[Sponsored Article] University is a time to seize opportunities and discover new talents and, in that respect, undergraduates at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) are definitely showing the way. Whatever their background or chosen degree, they typically aim to get involved – and excel – in a diverse range of events and activities on campus and within the wider community. As a result, they learn about teamwork, leadership, obligations and responsibilities, and pick up the life skills and values that represent the intangible benefits of a quality education. “Don't be afraid to try,” says Anushka Baldwa, a Year 4 student taking a BSc in Biotechnology and Business, a joint program allowing her to pursue both science and business management studies. “My outlook, and the advice I give to others, is to be open to different opportunities and get involved in everything.” Accordingly, over the past three-plus years, besides winning a full tuition scholarship for academic achievement, she has proved herself as a student ambassador, innovator, social entrepreneur, and committed supporter of community service initiatives. “By helping people in need, I have learned the importance of collaboration, empathy, and respect for others,” says Baldwa, who had a globetrotting childhood courtesy of her father’s executive secondments, before completing the IB Diploma at an international school in Bangkok. “My mother always told me to do something for the community wherever you are. I’ve found doing this is a great way to acquire the sort of skills and know-how you don’t normally obtain within the classroom, and to drive positive change.” For instance, as a member of the HKUST Redbird Leadership Community (now renamed the Self-Leadership Program), she volunteered at a local NGO serving underprivileged children, helping to build a playground. She has also played a full part in the on-campus student associations and serves as a mentor for new arrivals from overseas. Along the way, like most of her contemporaries, she has also taken part in several tough case competitions to hone her entrepreneurial skills and solve real-life challenges. One such opportunity provided an excellent forum to present MindAId, a project Baldwa co-founded with teammates to provide an integrated AI platform to help employees in various sectors find advice about mental health concerns from qualified psychologists. The concept not only won prizes, but was also chosen for further incubation under the Hong Kong Science Park’s fast-track “Ideation” programme. In parallel, as a final-year project, she is pushing forward with research on the possible genetic modification of microalgae, which could then be used for waste-water treatment and to create biofuels. “With my major, it has been possible to learn both the technical, scientific skills and the business side of things,” says Baldwa, who is also an accomplished painter, working mainly in acrylics on canvas. “I’m hoping to get support from the university’s UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) to continue with the microalgae work after graduation.” Though still in the first year of a BBA in Management, Jasper Wong Cheuk-hei has adopted a similar approach to making the most of his time at HKUST. In his case, that has already meant winning the “Most Innovative Award”, competing as one of a three-person team against 24 other finalists in the open category of New World Development’s “Innovation Challenge 2021”. His team’s entry was an AI-powered virtual “Koncierge” to provide personalised shopping services at the new 11 SKIES retail and entertainment complex at Chek Lap Kok. And the event was a great chance to learn about design, product development and pitching, as well as to be mentored by the founders of successful start-ups. Wong is currently doing an internship with a well-regarded fashion and apparel company over the Christmas break to get an early sense of how things operate in the commercial world. It is important for him to find the right balance between academic commitments and high-level involvement in the performing arts. As a specialist in Latin dancing, Wong represents Hong Kong in international dancesport competitions and, now backed by a four-year full tuition scholarship for his studies at HKUST, has every intention of continuing to compete against the very best. That, though, is just one of his ambitions. The others include adding a second major in marketing or information systems in his second year; lining up an exchange in Canada if travel restrictions allow; entering prestigious case competitions; learning another language; taking minor courses in Chinese history; and attaining new proficiencies in video editing and computer-aided design (CAD). “I want to try all kinds of new things at university,” says Wong, who previously attended St. Paul’s College in Hong Kong and whose interest in business stems from the experience of running a stall at the Lunar New Year fair in Victoria Park. “I realise too that, before, I was only focusing on myself. Now, I want to engage more in helping others, and I’m already leading some dance classes. There will be a lot of opportunities in these four years, so it’s important to step out of my comfort zone and not be afraid to fail.” Candidates intending to apply for HKUST undergraduate programmes starting in September 2022 should note that the deadline for main round applications is January 14. Anyone interested is also invited to review the many scholarship schemes now open to them, including the brand-new Beyond Academic Admissions Scholarship (BAAS) , specially designed to recognise students with diverse talents and ambitions.