Bring on Semester Two

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

I cannot believe that I am now halfway through my study abroad experience in Hong Kong, which is constantly shaping up to be the best year of my life. Semester two commenced a few days ago so I’ve been settling back into the Asian lifestyle after spending the past few weeks back in the UK over the Christmas period.

I am excited to be back in Hong Kong to continue to explore and immerse myself in this vibrant, colourful city and to complete my bucket list. Although it has been somewhat bittersweet returning as the majority of exchange students were only here for a semester, so it is odd not having the same friends surrounding you but is also exciting to meet a whole new bunch of exchanges!

Spending Christmas back in the UK was lovely as, for me, I wouldn’t have been able to hack the full year here without seeing my family and friends and having a good old roast! However, many of my friends who are also on a year exchange did not go back home and took the time to continue travelling; some changed flights to do so whilst others still returned home, so it really does depend on how you feel as the semester progresses. I would make sure that you book flights either with British Airways as they always charge a £100 fee to change flights, or STA where you can buy a flexi-ticket for around £80 I believe; I booked through Travel Trolley and it would have cost me over double to reschedule. I would have also loved to travel but my bank balance would not have thanked me, so I have been awaiting my next loan instalment, true student style.

During semester one I travelled to the Philippines and Japan which was truly amazing. I will never get tired of Asian cultures – I find every aspect so refreshing and interesting. Studying abroad has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for travel which I have not been able to experience before and can’t wait to continue experiencing. Regular national holidays and professors’ accommodating natures allows you to easily hop on a short plane journey to fulfil your travelling needs!  With Chinese New Year being just over a month away and having a whole week off university, I hope to take my itchy feet to China (and maybe put my Mandarin into practice).
Below are a few photos of my travels to the Philippines and Japan, including a video of Japan.

Reflecting upon my first semester at PolyU in Hong Kong, for the second chapter of my Asian adventure I hope to continue to promote Manchester and the study abroad scheme, meet more people from around the world and continue to enjoy studying at this renowned fashion University.

Puerto Galera, Philippines
Puerto Galera, Philippines
Parasailing, Philippines
Parasailing, Philippines
Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Robot Show, Shinjuku, Japan
Robot Show, Shinjuku, Japan
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

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.

Ni Hao Hong Kong!

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

After a jam-packed summer of catching up with family and friends, holidays, interning and celebrating my birthday on Friday, I am finally about to commence my study abroad year in Hong Kong. Tomorrow I embark on a gruelling 20-hour journey to Hong Kong with a stop-over in Doha; this was my cheapest flight option but you can fly direct for around £100 more if you’re not the best flyer!

I am in disbelief that this is actually happening and at how fast time has passed since handing in my very first Worldwide Exchange applications; it feels so surreal that I will be halfway across the world in 48 hours! I am so excited to start this once in a lifetime opportunity and can’t wait to fall in love with Hong Kong!

Pre-departurewise, I have had no trouble with communicating with the host university (although I was worried about my Visa which only arrived two weeks ago!). Amongst other minor pre-departure related necessities, I have bought a travelcard from STA Travel which cost me £12 and is also an international student identity card, which I thought was handy; you can withdraw money for free with it at any Maestro ATM worldwide. Of course you might find it easier to take cash and set up a bank account in the country you’re travelling to, but I thought this would be worth mentioning as for me, it means one less thing to worry about. Now all I have to do is get a phone and sim when I arrive in Hong Kong (I’ve had a nightmare trying to get my phone unlocked because it’s relatively new).

hong kong bucket list

Here is a little bucket list I’ve put together based upon necessary Google searches of Hong Kong tourist attractions and some personal achievements that I want to accomplish whilst I’m over there. I plan on adding to this list, changing it and ticking things off as I continue to post on the blog. Quite a lot of these are travel-based, which I hope to be able to do alongside or after my studies, but of course I will be focusing on my studies as my study abroad year is graded.

I am ready for and eagerly anticipating everything HK has to throw at me; ups, downs, challenges and opportunities and I very much look forward to sharing it all with the readers of Manchester On The Road!

Alex