Onnie Chan

I am immensely grateful to the University and everyone I’ve encountered here; they have given my life purpose.
Onnie Chan

Education has always played a significant role in my life, thanks to my mother’s influence. Now, I am turning a new page because of my studies at the University of Adelaide.

Following the sudden passing of my father when I was just 10 years old, my mother became the driving force of my life. Her studies of child development in the UK had a transformative impact on my life and those of others. It gave me a profound understanding of the power of education.

Growing up in an environment with Asian cultural values, emphasising respect for elders, consistently expressing gratitude, and unique customs (like preferring warm water over soft drinks), I was also encouraged to challenge conventions and think creatively. My mother fostered a mindset that echoed the principles of Western education, urging my brother and me to think outside the box and take responsibility for our decisions. These dual influences, drawing from both Asian traditions and Western educational philosophies, further shaped my understanding of education.

It is common in Hong Kong (where I was raised) that we share meals with family and friends. At the age of 10, my mother tasked me with ordering shared meals at restaurants and emphasised the importance of observing others’ reactions to my selections. I began to understand the significance of my choices and their impact on the perceptions of those around me. This early experience taught me I could have freedom of choice, as long as I accepted the consequences of my actions.

Guided by this understanding, I embarked on a journey of exploration, studying many subjects including fashion, theatre, design and a bit of entrepreneurship. I also travelled and was able to widen my horizons by spending a few years in the UK and participating in an artist residence in Iceland. A scholarship allowed me to attend Yale University, where I met great people who had deep insights about life.

Although I had many enriching experiences, I still found myself at a crossroad, lacking a clear sense of direction. I decided to return to the world of education by pursuing a master’s degree in immersive media technologies. Studying at the University of Adelaide for two years has been a major turning point, academically and personally.

I have achieved success in my studies and felt a sense of satisfaction and happiness. Here, I have discovered exceptional mentors and a strong community, and been able to achieve academic success while developing immersive virtual reality experiences and games that ignited my passion for creative technology.

However, I still felt like something was off in my study here – even though very talented and supportive, almost all of my lecturers and mentors were men, but I was raised and educated by my mother, a woman. Men and women have different thinking and communication styles, neither superior to the other. However, for me, there has always been a strong female figure in my life. I became increasingly aware of the need for a supportive space for women in the creative technology field.

This realisation led me to found and become the president of a club called Women in Creative Technologies. Sharing my vision of the club with male lecturers and mentors at the University, particularly within the School of Media, I was grateful for the enthusiastic support I received. Not only did they provide valuable encouragement, they also offered tangible resource support. I discovered this University has a welcoming community that embraces various cultures and backgrounds. This has allowed Women in Creative Technologies to develop a supportive network, promoting equality, and fostering diversity.

Onnie Chan

I also feel incredibly fortunate to have been chosen as the Chief Student Entrepreneur during my time at the University of Adelaide. As a passionate advocate for women in entrepreneurship, I dedicated myself to promoting it as a viable career path for students of all backgrounds. I have had the privilege of learning from numerous business experts, which fuelled a compelling desire to establish my own business in Adelaide. The goal is clear: to carry on the spirit of the University of Adelaide and build a supportive community for women.

I am about to graduate, and several members of the Women in Creative Technologies club will be graduating together. Drawing on my knowledge and experiences gained at the University, I envision transforming the club into an organisation dedicated to empowering young girls to pursue their dreams. Our philosophy centres around the idea that education has the power to transform lives through mutual learning experiences that go beyond skill-building. Our next venture involves the development of a Creative Lab in Adelaide, a space where art intersects with technology. Our aim is to showcase how art has the capacity to change the world.

I am immensely grateful to the University and everyone I’ve encountered here; they have given my life purpose. Now, I am excited to bring my knowledge and skills to the Creative Lab, where we will work together to educate the next generation and make history together! Thank you, University of Adelaide.

In 2023, Onnie Chan was appointed the University's Chief Student Entrepreneur at ThincLab and completed her Masters in Immersive Media Technologies. The main image of Onnie, by Isaac Freeman, features a scene from an immersive virtual reality world she created as part of her thesis.

Tagged in Lumen Autumn 2024, Profiles