New Sights, New Smells – Hong Kong

“Learn a little Cantonese and the locals will bend their backs to help you out”

Arriving in Hong Kong on my first day was both exciting and daunting at the same time – I had only been overseas less than a handful of times, let alone traveling by myself on this occasion. However, upon stepping foot on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, the crowds, the dazzling LED lights and the new smells were comforting – I knew then that my time in Hong Kong was only going to get better.

If you plan to come to Hong Kong, you may notice (as I did) that Hong Kong locals hold different conceptions of “personal space”. I first noticed this when I boarded the Hong Kong MTR (a feature of Hong Kong which you will become very familiar with and learn to appreciate very much) from the Hong Kong airport to my hotel. Locals were comfortable with standing or sitting close together on trains, buses or public transport in general.

This was interesting as it was a quick introduction to the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Australia. As such, if you do find yourself in the Hong Kong MTR or on a bus and a local sits or stands next to you despite there being an abundance of space or seats available – this is not meant to intrude but rather to save space.

Scenes such as this are not uncommon in Hong Kong – Photo Credit Arnold M

Hong Kong locals are friendly, warm and will do what they can to accommodate your needs. You will often find this when you order food at a restaurant or food stall. Despite the inherent language barriers, locals will find ways to communicate and help you with your order. If you wish, you may reciprocate their kindness by thanking the person who served you in Cantonese – this is very much appreciated. There are an abundance of resources available in YouTube or Google to help you with basic Cantonese.

For those of you who are excited to try the cuisine in Hong Kong, do not fret, I will address the very interesting topic of cuisine in another blog post given its vast and varied nature.

I am currently undertaking my single exchange semester in City University of Hong Kong (CityU). CityU is located in Kowloon Tong and is very accessible by the MTR as the university is connected to the MTR station via a small tunnel. CityU offers a diverse range of courses which range from studies in European and Asian languages to Principles of Nuclear Engineering.

Although the CityU campus is not large, it contains many interesting features of which I highly recommend that you take advantage of to help you make the most of your exchange semester – from swimming pools, restaurants and large canteens, rooftop gardens to barbecue facilities (rest assured I will taking advantage of the latter).

CityU has some very interesting areas where you can relax and escape the heat.

To close, if you do find yourself entertaining the idea of studying abroad for one or two semesters – do not hesitate any longer and visit the STAE office in level 1 of A block in QUT GP campus.

I will be covering more things about Hong Kong, so watch this space再見 (joigin)

Fashion in Hong Kong

Nhu, C. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Hong Kong Polythechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

I studied fashion design at The Hong Kong Polythechnic University in second semester of my second year. The Institute of Textiles and Clothing in PolyU is significantly different to QUT fashion studios as they have a larger number in students, more facilities however the teaching was not as intimate. The institute offered eye-opening subjects such as knitting, colouration, intimate apparel, shoe design, denim design and so on. The teaching staff were also very experienced and supportive especially the pattern maker, knitting technician, colouration and finishing professor that taught me.

During my semester abroad, I made myself at home at the PolyU student accommodation. I paid approximately $1 600 for the whole semester which was significantly cheaper than living outside of the student dorms. It was one of the best decisions I made over in HK as I built strong friendships with my roommate, other exchange students and the workers within the building. It was also near the university, only taking 10 minutes by foot.  Within the student accommodation it provided functional, studying and leisure facilities including a communal gym, swimming pool, snooker pool room, game room, table tennis, dance room, kitchen, laundry room, study rooms and printers.

The cost of living was not as bad as I was expecting. I roughly spent $8000-9000 during the whole 4months (including flights, flights booked in HK, accommodation). Hong Kong is full of culture, mixing both Western and Eastern qualities. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock as my ethnical background is Chinese and Vietnamese.  Hong Kong was my home, the hustle and bustle of the night life and the sensational scenery as you escape the city will forever keep me wanting more. I met and became close friends with many of the locals and exchange students who’ve broadened my perspective on life and design.

My advice for students who are still undecided whether to go or not, I say go!! It’s true when past exchange students say it’s one of the most memorable and best experience. For the future exchange students, my advice is to learn as much as you can and take advantage of your host university’s curriculum but also don’t forget to make time for exploring your host country, be part of their culture, make both local and exchange friends, visit nearby countries and take up every opportunity!

Its what you make it

Nicola, B.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

The biggest shock when arriving at PolyU was that very little was online.  All the students prefer face-to-face contact and therefore no lectures are recorded, all questions are asked in class or you meet up with your lecturer/tutor, all assignments are still printed out and handed in and they are only just starting to build up blackboard. The students were all very motivated, spent so much extra time in the library and all group work was discussed in person. I really enjoyed my time on campus at PolyU.  They had so many events and different activities always happening on campus.  They may not have as many clubs but they put so much energy into the clubs and the different stalls they had set up were just amazing!  Many of my classes were quite interactive with one having 40 students going on a field trip to a company that organises a simulation where you can experience what it is like living in aged care.  This was a lot of fun and certainly an experience.

The halls accommodation was a bit of an adjustment having to life in such small quarters as well as with a roommate.  It was super close to the university, to public transport and to plenty of restaurants which made it worthwhile.  Most nights at about 7pm there would be a message from an international student organising to go for dinner that night so there was always an opportunity to be social.

Hong Kong is a very cheap place, particularly in relation to Australia.  Whilst some things were more expensive than anticipated, travelling around Hong Kong and to other countries close by was very easy and very cheap.  A real shock for me was the amount of people living in Hong Kong.  I knew it was a small country with a large population but I really was not expecting it to be as busy as it was.  Public transport would get so packed and at night  just walking down the sidewalk sometimes would be difficult with all the people around.  In saying that though, it is also a place that has many hiking routes and places to escape.  Many weekends involved exploring a different part and finding those quite places where everything is calm.  I was very lucky that I was put with some truly lovely local students that took me places, made suggestions and gave me any advice I needed.  Before I left for Hong Kong I had a lot of people tell me there was English everywhere and while English was on most signs and most people had broken English, it was not as common as I had anticipated.  This caused some difficulties while I was over there, particularly with some of the local students but for the most part could usually work around the language barrier.

The major highlight of my exchange was simply the friendships I formed while over there.  I certainly miss lots of people but I know have friendships all around the world and there is a certain special feeling in that.  While it was amazing to see the country and experience so many new adventures, it would not have been the same without new friends around me experiencing it too.  I suggest to anyone that is going on an exchange to just say yes to everything and just really make the most of everything that the experience is.  As the popular saying goes “it is what you make it” and I truly felt my exchange experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity with so many lasting memories.

Victoria Bridge, PolyU & Disneyland Hong Kong

An action-packed semester in Hong Kong

Jaime L, Bachelor of Business

City University of Hong Kong (Semester 1, 2016)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

I completed one semester of exchange at City University Hong Kong. Going on exchange has opened up so many doors for me. My time abroad in Hong Kong has been invaluable to building both my career opportunities and my global mindset. Personally, my whole exchange was a highlight. I have built so many great memories and experiences in the past 5 months that I will never forget.

Highlights

Hong Kong is an absolutely incredible country. It is so condensed yet there is something for everyone. Living in Hong Kong I discovered there is so much more to the country than just high rises and condensed city. Catching a ferry or even bus just out of the city you’ll find so many hikes offering incredible views of the nature in Hong Kong. One of the many things I loved about Hong Kong was the public transport. You can get a student oyster card and ride the MTR for next to nothing, and it’s so easy and fast to use! But we found that even just catching an MTR somewhere and exploring the streets of Hong Kong was enough, there was something to see everywhere!

Finances

I had budgeted $10,000 for the whole trip. I went over budget in my time in Hong Kong, spending around $14,000. However the reason for this was spontaneous trips that I went on to Thailand, Macau and China. I had not planned on overseas travel but when the opportunity arose I jumped on it blowing budget but not regretting it at all. Also, I loved exchange so much I extended my trip at the end, also causing me to go over budget. Getting student accommodation is one of the best things for the budget as it is so cheap. Eating in Hong Kong is generally pretty cheap, unless you eat at Western style restaurants: then it can be quite expensive. CityU has a number of canteens where you can pick up a decent (not great) meal for around $5 AUD. As I mentioned before public transport is not expensive nor is the shopping there if you barter hard enough.

Accommodation

I was lucky enough to be given a shared room at student accommodation. This was great! They had a bus come and pick you up from the airport to take you to residence; they had tours to IKEA so students could get all their bedding and such and also a large number of Welcome Parties and Galas. The room and facilities itself was nice, definitely comfortable although small. I was lucky in that I got a really nice roommate which definitely helped. The accommodation is right next to the uni which is a massive bonus! It was also nice to be living basically with all of my friends I had made there.

Challenges

Overall Hong Kong was easy to live in and feel at home. I had no issues with safety at all which was huge in making me feel at home quite early on. Luckily I had a travel card so when I was running out of money I could easily just transfer across. The main challenge I faced was to do with my subjects. Once I got to Hong Kong Cityu told me that I had to change a subject to meet their requirements, and this was about a week after I arrived. Being in my second last semester of my degree I didn’t have much room to move subject wise and it turned out the subject I had chosen would not work with QUT, however I found this out too late and could not change. This has now resulted in me having to complete 5 subjects this semester.

Tips

  • Take your own bedding! Chances are you’ll be arriving late in the evening and just wanting to get some sleep: they do not provide you with bedding so spare an uncomfortable night on a thin unprotected mattress and take some sheets at least!
  • Take some extra passport photos, these will come in handy for your octopus card and any visas you may apply for (for example China).
  • Go to Tequila Jacks in Tsim Sha Tsui, they have a great happy hour including $2AUD tacos!
  • When bartering in the markets do not be afraid to walk away if they are not going down to the price you want, they will chase you lowering their price.
  • Be open and friendly, just smile and say hello, you have no idea where it will take you!

 

The benefits of exchange are endless. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone and everyone who is even the slightest bit interested. There will be times where it does seem tough and you don’t have your family or friends from home, but the memories and friends you make there are invaluable. You build a new support network of people who are in the same boat as you. I think it’s incredible to be able to live in another country for nearly 6 months. Hong Kong has changed my life and opened up so many more doors for me. I wish I could do it all over again!