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Ambassador programme brings students closer to homeland

HONGKONG owes its outstanding progress in recent years to its ''extremely adaptable reservoir of human resources'', said Professor Poon Chun-kwong, director of the Hongkong Polytechnic. The educationist was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 1993 Student Ambassador Programme, held recently at the Hongkong Arts Centre.

Each year the programme, introduced by the Hongkong Tourist Association (HKTA) in 1968, chooses 100 young people studying overseas to be ambassadors who will represent Hongkong. The students are expected to give an updated picture of the territory in their host countries.

More than half of this year's ambassadors are studying in the US, while the others are in Canada and the UK, with one in Germany.

The HKTA gives the students a month-long course on various aspects of life in Hongkong. Students are briefed by experts on topics ranging from government administration and economic development to social issues and the tourism industry.

Ms Suzanna Leung, manager of the HKTA public relations department, said the student ambassadors were selected through interviews on the basis of their character, academic and extra-curricular record and language skills.

Student ambassador Edwin Lee Kan-hing, a second-year marketing student at the University of Southern California, said the programme meant a lot to him.

''A friend recommended it highly, saying it would benefit me in many ways, and it has,'' Edwin said. ''I have made a lot of good friends who share my educational background.'' Instead of spending the holidays doing a summer job, Edwin decided to join the programme and learn more about Hongkong.

Nelson Ho Lai-shun, studying at the University of Southampton, UK, said he was ''alarmed'' to find how little he knew about his homeland when he was president of the Chinese Society in his university.

''I realised I had only a superficial knowledge of Hongkong,'' Nelson said.

As leader of the group, Nelson feared there might be a ''communication problem'' among the ambassadors.

''Some of them are very Westernised after having lived abroad, while others are still very Chinese,'' he said. ''We need a little time to adapt to each other.'' For May Hung-lui, meeting such a large group of overseas students was a new experience.

''I joined the programme because I wanted to widen my experience and also promote Hongkong overseas,'' May said.

May is a student at the Chinese University of Hongkong. She will take a year off in September to study economics at the University of Davis, US, as an exchange student.

It was another student ambassador, Esther Lin Sze-yi, who urged May to join the programme.

''The ambassadors are all friendly, interesting and very nice people,'' Esther said.

''I will come back after my studies, so in the long run it's good for me to know more about Hongkong,'' she said.