It has been three years since the alumni profiling initiative was launched in the summer of 2005. The alumni selected were a combination of candidates that cuts across different backgrounds, age groups and professions, in order to present the multi-faceted character of the Cambridge community. So far, 13 alumni have been interviewed.
The alumni profiling initiative was introduced to achieve several aims. Firstly, we believe these profiles will play a part in portraying the Cambridge community in Hong Kong to the general public. Secondly, we hope the graduates' stories will inspire the bright and promising perspective students in Hong Kong to study in Cambridge. Thirdly, it is our wish to strengthen ties within the local Cambridge network by increasing our understanding of one another.
I am most grateful to my fellow Editorial Committee members, who have dedicated their time to implementing this profiling initiative. From interviewing alumni, writing the profile articles, to assisting the editing work and making suggestions, each has made valuable contribution to the final product. My comrades are (in alphabetical order): Kitty Chan (Fitzwilliam, 2001), Kelvin Cheung (Homerton, 1999), Sunny Chow (New Hall, 1995), Pauleen Ma (Robinson, 2001), Ronald Ma (Sidney Sussex, 1988), Cindy Wong (Newnham, 2002), and Gabriel Wong (Trinity, 1999).
Many thanks go to the featured Cantabrigians, who, despite their busy schedules, agreed to spend time to be interviewed and to give comments on the profile articles. Finally, special thanks to Dr. Dominic Chan (Trinity, 1988), who is the driving force behind the profiling initiative, and has given a lot of assistance to the publication of the profile articles.
Joy Shan Kung (Newnham, 1989)
Joy Shan Kung (Newnham, 1989) was filled with “a lot of romantic preconceptions” when she entered Cambridge to read English as an undergraduate. Currently working as a freelance writer for the arts and culture monthly magazine “Muse”, Joy Shan shares with us her transition from literature to journalism.
When Joy Shan Kung (n?e Lam) enrolled for a place at Newnham College to study English, she had no inkling that she would eventually go into journalism. Despite being raised in a family with deep affiliations with the profession – both her parents were journalists who co-founded the Hong Kong Economic Journal – she went to Cambridge filled not with journalistic ambitions, but with “a lot of romantic preconceptions”. Many writers whose work she read hailed from Cambridge; in particular, a number of prominent female writers – Virginia Woolf, A. S. Byatt, among others – were associated with Newnham, at a time before the university awarded degrees to women. It was this reputation as a literary greenhouse that attracted Joy Shan, which, she admitted, also brought a lot of pressure, as one tried to live up to the expectations. As an undergraduate, Joy Shan counted Dr Germaine Greer among her supervisors, who “constantly pushed us to voice our views, which had to be backed up by thorough reading”. During her time at Cambridge, Joy Shan wrote for Varsity as well as for college and Chinese Society publications. “And yet, because journalism was kind of in my blood, it came to me quite naturally, and it didn’t occur to me then that journalism was my calling,” she said.
The key to journalism: “Just start writing”
Jes Nielsen (St. Edmunds, 1998-2001; Sidney Sussex 2002-2004) had a clear ambition to become a journalist – a foreign correspondent in particular – even before reading a BA in Social and Political Sciences (SPS), and later on an MPhil in Chinese Studies at Cambridge. He shares with us how his Cambridge education and unique background facilitated his pursuit in becoming a foreign correspondent for a leading Danish newspaper.
The Hon Chief Justice Mr. Andrew Li
The Hon Chief Justice Mr. Andrew Li (Fitzwilliam, 1971) is the first appointed Chief Justice of Hong Kong since the handover in 1997. He is well respected for his impartiality and his continuous efforts in maintaining the rule of law. He tells us of his fond memories of Cambridge.
Attitude in life
He is indeed a living example of this.
As a teenager, the CJ aspired to be a court-room lawyer and firmly set his goal to read law in Cambridge after finishing his A Levels in Repton School in Derbyshire in 1966. But before moving to Fitzwilliam College, he spent around nine months travelling around the world to broaden his horizons as well as working as a journalist in the Far Eastern Economic Review where he wrote about Hong Kong affairs.
Daily Encounters with Life and Death
Prof. Anthony P. C. Yim (Queen’s College, 1978) is renowned in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Looking back in his university days, he recalled how Cambridge had paved the way for him to achieve his success in his field.
Prof. Yim was already determined to become a surgeon at a very young age when he realized that he was gifted with a pair of fine hands. This determination was strengthened by the influence of his uncle, who was also a doctor. ”It is very rewarding to be able to save lives directly with your own hands”, Prof. Yim said. After graduating from Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, he went to study in the UK for his sixth form and later entered Cambridge to study medicine, with an aim to specialise in surgery.
Bright sparks will fly
Garnet Kin-Lic Chan (Christ's, 1993) read Natural Sciences as an undergraduate. He was reputedly the youngest fellow in modern times when he was elected to a fellowship at Christ's in 1998. He is currently an assistant professor of chemistry at Cornell University. He is a fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan and David and Lucile Packard foundations, and is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Career award.
An early start
During his secondary schooling he was introduced to the English tradition of education through his mathematics and chemistry teachers, Sophie Wrangham and Caroline Crone, who studied at Cambridge and Bristol respectively. He was especially drawn to the history of mathematics at Cambridge and the romantic and tragic story of the collaboration between Hardy and the Indian genius Ramanujan in number theory. Thus, when the time came to apply for university, it was a natural choice to look towards the river Cam.
It is not surprising that many will have doubts about her decision to opt out of the EAS, which guaranteed her a place in some of the most competitive subjects in the territory without having to sit for the HKALE. Yet Addy looked beyond exams. Then a student from Ying Wa Girls' School, a local school in Hong Kong, she attended the Cambridge application seminars held by the Friends of Cambridge in Hong Kong for two consecutive years and was deeply impressed by the unique experiences and opportunities Cambridge has to offer. Inspired by two of her seniors, who also went to Cambridge after finishing their HKALE, she decided to further her academic pursuits there.
She did not regret her decision. "If you opt out of the EAS, you can still get in a local university after the HKALE when it turns out you have not secured a place in Cambridge. It didn't work the other way round - taking up the EAS would never take me to Cambridge. Cambridge is too good an opportunity to be missed." While many of her peers were happy to walk away from the notoriously difficult HKALE, she took it as an intellectual challenge, or more, as a phase for personal growth. Her discussions with seniors resulted in the conclusion that the HKALE indeed added a lot to one's educational experiences, "I see a gap between those who have actually gone for the HKALE and those who have not. It may be tough, but the more efforts you put in, the better the reward." Her hard work definitely paid off, giving her a chance to study away from home, which would not have materialised otherwise.
Endless Endeavours to Embrace Experiences
Karen Cheuk (Trinity, 1999) never stops staying active. She continues her multilateral pursuits alongside her career, and now heads to Wharton for an MBA.
Experience is one of Karen's life-long goals. A recent graduate with a modest background, she went to Maryknoll Convent School, a subsidised local school in Hong Kong. She studied Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge on the Prince Philip Scholarship.
Even since high school, Karen has been active, captaining her school's Chinese debating team while working as the Public Relations Officer of the Hong Kong Outstanding Students Association. With her interest in socio-political affairs, she worked one summer as a District Executive for the Central & Western District Board.
Karen chose Cambridge partly because of the exposure it offers - punting, rowing, May balls, travel, European exposure, just to name a few. "While I had never visited Cambridge before studying here, I talked to the undergraduates there and was thrilled to hear the way they live." Karen recalled, "A genuine fondness for Cambridge developed, which, without doubt, influenced my choice."
Getting the Best of Both Worlds
"At that time, I wanted to do science because I wanted to do something that could benefit people's daily lives. I liked doing research. Although I had always had a passion for music, and I really wanted to do some studies in it, I knew studying music in a university would be very different from studying it in a music school. I thought then that if I could major in science and do a minor in music, it would be ideal."
The Cambridge Offer
Big Fish: from Small to Large Ponds
The Hon. Wong Yan Lung, SC, JP (Magdalene, 1983) is today one of Hong Kong's most successful barristers, and the youngest appointed Secretary for Justice in Hong Kong. He tells of his survival story at Cambridge and how he emerged to become a different person.
Throughout his secondary school years at Queen's College in Hong Kong, Wong Yan Lung never saw himself going to an overseas university. With his mind firmly set on the law, his goal then was to attend the law school at the University of Hong Kong. "In those days there were not as many scholarships available as there are now. I came from a poor family, so overseas education was not an option."
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