Students Learning Through Community Engagement


Service Learning Trips are intense experiences where we learn about a place, its culture and people through hands-on community-based service projects, also gained authentic cultural experiences which we can’t get from a traditional classroom. In the past winter break, HKUST Connect facilitated 4 teams of students to Lantau Island in Hong Kong, Jiangxi in mainland China, Cambodia and Nepal to make a difference in the local communities.


Together we fly high - Lantau Island Service Learning Camp

Brian in Lantau Island Service Learning Camp

"This Service Trip has been a remarkable experience for me. During the 4 days of leading, serving and chatting with children in the beautiful Tung Wan Mok Law Shui Wah School, I realized the importance of care and respect to individuals, and my strengths and weaknesses in contributing to a team or a community.

But first, I wish to go back to the 3 months of preparations before the actual trip. When I first met my team, I was amazed by the passion and overflowing of ideas of my teammates. In the planning of a service in Tuen Mun with the Tung Wan students, we thought about bringing these students to cook with the ethnic minorities within the Tuen Mun community. Also, we tried to organize a carnival to bring the residents together and to have a chance to play with and know the Tung Wan students better. However, these plausible sounding plans turn out to be rather impossible. After some research, we found that our activity would be held in not the best time of the day for the residents, some would need to prepare their family’s dinner, some may need to pick up their children from school. This made me realize that wishful thinking simply would not work in community service. To make an impact in the community, we should first try our best to understand what is really required and suitable for the people involved, then we can help. Otherwise, it would just be gifting, not serving….

I think this trip gave me a chance to see how people can be so unique outside the shackles of a mainstream school. With less pressure from academics and less distractions, they learn music, drama or other stuff, and they can be very dedicated to it. This trip has been eye-opening for me. I gained a renewed understanding on special education and care-giving in general. I hope that Hong Kong can be a less toxic and more loving society, and I think this trip gave me valuable lessons on how decisions should be made, so that the society can be more inclusive for everyone."

Brian SIU

SENG, Year 1

Cambodia Service Learning Trip

Sarah in Cambodia Service Learning Trip

"Before I left to Cambodia, I was bit tired of all the works I had to do, not just the preparation for Cambodia trip but also the final exams and the lab. I was already bit exhausted, so I worried whether I could fully enjoy this trip. But, when I just arrived at the airport at Phnom Pehn and saw the scenery on bus to Takeo, I already had some feelings that I could fully have fun and gain something from this trip. After I came back from Cambodia and thought back about the experiences in Cambodia on the way back to HKUST, I genuinely thought that this could be the most memorable trip I ever had as a learning experience. As its title says, it was truly a service “learning” experience for me. I don’t think I could learn so much from other trips as this trip did.

During the STEM workshop at Cambodian Children’s Fund, I really enjoyed teaching kids about science as a person who loves science more than any other subjects. It was bit stressful to prepare teaching before the actual workshop day because I had a pressure that I should make them understand the concepts behind the experiment and I also wanted to spread the fun part of the science. ….. Demonstrating experiment, explaining terms with more motions or visualization, quizzing them with what they learned during the class, every moment I loved so much and was so excited. I hope my enthusiasm gave them a motivation to study science or at least make them think science could be fun and easy. I never knew that I could be that enthusiastic when doing something in front of the crowd. I was never confident being on the stage. I guess pressure was much more than the joy that I had. However, this time, it was my first feeling that the pressure was overridden by my enthusiasm and I could purely enjoy teaching 25 kids sitting in the classroom listening to me. I think I will not forget this moment and gain more confidence in what I’m interested in and share to many different people.

Overall, the trip to Cambodia was a life-changing experience for me thanks to the participants and the children in Cambodia. Final year in university is the moment where many students struggle to make decisions about their future. As a final year student, I was very lucky to join this trip and this experience definitely played very important role in decision making for my future. I would like to spread the love and caring that I experienced from Cambodia to people I will meet and hopefully I could make society that I belong to much more comfortable and less stressful. Also, I believe I met so many good people from this trip and that’s why I could be so much enriched with wonderful experiences and memories. Motivation to achieve my dream and to make world better and confidence to spread enthusiasm of science and education are the three biggest learning I had. I hope I never forget the experiences and lessons I had from the trip and such experiences to pave my way during my life. And, hopefully I never forget the memories from the trip and keep the value of the life I found during the trip in my heart forever."

Sarah OH

Biotechnology, Year 4

Jiangxi Service Learning Trip

Candice in Jiangxi Service Learning Trip

"The 7-day journey marked a beautiful page in my diary. The page contains many happy faces, the much beautiful scenery of the village, and many reflections on myself and on society. To me, it is absolutely a fruitful experience.

This trip has broadened my horizon. I can have the first-hand experience to explore new things, such as the living style of the left-behind children. Our concepts on left-behind children were based on the secondary school education and the news reports. And this time I can reach them in person. Through home visiting, and chatting with family and kids, they showed me another side of left-behind children which is not the same as what I searched on the internet. There are many things that the virtual world cannot tell us. We need to feel it, touch it and try it by ourselves. If I didn’t come here, I could never taste the fresh vegetable and potatoes from Professor Lam; If I didn’t come here, I could never feel the hospitality from grandma and grandpa; If I didn’t come here, I could never feel warm from the children. Being there in-person is really different from learning things from secondary sources. The most sincere emotions and actions can only be done through going to the actual site physically. I want to enrich my life experience, I would continue to be open-minded and explore new things in the world.

This is an amazing journey that I have gained a lot from it. It allows me to learn from my peers and children in Jiangxi, and more importantly, reflect on myself and on society. In the future, I would continue the spirit of keeping a kind heart and serving the community."

Candice HUNG

SBM, Year 2

Nepal Service Learning Trip - Exploration Team

Alexis in Nepal Service Learning Trip

"Through the experience in the trip, there are two things that had me incredibly inspired. During the visit to Friends for Nepal Himalaya Development Aid, I was so touched by the dedication of the organizers when they were introducing us the Children’s home. I could dearly feel the love they have for the children in need, even though they are not blood related…... Despite the rather sufficient financial support, I think it is the loving heart the organizers have that made the NGO such a happy place for children and the neighborhood.  Since then, I realized the essentiality of doing things with love. We do often have a lot of distractions in a trip, but having passion and good intentions in serving people is important, as they drive us to our actions. I think it would be a good idea to keep this in mind, to remind myself to work for a goal with good intentions and try to avoid distractions that comes in the way.

On top of that, the exchange in knowledge with the NGO organizers have remind myself to be humble. Since I have taken up the position of president in my own student organization, I have had a rather assertive attitude in meetings in order to move tasks forward. Nonetheless, by learning from other NGO organizers, I have discovery the diversity of working style, and that I need to embrace the others’ habits in order to work in harmony.

I am truly thankful for the Nepal exploration trip experience. Even though we have not started with any actual programs, the experience has broaden my horizon, and has given me the opportunities to connect with the locals and understand their stories. Moreover, I would like to thank my wonderful team of students and staff. It was a pleasure working with all of them, and I really appreciate the earnest conversations that led me to deeper reflection. With a heart of gratitude, I am very much looking forward to the upcoming service trips in serving Nepal."

Alexis YIP

Global China Studies, Year 2