With the British Government’s ever increasing tuition fees looking set to rise again soon, debt continues to be a problem that every student faces. Extending your degree by studying abroad for a year only adds to that debt. All is not lost, though. If you’re lucky and forward thinking, you can mitigate at least some of the cost. The British Council, in particular, offer a generous scholarship that I have benefitted greatly from.
A year abroad is valuable despite its cost: it helps develop new skills, makes you grow as a person and shows employers that you’re adventurous and confident in new situations. With this in mind, there is a clear need to balance the material, monetary loss of studying away from home with the immaterial gains that you will come away with after a year immersed in an entirely different culture.
In my case, I was lucky enough to hear through word of mouth that the British Council offers a yearly scholarship to U.K. citizens looking to study in Hong Kong. Approximately sixteen of these scholarships, each worth a generous £3,000, are awarded each year, encouraging closer academic and cultural links between the two countries.
The application process is straightforward, although does include a short Skype interview with representatives from the Council. With the time difference to Hong Kong, that meant getting up nice and early to prepare, but it was a good experience! Other than that, you just need to provide all the usual details: academic transcripts, references and such. More details can be found here.
If you’re successful – and I really hope that if you’re coming to Hong Kong, you’ll take the risk – then the award is a very welcome helping hand. With such a substantial amount of money, it eases some of the pressure of budgeting for accommodation, or flights halfway around the world. If you’d already been saving up for a year abroad, that can be either put away for a rainy day or, better yet, be spent maximising the opportunities you have abroad. Whether that means that you’ll be travelling all over Asia and using Hong Kong as a launchpad to the rest of the continent, or paying for language lessons to better immerse yourself in the city itself, it’s an incredibly large amount of cash that you should put to good use!
Once we had settled into life in Hong Kong, about a month after arrival, I finally got a chance to meet the other fifteen recipients at the presentation ceremony. We were hosted at the British Council’s headquarters in the upmarket Admiralty district on Hong Kong Island, opposite the Shangri-La and Conrad hotels.
I arrived early. Possibly rather too early. Wandering up to the welcome desk with a friendly nod, I was greeted promptly.
“Which university are you representing?”
“I’m here from HKU.”
“Lovely, right this way.”
Guided past a stage and into a smaller venue replete with drinks and canapés, I took the opportunity to survey the guests whilst I procured a glass of wine.
Interestingly, no one here seemed to be anywhere near to my age. I struck up a conversation with two friendly women around fifteen years older than me. It quickly transpired that they were not, in fact, students. Indeed, no one at the venue was. What on earth was going on?
Then it clicked. I was too early for my own party and had somehow stumbled into someone else’s.
Extricating myself from our conversation about veterinary medicine (which I know almost nothing about anyway) I found my way back out, up the lift, and finally found some students my own age.
The rest of the evening – this time that I was meant to be attending – was rather splendid. Highlights included a long talk with Chris Rawlings, the Director of the British Council in Hong Kong and a fellow ex-Durham student, and getting to know some of the other friendly scholars who I’d been seeing around HKU for the past few weeks.
The British Council’s staff and the guests were all warmly supportive and it was all accompanied by a gratifying sense of occasion. They’re a fantastic team and I’m looking forward to working more with them whilst I’m here.
Oh, and don’t worry: I even managed to finish my vet conversation too as the guests from earlier turned up to support us!
This post, along with all my other Year Abroad articles, can also be read on the Official Durham Study Abroad Blog.