University Tourist – First week, First shock

After one week of being an exchange student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), let me tell you something: studying abroad is worth it. If you choose to study in a country that has a totally different culture from where you were raised then the second you put a foot in that country you will find everything different – even if you’re a third culture kid, I swear.

HK1Mad Taxi driver?
I flew with my friends to Hong Kong (HK), and our first challenge was to get a taxi to our residence. Taxi drivers do not speak English, we only had our address in Chinese on a piece of paper. Our suitcases did not fit properly in the boot so he could not close it. We didn’t freak out because we saw many people in the same situation and everyone acted like it was normal. All we thought was WELCOME TO HONG KONG. You really feel like you’re in a different world. That is what’s great about it!

No matter how much you’ve researched the city you are heading to, internet does not tell you everything. It does not tell you for instance how actually few people can speak English, it does not tell you either that nothing is flat in Hong Kong. The moment you step out of your flat, you will encounter hills and stairs, and some are quite steep indeed. Of course there are escalators but not everywhere. My friends and I took it as THE occasion to work out. We also discovered a natural infinity pool when we went hiking, which wasn’t mentioned in our travel guide and the surprise definitely gave more charm to that place. In fact no matter what happens during your study abroad, as you’re constantly eager to discover and as you’re going crazy about every little thing that’s different from home, you’ll never be disappointed!

Jet lag
For nearly 4 days we were constantly jet lagged, when it’s 4pm in HK it’s 8am in Londonhk2 so my friends and I would just suddenly veg out for two hours because it was as if we didn’t sleep at night at all. But do not worry you’ll be able to sleep even the first night, because every day you’ll do a new thing. You’ll cram in some hiking, shopping, visits, or even IKEA bargain haunting with your friends! So at the end of the day you will feel like you’ve lived three weeks already and that is really what is best about studying abroad. It is the fact that you will do more than you’ve ever done in your life, you get a sense of fulfilment, a feeling that you’ve spent your day well!

My best advice
Never stay alone. There is always an opportunity to make friends, whether you are in a society (where you will have the best chance to mingle with locals), in the common room of your accommodation, in class, at the cafeteria, anywhere is a great opportunity to make friends and everyone is even more open to making friends than in freshers ;). It’s been a week and a half that I’ve been in Hong Kong, I’ve been out a lot, I’ve tried a lot of local restaurants where we had unlimited drinks and food for £6! All my days are so filled up with study and visit that I haven’t had the time yet to feel homesick at all, if I ever will.

Studying abroad is really one of the best opportunities of your life. If you have the chance, take it because it really is the occasion to mix studies and travel! Learning about Asian’s point of view on politics is fascinating! But that topic is for another time!

Stay tuned!


Former Greek finance minister Varoufakis at King’s

It’s great that as a King’s student, I can attend amazing events after my classes end! There are a myriad of intellectually stimulating events going on every day in London. These events cover both topical and long-standing issues from academic disciplines ranging from medicine to political economy, and even non-academic interests.

I would like to share my memories from one particular event that has recently taken place at King’s. It was a public lecture by Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece. The event was organized with thanks to the student-led Economics and Finance Society at King’s, and I received an invitation from my course in the Department of Political Economy.
Andrej's blog photo
Yanis Varoufakis, as many of you will certainly know, is best known for his position as Greek finance minister during arguably the most intense bailout negotiations Greece has had with its creditors. He assumed office on 27 January 2015 after Syriza, a radical left-wing party he is part of, won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections by promising to dramatically cut austerity. From the beginning the new finance minister was forced to reconcile draconian austerity measures imposed in a deal with Greece’s international creditors, mainly the Troika, in exchange for additional loans. Varoufakis treaded the line between negotiating with creditors while trying to keep his promise of liberating the Greek people from them.

The thesis that Varoufakis presented to the audience of about 300 people was rather paradoxical; he claimed that the case of Greek bailout was an extraordinary one (or ‘curious’ as he put it), because he believes that the international creditors did not want their money back.

I believe the talk Varoufakis gave was striking in several respects. Firstly, his thesis is extremely controversial. Secondly, and most importantly, the reasons that Varoufakis provided to support his claims were also controversial.

Varoufakis went on to explain his thinking through graphs and some very insightful anecdotal evidence. He frequently used humor and effectively took advantage of his public speaking skills to engage with the audience. His main argument started with explaining why it was evident from the very start that Greece would be unable to pay back the loans that it was given. Beside other metrics, he pointed out that austerity will lead to shrinkage of the economy, hence lower revenue which could be used to repay the debt.

After that–and this is where it got really interesting–he said that he presented the arguments with calculations to the creditors. Particularly, he talked about a private closed-door meeting with Christine Lagarde, the chief of the IMF. According to his version of the story, she allegedly explicitly acknowledged that Greece would not be able to repay the debt, however, maintained insisting on Greece succumbing to the Troika demands claiming that Greece would otherwise create an unpleasant precedence for other EU countries.

When I was reflecting on the point with my friends during a wine reception after the talk, I realized that if the author of the claims was not Varoufakis, I would have likely considered the claims to be unscholarly, and perhaps even think of them as conspiracies. However, assuming he was telling the truth, the talk provided me with a great insight into how such negotiations may work in practice.

If I hadn’t chosen King’s and living in London, I would have likely missed many of this and many similarly insightful talks!

Andrej, BA/BSc Political Economy

Why I chose International Relations at King’s


Did you follow the proceedings of the Climate negotiations in Paris? Or perhaps you have paid attention to the diplomatic manoeuvres following the shooting down of the Russian jet by Turkey? Or are you more interested in the legal disputes in the South China Sea over airfields, natural resources and shipping lanes? Or perhaps you are intrigued by the role of social media, transnational networks and non-governmental organisations in global politics? Depending on your interests, all this and much more can be part of your IR degree in King’s.

The study of International Relations has traditionally meant studying relationships between states. In modern times, however, a host of other actors need also to be considered. In the King’s IR programme, you can pursue the path that interests you most. Whether your focus is on the foreign policy and bilateral diplomacy, the influence of the non-state actors or the many economic dependencies and the independent agency of international institutions, the decision is yours. Students take set modules only in their first year and after that everyone is encouraged to focus on topics that they feel most passionate about. In the final year, you will also choose a regional specialization module giving you deeper knowledge of a certain region. Furthermore, reflecting the inter-disciplinary nature of international relations, the IR students have modules available also from the European and International Studies and Political Economy departments, while the regional modules are offered by the King’s Global Institutes.

In the Department of War Studies, the learning experience goes beyond the classroom. Lectures and seminars are frequently accompanied by different department-run events focusing on a particular aspect or situation in international politics. Given its central location in London and the many professional and academic networks, moreover, King’s hosts more high level speakers than an average student can fit into his or her schedule. In addition to the events organised by the university, the wide spectrum of different student societies, and the co-operation with other London-based institutions, think thanks and policy-centres, ensure that every week is packed full of extra-curricular opportunities.

In short, its in-built flexibility, multi-disciplinarity and reputation made the King’s IR programme the number one choice for me almost three years ago. Needless to say, I have not regretted my choice. Over the next couple of months, I hope I can tell you more about studying IR in King’s as well as living in London as an international student. And of course, if there is anything I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask!