S.H. Ho College graduates who are enrolled in a Master’s degree in any subject at Hughes Hall at The University of Cambridge. ‘It seems to be unrelated to what I have been doing and my career pursuit in finance industry. For me, it is a journey I embark solely following my passion.’

Over the undergraduate years, the vibrant course design and student mix in Global Business Studies taught Cynthia to see the world in perspectives and appreciate different cultures. ‘I realize understanding people is the key to success in business, as well as many other areas of pursuit; and so I set my heart to be a humble scholar to unravel stories about people, society and cultures.’ Out of her passion in cultural studies, she chose the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge for her one-year postgraduate study.

Academic life at Cambridge is very intense and stimulating. Most postgraduate classes are conducted in seminar style, which requires students to complete the reading assignments and bring up meaningful issues to discuss in the interactive lectures. Cynthia struggled a bit at the beginning since she did not have a strong background in social science like many of her classmates did. ‘It took a few sessions for us to warm up and after that classes have been ever inspiring—I learn a lot from the inputs from a diverse yet intellectually curious class. I still remember at the faculty orientation day, I was stunned to have met my Israeli classmate and heard about her research about rhetoric used in Huainanzi (淮南子).’

As to college and social life at Cambridge, Cynthia’s favourite part is definitely the unique Oxbridge tradition: college formals. ‘Quite different from the high-table dinner we used to have at S.H. Ho College or other Colleges at CUHK, formal halls in Cambridge are not restricted to students affiliated to that college only.’ In fact, the whole idea of having formals in Cambridge is to invite friends to students’ respective colleges and be invited to others’ colleges so as to mingle with scholars from all kinds of disciplines. ‘My college tutor reminded me on the first day to rehearse how to describe my area of studies and research interest in a simple and comprehensible manner, because we are expected to do that almost every time we start a new conversation,’ she added. She guessed the reason behind the arrangement was to encourage students to socialize in proper yet friendly settings and enables knowledge sharing.

During the term time, Cynthia and her friends joined a myriad of activities organized by Hughes Hall and the university such as the Michaelmas Term Concert performed by Cambridge Graduate Orchestra, the Apple Day at Cambridge Botanical Garden, etc. They also celebrated the British festival—Bon Fire Night—and played their own fireworks in the green. ‘I am really blessed to be able to spend a year at Cambridge. Here I am inspired intellectually, while at the same time its proximity with London connects me to all kinds of exciting things happening!’ she added.

Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. The U.S. first lady Michelle Obama also recognized the importance of ‘travelling ten thousand miles instead of reading ten thousand books’ in her speech to an audience of Chinese and American students of Peking University in March last year: ‘Studying abroad isn’t just a fun way to spend a semester; it is quickly becoming the key to success in our global economy.’ In her mind, getting ahead in today’s workplaces does not solely lie in strong academic performance, but ‘having real experience with the world beyond your borders—experience with languages, cultures and societies very different from your own.’