A new take on ‘Reading’ Week

By Olivia Hunnybun (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong).

It seems that all exchange students interpret reading week as a chance for travel and I have been no different. I have had the best time exploring a bit of Malaysia and Indonesia; I have found out a bit more about a few places I knew nothing about and built on friendships in the process. Here are some of the things we got up to…

Ate amazing food in Kuala Lumpur!

Malaysian food

I think we are all on a post-trip detox after eating so many delicious curries and street food. The fish was especially impressive and so cheap!

Visited the International Mosque
We did a lot of sightseeing including the International Mosque which was huge! Very impressive but much less showy to what I had expected.

snorkling

Snorkling off the Gili Islands, Bali
I was so surprised at the fish we were able to see without going too deep, no idea what they were called but very colourful  I even saw my first turtle which was a metre long! Most of our group went scuba diving as well and they said it was awesome. I decided to save that for another time and hired bikes to cycle around the island with.

horse riding at sunset

Horse ride along the beach at sunset
I managed to drag the guys along horse-riding which turned out to be hilarious (although some of them disagree!). The guides were beyond relaxed as we didn’t get helmets and weren’t told anything about the horses but it was definitely fun that way!

Volcano climb

Climb a Volcano in Ubud, Bali
We woke up at 2am to go on an organized climb up Mount Batur, stopping first for breakfast at a local coffee plantation. We were able to try a range of coffees including Kopi Luwak which is made from beans eaten and excreted by a small mammal called the Paradoxurus; an interesting flavor! I wasn’t exactly wearing the right shoes for the hike but it the amazing view of the sunrise made it all worthwhile. At the top we saw a man propose to his girlfriend which was lovely, could have been an awkward descent if she had said no.
Overall we had an unforgettable reading week and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to such beautiful places. Now I can’t wait to plan the next trip!

Academic Differences between Manchester and Hong Kong

By Olivia Hunnybun (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong).

So in a months time, the classes will be ending and revision period will begin. I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by, especially the second semester. Doing everything I can to secure an internship and extend my stay a bit longer but it’s not looking too hopeful! I guess now is a good time to reflect on some differences between Manchester and Hong Kong.

It’s difficult to make a real comparison because exchange students on certain degree programmes such as myself are able to enjoy a PASS/FAIL year. This means there is less pressure on producing your best work allowing for extra time for other activities.

The university has been really flexible and allowed me to study some mandarin last semester. A group of us decided to embark on a weekend trip to Shanghai where I decided to give put my language skills to the test with a man selling food in the street. Felt pretty proud of myself after successful introductions but after that I found myself doing a lot of nodding and smiling, and ended up with some completely random food. Can’t exactly claim fluency but it has at least given me a fresh appreciation for the Chinese students studying in English.

In my opinion the most striking difference at Hong Kong University is the focus on group work. In almost every one of my modules I have been part of a team presentation or report. Back in Manchester there is a stronger emphasis on individual essays which allows for a more flexible schedule but also has limitations. I have come to realize that in the professional working environment such project development and communication skills are going to be the most practical.

A contrast to Manchester that I have certainly noticed, but been less involved in, is the traditional hall culture. If you come to Hong Kong and stay in a Halls of Residence be warned! Unlike Manchester where students basically party every day, during the first week here students partake in a series of competitive activities. It’s hard to describe exactly but there are a lot of team games and challenges that are compulsory and last throughout the night! I think most of the students are glad when that initial week is over but at least the Halls have some traditions.

Getting Settled

By Olivia Hunnybun.

After a week in Hong Kong simple things like finding my way around or buying food have become easier. It seems that when you are in a place completely new and do not speak the language everything takes much longer than usual. I have just about managed to get myself organised with regards to student ID, a local SIM card/phone, class enrolment, local bank account, residential papers, octopus card and I’m sure there’s more!

Having an octopus card is actually extremely useful and I wish I had bought one straight away. You can then use them to pay on public transport such as the trams or items at some shops. The university facilities are also linked up and the card can be used for printing services.

In between sorting out all the Uni stuff I have been meeting new people and checking out the local culture. Eating out is unbelievably cheap here but the menus can be pretty overwhelming! We’ve found some good places locally which aren’t exactly glamorous but have delicious food. I keep wondering about how hard it would be to eat here as a vegetarian though as meat or fish features everywhere. I tried fish-head congee at one place and I don’t think I’ll be having it again! To be fair even the waiter was pretty sceptical as he brought me over what was basically fish bones floating in salty porridge.

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Yum!

Green tea is everywhere I look and I can’t say I understand the craze! Everything from green tea-flavoured sweets to toothpaste… even Starbucks sell it as a muffin or a Frappuccino which has made me realise just how English the strawberries and cream version is in the UK.

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With such comparatively small living spaces here, very few people have pets. Walking around Kowloon however, we did come across a very chilled out cat that didn’t seem quite with it!

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Looking forward to stumbling across more random things  🙂

Rocky Arrival

By Olivia Hunnybun.

Leaving England behind was not difficult for me, mainly because the whole thing did not feel real. For now excitement, curiosity and novelty surpass any feelings of anxiety or isolation from people I care about… So hey I may as well enjoy it while it lasts!

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Saying goodbye to my parents at the airport!

If I were to do this trip with hindsight I would do 3 main things differently;

1. Leave more time for possible delays

My accommodation (at Wah Ming Centre) check-in closed at 5, so after 2 delayed flights it was already too late. To make things worse Tom’s bag got lost in transit so we hung around to fill out forms then extended the journey time by taking the train to Hong Kong station. I was practically falling asleep standing but I was amazed by all the skyscrapers. It is worth arriving in the morning if you want to check-in that day! Luckily I was able to pick up my keys from Tom’s accommodation and, after being particularly underwhelmed by my flat, tried to get some sleep.

2. Eat and drink plenty

My first day was spent chasing paperwork and trying my best to remember the names of people I was meeting. It is extremely hot here and there are steep hills everywhere you go (basically the direct opposite of Manchester!), so it is easy to get dehydrated. I was with a group of new people planning to get food together, but by the time we had got lost on campus several times and made it to a restaurant it was 7PM. I realised I hadn’t eaten all day and felt really sick so I headed back to Wah Ming Centre. It is a pretty horrible feeling trying to find your way home not knowing whether you are going to faint or throw up on the side of the road. Actually it was the latter. After lying down in the cool for an hour I felt almost back to normal which I guess proves the importance of looking after your body in a foreign place.

3.   Pack appropriately

Just the thought of wearing any of the denim jeans I brought makes me sweat. I don’t think I anticipated just how humid it is here! The university dress code is also much more formal than in the UK; therefore smart clothes for certain events and frequent high table dinners are needed. Stupidly I only have flip flops, trainers or pumps, which is not ideal when everybody has such small feet here. No shops nearby have any shoes (save for sandals) that go up to UKSIZE 6 – Big shame I’ll need to go shopping at Causeway Bay!

What I have realised is you don’t know what you don’t know and therefore lots of things seem to go wrong at first. However it hasn’t damped my experience as the discovery of this vibrant and busy place has made for an awesome beginning.

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