A new school year is underway, with a new cohort facing their graduating year – and, with a bit of luck (and plenty of hard work!), going on to the university of their choice or the job of their dreams. We hear from the Paul family from Australia who recently finished up at Hong Kong Academy (HKA) Sai Kung about how the school helped and shaped them.
A word from a student – Alasdair Paul
How long did you attend HKA?
I was there from the beginning of 2012, so about 10 and half years. I started at the Kennedy Town campus and then moved to Sai Kung.
What are some of the things you enjoyed most about your time at the school?
Obviously, the community is amazing, and everyone is super nice. The staff are very easy to converse with casually too. At a lot of schools, teachers solely want their students to focus on schoolwork; at HKA, you actually get a feeling of humanity from the teachers, which is great! As for specific things, earlier in MYP, the school would take us to either a beach or to a pool at the beginning and end of every school year. I was able to do this from Grade 6 to Grade 10, and it was always really fun – it gave you a chance to meet new people at the start of the year, and then have that awesome moment together at the end of the year, trying to work out plans for the summer with your friends.
I also really enjoyed coming in and watching school events, including plays and music festivals. My favourite event at HKA was the cultural food festival at the Community Fair. There are students and teachers from countries around the world attending HKA and each group would have their own booth, to make the traditional foods of their particular country. I was a part of the Australia table and – okay, I’m a little biased – we had the best table! We had barbecues going and lamingtons and the whole shebang. Also, running in parallel to the food, there would be events running on the first-floor pitch, like soccer and baseball tournaments, and performances in the theatre. It was a lot of fun.
What did you like most about the campus at HKA? Where did you spend your time?
The campus is amazing, with a super convenient layout. All the classrooms are where they should be, and there are lots of open spaces for break time.
In Grades 9 and 10, I spent a lot of time in the music studio; I liked playing music up there and it was always very accessible and convenient. I also thought the third floor balcony area was really nice; toward the beginning of the school year and at the end, it was a little hot going outside, but from October through to April it was a really nice common area to sit and chat and have a bite to eat.
What has been your favourite subject and why?
Chemistry – in fact, I’m going on to study Chemical Engineering. One of the reasons I enjoyed this subject so much at HKA was because of my teacher, Dr Metelo. In spite of us having a very small class of four students, he still made the most of it. He was also the best when it came to online learning – you never felt like you were missing something. He made documents for everyone each day, with the full agenda of what we’d be doing, and was always open to questions. And he was very efficient with his time, while still catering to everyone – if you finished earlier, you could go off and start on some homework.
I also find chemistry in itself is a really interesting subject for me; it’s fascinating seeing how substances react with each other, how molecules come to form and how they interact with the world. What are your graduation plans? I’m going to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study Chemical Engineering.
What do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Either going back to the UK, Hong Kong or Australia and finding work!
A word from a parent – Duncan Paul
Tell us a bit about your background and your expat trail.
. We’re an Australian family with British ties – my wife was born in London and came to Australia when she was five. She has now started a new job in the UK and has headed back to London; I’m following her there soon. We arrived in Hong Kong in 2012; before that, we had five and a half years in Singapore. We’ve lived in Sai Kung for the last eight years, and a couple of years in Jordan when the campus was at Kennedy Town. When our lease was up, we came out to Sai Kung as we knew the school was moving there.
What made you choose HKA for Alasdair?
When we first got to Hong Kong, it was really competitive with schools; we went to a couple of places but the only one we really liked was Hong Kong Academy. It felt very similar to Alasdair’s school in Singapore, with a small campus and welcoming feel.
We walked through the place and all the students had a smile on their face – no one looked like they didn’t want to be there! We also happened to walk through the chemistry class – I quite enjoyed chemistry at school, but I didn’t recognise any of the working on the board; things have moved along since then! Again, it looked like the kids were engaged and happy.
How have you found the school experience as HKA parents?
My wife works and I’m the primary caregiver, so I have been in the school as a class parent, on PTC committees and PTCO, and have been generally very involved. I like the school – they’re always very welcoming; the door is always open so if you have any problem (which we haven’t!), you can always knock on someone’s door and get an ear. HKA wants everyone to be involved, and they encourage the students to do exactly that.
How do you think Alasdair has benefited from attending HKA?
It’s what I tell people over and over again: Alasdair has never woken up in the morning and said, “Dad, I don’t want to go to school.” That’s half the battle – I never wanted to go to school! What are you excited about for Alasdair’s graduation plans? The school he wanted to go to was Wisconsin and he got in. So I’m excited that he’s heading off to where he wants to be; hopefully, it’s all a great success and he’ll be okay! He’s well prepared and ready for whatever comes next.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue