Traveling abroad to attend college comes with excitement, homesickness, anxiety, freedom and much more all wrapped in one epic package. Going to study in Hong Kong is guaranteed to make you feel all these emotions and more. Hence those considering this path could definitely benefit from the information below:
Getting from one place to the next
Something that definitely needed some getting used to is the amount of walking one has to do in Hong Kong. Cabs are extremely expensive, hence they are not student budget-friendly. However, the buses and MTR go virtually everywhere but are tiring to travel by. I attend The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), which is rather far from the main city. Therefore, getting to the primary hangout spots in the city warrants at least an hour of commute without a cab. Moreover, the campus in itself is quite vast as getting from student dorms to classes requires around a minimum of 20 minutes.
If you aim to attend a top university in Hong Kong, the social environment is extremely academically challenging. Most classes are graded on a curve, which puts you in direct competition with your equally capable peers. Other than that, proactive students are extremely involved within university clubs and societies while managing to maintain their GPA. Many even do part-time internships during the semester. Most students tend to graduate with at least some internship/work experience. The hustle culture is quite prevalent, and surrounding yourself with the right people will push you to excel both academically and in extracurriculars. At HKUST, you will find yourself between people whose ambition will push you to work harder on your own goals.
One of the main culture shocks I experienced was the rule-oriented nature of Hong Kong’s residents. I come from a country where people are relatively laid back, so I found Hong Kong exceptionally systematic. For example, they did not loosen quarantine rules until much later in comparison to other countries, and they still continue to keep their masks glued to their face. Plus, people seldom use cash to make transactions. For everyday expenses, individuals normally use something called an Octopus Card. If you have the Student Octopus Card, you can use the MTR at half the price of a regular ticket, which makes public transport extremely inexpensive.
Especially for those that are going away from home for the first time, homesickness is inevitable. However, Hong Kong, and HKUST in particular, is quite diverse. Chances are, you will be able to find people from your country. I am from India, and many Indians all over the world come to study in Hong Kong. Their presence has definitely decreased my tendency to feel homesick. We celebrate our culture and honor our traditions as best as possible. The key is to find people whose company you truly enjoy and to not waste time on those that don’t add anything to your life.
Hong Kong’s weather is annoyingly unpredictable. Coming from a tropical region, I was not used to the cold. However, there are some unexpected sunny/hot days in the middle of the winter, which causes extreme weather change and results in many students falling sick. Although the weather is pleasant sometimes, it is vital to take care of yourself, avoid exceedingly unhealthy habits, and take relevant medications if you need them.
Although a transition to Hong Kong may seem intimidating and overwhelming, as will be the case with any move abroad, most students fall in love with the country by the time they graduate. Hong Kong is perfect for both city and nature lovers. Hikes are a popular bonding activity here, but at the same time, so is partying and trying out new restaurants/clubs. From beautiful malls to breathtaking views, Hong Kong quite literally has it all.