First Few Weeks in Hong Kong – Initial Reflections

Anthony Bladen – The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour from Kowloon

I have been at CUHK for almost three weeks now and while everyone at Manchester has just finished exam season, here at CUHK we only have one more week of classes until the Chinese New Year break – meaning I have a lot to talk about!

Room View
Room View

Much of my final preparations for moving to Hong Kong revolved around ploughing through the alternative assessments that plagued the Christmas holiday, which in many ways took my mind away the fact that I would be moving six thousand miles away from home. The Christmas period flew by and it wasn’t long before I was at the airport ready for the long flight to East Asia not really knowing what to expect or how I would react to such a new environment. The months of preparation that had begun in the first year were starting to take shape, I was actually going to live and study in Hong Kong. Feeling apprehensive and excited I boarded the plane and I can truly say that I have not been disappointed and I would totally make the same decision again!

When moving to a place that is completely different from anywhere that you have ever been before, your mind is overloaded with so many impressions, thoughts and emotions that it makes it difficult to express your initial views in a coherent manner – but I will give it a try! Academically, there are more contact hours here at CUHK than at Manchester and it’s taken me a while to get used to having fifteen contact hours per week as oppose to my comfortable nine hours at Manchester. This may seem a little daunting to those interested in applying to Hong Kong universities. However, overall there is less work to do outside of class here because a bigger weight is given to attendance, participation and presentations, so all in all there isn’t that much of a difference. Don’t let the fifteen hours put you off! It seems clear that the biggest academic challenge for me here will be the Mandarin language classes, yet it is a welcomed challenge! Learning the different tones and the complex characters is really interesting and if you’re thinking of applying to study abroad at a university where the native language isn’t English, I’d really recommend taking language lessons! Hopefully by the end of the semester I will have learnt enough Mandarin to navigate my way through mainland China!

My 20th Birthday - it is traditional on one's birthday to have long noodles to symbolise a long life!
My 20th Birthday. It is traditional to have long noodles on your birthday to symbolise a long life!

The major difference between CUHK and Manchester is the campus and the collegiate system. Every student at CUHK lives in a college and at my college (Morningside) we have communal dinners which are really fun. At one communal dinner we even had a Burns Supper and earlier this week some of the exchange students went to have afternoon tea with the Master of the college Sir James Mirrlees, which was a really nice experience. The campus is situated on its own little mountain and is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city centre, but the heart of Hong Kong is only half an hour away on the tube. Most of my lectures and tutorials are within a ten minute walk from the college and there are also frequent campus buses,  so getting around CUHK is really easy. And finally, what everybody wants to know – the weather. To begin with, it was a nice 20 degrees, similar to British spring, and then came the ‘polar vortex’! Last Sunday was the coldest day in Hong Kong for sixty years! It was only around 3 degrees, but with no central heating and no double glazed walls, it felt colder than the most Manchester winters, though it won’t be long before the humidity and soaring temperatures kick in and the AC is on full blast!

Next time I will talk about the Chinese New Year celebrations and my trip to Taiwan for the Pingxi lantern festival!

The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Exploring Hong Kong
Exploring Hong Kong

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