Victor Fong Pok-wai, 22, is in the second year of a five-year doctorate programme in mathematics at Cornell University in New York. His postgraduate studies overseas followed his graduation from Chinese University last year.
'I chose Cornell because of the broad range of topics in its mathematics programme,' he says.
With a deep passion for the intricacies of maths, Fong had applied online to nine doctorate programmes and sought out his professors at Chinese University to write letters of recommendation for him.
He took the GRE and one GRE subject test in maths. He also sat the Test of English as a Foreign Language and passed the minimum requirement set by Cornell. Nevertheless, he later took an oral course to improve his fluency in spoken English.
His study costs are pretty much taken care of. Cornell graduate students in maths receive generous financial aid through a fellowship, teaching assistantship or graduate research assistantship that almost covers their tuition fees. Last year, Fong was one of six students in his doctorate programme to be selected for a fellowship based on his stellar undergraduate academic record. He received US$28,800 in his first year, a sum comparable to the full-year tuition fees of about US$29,500.
Other graduate students can get aid by working as a teaching assistant.
Now in his second year, Fong has secured a teaching assistantship that he estimates will award US$27,000 to US$28,000. The amount depends on which course he is assisting in and who his adviser is.
A dynamic classroom atmosphere is an aspect of Cornell he enjoys. 'Students ask questions and engage in discussion, which you won't find in Hong Kong,' Fong says.