When I noticed Nexus was publishing blog posts from my fellow year-mates that capture different exchange experiences, I could not resist and had to share bits of my supermegaextraveryawesomeandamazing exchange semester at the City University of Hong Kong! I apologize in advance for this rather long post, but I hope you will find it informative!
Also, you may notice I mostly focused on how different it is in Asia in comparison to Europe, which is why those of you who are actually Asian may find it very silly, but please respect the fact I am having the time of my life exploring your beautiful continent! :D
It’s not all about rankings and your CV and GPA (although in Hong Kong it could be about both)
First of all, all of you have a really important choice to make - more important then you may at this point realise (it’s just a semester, right?). Exactly a year ago I did something most of you have probably done by now - went through the rankings, checked language requirements, eliminated any school ranked under 100, made up my mind about my top choices for both in and outside Europe and obviously considered applying for an exchange semester in Edinburgh (the city is beautiful and the school is in top 15-20 ever since I became a university rankings stalker) and Shanghai (what is life without Facebook?).
Then I also considered the “easier” schools in cool cities and considered all the possible ways of improving my GPA while abroad and almost ended up applying for Prague or Brno (I’m Czech, so it would be nice to be closer to my family + I wouldn’t have a problem to get an internship next to my studies).
Why did I chose for Hong Kong then? Well, simply because I had never been here before this exchange.
To those of you who are about to stop reading because you think - “but to me it is all about rankings and GPA” - I have very good news!
City University of Hong Kong does not have the highest ranking in law, nevertheless, according to QS world ranking it’s in the top 50-70 and the assessment passing rate is only 40% (and they really don’t want you to fail here - resits are not really the thing). So it is the best combination of high rankings and GPA improvement requirements.
Get to know Hong Kong!
If someone asked me to describe Hong Kong in one word, it would most definitely be variety. Variety of people, living standards, food, traditions, prices, architecture and smells (good and bad).
Okay, this one I suffered from a little bit at the beginning as I am a very picky person and I really enjoy European food. One thing I can tell you for sure is that European food is expensive and you will need to adapt, which can be enjoyable! You will definitely adapt soon and the only people who may have a few problems adapting will be vegans/vegetarians, as even vegetarian dishes often contain meat.
On the other hand, once you get over the culture shock, you will discover Hong Kong is “the” place to eat in Asia, as it is the place where the whole of Asian cuisine comes together and you will find everything from Japanese and Chinese to Singaporean, Nepalese, Indian or even Vietnamese (and way more).
To be totally honest, people were quite a shocking experience to me. Hong Kong is extremely busy and overpopulated, the people speak moderate English and they are surprisingly cold unlike in other Asian countries I visited. That, however, does not matter so much as you will spend most time with other exchange students, as there are many of us.
Are you into hiking and nature?
Hong Kong is the best combination of a busy city and nature at the same time. You have beaches, mountains, islands, hiking tracks, cliffs to dive from and all of that very easily accessible due to the amazing transportation system Hong Kong has to offer.