For my first full day in Hong Kong, it was the orientation and registration day at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), so I was thrown straight into travelling on the MTR! Luckily, the Metro to the University could not be easier- lasting about 20 minutes to the HKU stop, which is right on campus. Travel on all public transport uses the Octopus card, (Hong Kong’s answer to London’s Oyster card), so is a necessity before using the MTR. This is easy enough to purchase from the customer service desk, and top-up at all MTR stops. Not only is the Octopus card used for transport, but can be used for purchases in the supermarket, buying food in the canteen and even in shops.
The day itself consisted of registering for the student card; general introductions and advice for life in Hong Kong; the societies fair; a talk from the British Consulate; and a Social Sciences orientation. Disappointingly, the societies fair had a lack of sports societies, which I hope to join in the following weeks. However, they said there will be a lot more societies dotted around for the first few weeks of Uni. Considering all the students at HKU, it was to my surprise that I managed to bump into some of the other exchange students from Manchester during the day!
The first exploration of Kowloon around the Airbnb, was a 30-minute expedition to find an impressively reviewed (2,663 in total) dim-sum restaurant. A 30-minute walk in the humidity of Hong Kong could be described as a little uncomfortable, turned more so by torrential rain a few minutes before the destination. The many, many, many restaurants passed on the walk made it even more essential the dim-sum was worth it: it definitely was! This fact was confirmed by the queue outside of the restaurant, despite the downpour continuing outside… Another highlight was getting the tram to the harbour, just a couple of stops from the Airbnb. The views of Hong Kong island were incredible, with an extremely panoramic view of the impressive skyscrapers. Yet another highlight was exploring the surprisingly massive Kowloon Park, which was about 15 minutes’ walk from the Airbnb. Facilities included: 2 outdoor gyms, an aviary, 2 swimming pools, a statue walk, open areas with people practicing Kung Fu and of course a McDonalds… The amount of space provided for this urban park was good to see, but surprising considering the massive issues with a lack of housing space in Hong Kong.
For the first week of classes at HKU, it has been an amazing experience mixing with other exchange international students and local students. The classes themselves are a lot smaller, with my busiest class having just 30 students; a nice contrast to some of the classes at UoM. This has meant classes have been a very different experience to Manchester so far. The highest number of international and exchange students is in my Mandarin class, as you might expect. This was clearly apparent to my new Finnish friend: leading with the introduction of “Hello, fellow Westerner.”
Sorry to keep emailing, but…
The second week of Uni, aside from classes, consisted of emails to the accommodation department; as I wanted to try and confirm my place in halls before the final week in the Airbnb. I had moved from #133 to #27 on the waiting list in a month, so was hopeful I would be told soon. I got an email towards the end of the penultimate week of the Airbnb stay, that I got a place in halls! This was at Lee Shau Kee Hall: about 10 minutes’ walk to the campus, and right next to the sports centre and gym. This was not one of my original 3 choices, but I would definitely not complain to avoid being homeless in Hong Kong (renting privately would have been an option, I guess). Staying in halls will be a completely different experience to Manchester: the majority of rooms are shared and a large proportion are local Hong Kong students. This means the experience of halls could be very different: depending on how inclusive the Hong Kong students are to international exchange students; and the lottery of what my roommate would be like. However, this was why I had originally applied for halls, instead of student rented accommodation. I wanted to get a completely different hall experience, that I would not be able to experience at a British University!
Moving out of the Airbnb was done in two stints, in order to make the journey as easy as possible. So, with my heavy suitcase and rucksack, I set off for the bus, which was just 1-minute walk from the Airbnb. The cost of the trip was about £1, for the 30-minute trip to the halls on Hong Kong Island. The presence of a bag in the suitcase area of the bus, meant I had to babysit the suitcase to avoid it flying through the driver’s window. Several electronic screens showed every upcoming stop, so there was no worry about missing the stop. My journey from the bus stop and across the main road, was made much more difficult by my blindness to the subway route… So, I ended up pushing my suitcase up a very steep and narrow path, leaning into bushes as people squeezed past. I finally found a gap in the road, and hauled the suitcase across. Luckily for me, the road was relatively quiet, much more quiet than other times since I had arrived at the halls. Getting to the reception desk for my halls was easy enough, and despite the receptionist only speaking Cantonese I managed to get through registration. I had to fill out 2 registration forms, collect my room key, as well as supply 2 passport sized photos. Luckily, I had already prepared 6 passport-sized photos before coming to Hong Kong. This is definitely necessary, considering all the registration you need to do once you get to Hong Kong. I am now down to my final passport sized photo…
Meeting my new roommate and the floor meeting
My new roommate wasn’t in the first time I stepped into my new room, so I was just met by all his stuff on one side of the room. My side of the room was a completely empty bed, desk, shelves and a cupboard. When my new roommate did arrive, he didn’t entirely jump out of his skin! I’m sure his hope to have a shared room to himself had been quashed right in front of him… He was incredibly friendly as we introduced ourselves: a 2nd year student from Shenzhen in Mainland China. He was even kind enough to invite me for a meal in a nearby restaurant. However, before that I needed a trip to the IKEA in Causeway Bay, as I needed some bedding (and a pillow). There aren’t many chains you can’t find in HK, even supermarkets are filled with Tesco and Sainsburys products… The only difference in an IKEA in Hong Kong, are the number of people sat on their phones or just chatting around the store, in the mock rooms or on sofas. I guess the air-con is good enough to provide respite from the humidity outside. Along with the bedding, I needed a saucepan, as was not too excited about the state of the shared pans in the pantry area.
The floor meeting in my first week in halls gave me the opportunity to properly meet everyone from the floor. There is a mix of local and non-local students; from freshman up to final year students. To my surprise there was even another UK exchange student- from Newcastle University. All the local students have been incredibly friendly and inclusive to the exchange students. We have all been invited to various events in the next few weeks: a floor meal, an upcoming night hike to see the sunrise and a full island bike ride.
Getting into halls will mean I can now properly settle into HKU life, which will be helped massively by the incredibly welcoming floor and friendly roommate. I’m very excited to get into the swing of things in Hong Kong and at the University!
Kiitos (Thank you in Finnish)