Star tells of degree dream

An award-winning actress has described her many battles on the way to achieving her lifetime dream of a university degree.

In a talk entitled 'Learning to learn', Josephine Siao Fong-fong encouraged students at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to have a positive attitude towards their studies.

Siao, who is now a child psychologist at Queen Mary Hospital, said they should learn from different experiences in daily life.

'People learn as they grow up. However, many obstacles may dog our footsteps in the process.

'Poor academic results almost always correspond to the level of concentration in studies - especially in the examination period. That's the crux of learning,' she said.

Siao said she improved her concentration and memory by following a method used by a Tibetan who would focus on one object for a certain period of time. Gradually, the meditation enabled her to ignore distractions while studying.

Siao, who is partially deaf, graduated from Regis University in Denver, Colorado, this summer with a degree in clinical child psychology.

'Even though I have worked hard, I have still suffered from failure in my life,' she said, letting out a giggle as if to confirm that no setback was big enough to dampen her enthusiasm.

She told students who had 'tasted failure' to read novels or stories they liked. 'When we read books, we will melt into the stories and get in touch with the author. This will re-affirm our values and logical thinking.' Siao - a mother of two teenage girls - had to balance her studies with family and acting commitments during her four- year course in the United States.

Siao has inspired other women with children, such as Margaret Leung Tsui-pik, 29, who is in the first year of her business administration course at HKU. 'Fong-fong is my role model. We have similar backgrounds. Although I am not a famous star, we both did not waver from our childhood dream of getting a university degree,' Ms Leung said.

Siao arrived from Shanghai with her mother in the 1950s. She started her film career at the age of five, reaching her peak with Summer Snow, which won her a Golden Horse award in 1995 and international recognition with the best actress award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1996.