There are only a handful places further away from King’s than Hong Kong, most of them called Australia or “Your Favorite Holiday Destination”. Unlike them, this vibrant city on the other side of the world is full of cultural and academic differences. Therefore, to help you mentally prepare for your adventure abroad, I compiled a list of 10 things you will undoubtedly encounter while studying here.
- Cheese is expensive. You may laugh at it now, from the comfort of your English couch, but the one complaint I come across most often with fellow exchange students is the price of dairy products. Say goodbye to white cheese and seriously limit your daily yoghurt intake if you want to keep travelling.
- The final exam isn’t 90% of your grade anymore. Gone are the days when you could simply go through all the lecture recordings a day before the exam and get a first. In the University of Hong Kong, your final exam constitutes of 40-50% of your grades which means that, unfortunately, you will have to work throughout the semester.
- Don’t bother trying to understand the grading system. Your grades will luckily have no effect on your C-score, but even if you’re keen to check your progress out of curiosity, you’ll quickly find out that this is impossible. Every course has a different method of grading. They also judge your performance based on other students’ marks, so even the professors don’t know if you’re on track to achieving an A!
- Math is hard. This may not apply to you, but being an Economics student at King’s, I wasn’t mentally prepared to regularly derive two-page mathematical proofs in my Econometrics courses. Prepare yourself and if you can, don’t take Statistics modules. Locals go on exchange just to evade them, so why should you suffer?
- Receive hall accommodation. If you don’t get it initially, sign up for the waiting list. Renting in Hong Kong is ridiculously expensive. Luckily for us, exchange students, hall accommodation is heavily subsidised by the local Jockey Club, so you end up paying just a hundred pounds per month. Pretty great deal, even if you have to share a room with a stranger for a year!
- Don’t start conversations with local politics. While there’s no harm in talking about Hong Kong and China with your friends or in Politics class, asking strangers about their opinions may not be the best way to approach people here. There are better ice-breakers!
- Speaking about China, visit Mainland China. Having lived in Beijing for three years before coming to King’s, I have to mention that experiencing Mainland with your own eyes is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. Just pick a region that suits you the most: South-West if you love nature, East if you’d like to see some of the largest cities on this planet, North if you want to see the culture. Oh, and remember to apply for a visa. You don’t want to be caught trespassing by the Chinese police.
Just one of the many sights you can see in Mainland China
- Go hiking. Hiking may not be the first thing coming to your mind when you think about Hong Kong, but it’s definitely one of the popular pastimes here. I tend to experience the trails in a less conventional way, involving ropes, harnesses and potentially fatal accidents but I heard the usual approach is as good if not better!
- Try to make at least one local friend. It’s easy to limit yourself to a group of exchange students but making friendships with full-time HKU students is definitely worth the effort. I was lucky to get a roommate from Hong Kong in the second semester, and thanks to her, I could experience a traditional Chinese New Year Dinner, playing Mahjong and a visit to a Flower Market at 3 am. At the very least you’ll finally learn where to find affordable cheese!
- Study, even if only for a bit. Since our grades don’t count toward the C-score, we tend to ignore this aspect of exchange. While partying, hiking and travelling is great, the reputation of exchange students is in dire need of improvement. At the moment, we’re known amongst the locals as “these who lower the grade curve for everyone”. Do you really want to be a person who lowers the grade curve for everyone?
A Traditional Chinese New Year Dinner
Overall, Hong Kong is a really great place for studying abroad. It may not have as much cheese as all the other locations, but it’s definitely an experience worth doing. Especially if you have never lived in Asia before!