From Hong Kong to Tucson: Cordell Lee '24 BS SBE

Sept. 21, 2020
Cordell Lee '24 BS SBE
Student Profile
Hong Kong

Eight Questions with Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments Student Cordell Lee

“The world needs to be more sustainable and with the skills taught in the SBE program, I am one step closer to being able to achieve that dream.”


Cordell Lee

Cordell Lee, who is originally from Hong Kong, entered CAPLA's BS in Sustainable Built Environments program after completing his high school career in the United Kingdom. He will graduate in 2024.

What brought you to the University of Arizona to study sustainable built environments?

I was introduced to the University of Arizona via my father’s friend, who commended it for being a great university. I decided to take his word on it and found that out to be very true. Admittedly, I didn’t come to this university to study sustainable built environments at first, and was instead undecided for the first year. However, my interest in science, art, and the need to make an impactful change in the world led me to the SBE major, and with Tucson being a great place to explore sustainable ideas, I found no better place to pursue that major than here at the University of Arizona.

What focus area in the SBE program are you most interested in pursuing?

My main interests within the major lie in either real estate development or city planning—real estate for the ability to contribute new ideas for building greener homes, and city planning for the potential to build and work towards thriving sustainable cities.

What do you like best about the SBE program and College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture?

The one thing I enjoy the most about this major is the people in it, from staff to students. The people I have met all have their own vision of what they want to bring to the table in terms of sustainability, and even if our focuses are different, the passion to create a sustainable world is very much evident. The professors also deliver their lectures brilliantly, with clear interest in educating us.

What has been your biggest challenge at UArizona, and how have you overcome that challenge?

Being an international student originally from Hong Kong, I admit that it was a bit tricky to come to a new country all alone where I was not accustomed to the cultural differences. Even if I had experience already from studying abroad in the United Kingdom, repeating the process all over again in the U.S. was quite difficult. However, I overcame that challenge by throwing myself into working hard in classes, and taking up positions such as being a peer mentor, and eventually everything fell into place. Now I have little to no worries about my time here.

What has been your biggest challenge outside of CAPLA, and how have you overcome that challenge?

I think for me, that would have to be building a good social group from the ground up once more. It was easier to do this in my boarding school in the U.K. since we lived in the same house. But to do that here, where I have more work being handed over to me than before, and being situated outside of my university in another apartment, makes it a bit difficult. However, after being here for two years so far, I can say that continuing to do your best in class and never being shy to take up different opportunities presented to you will inevitably attract and orbit people into your circle. All that’s needed is a mindset to work hard and aim to improve oneself in all aspects of life.

What does the CAPLA experience mean for you?

The CAPLA experience to me is the ability to bring my dream of making a difference in this world to life. The world needs to be more sustainable and with the skills taught in the SBE program, I am one step closer to being able to achieve that dream.

Tell us a bit about your job experience and career aspirations?

I have had experience working as a barrister's assistant at a law firm, a conservationist, a peer mentor, and as an artist and assistant for an art gallery in Hong Kong. My career aspirations aren’t quite clear to me just yet as; however, I know I want to work in the sustainability field, hopefully in real estate development or city planning.

What advice do you have for prospective SBE students?

Always work hard and never falter because of little mistakes. I think a lot of people are super hard on themselves and trick themselves into thinking they aren’t good enough and therefore don’t deserve what they’re working so hard for. However, that kind of mindset is not healthy and will only attract equally bad things. No matter what, you must work hard not only for your education but for yourself in improving your mental wellbeing and life in general. And most importantly, take every opportunity that presents itself, and never let slight mishaps and mistakes weigh you down. Take it from someone who realized only recently, after spending two years here, that the C in Tucson is not meant to be pronounced.


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