Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 13/09/2021Back to Blog
What were your reasons for applying to study abroad?
Prior to applying for university, I was always keen on pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and wanted to experience new countries and cultures. Studying such a dynamic and global subject such as Economics gave me a great insight into global economies and the disparities between developed and developing nations. Therefore, when selecting my university course, I made sure that the option to study abroad was available to me. I enjoy meeting new people and studying abroad would give me an opportunity to create a global network. It was a great chance for me to meet likeminded people and also to travel to new places with a sense of appreciating local cultures and customs, away from the glamourised “package holiday” norms. Immersing myself in a new environment would not only force me to become more independent but also allow me to learn more about myself in terms of my boundaries and traits. It was an eye-opening experience which gave me the chance to understand myself better too. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, I wanted a university experience which was fulfilling. As much as I enjoyed my first two years studying in Bristol, I craved more of a challenge and studying abroad gave that to me.
Tell us what studying in (host country name) was like? Was it what you expected?
I studied in Hong Kong at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The university is located in the North of Hong Kong. Studying in Hong Kong was a very different experience to the UK. It allowed me to take classes with an Asian perspective; this forced me to draw parallels to the EU and UK centric syllabus we are taught in Bristol. It gave me a chance to explore Economics from a global perspective. The hard-working attitude I had met with from students in Hong Kong remains to be matched. All students had clear goals and drive to allow them to achieve academic success. It was inspiring to be surrounded by such motivated students. During the week, I had lectures and tutorials in a similar format to those in Bristol with around 3-4 contact hours per module per week. I was taking 4 modules per semester in Hong Kong. During my time as an exchange student, I was able to take modules I would never have had the chance to take studying in Bristol. For example, I studied a module called “The Culture of Hong Kong”. This module opened my awareness to the norms in Hong Kong and the reasons behind their interesting culture. Through this module, I was also able to meet a large number of other exchange students which provided another layer of learning as I appreciated cultures from their home countries. The module allowed for thought-provoking conversations as all students were given the chance to share norms and cultural traditions from our own home countries and how it differed to that of Hong Kong.
Another module which truly inspired me was “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur”, this module allowed me to meet entrepreneurs from local businesses, understanding their motivations for starting a business, any struggles they experienced along the way and where their business is now. This module gave me the chance to attend the Elevator Pitch in Hong Kong; an event which attracts the brightest and most successful businesses in the area. It was a great opportunity to network with such inspiring individuals and learn about their careers.
A difference I experienced to Bristol in terms of teaching style was the assessment method of midterms. This was a mini exam type of assessment which was sat during week 6 of the term, assessing all of your knowledge on the content taught up until then. This ensured that I was on top of the teaching material and was attending all lectures and tutorials to avoid falling behind.
Furthermore, the university campus was better than I had expected! The sheer size of the campus was amazing and far bigger than Bristol! They even had a tube station on campus offering direct train links to the centre of Hong Kong in less than 20 minutes. It was great to be on a campus university where everything was all in one place.
What was your favourite part of the experience?
My favourite part of the experience was being able to travel around Asia with other exchange students I had met studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. During my time studying in Hong Kong, I was able to travel to South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. It was a great opportunity to experience differences in cultures around Asia and what each country had to offer. I was able to do a lot of touristy attractions which gave me the chance to explore new countries. Travelling with people you have met recently provides the ultimate bonding experience and accelerates the speed at which you get to know somebody. It was a great way to make lifelong friendships. With Thursdays and Fridays off with my timetable, I made the most of the time by travelling and exploring Hong Kong as well as other parts of Asia. Having a long weekend is something I definitely recommend to all exchange students as it gives you the chance to travel and explore (something which should be a priority if you are studying abroad!). When I was exploring Hong Kong, I completed some of the infamous hiking trails such as the Dragons Back, explore their irresistible food markets, as well as their tourist attractions such as the Big Buddha.
Another unique experience studying in Hong Kong was the opportunity to learn how to Kayak and achieve the Level 3 Star Award. It was a 4-week course I completed learning to kayak in the stunning Hong Kong waters. I was able to experience local villages and the work completed by the community as I kayaked around Hong Kong. The scenery was breath-taking! Kayaking challenged me both mentally and physically as I completed the 20km sea trip allowing me to bond with other students and experience Hong Kong’s beauty from its waters. This was something which was completely outside of my comfort zone and I am so glad I did it.
What was the biggest culture shock?
Fortunately for me, in Hong Kong, English is widely spoken so a language barrier did not pose a problem. It was easy to navigate around the city using public transport with easy access from campus to the city centre. Initially, I did experience a culture shock of how a lot of the local students do tend to keep to themselves which made initiating conversation with them a little difficult. It meant that I often had to be the one who initiated any conversation. Although, after a few moments the local students were friendly and keen to share their experiences with you. The weather was another stark difference to the UK! With high humidity and hot temperatures, I found myself sweating by the time I made it to my lectures! The steep hills on campus probably did not help, but the humidity in Hong Kong is something which takes a few weeks to get used to. Along with the humidity, I experienced heavy downpours during my first few days in Hong Kong which made outfit planning a little difficult!
How are your (host language) skills?
Hong Kong has two main languages. Their main spoken language is Cantonese. There is the opportunity to take Cantonese lessons at the university. English is widely spoken, even by taxi drivers and other local residents, although it did help having knowledge of how to order food and the name of the university in Cantonese. All road signs and transport links have the English translation beneath them which made it easy to navigate around.
My top tips whilst studying abroad:
1. No amount of preparation will prepare you!
Before I left for Hong Kong, I was often asked by family and friends “if I was prepared”. Before departing I would often reply confidently saying “yes” after extensively researching the university, the country and reaching out to students who had studied abroad at the university the year before. However, nothing prepares you until you are there. No amount of research compensates for the real-life experience you will gain from being there first-hand. Therefore, I am not saying to be unprepared but be prepared for feeling completely outside of your comfort zone and embrace the change!
2. Say Yes!
Do not be afraid to try new experiences. For example, when the opportunity came up for me to learn how to kayak I immediately grabbed it as I knew it would be a great chance for me to learn a new skill and meet new people. This is something I could not have done whilst studying at Bristol so make the most of being an exchange student!
3. Make the most of your time!
Make sure you plan your time whilst studying abroad, your time there is limited so do not waste valuable time. Your time abroad will fly by, so it is important you are satisfied with what you have done whilst out there.
4. Always keep cash with you
This is more of a logistical tip, but it is important to keep cash with you as you never know when it is needed. In countries such as Hong Kong cash is still widely used and can be crucial if you are in need for a late-night taxi.
Credit – Ria Gandhi