There is a Reading Week in the middle of each semester at HKU, during which students are not required to attend lectures. And here I am, typing, on the first day of the Reading Week of my second semester of law studies.
General University Life
Time literally flies at university as there are many things you can choose to do. There is a saying that there are five must-dos (大學五件事) in universities, namely, “Studying (讀書), Dating (拍拖), Living in a hall (or dormitory) (住Hall), Running for the Executive Committee of a society (上莊), and Doing apart-time job (做part-time)” I was once determined to achieve all the above in my university life, before I truly understood the idea behind the saying.
The cornerstone of being at a university is self-autonomy. Unlike secondary schools, you are given many choices: you can choose to live in a hall, you can choose your lecture timetable, and you can even choose not to attend lectures. The only principle is: everyone has equally 24 hours a day and it is all up to you to choose how the hours are spent. I personally am running the Executive Committee of the Law Association, believing I can improve my social skills during my term in office.
A clear aim is therefore needed for a university student. With all the choices around you, if you do not have a goal to envisage, you will waste a lot of time following stereotyped roles that others claim you should do as a university student, instead of doing what you really want to do.
Being a HKU student
There has been an interesting phenomenon of HCY students of deliberately not choosing HKU for their tertiary education. It is perhaps due to a general impression that HKU students are arrogant and over pragmatic.
To defend such a saying, I would say students here are sensibly down-to-earth instead. As mentioned, universities offer you too many choices than your time can afford, so university students should be able to clarify their aims and achieve them through effective ways so as to save time. To achieve this, students choose to spend their time only on things they are interested in. This isn’t being practical realistic, but pragmatic under the time constraints.
There is no doubt that you cannot find many true friends in universities, but it is unfair to conclude students here are particularly generally cocky. I find HKU students more willing to socialize, which makes it easier for one to get to know more people around campus. It is normal that only a small proportion of schoolmates you meet can be your true friends while many others remain acquaintances (so called hi-bye friends) – after all, what makes people become your true friends is that the time you have spent with each other and the bonding you have built throughout; neither meeting more friends nor a person’s attributes such as being too proud or too humble will help you cement a profound friendship.
As a matter of fact, I come across many traditional elite secondary school students on campus, but contrary to what some HCYers’ expectation, I have not seen any cases of one looking down on a person because of his/her non-prestigious background. My schoolmates are no different to students from other universities – we too skip lectures, we too dislike examinations, we too are just university students. Such a distinction between HKU students and non-HKU students is actually a product of people’s stereotyping.
Being a law student
Law studies are very intense. Unlike any other subjects in a university, there is a lot of reading every week and it is nearly impossible to finish everything and get enough sleep. But when you like what you are studying, it does not constitute trouble. Of course, it will double the suffering when it’s the other way round.
I will have to admit that my academic standing in law school is not very satisfactory. Indeed, the competition here is very fierce, but I understand this is the cruelty of society and that I have to work harder to prevent being eliminated. However, this does not justify any excuses for anyone belittling yourself, thinking “I cannot do it as people out there are too smart”. Several seniors from HCY are doing pretty well in this law school, one of whom is now at Oxford University for a one-year exchange.
My message here is, you should always have a clear aim to pursue. No matter what kind of pressure you might face in the process: be it biased opinions from others, a sense of inferiority towards stronger people, or the cruelty of life, look further to the point you conceive, and just reach for it. Through this, you will ensure your time is well spent on things you really want to do and you will eventually succeed.
Finally, best wishes to you all!