Stellar skylines, exciting food and a host of friendly people are just a few things I experienced this summer during the Global Leaders Summer Programme in Hong Kong. In July I had the pleasure of spending a week at Hong Kong University following a scholarship entirely funded by the generosity of Ian McVeigh. Experiencing life beyond my home in England, this was a trip that allowed me to see a whole new aspect of the world, an opportunity I would not have had if it weren’t for the Joe and Marion McVeigh Travel Award.
As the first cohort to participate in a programme of this kind, I felt extremely privileged to have been accepted onto the scheme. As an undergraduate student from a low-income background, I have always desired a chance to study abroad but have struggled to fund this. After scouring the Study Abroad webpages, I stumbled upon this week-long programme that just so happened to be heavily funded by Ian, son of Joe and Marion McVeigh, who created this travel award in his parent’s honour. They hold an incredible sense of pride and passion for the University of Nottingham after his father, Joe, graduated here in 1940. A huge amount of gratitude and immense thanks are owed to Ian who funded my scholarship as I was able to immerse myself in a new culture and country, something I could not yet afford myself.
Studying an undergraduate degree in BA English, I am excited by the literature, history and culture of different countries and am considering teaching English as a foreign language, particular in East Asia. This trip has therefore been an incredible eye-opening experience to see the day-to-day life in Hong Kong and decide whether I would be able to adapt (I definitely think I can now!). The leadership course focussed on many different skills that could even lead into more managerial and business career paths that I had not previously considered. Listening to speakers who had completed a host of different degrees, some of whom were UoN alumni, inspired me to explore different avenues and not be afraid to take risks in my future career(s).
“It helped me tremendously in deciding that I want to work abroad when I graduate”
I first explored the University of Nottingham on an open day and immediately fell in love with the campus, my course and the extra opportunities that were offered like the societies, Advantage Award and Study Abroad. I was ecstatic when I achieved the A Level results required and quickly accepted my offer. Despite this, you can imagine my disappointment when I realised I wouldn’t be able to do a semester abroad due to a lack of funds. I think that this Global Leaders programme was a brilliant way for me to gain new skills, network with a variety of hard-working individuals and broaden my horizons. I hope that future students are equally able to benefit from such a scheme since it helped me tremendously in deciding that I want to work abroad when I graduate in 2019.
The summer school was simple to apply to as you only have to submit a few forms including a personal statement to emphasise why you are the right fit for the programme. The flights, accommodation, programme and food were fully funded and we received an allowance for buying our own food as well. Having this reduced monetary stress was the best thing I could have been given this summer as I was able to enjoy the city of Hong Kong and flourish in this new environment without any limitations. It was one of the times I felt I could participate in exactly what my (more financially stable) peers could do.
“Travelling around the city, visiting temple markets, eating street foods, speaking with locals and taking boat trips were some of the best moments I had on the trip”
The summer school focused on the question ‘How to make smart cities more inclusive’ and could not have been further from what I study daily. This was positive in pushing me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to visit different companies and organisations that contributed to this notion of modern inclusivity. Working at a university that overlooked a waterfall everyday was not a bad addition either! I was able to see the divide between rich and poor, which is vast in Hong Kong, and has increased my passion for voluntary work within the third sector. Travelling around the city, visiting temple markets, eating street foods, speaking with locals and taking boat trips were some of the best moments I had on the trip. I doubt it will be my last visit to Hong Kong- I am eager to visit the people I have met there in the future.
The highlight of my week was networking with other Nottingham alumni at a sit-down dinner where we tried traditional delicacies. I even ate a pig’s tongue for the first (and perhaps the last) time. It was a fantastic way to see the different kinds of jobs alumni do and the way they have integrated into a society where they may not speak the language. My views of working abroad have been consolidated through this experience as I got to see first hand the amazing lives these people currently lead. My top tip for anyone seeking out a similar scheme is to make the most of every moment by chatting to the students at Hong Kong university and not being afraid to try new things. After all, how often are you able to study at an international university and explore the sights of a new city without the worries of money?
“It is an unforgettable experience that will increase your confidence and independence”
As a closing remark, I encourage anyone reading this to apply to the next Global Leaders programme as it is an unforgettable experience that will increase your confidence and independence. It may even spark the travel bug inside you, if it hasn’t yet been released.
Lastly, to Ian McVeigh, I extend a huge thank you. Without your kindness I would not have been able to study abroad during my undergraduate degree. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity that has certainly motivated me to pursue new things that once seemed daunting but are actually exciting as well as being doorways to bigger and better things.