Small ways to make moving home from your year abroad more environmentally friendly

By Gemma Dignam, University of Hong Kong

I left Hong Kong earlier than planned, in March, as Covid restrictions became strict and University moved online for Semester 2. Therefore, I had to pack up my things at quite a short notice and significantly reduce my belongings as I am travelling for a few months before returning to the UK. Here are some tips to reduce your waste when moving back home or if you decide to travel before returning back to the UK:

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Everything you should do on your exchange in Hong Kong

By Gemma Dignam (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Now I have finished my exchange in Hong Kong, I’ve put together a list of everything I recommend an exchange student to do whilst you’re there- from climbing the tallest peak in Hong Kong, to the best rooftop bars to watch the incredible skyline.

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Goodbye Hong Kong…

My time in Hong Kong ended prematurely, as Covid restrictions became stricter from January onwards and our teaching moved online from Semester 2, I decided it was safest to move out and continue my studies remotely. Whilst I was sad to leave Hong Kong, as I loved spending my exchange there, I was excited for where I would go next. I planned to go travelling with the friends I met at HKU for the rest of the semester and study remotely.

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First things to do in Hong Kong

By Gemma Dignam (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Hong Kong surprised me with its endless list of things to do. Even though I expected it to be a small, dense city, it also has beaches, hikes and islands to visit to keep you entertained for the whole year. When you first arrive, you’ll probably want to spend time settling into your accommodation, meeting new people and walking around the city which might be a bit overwhelming. Here are some places I recommend visiting in your first weeks, to get started!

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Sustainability at HKU

By Gemma Dignam (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

When I arrived at HKU, I was interested to find out if it was a sustainable campus and what I could get involved in regarding the environment. Here’s what I’ve learnt this year and what you can expect if you decide to go on exchange at HKU.

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Sustainable Eating in Hong Kong

By Gemma Dignam (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

One of my favourite parts of living in Hong Kong was the food, but I quickly realised that the food and eating culture here was not very sustainable. It was quite different to my experience in the UK, where I would cook at home and eat out very little. However, in Hong Kong it’s the opposite! Grocery shopping is quite expensive and the kitchen space is quite small in any accommodation, and this along with a busy schedule would mean that most meals you tend to eat out, as this is quite cheap. However, I did notice it came with some environmental costs.

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Travelling sustainably in Hong Kong

By Gemma Dignam (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

One of the highlights of going on exchange is getting to travel in your spare time, whether that be in your host country, or visiting neighbouring countries or cities. Due to Covid restrictions still being in place in Hong Kong, we are not able to travel abroad without hotel quarantining on our return- which is not an option on our student budget and schedule! Although this was disappointing to most of us exchanges who wished to travel to surrounding countries, we quickly realised the extent of travel options within Hong Kong itself- and most of them can be done in a much more sustainable way than if we had travelled elsewhere by plane. Hong Kong boasts excellent public transport facilities and here are the ways I have used them to visit the must-see sites of Hong Kong so far, there is no need for a car or even a taxi!

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Quarantining in Hong Kong

By Yiannis Kyriacou (University of Hong Kong)

After a 9-hour flight finally landing in Hong Kong, it brought a huge sigh of relief that I had finally made it after all the trouble and work needed to get here. As soon as you get off the plane, it becomes clear that there are still some things that need to be done before you can enjoy what Hong Kong has to offer. That is the two-week quarantine and the covid testing in the airport. It took me four hours of waiting for my covid test at the airport before I could finally be transported to my designated quarantine hotel, which felt like a whole day as the fantastic view you had from the airport only made you want to leave that place more and go outside.

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Hong Kong: Settling in and Moving Out

Orientation day

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!

Weekend explorations

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.

The incredible view of Hong Kong Island

Classes begin

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…

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Hong Kong: Arrival

George Peach (University of Hong Kong)

I was particularly nervous on the night before my flight, thinking about every possible scenario for my journey.

Could flights be cancelled? Would Hong Kong airport be closed? Would Hong Kong be plagued by endless protesting? Would I lose all my things at baggage claim? Would I enjoy my time in Hong Kong? Would I want to return to the UK straight away?

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Emotional aftermath

By Nooa Karlo ((previously) University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

After finishing my studies in the University of Hong Kong, following the last deadline I had for term paper submissions on the 24th of May, I soon left to travel in South Korea and Japan for almost three weeks. Now, I suppose I could talk about that time, because there certainly would be a lot to talk about, evidenced by over 2000 pictures I took while travelling. But looking back at things now that it’s been a few months since I returned home and now that there’s an entire summer between Hong Kong and me reveals that I really do miss staying there. And not just staying there, I miss the food, the buildings, the ocean, the colours, the sounds. (Ok there’s one thing I don’t miss and that’s whatever the weather was very quickly becoming as spring progressed towards summer but I barely avoided that so let’s not count that.) I miss the people I met and the experiences I had, even though it’s sometimes difficult for me to remember it all coherently, because there was just so much going on. Eventually I got used to the new things and they became everyday things, old things. So now that I won’t be going back anymore, at least not as an undergraduate exchange student, now that my room in the JCSVIII is no longer my room, now that I can use my credit card in practically any shop at any time without having to fear the card reader will say ‘connection lost’ at any moment, now that I can’t awkwardly say the only greeting I learnt in Cantonese to the people around me anymore, it just feels strange. Because it feels like I should be going back, but I’m not. I don’t miss Hong Kong in the way that would make my chest feel tight and my face contort to sadness, but I miss it in the way that things just don’t feel right now that I’m not there anymore. Five months was a really short time and I wish I could’ve stayed for longer, but it was just enough to make me feel somewhat at home even on the other side of the world. To those people who helped make me feel that way, I would like to say thanks. I hope I will be able to keep in contact with you in the future too! And to those who were affected by the typhoon a week ago, not only in Hong Kong but especially in Hong Kong, I wish strength to overcome whatever problems it caused you. Having seen the destruction the storm left in its wake has made me worry about the safety of everyone there. Hope you’re all okay. I guess that’s all I wanted to say about my time in Hong Kong on this blog. Goodbye, and thanks for those who’ve read my posts as well!

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One of the many faces of Hong Kong

Looking back on academic differences and moving on to whatever’s next

By Nooa Karlo (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

It’s finally the end. After a long four and half months, I’ll be leaving Hong Kong on Monday morning. It really doesn’t feel as long when looking back on the final day, though. It feels like the exam period that’s lasted for the past four weeks represents a kind of escalation in the perceived speed at which days have been passing. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. Everyone’s busy during exams, and I was especially so because I had so many modules that required final papers instead of exams, and the deadlines for those papers were almost all of them in early May. In addition, I spent four days travelling and visiting a friend in Taiwan in late April, which, while allowing me to take my mind off of studying, also took some energy. The April-May juncture left me quite exhausted, so I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to rest as much as I can. And now I have to leave? It feels very sudden, even though I’ve had everything planned and ready for over a month now. But at the same time I feel like I’m quite ready to move on.

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The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

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