Semester Two as a Year long exchange student

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Hellooo Manchester,

After having the time of my life travelling during 6 weeks over Christmas Break, it is time to go back to Uni!
The majority of exchangers stay only for one semester. Therefore, the National University of Singapore was expecting a whole new batch of fresh new exchange students. I was excited to meet some new people and be one of the “ancient” … basically a local Lah (singlish exclamation mark).
Additionally, the deeper bonds created during Christmas while travelling with my UK exchanger friends is going to be greatly valuable as they were almost all staying in NUS for a year as well.
Singapore never felt more like home than when you start off fresh a new semester in a familiar environment with your friend-family! What an awesome feeling to be back!!

Penang pic
Study break mid semester 2 in Penang; it’s all about the banter with friends in the tropical jungle, the arty streets and the deliiiicious food! Last trip … No more travelling money! You’ve gotta be jealous of the new exchangers with an untouched travel fortune to spend 

Continue reading “Semester Two as a Year long exchange student”

Christmas Holidays

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

12888519_10209261376231258_8562300690942046819_o
Stumbled upon a free art/music festival in Tokyo: We ❤ Japan

Hello Manchester,
I hope that you had a lovely Christmas holiday, I sure did!
Here is a formatted report of my adventures in chronological order.

Continue reading “Christmas Holidays”

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

Continue reading “First Few Weeks in Hong Kong – Initial Reflections”

Where has the year gone?!

By Alex Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

“Hong Kong is a city of paradoxes, where bamboo coexists with concrete, and temples are neighbours with Gucci” – Hong Kong Coconuts.

I read an article about a foreign photographer, Kyra Campbell who really captures the true essence of Hong Kong. The article has already initiated my reminiscence of Hong Kong, and I haven’t even left yet! I really will miss the diversity of this culture. Superimposing the ‘old’ and ‘new’ juxtaposed features of Hong Kong together in one photo is really representative of life here. Below is one of my favourite photographs of hers, merging skyscrapers with dried fish – a Hong Kong favourite.

https://www.facebook.com/kyra.campbell.photography/photos/pb.355840581247937.-2207520000.1428839958./430982560400405/?type=3&theater
Kyra Campbell

https://www.facebook.com/kyra.campbell.photography/photos/pb.355840581247937.-2207520000.1428839958./430982560400405/?type=3&theater

With the semester rapidly drawing to a close, I am becoming increasing saddened that I have a mere few weeks left in HK. This has been such a life-changing experience and I already know that it has moulded me as a person in many ways; I feel I am far more self-motivated and sufficient. I am ensuring that I cram as much as I can into the next few weeks to complete my Hong Kong bucket list alongside working toward my final exams and deadlines.

Since I last posted I took a weekend trip to Taiwan, which was just beautiful and was a well-needed study break! A strange mix of Chinese, Japanese and Aboriginal cultures make up Taiwan based upon its rocky history. There was so much to pack in here, we definitely needed more time to see Taiwan in all its glory, but whilst there we went to hot springs, temples, mountains, night markets and tea plantations to name a few. I really want to head back to Taiwan at some point!

Taiwanna go back!
Taiwanna go back!
Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain
Juifen
Juifen

Last week I had the pleasure of having my mum and little brother visit me for a week, and have loved being able to show them a little snippet of what my life has been like for the past eight months. Like me, this was their first time in Asia, so they were really dazzled by what Hong Kong has to offer. Hikes, temples, islands, introducing them to my friends and Asian cuisines were some things we got up to. I’m so glad they were able to visit me, and it really has completed my Asian adventure! I now have a busy week of exams and deadlines to get through before the final exam period and before I am able to travel a little around Asia before returning back to reality in the UK. Hong Kong, it really has been a blast!

Lion Rock Hike with the family
Lion Rock Hike with the family
Cheung Chau Island
Cheung Chau Island
Yesterday's Boat Party
Yesterday’s Boat Party

Chinese New Year – Gong Hey Fat Choy!

By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

I cannot believe that February is drawing to a close, now the Chinese New Year festivities are over and mid-terms are around the corner, I need to get my head down (I’m writing this post first though, as it’s much more fun!).

Spending Chinese New Year in Hong Kong has been amazing; many exchange students took the week off as an opportunity to travel. I was intending to travel to Borneo, but had so many issues with booking flights that I couldn’t go. This has been somewhat a blessing in disguise as I’ve been able to experience the CNY festivities in Hong Kong, meet a bunch of new people and had some spare time to catch up on school work and apply for internships (I’m desperate to prolong my time here!).

The festivities for Chinese New Year last well over a week. In the lead up to New Year, locals head to flower markets which are teeming with beautiful flowers; namely orchids, blossom trees, lilies and this tree with odd looking oranges on it. Other merchandise is also sold here; in amongst the busy crowd, toy sheep are shoved in your face by sellers, “Missy Missy, sheep also comes in pink!”, and there are other beautiful traditional gifts. I bought a lovely hand-made wind chime from the loveliest elderly ladies.

Orchids on Orchids
Orchids on orchids
Orange, Lemon, Peach, Apricot?
Orange, lemon, peach, apricot
You want a pink one, Missy?

The main Chinese New Year celebrations take place during the first three days of the lunar New Year. On the first day there was a fabulous parade in the evening with Chinese dragons, big floats, the biggest sheep you’ve ever seen and dancers from around the world. The second day consisted of a huge spectacular fireworks show, and on the third day there was a full day of horse racing at the famous Sha Tin racecourse.

All of which were so great – the atmosphere at each of these events was just unbeatable. Chinese New Year is the biggest and most celebrated festival in Hong Kong, and there are still other New Year traditions I wish to partake in before they’re over. I particularly want to visit a ‘Wishing Tree’ in the New Territories, which is an age-old tradition here in Hong Kong. Locals write their wishes down and tie them to traditional fruits then throw them onto the lucky tree in hope that they come true. The faith and religious nature of Asia is so lovely; if wishes come true I believe they return to where they made the wish to give thanks to the gods for granting it.

New Year Parade
New Year parade
Just a little sheep
Just a little sheep
Gong Hey Fat Choy!
Gong Hey Fat Choy!

It is year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram this year – the Chinese don’t seem to be quite sure which animal it is. “Gong Hey Fat Choy!” is how you wish people a Happy Lunar New Year in Cantonese, but it translates as wishing you happiness and good fortune.

A gentle reminder

By Callum Campbell (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

With all the travelling and the constant tropical climate it has been really easy to forget the real reason why I am in Singapore – to study. The upcoming exams, however, have acted as a gentle reminder of this aspect.

Managed to find time to watch David Beckham turn on the Christmas lights
Managed to find time to watch David Beckham turn on the Christmas lights

With only a couple of days now until I finish and travel back to England, it would be easy to lose track of revision, but it is important that I maintain my determination and motivation over this last stretch. What does not make this easier is the fact the majority of other exchange students have finished and left to travel around the region to relaxing beaches and beautiful countries while I am stuck revising.

Just a few more days...
Just a few more days…

With four exams I am doing the same workload as I would have been doing in Manchester, however, each of my modules range from different subject backgrounds to academic years. This means that the studying has been very diverse and at times more complex.

The largest and most notable difference with exams in Singapore compared to those in England is that the marking is done on a bell curve, meaning that a small proportion of the class can achieve the top grade and the largest amount will achieve middle marks, while a small number will obtain the lowest. This system comes with its positives and negatives as although some members of the class will fail, the bell curve makes it hard to do so. However, this also means that it is actually harder to achieve the highest grade and therefore has the potential to make fellow classmates slightly more competitive with one another, but thankfully this is not something I have experienced.

 

An illustration as to how the bell curve system works
An illustration as to how the bell curve system works

As an exchange student though, my grades from NUS will be taken and converted into Manchester results based on a number of factors, meaning when I am told my results in the first instance, I am likely to have little idea of what they mean in terms of English grades.

Just as unpredictable as my results for the first semester is the current dramatic and drastic change of weather, ranging between beaming sunlight and monsoon storms within a matter of hours. One of the strangest things to comprehend out here is the fact that the weather is still above 20oC, yet it’s December… Christmas is less than a month away and I’m still wearing shorts and flip-flops?

P1050686

Speaking of Christmas, I recently found out the news that I will be notified by NUS regarding my grades a couple of days before Christmas, meaning there is the potential to either make or break the festive period. Thankfully, I am feeling confident of what I have achieved during my time in Singapore and feel assured it will be a time to celebrate on all fronts.

 

A second home

Living on the doorstep of South East Asia

By Callum Campbell (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

It’s been four months since I arrived in Singapore, and life here has become the norm. However, a quick glance at the calendar and I realised that, not only is Christmas next month, but I will be heading home in less than five weeks. Time has literally flown by and it still feels like yesterday when I was even considering applying for this opportunity, a decision I will never regret.

A second home?

Since my last blog there has been SO much going on. I’ve met countless amazing people from all over the world, travelled the beautiful region of Southeast Asia, seen some amazing events and sights in Singapore and (the real reason I’m here) knuckled down with university work. With so much going on, I thought I would attempt to highlight just a few stand-out moments of my adventure so far.

Although registration for the student visa and the enrolment of classes was a tedious process, I was soon able to settle into a routine and adapt to my new lifestyle in Singapore. The city is a very safe and clean place, which means travelling around late a night on the metro doesn’t involve constantly worrying about who’s around. The NUS campus itself is also really good ,with a number of high quality facilities and study areas, including a 24-hour Starbucks.

Being located in the centre of Southeast Asia, I have been able to travel to some of the most beautiful countries in the world ‘on the cheap’. My very first trip was to the island of Bintan in Indonesia, which is only a ferry ride away from Singapore. A group of us, made up of English, Irish, American and French students, stayed in wooden huts on stilts above the sea, which typified the relaxing experience of a place that is relatively untouched by tourism. The accommodation became even more bizarre when we realised that the owner had a fully grown shark as a pet…

Our accommodation, Bintan Style
Our accommodation in Bintan

A few weeks later, back in Singapore, the world renowned Formula 1 arrived and literally took over the city, with the racetrack built on the streets used by everyday traffic. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the race, and being within metres of the track and seeing some of the world’s best racing drivers provided an exciting adrenaline rush.

This was after many attempts
This was after many attempts

Reading week soon came around, and this meant it was time for another trip. A collection of us travelled to Bali and the Gili Islands in Indonesia. Bali, a popular tourist destination, was beautiful especially with its dominating volcanos; however, the sight of hotels and the impact of globalisation was obvious as I travelled around the island. In comparison, the Gili Islands was a place that was literally paradise. Out of the three islands I visited Gili Trawangan, which has a population of around 500 people, and horse and carts are used as transport because no cars are allowed. The golden beaches and crystal clear water also presented us with a perfect opportunity snorkel and dive.

A volcano in Bali
A volcano in Bali
Para, Para, Paradi
Para-, Para-, Paradise!

After a refreshing week away, it was soon time to get back into study mode and attempt to forget about the lush beaches. Thankfully, the warm climate of Singapore made this transition much easier. While remaining on top of my studies at NUS, I was also able to explore more of the city that I now call home, with visits to the Botanical gardens, Little India and Marina Bay Sands, to name a few. A group of us also visited the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo, where we were able to see a number of unique animals in a completely different setting.

Little India
Little India
There are actually two elephants there
There are actually two elephants there.

However, once a few deadlines were met, it was time for my next adventure. This time I travelled through Malaysia with a Danish and an American student. We first flew to Penang, an old British colonial town, where we rode Asia’s steepest train, captured some of the most breathtaking views and got lost in the jungle. In the latter part of the trip we travelled by bus through the Malaysian countryside before arriving in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. It was nice to experience a city that was raw and vibrant compared to the well planned, orderly Singapore.

The steepest train in Asia, Penang
Penang
The iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
The iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

And it was not long after arriving back from Malaysia that I was already off on my final trip (for now) to Bangkok, Thailand. Having previously visited the city last year, it was nice to go back and experience it with a different group of friends and explore the city in greater depth. The welcoming Thai people and the amazingly rich culture really makes Bangkok such a fantastic place.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok
The Grand Palace in Bangkok

It may be hard to believe, but amongst all the travelling I have in fact been studying too. Having started lectures in August while friends were still enjoying the lengthy summer holiday, I have taken the opportunity to test my academic ability in a completely different country and culture. Just a few highlights of studying at NUS so far have included working in groups with Singaporean and international students while also learning about Singapore and Asia in greater depth. As the last few deadlines come to an end and with the exams fast approaching, the feeling that the semester abroad is coming to an end is beginning to kick in.

Of course it is going to be so nice to get back to the UK and see friends and family, but there are so many aspects of this adventure that I don’t want to end. It’s also going to be interesting arriving back in England in the peak of winter having adapted to the tropical climate of Singapore.

Time really does fly when you're having fun
Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

I look forward to updating you again soon, which will be my final blog entry while in Singapore.

Academic Differences – UK to HK

By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

  • SUBJECT CHOICES
    Despite choosing and finalising subjects before arriving in Hong Kong by utilising the online subject choice information for PolyU, which was both informative and useful, I still ended up changing a few modules in the Add/Drop period. Unlike Manchester, you can choose any subjects from an inbound exchange list and change your subjects in the Add/Drop period, which is the first two weeks of the semester. I attended my scheduled classes and additional subjects that I thought I might be interested in, in case I did not like or find the modules I had already chosen to be suitable. I would recommend doing so because I rearranged as I ended up changing some modules because they turned out to be quite different to what I was expecting, so I selected more appropriate classes. I also rearranged my timetable so that I had Friday as my day off so I have the freedom to take weekend trips away. At PolyU I take five subjects as opposed to three in Manchester. Five subjects is the recommended credit weighting for PolyU, which means a more packed weekly schedule than Manchester.
  • RESOURCES
    PolyU use Blackboard like Manchester, so you can access lecture slides and view grades and so on. PolyU connect is a separate website, similar to MyManchester, which is home to other resources like library information, exam timetables etc. Unlike Manchester, some lecturers print out handouts of the lecture slides for students.
  • PROFESSORS
    Before arriving, I was advised to address lecturers by their formal name i.e. Dr. or Professor, however all of my lecturers prefer to be addressed by their first name. I suggest to address the lecturers by how they introduce themselves.
  • ASSESSMENT WEIGHTING
    Assessment weighting varies with subject choices: most are 100% coursework based or 50% exam, 50% coursework for Fashion subjects. The Textiles co-ordinator here advised the exchange students to take 100% coursework modules so we can make the most of travelling whilst here once the semester ends, however I have two modules that have end of semester exams which finish early on in the exam period so I still have time to travel, so don’t let the fact that a module has an exam weighting deter you from choosing it.
    In addition to this, most exchange students are graded on a Pass/Fail basis, but for Materials students our year abroad is graded and counts towards our final grade.
  • WORKLOAD
    Due to the fact that I take five modules here, I find that I have a larger workload compared to at Manchester. Although there are many more assignments, they are smaller projects, with less weighting towards your final grade compared to Manchesters’ usual few but weighty essays and end of semester exam in the Materials department. Most of my group presentations, reports and midterms count for only 10-20% of my final grade. Therefore, to keep on top of my work I quite often utilise my time in between classes to keep on top of assignments.
  • ASSESSMENTS
    Unlike what I am used to in the Textiles department at Manchester, there are midterm exams and a big focus on group assignments here. For each assignment you need to submit a hard copy and a CD copy, I have not yet handed in assignments through Blackboard so assume this is not utilised at PolyU. The majority of my assessments so far at PolyU have been group presentations and reports which I am not used to as I find there is a heightened focus on individual work at Manchester. It is not difficult to communicate and work with the local students at all, I find the group work enjoyable and worthwhile, however, often groups are large and are sometimes impossible to co-ordinate.
  • EXTENDED LEARNING
    Similarly to Manchester, there are field trip opportunities and careers talks that you can attend to which you sign up for online or in person. Factory visits to China are also usually organised here, however, the University have been denied this year as the factories haven’t the time which is disappointing, but there are many other great resources here in Hong Kong to learn from first hand.
    I have chosen to study Mandarin as one of my modules whilst here which I would really recommend as I’m thoroughly enjoying it and it is acknowledged on your academic transcript when you graduate.
  • GRADING
    You can find PolyU’s grading system on their Inbound Exchange FAQ page here, but they only grade in terms of A, B, C etc. and on an unfamiliar scale of 0 to 4.5.  I am not entirely sure how to translate these marks into percentages, however one of my local friends has told me that 80% or above is roughly a B to A grade, so this would equate to a first or high 2:1 at Manchester. It is difficult to say specifically how the grades translate to the UK, especially as for each assignment results are usually curved/changed in comparison to the standard of work produced. A C grade is a pass here, which I think is roughly 60%, so overall the percentages you should expect to get are roughly 20% higher than what you would receive in Manchester.

Settling into life in HK

By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

So Hong Kong has been my new home for two weeks already, I have no idea where the time’s gone!

It feels like so long since my departure from the UK and I’m surprised at how easily I’ve settled in and how welcoming the country is as a whole. There is perfect marriage of East-meets-West here which I think has made the transition of moving here so easy! I really cannot stress enough how amazing and intriguing I am finding Hong Kong is, I absolutely love it and can’t wait to really start immersing myself in the culture. The locals are super friendly and really go out of their way to help you with directions and generally show you how things are done over here; I thought there would be more of a language barrier but there really isn’t!

Upon my arrival in HK late at night, I took a taxi to halls which I was slightly worried about as the taxi driver didn’t speak much English, but luckily I had screen-shotted the address in Cantonese on my phone. PolyU has a buddy scheme where exchange students are paired with a local student to help them with settling in and getting to know Hong Kong, so many exchange students’ buddies met them at the airport to help them navigate to the university halls, which is so helpful. My buddy was travelling around Europe when I arrived but I have met him since and he has been such a help and opened my eyes to many aspects of Hong Kong that I would not have otherwise discovered.

Over the first few days in Hong Kong, I spent time getting to know other students, the university campus and sorting out the bare essentials for setting up my new life here. On the first day, a few local students gave myself and other exchange students a mini tour of campus and took us to Ikea so we could make our rooms a little more homely!

In terms of travel, an Octopus card is used to get around Hong Kong by all means of transport (MTR, trains, trams, buses) and also at supermarkets, to top up your phone bills, print work at uni, you name it! (Take note the rest of the world!) You can pick up an Octopus card from any MTR station and then apply for a student one with half price rates which takes about 2 weeks to process. Phone-wise, I got a SIM from China Mobile which is on a really good plan. I paid 80 HK dollars initially and then my pay as you go plan costs me 30 HK dollars every 10 days (about £2.50) which gives me unlimited calls and texts to Hong Kong numbers and unlimited 3G which is so handy with group messaging and organising events. I have decided not to get a bank account here as my cashcard works well and a previous student told me that she never used the Hong Kong bank account that she opened but if you decide you want to open one there is a bank on campus.

The university could not have been more helpful so far with orientation processes, adding and dropping subjects, setting up events and so on, I doubt you will experience any trouble with academic issues as the university is so informative and the International Affairs Office is so friendly and accessible. I cannot stress enough how much I would encourage students to take the study abroad experience as it is quickly becoming the best decision I have ever made!

My Hong Kong bucket list is also taking shape! I’ve ticked off meeting people from around the world, making an incense wish at a temple and getting my fortune told. Learning Mandarin is also in progress. I’ve attached a few pictures of what I’ve been up to so far, I am surprised at how much exploring I’ve managed to fit in already amongst attending uni, but I can’t wait to continue exploring Hong Kong and experiencing everything it has to offer!

If you have any questions about Hong Kong or PolyU don’t hesitate to contact me on alexandra.ure@student.manchester.ac.uk.

harbour and shipharbour at night

The Harbour Day and Night

harbour groupthe harbour

Harbour at Night

wong tai sinflower market

Wong Tai Sin Temple and Flower Market

harbourthe harbour daytime

The Harbour and Avenue of Stars

repulse bay

St Stephen’s Beach

laantern festivallantern fe

Yesterday’s Mid-Autumn Festival / Lantern Festival

Shek O Beachshek o

 

Shek O Beach

My First Week in Singapore

Kyran Clarke (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

I’m all settled in now after my first week in Singapore. It has been a very hectic but enjoyable week. When I arrived I was met by my National University of Singapore (NUS) buddy. They stayed with me for half a day and were incredibly helpful. Not only did they help me get to my accommodation but they showed me around campus, pointing out all the major places which saved me a lot of time and made getting around a lot easier. They also helped me get an EZ-link card (allows you to get on public transport) and a Singaporean phone card which really helped.

On the second day I went on a tour of the city for exchange students which helped with getting to grips with the MRT (trains). There is an MRT station only 5 minutes’ walk away which has made exploring the city quick and easy. The tour started at 9am and finished at 5pm at the Marina bay so we were all pretty tired, but when we got to the bay they were setting up for a rehearsal of the Singapore Day Show so we stayed to see the jets, boat and fireworks which were all very impressive. On the next day, I went to Senatosa Beach which is at the end of the same MRT line that the university is on. The Beach was wonderful but slightly unnatural with lots of buildings and boats around.

The next few days were spent registering for the university, applying for my student pass (like a visa) and applying for modules. This was a bit of a long process for everyone involved but it was done all in one go so was relatively painless. The positive to this though is that your student card you get allows you free entry into all the gyms and sport facilities around campus, which is a welcome change.

One interesting place was Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where you can see the monkeys. Once you get of the city in Singapore there is lots of rich wildlife and rainforest. One of the more interesting sights was watching monkeys trying to get into someone’s house through a window!

20140805_142726
Monkeys climbing into a house
20140805_135924
A flying lemur!

 

Everyone here is very helpful and friendly and it seems such a safe city. An example of this is a bridge in Clarke Quay where people sit and chat to each other.

20140806_205301
Night time at Clarke Quay

There have been loads of other trips that I’ve done and am planning to do, but with lectures fast approaching it may be time to get my head down (whilst still having fun!).

The journey begins; Arrival in Singapore

Callum Campbell (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Finally, after all these months of preparation, packing and anticipation I am in Singapore starting my semester abroad! Although at first it was an emotional departure and a draining beginning, I now feel very settled in a country completely different to my own. The time is literally flying by and I can see these next four months disappearing before I catch my breath.

My new home for 5 months
My new home for 5 months

It seems a distant memory when I was leaving my family at Heathrow Airport. I was feeling so nervous and lonely in a way which I had never experienced before knowing that, unlike any other trip I had made before, nobody was waiting for me at the other end. Although previous exchange students who had been to the National University of Singapore (NUS) gave me advice and information about the city and university before I left, I still genuinely had no idea what to expect.

After a good fourteen-hour flight, including a transfer in Doha, I had made it to Singapore and I felt drained beyond belief. This, however, was the least of my worries at first as I still needed to travel to the other side of the city, with no guarantee that I would be able to check into my accommodation this early. I decided to get the MRT, Singapore’s equivalent to London’s tube, which was ten times cheaper than a taxi, but much less practical and was not a fun experience during the evening rush hour. Once I arrived at Kent Ridge, the nearest MRT station to the university campus, I hauled my large suitcase up and down hills before arriving at Prince George’s Park Residences, my accommodation at NUS. I quickly checked in, went up to my room and crashed on the bed. I felt like a defeated man.

That first evening may have been hard but since then I have never looked back. With a large number of international students from around the world in the same situation there has been plenty of opportunity to meet a wide range of different people who have completely different cultures, values and ways of life.

A rehearsal for Singapore National Day
A rehearsal for Singapore National Day, which takes place on the 9th of August

Although registration for courses at the university and immigration into the country has been tedious at times, overall the NUS staff and students have made settling in easier, with a number of events and tours to exciting locations across Singapore taking place daily during Orientation Week.

One university trip was to Sentosa Beach, a man made beach in Singapore
One university trip was to Sentosa Beach, a man made beach in Singapore

The university campus itself, located to the west of the city centre, is made up of old buildings and lecture theatres as well as state of the art modern facilities. Although the campus is relatively close together, there is a shuttle bus service that operates around the campus, preventing the need to walk in the sometimes-extreme heat experienced. In terms of accommodation, having previously been told I would not have university accommodation, I am delighted to be on campus after an appeal. However, I was not fortunate enough to be staying at a part of the campus called UTown, located to the north of the university. This site is effectively a student resort, including food courts, shops, a gym, a “town green” and even an infinity pool! Although I may not be staying there I still have access to the facilities, so often spend a lot of my time in this part of the campus.

The infinity pool on campus...
The infinity pool on campus…

Overall, it has been an amazing first week and a half that has already flown by. With less than half a week before lectures begin, it really does make me think just how quickly is the whole semester going to be? But if it is anything like what I am currently experiencing then I know I will continue to have the time of my life!

POST POLY U!

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.

 

 

Image

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!

Image

 

Image

 

 

 

Image

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:

Image

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:

Image

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 🙂