A road map to my first month as an Exchange Student at City University of Hong Kong

My name is Emma Cockburn and I am a 4th year Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/ Bachelor of Business (Economics) undertaking an exchange semester at City University of Hong Kong.

The first month of my semester exchange at City University of Hong Kong has been one of adventure and learning! I was very fortunate to receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study in the region.

The Montane Mansion Building

Where do you live?
The student residential halls are the ideal form of on-campus accommodation. I am in Sir Gordon and Lady Ivy Wu Hall (Hall 9). My roommate is an exchange student from Sydney and we share a bathroom with two Canadian exchange students from Queens University. There is a gym and canteen within the student residence. If you have space in your suitcase it is a good idea to bring your own bedding. I highly recommend applying for the student residential halls as it is by far the cheapest form of accommodation and provides a great opportunity to meet other students and get involved in Hall activities. The Halls are highly sort after by international and domestic students so I would advise to apply as soon as registration is open!

CityU Student Residential Halls

What should I get involved in?
There are so many opportunities to get involved at CityU. Taking advantage of these opportunities will enrich your exchange experience. To find out what is happening you should check your CityU email, look at the notice boards on campus and ask other students.

Clubs, Societies & Workshops
I was selected in the English-Speaking Debating Team and Business Proposal and Competition Club. I will be representing the university at an international debating competition in Macau next month! The College of Business host a range of free workshops. I have attended three of the Career & Leadership Development Programme sessions. In these sessions, I learnt how to create a powerful CV and cover letter to demonstrate your passion, leadership potential, and key competencies such as teamwork, interpersonal communication, problem solving, and business acumen.

Inter-hall Basketball Competition
I was selected in the inter-hall Women’s Basketball Competition. The team is comprised of local and international students. My team progressed to the semi-finals. We were narrowly defeated by Hall 7 who won the grand final. I really enjoyed participating in the inter-hall basketball competition. Each semester they host different inter-hall competitions, such as table tennis and athletics. I would absolutely recommend trialling for a team!

Inter-hall Basketball Competition

CityU International Case Competition Team
Drawing on the training and my experience competing in the QUT Business School International Case Competitions Team, I have worked collaboratively with the academic advisor and taken an active leadership role in developing students in the recently established CityU International Case Competition Team.

Model United Nations Conference
I attended the CityU Model United Nations conference. This conference hosted international and domestic university students from across Hong Kong. I participated in the Social and Economic Council as the delegate for Russia. In this council, we discussed the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis and political relief. After two days of diplomacy, advocacy and heated debate, we proposed a draft resolution and I was humbled to be awarded Best Delegate.

CityU Model United Nations conference awarded Best Delegate

Where should I eat?
There is a huge variety of food available in Hong Kong. The on-campus canteens provide more affordable options, a meal will cost about $5AUD. Western food tends to be more expensive. Each Hall floor has its own kitchen so you can cook food. I have been making oats and bananas for breakfast and cooking brown rice and broccoli for lunches (luckily my roommate brought a rice cooker). I have been using the free sauces available at the canteens. Things like peanut butter and Nutella are expensive so if you would like to bring some with you I would recommend doing that! There are so many great food options and the local street food is also delicious.   

What else is there to do in and around Hong Kong?
Hiking
There are the most amazing hiking trails in Hong Kong. For example, I have hiked Devil’s Peak, Lion Rock, Ng Tung Chai and the Peak. The scenery ranges from peaks overlooking skyscrapers, incredible sunsets, waterfalls with dense rainforest and beaches. It is truly beautiful.

Sunset Hike at Devil’s Peak

Travel
Hong Kong is a great base to travel around Asia. A lot of exchange students travel to places such as Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Cambodia and Thailand. Luckily, I have classes Tuesday through Thursday so I always have a long weekend. So far, I have travelled to Vietnam and I have a trip planned to go to Shenzhen in China.

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

I have been enjoying getting to know the local people and culture. The juxtaposition between the colourful housing estates, mountain peaks and modern skyscrapers is breathtaking. There is never a dull moment in Hong Kong. I look forward to what else is in store!

A video of my first week as an exchange student at City University of Hong Kong

Urban Transformation Study Tour: Day Four

Day 4 of the trip was a later start for many of us including me due to sore feet and exhaustion. After getting up some of the girls and I headed for breakfast at fun toast and got the biggest iced coffees I’ve ever seen.

After breakfast we meet the rest of the group and Wilford Loo at the Housing and Development Board (the HDB Hub). Here we had a tour learning about the history of Singapore planning, how Singapore are creating liveable and vibrant towns and communities. The hub was first established in 1961 and the first project was completed in 1966. It houses more than 80% of the Singapore population. Singapore has some very interesting planning concepts such as the checkerboard concept, the neighbourhood concept and the concept of hierarchy. The Hub displayed many future developments one included the 3D virtual interactive map with lights highlighting the five districts in the town of Tengah these included plantation, garden, park, brick land and forest hill. There were also 3D structures of other future urban structures within Singapore. Another interesting plan included the Plan of Punggol. In this plan all the roads connected to the water, everything was within a walking distance of 500m and the LRT. Due to the HDB Hub being the place to buy public housing there were show flats of up to five bedroom much like IKEA.

The HDB Hub

We then went to the Pinnacle at Duxton an urban structure consisting of five 50 storey separate buildings connected by a skybridge on the top and middle floors. From the top we had an amazing view of Singapore. Along the sky bridge there were various seating areas, a beach that wasn’t really a beach and a rock-climbing structure.

The Pinnacle at Duxton

Our last stop for the night was the Gardens by the Bay. The first dome we went into was the flower dome. It contained many different gardens from all around the world. The other dome we went into was the cloud forest. This had a massive waterfall in it with many rainforest plants surrounding. The dome also consisted of various sky and tree top walks over the plants and waterfall. Lastly, we went to the light show at the outside gardens which was amazing seeing the structures change different colours to synchronised music.

Gardens by the Bay

After we headed back to our pods for a good night’s sleep and to prepare for our early flight the next morning.

NCP Sri Lanka/Singapore Urban Transformation Study Tour

Day 2 (the first full day in Singapore) of the Sri Lanka/Singapore NCP Study trip started off with breakfast at Maxwell food Centre. We then headed to meet with Peter Hyland, a urban land-use strategist, from Cistri. Cistri represents URBIS Australia’s International Business an Urban Development Firm.

Cistri: Meeting with Peter Hyland

From a student’s perspective that hasn’t completed their work placement yet, meeting with an industry professional was a great opportunity to get an insight to what the workplace would hold and especially from an overseas country. Peter Hyland is a very welcoming person, who’s presentation on the Planning of Singapore was fantastic. It was an eyeopener to see how much the country has changed over time, how it all interconnects and what they have implemented to continually improve the city. As Peter described, “Singapore is A Planning Utopia” and that is exactly how it is perceived, everything is planned with a purpose. A nice little surprise was actually meeting a current QUT student undertaking a placement/internship in Singapore, also under the NCP exchange but for 6 weeks. This was a great way to understand from another student’s perspective, how work placement is and what sorts of things are involved (and also the fact that they were completing the placement overseas made it very interesting). She joined us for the meeting and the rest of the day, and took us to her apartment where we met her to other roommates who, coincidentally were also completing the NCP exchange.

The rest of the afternoon was blocked out because we were unsure how long the meeting would go for. The meeting did end up finishing at around 12:30pm so it was perfect timing to go and grab some lunch. The Lau Pa Sat, food market was just a few hundred meters down the road which was perfect because, well Singapore in the middle of the day is very humid/hot.

Yummy Pho

From here we made our way to Chinatown. It’s fascinating to see the little hubs Singapore has created, just like in Australia. Being Chinese New Year soon the streets of Chinatown were filled with stalls selling decorations. This part of the city was a little more run down so it was great to compare the two parts of the city. To top off the visit to Chinatown a few of us decided to try Durian, and for those who don’t know what it is, Durian is the world’s most smelliest fruit and banned on parts of public transport, hotels and restaurants purely because of the stench. Let’s just say that it tastes just as it smells!!

After Chinatown we walked to the Urban Redevelopment Centre where we were able to have a look at a model of the whole of Singapore. Being able to see the whole city in one go is very cool and you to can gain a sense of perspective on everything. It allows you to see where you have travelled in comparison to the city centre and sometimes finding places we have visited and being surprised as to where they are located in the city. Past Master Plans and Concept Plans were also available for the public to view which was very educational. It was remarkable to see how the plans were put into action and the detail that goes into them is incredible.

Urban Redevelopment Centre: Model of Singapore

The night consisted of meeting the other QUT students that were over here on a NCP for 6 weeks short exchange. As they were staying in a unit we decided to go to their pool, because after walking around all day in the humid environment of Singapore the pool sounded fantastic. After the pool we caught the MRT to Marina Bay to watch the light show on the bay and boy was the light show an experience. The planning of the Marina Bay is truly incredible. One thing that stood out to me was the walkability distance between sites being so close. Light shows, a shopping centre, carnival, hotel and the gardens all being within a radius of approx 1km, and well we just had had to visit all of them.

After the first FULL day in Singapore you start to realise how lucky you are to have been selected to go on such a trip/study tour. Just after one day you start to bond with the group of students you are travelling with and the inside jokes start, you experience things that you may not have experienced if you were not with this group of people and last of all you make friendships that will continue once back at uni. The best part for this, is knowing we haven’t even started the Sri Lanka part of the trip and that will be one eye-opening experience.

E

Re-imagining India: Three Parts Exhilarating, One Part Exhausting

Alicia Shorey, Bachelor of Design

Short-term Program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

What can I say other than it is an experience of a lifetime. The Re-imagining India program is 3 parts exhilarating and one-part exhausting, but amazing none the less.

Taj Mahal

Over the course of two weeks I was submerged into Indian culture and dipped into a world so full of vibrancy that it allowed me to open my eyes up to so many different ways of thinking. The photos showcase a glimpse of my journey through Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur which consisted of morning yoga and Bollywood classes, industry and NGO visits, cultural sites and beyond.

Vibrant Elephants in India

A highlight of mine was Jaipur Foot which is an organisation which provides free prosthetic limbs to those in need. While there, we were able to see how the organisation operated and see first-hand how this organisation is restoring faith in many people. Being able to watch a limb being fitted and its instant effect on a person’s life was indescribable and something I’ll never forget.

Jaipur Foot

The program overall was jam-packed with a variety of activities to fit all interests. Delicious meals were provided every day and the overall cost of the trip excluding flights is next to nothing. What are you waiting for?

The program had activities to suit all interests

Urban Transformation Study Tour: Arriving in Singapore

To travel to our accommodation, we decided to take the metro. The metro was quite a bit more advanced than the Brisbane metro in a few ways. First off the trains arrive much more frequently than Brisbane metro as wait times were about 2 mins in comparison to every 20 mins to an hour in Brisbane.
When boarding the train there is a specific protocol that needs to be followed. When exiting the train you must exit through the centre of the doors, whereas when boarding you need to line up at the sides of the entrance to enter the train. The protocol ensures efficient use the trains stopping time.
From a brief glance from the train Singapore appears to have a varied range of housing types and styles. These vary from enormous housing apartment blocks to small 2-3 story town houses.


The trains were also easier to navigate as the audio announcements were very clear and there was a stop map on the train that lit up with the stop that it was at and the stops to come.

Upon our arrival at Bugis Station we had to walk 7 mins along brick pathways that had many small stairs. For Singapore, we decided to stay in a pod hotel called the Cube in Kampong Glam, which is an area that is heritage protected due to the beautiful historical architecture and urban structures. We were quite concerned that the pods would be small and claustrophobic, however they were very spacious and used the space well, with similar features to a tiny house design or an origami apartment. Although there were multiple pods in one room there still seemed to be a lot of privacy. I wonder whether pod accommodation could be a preferred option for student accommodation in Australia?

For an early dinner, we went to the Moroccan and Middle Eastern restaurant across from our accommodation. The people were very friendly and a bit cheeky, and there was a bit of banter between the Turkish restaurant across the street.

As one of the QUT guys had been there earlier for a meal they were very happy that he had returned with more customers so they gave us a 20% discount and free ice cream.

After dinner, we wandered around the streets around Kampong Glam and down Haji Street which is known as a trendy place to grab a drink. We stopped at a Mexico style bar/restaurant where a live music was being set up. We ordered beers and cocktails and sang along with the live music. After the drink, we headed back to the accommodation to go to bed.

Coming back to AUS

My time in Japan – after 5 months – has ultimately come to an end. It was an unforgettable time that (like a cliche) went all too quickly. But I must say, it’s good to be back in Australia, the familiarity and nostalgia of home are comforting. Not to say that there weren’t any challenges upon my return. Maybe the strangest negative aspect about returning home was the uncomfortability about suddenly being surrounded by Australians as opposed to Japanese people! I was surprised that I felt so uneasy being surrounded by my own countrymen and women. However, this feeling soon passed once I met up with some familiar and friendly faces.

Now, I suppose I should recap my time in Japan; but how could I possibly condense 5 months into a mere few hundred words? I think that I cannot and any attempt I would make would be abysmal. Nonetheless, I can make some confirmations for those who are thinking of coming to Japan. Japanese people are lovely and polite, the scenery and culture are mesmerising and in general it is a fantastic place to experience.

I think the most important part about exchange is not the place you visit, but (cliche incoming) the people you meet whilst on it are. People from around the World with different views and experiences that can make you a better person and make your time truly unforgettable. I’ve met people from Germany, Poland, China and more whom I can say are my firm friends. These people are what made my time in Japan so unforgettable and I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends.

So, if you are anxious about going on exchange or can’t quite make up your mind about whether it’s a good idea or not, I would suggest that you think about the possibilities of what could become of such an adventure. The people you could meet, the places you could see, the food you could eat, the things you could learn, the experiences you could have. I’m not promising that it will all be amazing, but there is so many fantastic possibilities that could become blissful realities if you take a chance. So, take a step in the dark and see what becomes of it for yourself.