What Attracted Alumni Coming to the USA? - A Tribute to QES 2014 article

By Louisa Leung 梁林苑萍 (59FA) President 2013-15, QESAAUSA
In celebration of QES60, we did a questionnaire survey in November, 2013 to elicit members’ experience and
thoughts as a foreign student/immigrant. It is hoped that the findings could shed some light for those who want to
go to the United States. The collective contributions of survey participants (34% of members) are tabulated in this
1. Do you consider the United States of America a good place for higher education and/or settlement?
Yes___39 (93%)
2. If you have to start all over again, would you still consider to remaining in the United States?
Yes___41 (98%)
3. Please state your reason or reasons for leaving Hong Kong and coming to the States 
•• Arranged by family (13) 31%
•• Self-motivated (25) 60%
•• Influence by classmate or friend (8) 19%
•• Influence by teacher (0)
•• Available scholarship (7) 17%
•• Immigration arising from political issues (5) 12%
•• Others, please specify – to get married (1); financial problem (1)
•• 38% of the respondents came to the States in their teens from 16 – 19. About 29% of them stated they
were self-motivated.
•• For those having come for 20 years or over, self-motivation was 14%.
•• 17% came because they obtained scholarships for their colleges. A total of 19% obtained scholarships
while 14% got grants and loan from the colleges they enrolled.
•• A large number (76%) of alumni worked during their college life.
•• Possible political and economic reasons
•• 29% came to the States between 1957 and 1963. 1963 seemed to be a very popular year for alumni to
come to the States to pursue higher education (12%).
•• 21% of respondents came to the States from 1966 through 1970. This may be spurred by the fact that it
was a most unstable period in Hong Kong with major riots in 1966 and 1967 and the influx of refugees
from China and Vietnam.
Alumni who graduated in 1962 were the largest group to relocate here both in the survey finding as well as
membership record. I can only surmise that prior to 1963, there was only one university in Hong Kong which was
the University of Hong Kong in Pokfulam. Later on in 1963 after combining the New Asia, Chung Chi and United
Colleges, the Chinese University of Hong Kong was established. Now there are 8 government funded universities in
Hong Kong. Would it be that the limited numbers of successful applications to attend HKU prompted more alumni
to seek higher education opportunities overseas? Social and economic challenges during the 50s and 60s might also
be factors.
From our membership profiles (only the majorities):
57FA – 7 (5.7%)
59FA – 10 (12.5%)
60FA – 14 (11.4%)
62FA – 18 (14.5%)
69FA – 7 (5.7%)
71FA – 8 (6.4%)

Pursuing the American Dream

4. Why did Alumni stay on after their intended studies?
Alumni’s response to what attracted those most to remain in the States:
•• freedom of expression and of religion
•• protection of privacy
•• privileges of citizenship and civic duties - general and regional elections
•• home ownership, clean air, rest and recreation, financial independence, secure retirement planning
•• affordable health care and living standard
•• casual life style
•• education and job opportunities
5. What were your challenges and struggles while studying/working in the States?
•• 93% of the survey participants did not receive any professional help during their planning process nor
were they aware of the hardship they would face in reality.
•• Those who came before internet was widely available for research had little idea what was expected of
them or what they would expect.
•• Due to the lack of knowledge of the American culture and beliefs, or insufficient communication
skills, some alumni found it difficult to merge into the main stream culture. Therefore, the majority of
respondents strongly advise prospective U.S. applicants to improve their written and spoken English prior
to arrival. Or, better still learn some of the local hobbies/sports.
•• Among the respondents, only 19% were awarded scholarships for their college studies. About 45%
worried about economic and political situations in HK. Nevertheless, even with loans and grants, 76%
worked part time during college life.
•• In addition to financial concerns, alumni faced yet another barrier in language of the host country. It is
not easy to merge into the main stream/ new culture. Homesickness could be more or less alleviated by
consuming food of Chinese style cooking.
•• Some alumni expressed inconvenience and hardship in taking public transit here in the States. Unlike in
Hong Kong, public transportation schedules are infrequent and transfers might be needed to go from
Point A to Point B.

Adapting to a New Life


6. What were your criteria for survival in a foreign country?
•• Learn the language well at wherever you are as it is mandatory to a smooth transition
•• Be adaptive, be open-minded
•• Be humble yet be assertive, and be respectful of others
•• Establish a good network of friends be it in homeland or in the States to establish a social system you can
fall back upon
•• Respect cultural difference of others and better still learn their culture, habit and hobbies
•• Work hard, study hard but yield to change when the need arises, for example one can change the major
of studies or even go to another State. Volunteering at college and the community will help you develop
language and social skills
•• Be alert to available opportunities
•• Never feel that you are prejudiced against.
•• Stay healthy.
7. Advice given by alumni to those who want to study in the States
•• Research into the city and country you are to settle in. Understand your own capability to adjust in your
chosen city. There is a wide range of cultural issues in different cities and states in America. The weather
differences can also be a challenge. Job opportunities are far better available in California with Chinese
language capability.
•• Set your goals, both short and long term, and work hard to achieve them
•• Learn the language well, both spoken and written.
•• Adapt to the new environment and make new friends
•• Accept cultural differences
•• Be flexible and change if things are not working out as planned
8. How do alumni think of Hong Kong today?
•• They are happy not to have to deal with:
•• Over-crowdedness
•• Air pollution
•• Noise pollution
•• Limited living space
•• Politics and protest
•• Traffic congestion
•• Life style
•• Competitiveness in raising a family
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