By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
So Hong Kong has been my new home for two weeks already, I have no idea where the time’s gone!
It feels like so long since my departure from the UK and I’m surprised at how easily I’ve settled in and how welcoming the country is as a whole. There is perfect marriage of East-meets-West here which I think has made the transition of moving here so easy! I really cannot stress enough how amazing and intriguing I am finding Hong Kong is, I absolutely love it and can’t wait to really start immersing myself in the culture. The locals are super friendly and really go out of their way to help you with directions and generally show you how things are done over here; I thought there would be more of a language barrier but there really isn’t!
Upon my arrival in HK late at night, I took a taxi to halls which I was slightly worried about as the taxi driver didn’t speak much English, but luckily I had screen-shotted the address in Cantonese on my phone. PolyU has a buddy scheme where exchange students are paired with a local student to help them with settling in and getting to know Hong Kong, so many exchange students’ buddies met them at the airport to help them navigate to the university halls, which is so helpful. My buddy was travelling around Europe when I arrived but I have met him since and he has been such a help and opened my eyes to many aspects of Hong Kong that I would not have otherwise discovered.
Over the first few days in Hong Kong, I spent time getting to know other students, the university campus and sorting out the bare essentials for setting up my new life here. On the first day, a few local students gave myself and other exchange students a mini tour of campus and took us to Ikea so we could make our rooms a little more homely!
In terms of travel, an Octopus card is used to get around Hong Kong by all means of transport (MTR, trains, trams, buses) and also at supermarkets, to top up your phone bills, print work at uni, you name it! (Take note the rest of the world!) You can pick up an Octopus card from any MTR station and then apply for a student one with half price rates which takes about 2 weeks to process. Phone-wise, I got a SIM from China Mobile which is on a really good plan. I paid 80 HK dollars initially and then my pay as you go plan costs me 30 HK dollars every 10 days (about £2.50) which gives me unlimited calls and texts to Hong Kong numbers and unlimited 3G which is so handy with group messaging and organising events. I have decided not to get a bank account here as my cashcard works well and a previous student told me that she never used the Hong Kong bank account that she opened but if you decide you want to open one there is a bank on campus.
The university could not have been more helpful so far with orientation processes, adding and dropping subjects, setting up events and so on, I doubt you will experience any trouble with academic issues as the university is so informative and the International Affairs Office is so friendly and accessible. I cannot stress enough how much I would encourage students to take the study abroad experience as it is quickly becoming the best decision I have ever made!
My Hong Kong bucket list is also taking shape! I’ve ticked off meeting people from around the world, making an incense wish at a temple and getting my fortune told. Learning Mandarin is also in progress. I’ve attached a few pictures of what I’ve been up to so far, I am surprised at how much exploring I’ve managed to fit in already amongst attending uni, but I can’t wait to continue exploring Hong Kong and experiencing everything it has to offer!
If you have any questions about Hong Kong or PolyU don’t hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Harbour Day and Night
Harbour at Night
Wong Tai Sin Temple and Flower Market
The Harbour and Avenue of Stars
St Stephen’s Beach
Yesterday’s Mid-Autumn Festival / Lantern Festival
Shek O Beach