Hong Kong is still the best

Hong Kong is still the best

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Young people who studied abroad are moving back to the city, write Chris Taylor and Zoe Mak

When Carrie Tse Kae-wing was four years old, her family moved from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada. Sixteen years later, she returned and took a summer job at Hong Kong Baptist University. She worked in the counselling department for four months - and fell in love.

'I love how Hong Kong is so vibrant, lively and exciting,' she says. 'Compared to Hong Kong, everything is slower in Canada.'

Now 26 and with a psychology degree from the University of Western Ontario, Tse is back doing a second degree in dentistry at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

The majority of people who left Hong Kong did so in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1983, it had become clear that Britain would return Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997. It is thought that as much as one-sixth of the Hong Kong population moved to Australia, Canada and the United States - the most popular destinations.

Tse is among an increasing number of young people raised and educated overseas who have returned to Hong Kong. They are back not only because of the city's vitality, but also to search for their roots and improve their Chinese. Tse, for example, says she can understand Cantonese, but can barely speak it and cannot read or write Chinese.

For post-graduate students like Tse, the attraction of Hong Kong is more than about culture, language and the exciting pace of life. For Tse, the problem-based learning approach to dentistry at HKU is better than the lecture-based approach in Canada. At HKU, she says, students discuss facts and ideas and analyse problems to come up with solutions. It makes learning far more hands on and interactive than at a Canadian university.

Andy Yan, 27, whose family moved to Canada when he was eight, also sees Hong Kong as having an advantage over Canada when it comes to post-graduate education. He chose to study for a master's degree in E-commerce at City University in Hong Kong.

'I decided to come back to Hong Kong because the duration of the post-graduate programme is shorter than in Canada - you can complete it in one year,' he says. He has also come to embrace the Hong Kong lifestyle.

'I love how everywhere is connected in Hong Kong, and things move at faster pace,' he says.

'It's so easy to get to places and it's a great place for young people to meet and hang out.'

Another advantage for Yan of being in Hong Kong is that he's closer to the culture he loves. Despite all the years he spent in Canada, he never lost his love of Chinese culture, and his favourite novelist is the famous Chinese martial arts fantasy writer, Jin Yong - also known as Louis Cha in English.

Twenty-seven-year-old Rhoda Lai Yan-wing was born in Toronto, and is fluent in Cantonese, but cannot read or write Chinese. She says she came to Hong Kong because many of her friends are back.

A business graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, she is doing a master's in human resources at the Open University of Hong Kong. Like others who are settling from abroad, she loves Hong Kong's vibrancy.

But unlike those who were born in Hong Kong, Lai has not found it quite as easy to adapt to Hong Kong. She didn't arrive with an instant love of the culture, but she says she's slowly adapting.

'I'm taking some tai chi and Chinese lessons,' she says, adding that she has no immediate plans to return to Canada.

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