The economic downturn is not deterring university students from pursuing overseas academic exchanges next month despite heavier financial burdens. More than 40 students at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) received Worldwide Undergraduate Student Exchange Scholarships in a recent send-off ceremony. Officiating at the function, HKU's vice- chancellor, Cheng Yiu-chung, said the scheme allowed students to accept a new lifestyle and broaden their horizon. 'We are in the global village now . . . students should be given the opportunity to have more exposure to the outside world and interact with people to benefit from them,' he said. Poon Chi-ho, a first-year mechanical engineering student, will attend the National University of Singapore as an undergraduate researcher. 'I have an interest in environmental science research. I wish to absorb as much knowledge as I can from this exchange and to cultivate friendships there,' he said. Wong Yuen-hung, 22, will take second-year Japanese studies at Waseda University in Tokyo. She said her experience in a Japanese home-stay programme last year had been a catalyst. Swimmer and business student Lam Chi- hin not only wants to study accountancy at the University of Melbourne, but hopes to participate in swimming competitions. First-year economics major Ng Ka-ying was attracted by the University of Chicago's reputation in economics and wanted to later pursue postgraduate studies. The students said studying abroad was hard on them and their families, but the experience was too valuable to miss. 'I'll try for summer jobs and hope to get a part-time job in Australia. I don't want to burden my family,' Mr Lam said. Ms Wong was concerned that she still needed to pay $70,000 on top of the scholarship to support herself in Japan. She said this was a burden on herself and her family. Students were awarded scholarships of between $20,000 and $50,000 for the exchange studies will last for one or two semesters.