Life at a Foreign University: A Student’s Guide to Studying AE at HKUST

(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring you experiences of students from different foreign universities. How is life different in these countries? scholarships, loans, food, cultural experiences and what they are learning that is not academic)

— Srivatsav Swaminathan

I am currently a final year Aerospace Engineering student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). I completed my high school under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum in Mumbai and am now pursuing my degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Business Studies.

Like many others, even I was confused about my future career. Although I knew I wanted to study Aerospace Engineering, I wasn’t sure about the university or the city. Then, I found out about HKUST on the QS World Rankings list when I was looking for possible universities to apply to.

In 2018, after attending a face-to-face information session conducted by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment at the University of Mumbai, I learned more about the university. I applied in October and received my final offer in June.

To apply, just visit their official website. If you have any queries, there is a dedicated platform through which you can contact the student ambassadors of the university and get peer-to-peer services.

Documentation required for admission:

– Your personal statement

—Class 10 and 12 mark sheets (if you have not yet completed your school education, ask the school authorities to give you the expected marks)

– Recommendation letter

— Accreditation of extracurricular activities (certificates, endorsements, etc.)

— Scoring of English tests

Although I was sure of what I wanted to pursue, many people may not be entirely sure what career they want to choose. Therefore, it is always a good idea to study in universities that adopt a flexible and broad curriculum.

During my first year in college at the time, he encouraged us to try different introductory courses that help understand what interests him. This helped us understand if our chosen programs led us to the careers we could see ourselves pursuing in the future. This process helps you make an informed decision based on your interests without giving in to any kind of pressure. You can even change your major or drop out of a discipline at any point in your career.

Expand your options and portfolio

One tip I’d like to share is that while you’re building your profile, before you apply to a college, look for something that interests you, even remotely. For example, you might want to pursue engineering, but there’s no harm in trying a business case competition or even learning about fundamental psychology on the side. Your portfolio should not only focus on what you aspire to do in college, but what your interests are. Although I always wanted to enter the aviation industry, this did not stop me from participating in a case competition where I discussed the impacts of weather and climate change on agriculture. Even though it was different from my career, I enjoyed doing it.

Cultural similarities and differences

India and Hong Kong, both Asian countries, are similar in many ways. Life in both places is fast-paced and never boring. There is always something to do or places to explore. The city itself is amazing and there are spectacular areas to visit and the public transport system is reliable.

As a vegetarian, one of my parents’ main concerns was the availability of vegetarian food, a common concern with many Indian parents. However, rest assured that there are plenty of vegetarian options both on and off campus.

One of the main differences I noticed between Hong Kong and India is that in the former, you are encouraged to focus on much more than just academics. It is not limited to clubs or societies, here I can create my own start-up while pursuing my degree in aerospace engineering and my university will even help me with funding and support me in other things. In Hong Kong, I can do anything I’m interested in without any limitations and it doesn’t have to be limited to just aerospace related businesses.

Although school education in India is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of subjects, I still feel that more emphasis needs to be placed on activities outside the classroom for better holistic development apart from academics. Many schools hold events and competitions and encourage students to pursue their interests, and I think other schools should follow a similar pattern. During my first year, there was a slight learning curve that I had to adapt to and if more personal development was focused on the high school level in India, I could have been ahead of the curve faster.

Many of you reading this are probably in your final year as well, and you need to understand that if your grades go down, it’s not the end of the world. It’s important to learn from your mistakes and work harder next time and never give up until you reach your goal.

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