By Roopa Hathi (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong).

Hey there!

So, it is actually the time that I have finished my studies at PolyU! So so strange that this year has flown by!!

So, firstly I am going to begin with a brief account of what I’ve been up to since my last blog post!

My exams went well, I passed them all which was good! And even passed my Chinese exam – which I am not definitely going to take in final year using the Manchester LEAP program! (Everyone research this if you are keen to carry on your study abroad languages! It’s a program UoM offer to students with free credits, or you can pay to take a 2 semester course in another language! I am doing “Intermediate Chinese” and I will have this on my transcript upon graduation also!)

After completion of exams, I went to Cambodia to volunteer for two weeks. I taught English to primary school children for two weeks, which was an amazing experience! I wasn’t really sure what I should expect, I wanted to do something that I think would be more rewarding by myself! So off I went, for my 5am flight to Phonm Penh and 8 hours later I arrived at my volunteer house.

This was the house that I lived in! ImageImage

I settled in well and have made some of the best friends ever there! Mainly from Australia and Canada and we are already planning to do something similar next year in South America! The teaching part was extremely challenging. I managed to raise over £600 on a GoFundMe page, so I was well prepared to donate and help the children in anyway that I could. The school was ultimately a series of 5 sheds in a big outside area, but the kids were bright and fun – even though many of them were orphans or came from an extremely poor background.




It was a very heart warming experience to teach these children, but challenging at the same time because none of them spoke proper English so translation was difficult! I played games with them (hangman, wordsearches etc) and seeing their faces light up when they selected the correct answer was great! They would run around in their broken shoes and torn clothes, but still had big smiles and an inspiring keenness to learn and be educated – something which children in the UK rarely have!








I had donated money through fixing their plumbing system (so the children could have working toilets!) and buying teaching supplies such as pens and paper etc, but  my last £400 I decided to give to the the family of a boy to pay for his university education.

In Cambodia, the children are entitled to basic education until the age of 17/18 and then they have to pay for university. University on average costs £100 a year, and courses are typically four years long. The boy’s name was Phanna and he was 6 years old; he never took his breaks and instead asked me to play with him. We played simple games such as rolling dice, reading stories, playing  Cambodian card games etc! He always did his homework in breaks and asked me to check it for him (strange for a 6 year old boy right?!?!). I learned that he had lost his parents when he was young and lives with his aunt instead. She already had two children in the school also, so I decided to donate money to his family to pay for his university education! I do hope that this money will actually be used for that, but I hope that his family will use it in a way that is best for him. Here is a picture of me reading with him:


On some afternoons, I also taught university students of 17+. They were sponsored by the Intercontinental Hotel group to get a basic English or Management degree and then they would progress to get jobs in their hotel! These lessons were a lot more structured and I had students who were so keen and happy to be taught English by a native English speaker like myself! At some points it was difficult, even I questioned myself! They would ask simple questions about grammar, or sentence patterns and it is so second nature to me that I found it difficult to explain why. For example, they would ask why “skipping” is not “skiping” and they couldnt understand the concept of a double “p” and kept writing “skiping” – just little things like that that we did when we were young children. Nonetheless, it was very rewarding to be able to see that they have remembered some of the reading and writing skills that I had taught them the previous days!


My University Class:


I wish that I had longer than two weeks in Cambodia as I would like to have seen a bigger change in the children that I taught, which would only happen over a longer period of time I guess!

After Cambodia, I began my internship at an amazing company in HK! I am so thankful for this opportunity and it is a good experience to be learning so much, from a global perspective!

In my next blog post (my final HK post!!) I will reflect on the three goals that I set myself before I came to HK! I still have 5 more weeks here, so I will really try to immerse myself in HK, from a non student perspective! 

Speak soon, Roopa 🙂

The struggle of learning Mandarin Chinese…

By Roopa Hathi (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong).

你好很抱歉, 中文有趣

Hello, I am very sorry, I have been very busy! I study Chinese, It is very difficult.. but also very interesting!

So my time at Hong Kong Polytechnic University is shortly coming to an end, and I have absolute no idea how this has gone this fast!

I have been stuck down recently with 3 mid term exams, 3 presentations and 4 reports! And also the focus of my blog entry today- my Level 2 Mandarin Chinese final!

I am sure those of you looking to come to Hong Kong to study, are most likely wanting to learn a bit of Mandarin Chinese? It is an extremely valuable language to understand and know, and I strongly recommend trying to learn it, I have met many working people from top companies in HK, in many different fields; and they have all strongly suggested trying to get a grasp of the language! Not only will it increase your employability a little bit, it will also give you an appreciation for learning a new culture, and to be honest a completely new set of words, meanings and way of speech!

In semester 1, I began “Level 1 Elementary Chinese” and initially I was not prepared at all for how difficult it was going to be! I had prepared myself for learning something like French or Spanish, which most of us have had experience of in secondary school!

So we began with learning the sets of tones, which are as follows:

Tone 1- ā
Tone 2- á
Tone 3- ǎ
Tone 4- à

Next, we learnt what they call “pinyin” which is the language with the English Alphabet, and this combined with the tones on vowels; would be the basis of learning the language!

At first you think, oh this is fine- all i have to remember is some english words and the correct tone mark! However, there is no logical relationship between and english word and its mandarin translation, and no logic behind which tone amounts to which word- and this is the basis of everyones confusion!
If you get the one wrong on a word, it can mean something completely different!
For example “ma” with no tone, is a question word which you would use at the end of a sentence to denote a question; however “mǎ” with the third tone, means “horse”; so you can get an idea of how strange it is to learn! 

Further to this, the next stage of learning Mandarin is the characters. Pinyin was only created in order to ease the process of learning the language, and real Chinese people use characters as their alphabet. I previously mentioned how there is no logic between english and pinyin, but the logic between english, pinyin and characters is completely non existent!  We were briefly introduced to the characters, and I was able to recognise a good 20-50 characters if I really tried hard! But it was completely about recognition rather than fully understanding it!

The first semester consisted of learning fairly basic things about yourself, your home country, your family and friends, and your occupation and after two written exams, two listening and three speaking, I came out with a C+ which I was more than happy with!

Second semester, I was debating whether I should continue learning due to the stress I went through with learning in first semester! But, I decided to accept the challenge, and knew it would be beneficial and somewhat rewarding to feel like I have got to grips with one of the most difficult languages in the world! So I took Level 2 Elementary Chinese- which to no surprise was 10000 X more difficult than level 1!!!

We jumped straight in, no recap of what we learnt the semester before- and my class was full of new incoming exchange students, who had previous experience of learning the language. It is safe to say that I felt like the stupid one from the group- I could just about translate the pinyin, let alone read and translate a whole paragraph of characters! I became extremely worried about my exams, which were entirely in characters! However, the support offered from the teachers and language department is what made me want to continue! They understand how difficult it is for us, and assign is with a “buddy” who you can meet up with, and they will tutor you and answer any questions that you have.

To me this was one of the most significant aids in learning Chinese, as learning from a local person on a more personal one to one level really helps!

The topics covered are much more in depth, from eating and drinking, social activities, dates and years, ordering a taxi, buying a house, numbers up to 1000, animals, illnesses, shopping and going on holiday! So as you can see, quite a big jump from level 1 to level 2! The majority of lessons were entirely in characters- with fears of failing.. I devoted at least 30 mins- 1 hour a day to writing out over and over again until I remembered. I made in total 280 flashcards of sentences, grammar patterns, characters and English meanings!

My final exam went fairly well, with a 1.5 minute talk about a randomly chosen topic, 30 question Q and A, listening, writing and reading exercises, I feel pretty happy with my performance and my understanding for the language!

我要和咖啡- I want to drink coffee!

我的生日是,一九九三年, 六月, 二十八号。 我 有 一个 聚会, 你想不想去?My birthday is on the 28th June, 1993. I am having a party, do you want to come?

现在, 我很好, 可是 我  头疼。 Now, I am feeling very good, but my head hurts!

This has certainly given me a new appreciation and admiration for Chinese students! They manage to learn this language, and sometimes Cantonese also, as well as English and it is admirable that they are able to study in English which is not at all their mother tongue, and I can imagine they find the illogicalness difficult to understand from their end also!

Overall, I am really proud that I will be able to add “Level 2 Chinese” onto my academic transcript, and CV, and be able to talk about it in job interviews! I have also decided to undergo Manchester “LEAP” courses in Mandarin Chinese upon my return to Manchester in final year! Its a program the university runs allowing students to pay, or spend their optional credits on learning a language! Unfortunately, I only just found out about this, but I wish I had known in first year so that I could have begun learning then! But better late than never!!

In a non-educational sense, the social life here is as good as ever! From going out at least twice a week, I have taken trips to Thailand, Penang and Kuala Lumpur so far this year! I am planning two weeks of travelling once my exams are over on the 15th May with a bunch of friends, hoping to do Beijing and some other parts of Mainland China which I am extremely excited to see!! (perhaps I will be able to interact with the locals a little bit!). After this travelling period I will (thankfully!!) be returning back to Hong Kong, because I have managed to secure a summer internship here, wooo!!!

I will be staying until August 15th, with a few friends and family visits, and 21st birthday celebrations, I hope that I have a great summer set out for me!

I hope that this post has helped you to understand the challenges of learning Mandarin Chinese, it is extremely beneficial for employment and I strongly suggest learning it! If you like a challenge, this language is definitely right for you!

Roopa x

Happy Year of the Horse!

By Roopa Hathi (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong).

Hey all,

So sorry for my lack of blog posts recently – I have been caught up in the excitement of returning to Hong Kong after Christmas back at home, and most importantly, with Chinese New Year!

Since the last time I wrote to you, I have been on holiday to Shanghai and Bali, had a few exams and had to say goodbye to all of the great friends I made!  After the most amazing first six months in Hong Kong, and having to say goodbye to some really amazing friends… I am back in Hong Kong for round two – Semester 2! Although I was happily settled, I was not entirely sure what to expect with new inbound exchanges. I felt no fear, but just excitement at the thought of having the opportunity to make new friends all over again and to share some amazing experiences with them in the next few months!

Since being back, I have been caught up in the buzz of Chinese New Year. It was the most amazing and surreal experience to be in Hong Kong for it! I had a whole week full of events, beginning with a trip to the Prince Edward flower markets where locals tend to buy lucky plants and trees, which are a symbol of prosperity for the coming year. Then on to the Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree, which is an age-old custom of writing wishes and aspirations onto paper and throwing them into the tree’s branches (I hope my wish comes true!).

The main event was Tsim Sha Tsui’s annual Night Parade, with magnificent floats, hundreds of performers and a general street party to celebrate the year of the horse! There were thousands of people there, so it was very difficult to see the parade – but it was still a great experience!!

Following this was the fireworks display across the harbour, which was undoubtedly the most jaw-dropping firework display that I have ever seen! Check out my pictures below.

Now CNY has passed, we are starting to get serious with work! I hope that I can learn from last semester and the communication difficulties that I had faced and come out with a better approach towards assessments and exams!

Speak soon, Roopa x



Mid-Terms, Halloween and Diwali in Hong Kong!

By Roopa Hathi (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong).

4 November 2013

Hi all!

I have been in Hong Kong for over two months now, but it literally feels like two weeks- It is all flying by waaaay too fast!

I have settled in really well, everyone is super friendly and I am making new friends everyday!

The past few weeks have been really busy for me, I have had three mid term tests, and multiple deadlines so had been feeling the pressure of studying over here! It is quite difficult to approach and exam here, since I was unsure of what they expect and how they are going to mark- but hopefully they went well.

On a brighter note, I noticed that the people in Hong Kong LOVE Halloween. I live in a student halls building with 21 floors, and at least 250 students on each floor; and each year they all take part in an event called “Haunted Houses”.

In this, each floor creates a haunted house in their common room, and around 10 bedrooms, and there is a competition between each floor of whose Haunted House is the scariest!

To be honest, I was definitely not expecting anything remotely scary, and just thought it was for fun- but how I was wrong!!  They put a huge amount of effort into it, and everyone came together to celebrate Halloween! It was a really fun evening, and being led in the dark by the local students into the haunted houses was definitely an experience I won’t forget! They used a whole range of tools, glow in the dark paints, used themselves as actors, tasks for us to complete before we could move on to the next room and even slides made from bin bags and mattresses; and you didn’t know where you would end up!

I have posted some pictures below of some of the activities and effort that they put into it! It was definitely one of the best Halloweens I have had in my life!


This past week has also been Diwali, the Indian festival of light. I am a Hindi and since I was not at home with my family to celebrate;a few friends and I went to a temple to celebrate. Again, I was not expecting the large effort and scale of celebration here. The temple was beautifully lit up, and there was so many people there celebrating! It was a really nice experience to be able to go to a temple in another country, and still know that you are all celebrating the same thing together; even though we are used to completely different environments. I have also posted some pictures below!




Roopa x

Hong Kong Update

By Roopa Hathi (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong).

23rd September

Hey readers!

Hong Kong has been extremely busy and so many things have happened since I have first started!

The city is just amazing and has so much to offer; after being here for almost 4 weeks now, I have learnt that the best way to enjoy my free time is just to get off at a random MTR stop and to lose myself whilst exploring the streets. Around every corner there is something new and exciting!

I have made friends with people from many different countries, from Americans, to Dutch, Germans, Australians and of course the Hong Kong locals in my classes.

It’s a really nice way to learn about new people and different cultures, and even experience new things. Everyday there is something new going on, and you have a chance to meet new people everyday.

It has been extremely interesting getting settled into a new city, and learning a completely new daily routine. Just like when I arrived in Manchester almost three years ago now! I’ve had to find new ways to get groceries, get used to the new transport system, a new climate, and new daily activities to keep me busy!

I am constantly finding new things to do everyday, and have a never-ending to do list. But so far I have been extremely busy! From visiting world famous landmarks, to exploring local cuisines, and diving off of cliffs- there is very few things that I will not try whilst I am here!

Lectures are going well, they are very similar to those in Manchester and all the lectures speak perfect English- so in terms of education it feels exactly the same as Manchester. I have chosen to take two modules of Mandarin Chinese which has been interesting, I am excited to learn the language and can only dream of being able to string a sentence together at the end of this year- I will try my best!

Speak soon! 🙂








Hong Kong- Here I come!

By Roopa Hathi (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong).

25 August 2013

Hi readers! It is the night before I leave for Hong Kong!!

It is hard to imagine that in 24 hours from now, I will be in a different time zone and 6000 miles away from home. However, there is more to living in Hong Kong than just the distance; to me it is a life changing experience. I will learn about myself and challenge everything I have been so familiar with for the past 20 years.

Since my acceptance to Hong Kong Polytechnic University in February, I have become an expert day dreamer. My bookmarks toolbar consists of tens of different websites about Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. For a place I have no experience with, I think about it constantly.

After hundreds of lists and numerous shopping trips; I have packed my whole life into two suitcases; sorted insurance, passport, visa’s, health checkups and travelled around the country saying goodbye to my close family and friends. I didn’t really think it real when saying goodbye, it’s as if I am going to see them in a few weeks- until now that I have realised it will be a full twelve months until I see them again.

I have set myself a number of goals for the year:

Firstly, I would like to use this valuable opportunity to make worldwide friends, it’s not everyday you get to meet people from a multiple of different countries. Whether it means knocking on peoples doors, or striking conversation with a stranger; I am sure that I won’t regret it.

Secondly, I will aim to enjoy the fact that I am there to learn. In a culturally different school and setting I am interested in the contrasting style of education compared to the UK.

Thirdly, I have already caught the Far East travel bug. I hope to travel as widely as possible, and experience the volunteering, the friendships, the learning experiences that I have read about; and share them with you.

It is the differences and similarities of day to day life, when people are diverse in culture, that I will share with you through my blog.

I don’t know what to expect just yet, no matter how much I read books, blogs or look at photos; I may be more shocked than I can ever prepare for.  It is hard to predict how I will feel, or how different I will be at the end of the year. I would like to think that I will be more confident, and have had a life changing year- but I wonder how I will know. It is something intangible, something that cannot be replicated and is difficult to put into words.

I am looking forward to beginning the year, and will post some more when I arrive!

Roopa x