The jump from an exam-oriented secondary school student to a self-motivated university student is a huge challenge for everyone. Henry Chiu was no exception. “Having been trained to memorise model answers in secondary school, I was lost when told by the Visual Studies professors that everything could be an answer,” Henry recalled. Despite his absence from class, late submission of assignments and underperformance in exams due to lack of interest in his first semester of study, Lingnan professors continued to give him encouragement and offer him guidance on thesis composition as well as the freedom to explore his academic interests. “We were encouraged to take transdisciplinary courses, read widely and participate in extra-curricular activities, such as studying philosophy to analyse visual-cultural phenomenon and joining community work to understand the concept of public space.”
The efforts paid off. The close teacher-student relationship and interactive class discussions aroused Henry’s interests in visual studies. Although not graduating with flying colours, Henry was admitted to the Master of Arts in Visual Culture Studies programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 2012, two years after graduation from Lingnan. Apart from pursuing his studies, he started to work as an Assistant Project Coordinator, and was promoted to Junior Research Assistant and then Research Assistant. Graduated with a near-3.9 CGPA in his master programme, he was recently admitted to the PhD programme in Cultural Studies at CUHK.
In retrospect, the training at Lingnan proved to be the foundation for the academic pursuit that followed. “Some of us were skeptical about the heavy emphasis on art history and theories during the first year. Some expected the programme to focus on techniques and skills. Yet, when I was pursuing my master’s degree, I came to realise that we had misinterpreted the word ‘practical’, which should not be interpreted only as an application of skills but also an expression of values and thoughts. The change in artistic techniques was closely associated with historical backgrounds, political structures and trends in ideological thinking,” said Henry.
Moving forward, Henry will focus on the study of “Public space and the voices from the grass-roots in the community”, hoping to raise awareness of the loss of memory, history and humanity in the rapidly globalised and consumerist society. “To a certain extent, engaging in academic research will not likely bring us fame and fortune; it might be a passion for knowledge and a lifework that can only be confirmed by ourselves,” Henry said.