It has been over one month since I left the U.K, and it gives me great pleasure to say my time in Hong Kong, so far, has been nothing short of singular. The food has surprised me at every turn, the sights continue to leave me awe-struck, the local students have been incredibly welcoming and fellow exchange students I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know are beyond lovely. To those who are contemplating embarking on a semester abroad for your course: If you are reading this, you should know that I’ll be addressing that voice inside your head saying that you need to seize this chance! You will not regret living and studying in the grand place that is Hong Kong. I’ll be posting at the beginning of every month I’m staying here, reflecting on the previous months happenings!
Packing was not a problem (just putting clothes in a bag, right?). The real problem was that I hadn’t finished one of the essays I had been set for one of my modules. I had to face the bitter reality of having to write it on the flight as well as in a jet-lagged state once I had arrived at my accommodation. Nevertheless, I completed it and was then able to embrace my life at Lingnan University. By forcing myself not to sleep during the day, and catch up on some well missed hours, I adapted to the new time zone well and was ready for my registration and orientation.
However, as is with all travel stories, something is either missing or something has to go drastically wrong. I had to deal with the former, as my Student Visa had not delivered before my flight. Receiving it from the Office of Global Education the week I arrived was a good feeling but having to buy ferry tickets for a trip to Macau for it to then get activated was frustrating. The casinos and high-end department stores get a bit old after a while. Arriving back in Hong Kong as an official student was a great feeling, I could finally do what I set out to do!
With that, classes began. Forget everything you think you know about University assessment when in Lingnan. It’s all either group assessment, exams and/or has what they call a ‘Service Learning’ component. By incorporating community service into one of my courses, we are expected to fulfil 30 hours of planning and service which is supposed to influence our end of term project. With group presentations and performances, as well as attendance carrying 10% of the overall grade in two of my classes, every lesson really does count! With interactive lessons rather than lectures however, there is a strong social feeling in each session with the teachers’ constant engagement with every single student.
That is but only one side of the coin, as the everyday life outside of class is full of activates. Hiking trails behind the university are as vast as they are beautiful. The food is as good as it is cheap. The night life is the definition of vibrant. If I can offer one piece of advice for each of these examples: take lots of water and snacks with you as the humidity will ware away at you, don’t worry, if you tire of rice, noodles and dumplings there are plenty of restaurants that deal in western food and (this is vital), you are NOT paying the same drink prices in clubs as you would do at your home institution, especially in the UK. A good life hack? Beer and cider is unbelievably cheap in local shops, 7-Eleven and Circle K etc. So, stick to those and once you’re ready for a groove, find a club! Lan Kwai Fong in Central Hong Kong is the best place for a big night out with establishments for dining and/or drinking! Be sure to remember the location of the night bus’s stop or learn a bit of Cantonese for the cab drivers, you’ll struggle getting home otherwise.
For those wanting a night out without the atmosphere of a club or bar, myself and fellow exchange students discovered that certain restaurants have nights dedicated to dancing! By attending Swing, Salsa and Bachata classes, it’s a great way to say you’re partaking in some physical activity. Even if you mix in some cocktails and wine. As I mentioned above, if you miss western food or culture, these joints are perfect for just that. Hong Kong is a place where different cultures don’t seem to clash but exist alongside each other.
When it comes to shopping, you can avoid the expensive price tags by going to the ‘Ladies Market’ in MongKok. Going for what seems like miles, stalls selling discounted clothes, bags, electronic goods as well as miscellaneous knick-knacks. Not only do these people sell products at a reduced price, but you can also barter with them. Having experienced this first hand, I can tell you it is possible to get a very good deal on a variety of different products, but that depends on who you find yourself dealing with. It could be a reasonable sales-person, looking to do a deal, or a stubborn one, dead set on their price.
That just about summarises first month in Hong Kong and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you’re never alone. Being surrounded by students from across the globe, you are bound to make friends and experience every new moment together! Oh, and if you do choose Hong Kong as a place of study for your semester abroad, pack thick clothes for the end of winter! There is no insulation in the accommodation and no central heating! Listen to your parents when they say take that cardigan or hoodie you love to laze in, it makes all the world’s difference!
February sees not only warmer weather, but it sees beginning of the year of the Dog! With a week’s holiday, all citizens will be taking part in the weekend long festival starting on the 15th and ending on the 19th. I intend to take in every second.