The newly established Ryerson University Hong Kong Student Association is offering a way for Cantonese students to connect on campus.
According to Alex Hyunh, vice-president of the Ryerson University Hong Kong Student Association (RUHKSA), the group was formed this past summer. Hyunh said he realized there was no association at Ryerson explicitly dedicated to Hong Kong students in comparison to other universities, making it hard for Cantonese speakers on campus to build a community.
“There was mainly the Chinese Students’ Association and another based on the Canadian-born Chinese, but there wasn’t a Hong Kong association,” said Hyunh.
There is also the Chinese Debate Association of Ryerson, where Cantonese students would previously gather for social events. However, many didn’t recognize it as an association related to Hong Kong because of its name.
“When I joined two years ago, the [Chinese debate] club had already stopped debating. What we mainly did were some social events and networking with other universities,” RUHKSA president Vincent Cheang said in Cantonese. “When people look at the name, you wouldn’t know that the club was actually for social events.”
RUHKSA’s leaders did not want that name to deter new students from joining and decided to disband the debate club in order to start a new group this semester. Since getting approval from the Ryerson Students’ Union, the RUHKSA is now focused on growth.
The group welcomes anyone with a Cantonese-speaking background and currently has a mix of members born in both Hong Kong and Canada — a fact that Hyunh believes can help the members build connections to both cultures.
“We have [Canadian-born] Cantonese-speaking students here to embrace the culture of Hong Kong, as well as connecting students from Hong Kong and exposing them to Canadian culture,” he said.
For Justin Lam, a first-year journalism student, it was hard to find other people with ties to Hong Kong at his high school when he moved to Canada last year. Lam said he is hoping that RUHKSA can help introduce him to other Cantonese speakers as he transitions into university.
“I just want to meet more friends and get to know more people who are from Hong Kong at Ryerson,” he said.
Because of the lack of Hong Kong presence on campus in the past, the current connections between Cantonese-speaking students aren’t strong. Cheang said he hopes that the group will be able to change that through a variety of social gatherings and events.
He said that RUHKSA will host a board game night in the near future as well as a Christmas party, mah-jong tournament and Chinese New Year festivities.
Through these activities, Cantonese-speaking students will have the chance to network on campus, as well as reach out to other Hong Kong-oriented groups at other universities, including the University of Toronto and York University.
“We just want to have a platform for all Hong Kong students here and make it feel like there’s a home away from home.”