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Support for international students.

April 1, 2012

Rachel Sham
Third-year music student, Rachel Sham, who came to Canada from Hong Kong, is the inaugural recipient of the Bill Teng Hong Kong Scholarship.

Rachel (Gee Yeng) Sham's experience at Western has been the high point in her life. As an international student, she has always felt welcomed and supported at Western. This includes the financial support she has received as the inaugural recipient of the Bill Teng Hong Kong Scholarship.

For Rachel, leaving Hong Kong to pursue her education was never a question. The third-year music student grew up knowing her single mother had plans to send her and her older sister to Canada to study.

"When my mom was younger, she wanted to go overseas but never did, so she wanted us to have the opportunity," Rachel says. "She prepared us well. She pushed us to read a lot of English books and listen to English music and news on the radio."

When Rachel was eight years old, her mother started taking piano lessons and then taught her daughters what she learned. At 10, Rachel started to learn how to play violin. Although Rachel excelled in music, it wasn't until she moved to Saskatchewan to finish high school that she seriously thought of pursuing music at university. Inspired and encouraged by her music teachers, she chose to attend Western, specializing in Music Education, specifically Choral Conducting.

William Teng, BA'79, created the Bill Teng Hong Kong Scholarship to support an international student who is a permanent resident of Hong Kong and entering the first year of any full-time undergraduate degree program, based on academic achievement. This $2,500 scholarship continues for up to four years, provided the recipient enters a four-year degree program in second year and maintains a full course load with a minimum 80 per cent average.

"The scholarship has motivated me to work harder. Mr. Teng understands the challenges of being an international student living so far away from home. I'm so grateful for his support."

Since attending Western, Rachel has also trained in flute, trumpet, bassoon, cello and guitar. Outside of class, she works at a music store where she teaches children how to play the piano and violin. She also sings in the choir at St. Paul's Cathedral and is a member of the badminton club on campus.

Rachel expects to graduate in 2013 and hopes to enter the Faculty of Education and become a teacher. Ultimately, she plans to return to Hong Kong and contribute to her home country.

"I feel proud to be at Western," says Rachel. "University is not just a professional training school, it is where we share knowledge and explore different options while gaining experience and connections that will lead to a career."

This article appeared in the Spring 2012 edition of Impact Western
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