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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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

Oz Diaries 1: Leaving Home

By Olivia Dove (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia).

Hello there! A warm (at least by English standards) welcome to my first blog entry. Unlike many of the others, this entry will be separated by the location I wrote each one at on my lengthy journey to Australia.

Location: Kent, UK

Date: 28th June 2013

Leaving home is not easy for everyone. However, I don’t suffer particularly bad from homesickness, which means that I am not too worried about departing for Australia in a few days’ time. If you are, studying abroad is even more appropriate for you to help ease you off homesickness syndromes, whilst still having access to counseling (I’m confident that most universities offer such services). What was more nerve-wracking for me was the long wait for my first year results; a 60% average is required by the University of Manchester for a student to study abroad (this grade is a 2.1 class), and, due to the early start of the semester in Australia and the time needed to grade papers, I was unfortunate in the sense that I have only just discovered my grade with three days before my planned departure date. My flight was already booked (mostly refundable) and visa paid for (fully unrefundable) so there was, as well as academic and personal reasons, a strong financial wish for getting the grades! Thankfully I checked today and did perfectly well in my exams, and so amongst the excitement I should probably pack those last few items now…

Location: Heathrow, London, UK

Date: 1st July 2013

Compared to the Olympics or Royal Wedding, there is no big leaving ceremony for a study abroad student, especially one that’s only going for a single semester. Instead, a couple of friends visited me and phone calls to my grandparents were rung. Other than that, the week before leaving the UK was like any other. A tip for anyone studying abroad in the future: unlock your phone at least two months in advance. I tried within the last fortnight and shop after shop delayed me, with eventually no one being able to unlock either my network or model. But had I managed to do it, I would possibly have needed up to a month before the unlock code worked. So unlock early!

The leaving day arrived and my family came with me to the airport to see me off. My brother was the first to say farewell as he had to head into London, and the short and snappy ‘Bye’ was to be expected (but he did give me a hug – how cute). The parents were next before I walked through the doors to security and tip number 2 is to take plenty of tissues to the airport. I myself didn’t need them, but the same cannot be said about my dearest mother. My dad, as ever, told one last pun before I left to brace the necessary security checks. I had only flown as far as Germany on my own before, so I have to admit that flying across the world solo was scarier.

Location: Hong Kong

Date: 4th July 2013

I have left England, yet I still will not arrive at my destination (Brisbane for the University of Queensland) until the 13th of July. My flights were booked in such a way to give me the chance to visit a friend from Manchester at her home in Hong Kong for a few days, and then relatives of mine in Sydney for a week. As well as visiting loved ones, having two weeks to battle any jet-lag is a well-welcomed idea.

The humidity here in Hong Kong is insane; imagine a bath vapourised (so, basically a sauna) that surrounds you wherever you go and you have Hong Kong in July. It was a shock from the English weather so be warned if you’re planning on studying or visiting here. Shorts, suncream and an acceptance of sweating are a must for any student planning to study in a hot climate in general.

If you do have a chance to stop over in Hong Kong at any point, I would recommend the following activities: getting the cable car to Ngong Ping to see the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha; having a day at Ocean Park, and riding the tram to the Peak. The public transport system in Hong Kong is superb (as well as air-conditioned) so you’ll have no problems getting to places.

Image A view from a Peak

Location: Sydney, Australia

Date: 11th July 2013

Just two days until I arrive at my final destination (a nice one, unlike the franchise) and the buzz of anticipation is kicking in. Will the people be nice? How lost will I get? What level of difficulty will my exams be? Who do I go to if sick? Despite what those questions might suggest to you, I’m far more excited than scared for studying in Australia. Whilst in Sydney I’ve sorted out a bank account, a phone with an Australian sim card, started the online enrollment process and planned my airport pick up. All fun-sounding activities, I know, but it will lessen the hassle of paperwork when I arrive.

Besides all of that, I’ve seen the sights in Sydney (from Opera House to Taronga zoo to Manly) whilst also bumping into a few English rugby players here for the final Lions match.

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Chilling with some Lions (at Bondi Beach)

All in all, I am well rested and beyond ready to move into my college. Bring it on, Brisbane!