How HKUST Overcame My Shyness and Turned Me into a Cambridge Postgraduate Student

Keith Chan Jin-Deng
BSc in Environmental Management and Technology

When I first entered HKUST, I was very shy in class and sometimes anxious socially.  But during my four years as an undergraduate, I found professors and members of staff very willing to provide advice and assistance if I sought help from them and I made full use of the University’s supportive environment to find out more about my potential.

At first, I didn’t feel comfortable raising questions or expressing my opinion in lectures so my strategy was to discuss with tutors privately after class.  Prof Bill Barron, who retired in 2013, deeply inspired me. He focused on proactive learning more than his well-prepared PowerPoints.  He would tell personal stories from the 1960s, and ask us what we thought.  He was also willing to endure the discomfort of silence in class so that we would have plenty of time to formulate questions.  Through our after-class discussions, Bill built up my courage to voice my thoughts and sparked my interest in environmental economics, the focus for my research career now I have graduated.

Of course there were times when life became challenging.  Before joining HKUST, I had developed an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism, which made me too worried to speak or even express myself non-verbally in certain social situations.  This issue became my main source of stress as it limited my ability to nurture certain relationships and lowered my self-esteem.  Fortunately, I reached out to the Counseling and Wellness Centerto talk about the difficulties I faced.  Through this,I learnt more about conflict management and emotional self-awareness. The experience enabled me to discover a lot more about myself.  More importantly, the counselors let me know that I was not alone.

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HKUST helped me grow both professionally and personally.  Now I am ready to follow my passion and contribute to the community.  In June 2014, my classmate Jasmine and I won the championship of Go Green in the City, a global business case contest, after we developed a people-oriented energy management solution.  I am confident of my capability to make changes and motivate others and set to further my studies at Cambridge University.

So I urge everyone of you to make full use of the resources at HKUST and take control of your life.