I had my graduation! It’s officially over now! I’m no longer a student! …I’m really going to miss it… 😦 University changed me for the better, not because of my course, but because of the experiences of moving away, living by myself and meeting new people.
Education is clearly rather different in the West and the East. Focusing on Hong Kong and the UK, the pressure in Hong Kong to do well is far greater than in the UK. Children do many more exams and from an earlier age. According to my boyfriend, children are ranked in their classes from best to worst (I couldn’t disagree with this more) and some primary schools want to see how clever the child is before they let them attend.
I want to talk about the ideas and attitudes that British and Hong Kong people have when going to any university in general, but maybe other countries will fit into what I am saying. I have no experience of the education system in Hong Kong. I can only talk about what friends have told me.
Here are 3 stories from my boyfriend (Hong Kong born but lives in the UK), myself (lived in the UK all my life) and my friend (Moved from Hong Kong a few months ago to attend university in the UK) about the decisions when it comes to the last part of education; university.
My boyfriend was living in the UK when it was time to choose a university, and he applied to the 2 in his home town. His parents didn’t go with him to open days or look at the universities. All they did was tell him which course he was allowed to do, not considering the fact he may not enjoy it, not want to do it as a career and most of all, he may be quite bad at it! He wanted to study Business or ICT. They chose for him Accounting and refused to sign guarantor papers for the fees and his rent unless he did what they said. My boyfriend has told me it is because they thought it “sounded better”. He had some huge arguments with his parents about moving into halls of residence. They didn’t want him to go because they lived a bus ride from the university he got into. Money saving was more important than the experiences you can gain from university. I admit for many people there is nothing they can do but save money. With the rising costs of university, people aren’t being able to leave home. But my boyfriend had the money to do it and he wanted to do it.
My parents expected me to go to university like they did, and that was fine because I expected myself to go too. It just felt like something you do, in the same way you progress through school. I always knew what course I wanted to take, a subject I loved, and my parents were more than happy for me to take whatever I wanted. They took days off work and drove me to various universities all over the country. They helped me decide on the pros and cons of each university, the city or town it was in, the location and the course. They gave me advice, but not once did they tell me where they wanted me to go. They didn’t want to influence that decision because it was mine to make, even though I’m hopeless at decision making! I think I picked the university they thought was the best for me anyway. They also supported me financially by paying for my fees, so that I would only have to cover rent and food and I wouldn’t have to take out a loan. I know I’m lucky, because a lot of parents couldn’t afford to shell out £3,000 a year.
My good friend recently moved from Hong Kong to the UK. She really wanted to move here and is currently studying at university. However, she had also applied for a course at a Hong Kong University. While she didn’t want to stay in HK, she was convinced that the course in would mean better job prospects because it was a slightly more highly regarded university. While this may be true in Hong Kong (I don’t know for sure), in the UK this isn’t such a big issue. Oxbridge may initially look appealing to employers, a 1st degree at a middle of the range uni is far better than a 3rd at Oxford, and probably easier to achieve. She was then extremely upset when she didn’t get into the Hong Kong university, or her first choice of course (this is understandable) and is planning on doing this degree, then applying for a different degree once she has finished, then doing further higher education courses afterwards. Now she is here in the UK, I think she has lightened up a bit, but she still seems desperate to be better than everyone else.
In my opinion…
…of course you want to get a good degree, you don’t want to waste all the money spent to come away with nothing to show for it, and you want to get a good job eventually, but university is so much more than working. It’s about learning to be independent, buying your own food, cleaning for yourself, socialising with new and different people, managing your own time and money, experiencing a new place, discovering yourself, and most of all having fun! You will have a life time of working ahead of you. You might as well have some fun while you can. University should be the best 3 years of your life.
What are your thoughts? What do you think is the most important reason for going to university?