By Leanne Liu
Facebook recently rolled out a new function called ‘On This Day’, which reminds you what happened on a particular day in the past via an image or status update. Recently, this function has been incessantly reminding me of my early university days, bringing up photos of my orientation camp, and posts that my “new” friends left on my wall at the time. Thanks to Facebook, the happy memories of orientation camp became a topic of merry chatter again among my university mates.
One of my most vivid memories during this time was the ‘Hong Kong Orientation’ (more commonly known by its abbreviation, ‘HKO’). In Hong Kong, this is one of the most common events for university orientations. In late August, you will often catch young students in matching orientation outfits running through shopping malls and streets, shouting out and doing various awkward tasks – you can bet that they will be doing an HKO.
As a law student at the University of Hong Kong, HKO was the very first task of my orientation. After heading out from the HKU campus, one of the checkpoints was the pedestrian bridge in Wanchai. Our task was to run along the bridge, face the windows of California Fitness, and wave frenetically to those exercising inside – our mission was only complete once ten people had waved back to us!
As one might imagine, the experience was highly awkward, especially because all of us were wearing eye-catching T-shirts emblazoned with four huge Chinese characters 「港大法律」(HKU Law).
But it was also exceptionally memorable. Many curious passersby asked who we were, and what we were doing. I still remember one of the comments. “Oh, you guys are going to be lawyers! It is a good profession and you should help the needy in the future.” Thinking back, those words encapsulated – in simple and direct terms – the public’s expectations towards the legal profession. In my present practice as a lawyer, I make sure that I always bear those words in mind.
One of the events which I did not participate was the ‘Mass Orientation.’ For HKU law students, this event involves freshmen (dressed in full business attire) making speeches on the grand stage of the university’s storied Loke Yew Hall. They also have to respond to spontaneous challenges from the audience. Back then, I was not enough confident to sign up for the event. This was a decision that I have regretted ever since. If I could go back in time, I would definitely tell myself to just seize the moment – because life is too short to miss opportunities.
Almost as soon as the orientation period had finished, the faculty delivered a surprise ‘gift’ to our pigeon holes: almost 100 pages of dense reading materials. This was for my first class called ‘Law and Society’, taught by Professor Albert Chen, which was about how society was formed and how unwritten rules and practices evolved to become laws and systems. My faculty ‘parents’ (senior students who were assigned to us as mentors) warned me that I had to finish reading all the material before the first tutorial, which was only a couple of days away.
As someone who graduated from a Chinese-medium secondary school, this came as a complete shock to me; it was my first time reading English so intensively in a short period of time. Yet I persevered, and in the end, managed to get all through the reading. I felt a great sense of achievement – and started to understand why it is said that you will never know what you are capable of until you try.
To an outsider, these may appear to be minor bits and pieces of schoolyard memories. But I believe that it is precisely this type of seemingly random moments that powerfully shape our lifelong personalities, thoughts and values. In my case, they certainly did.
Leanne Liu is a lawyer. She speaks Cantonese as her third language and calls Hong Kong home.