Interview | Exchange program, financial aid inspires student to pursue study in UK

Katrina Xian, who has been accepted into Imperial College London

Local universities in the Macau SAR are offering short-term exchange programs, allowing students to have the opportunity to learn about new cultures and enhance personal development.
Many students prefer to stay in the city during their college years, yet some take up the challenge of leaving their comfort zones and collecting different life experiences from beyond Macau’s shores.
While some fund their own exchange programs, several public and private institutions in the city offer financial assistance to outstanding students.
Katrina Xian, a 23-year-old local resident, is one of the beneficiaries of a private institution in the city, and is pursuing biomedical studies.
Xian recently graduated from the University of Macau after studying biomedical studies.
Both a Moon Chun Memorial College and Honours College graduate, Xian was a recipient of the Britcham Summer Programme Scholarship tenable at the University of Oxford in 2019, as arranged by the British Chamber of Commerce in Macao.
After her internship, Xian had decided to continue her studies in the U.K.
She will now be reading a one-year Master of Science in human molecular genetics at Imperial College London.
Speaking to the Times, Xian explained how exchange programs and financial assistance from the city’s institutions are allowing local students to gain new experiences and education outside the city’s normal education system.
Xian had received financial assistance from the British Chamber of Commerce of Macau through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) scheme.
The institution began fundraising by running its gala balls, where it commits a minimum of 50% of the profits to its CSR Fund.
“I think these programs are really helpful. I think it’s always good to get a chance to see the outside world. We need to get out of our [comfort zone] because the world is big and there are many opportunities for us [outside Macau] to work and live,” said the recent graduate.
Xian applied to several schools in the U.K., including Imperial College London, The University of Manchester and The University of Edinburgh.
“Luckily I got places at all of them, but I think Imperial College is one of the best, especially for its science background. I had a great time in the U.K. during my exchange program. People were openminded and were multicultural,” explained Xian.
For Xian, leaving the city to study abroad takes courage, especially coming from a conservative and traditional family where some parents would prefer to have their children stay in the city.
Even among those parents who prefer to send their children abroad to study, the recent graduate hinted that there is a culture in some families not to venture outside the greater China region for further study.
“It would be wonderful if there were more chances for students to get out of the city for a while. I’m a lucky one,” Xian said.
Executive director of Britcham Macau, Maggie Chan, says the association aims to assist local students experience student life in the U.K. She noted that their goal is to “take these students to the U.K. and they take Macau with them to promote the city.”
Since 2009, the Chamber has distributed a total of 548,685 patacas through its CSR Fund.
“There is a need for Macau students to leave the city as they need to experience a different environment. It helps boost personal development. These kinds of programs really help individuals see how capable they are,” said Chan.
“From the Chamber’s standpoint, personal development for these students is good and we hope that one day, they will bring back their U.K. experiences to Macau and share them with others.”
There is still no exact date for when Xian will fly back to the U.K. due to visa issues. Not to mention Covid-19 and the health risks she would undertake while traveling.
Xian is slightly worried about the risk of travel but believes that her flight will run smoothly with all the required safety measures.
Xian will focus on data analysis as she continues to work on and research human molecular genetics.
Commenting on whether Macau has a market for her field of study, Xian noted, “I think the Greater Bay Area is starting to focus on this area but I cannot see Macau doing so as it is a touristic city and they are more focused on [boosting] this sector.”
Macau Daily Times is the official media partner of the British Chamber of Commerce in Macao.

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