Harvard Book Prize Scholarship winners discuss what they want to learn at the Ivy League university

From studying neuroscience to meeting people from different cultures, these Hong Kong secondary students hope to gain a lot from studying in the US

Nicola Chan |

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Jason Ku Chi-kit, 16, Hadia Saqib and Queena Lau Kei-kwan, both 17, won the 2019 Harvard Book Prize Scholarship to study at Harvard University’s summer school for seven weeks next year, provided by the Harvard Club of Hong Kong.

Being able to study your favourite subject at an elite university seems like a pipe dream for many. But three Form Six students have managed to make their dream a reality.

Queena Lau Kei-kwan and Hadia Saqib, both 17, and Jason Ku Chi-kit, 16, won the 2019 Harvard Book Prize Scholarship to study at Harvard University’s summer school next year for seven weeks. 

Out of the 723 Hong Kong students who in September received the Harvard Book Prize – which recognises high-achieving final-year students – 143 students with financial needs and merits applied for the scholarship.

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Young Post spoke with three of the scholarship winners on the phone last week to talk about their amazing accomplishments and future aspirations.   

Thrilled to be one of the few selected students sponsored to study at a world-renowned university, Jason said he would seize the opportunity to study neuroscience and genetics, and that he is excited to visit the largest university library in the world.  

“Growing up with few resources and family issues, I wasn’t able to go to tutorial classes outside of school. I had to teach myself many different things. For instance, I used to study English by watching YouTube videos,” he said. 

To make English learning more accessible for other students, the St Joseph’s Anglo-Chinese School student leader founded a joint-school reading society with his peers last year.  

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The interschool club based at Sing Yin Secondary School holds regular book fairs and invites famous authors to share reading and writing tips with secondary students studying in Kowloon.

“I would like to help teenagers with similar backgrounds to mine, such as those who come from low-income families, to have easier access to English learning,” added the English Society Vice President.   

Hadia plans to immerse herself in psychology during her time at Harvard. 

“Other than deepening my knowledge of various mental phenomena and personality traits, I want to know if I’d really be interested in pursuing a career in psychology,” she said.

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“Ever since I saw a senior receive the Harvard Book Prize Scholarship on stage when I was in Form Three, I’ve wished that I would one day be in her place,” said Hadia. 

To maximise her chance of winning the scholarship, the St Antonius Girls’ College student spent three days preparing for and writing the required 500-word essay, in which she had to discuss the behavioural and moral implications of internet consumption on teenagers. 

Queena from Good Hope School (GHS) said she was very anxious about the interview stage and worried about having to think on her feet and respond quickly to a panel of judges.

“Thankfully, one of them reassured me that I could see the interview as a causal conversation, so I did,” said Queena. 

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For a long time, English speaking was an insurmountable obstacle for GHS’ yearbook editor-in-chief and champion of the 2018 Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society’s Short Story Competition for Young Writers.

“Even though I got the overall best performance in English reading, writing, and listening within my grade when I was in Form Two, I only just managed to pass my speaking exam,”  she added. 

But Queena gradually became more eloquent after spending time with her Form Four homeroom teacher, a native English-speaking teacher.

“I had a lot of opportunities to practise my English speaking because she likes talking to us,” she said. 

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“She also showed us some excellent English movies, which stirred up my interest in polishing my speaking,” she added. 

Her effort paid off, as Queena received nearly full marks for her oral presentations. “I consider this big improvement to be one of my greatest achievements,” she said. 

The wordsmith and avid reader is looking forward to studying fiction writing and abnormal psychology at the university. 

“I think it would be a good opportunity for me to learn some new writing techniques which, I believe, would help me create more innovative work,” she said. 

“I’m super excited about meeting people from different cultures as well.”