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.
The views I get in Hong Kong are probably the sexiest thing about this place and if you decide to come here for your exchange, you will most likely find yourself staring at skyscrapers all the time.
There is so much to see in Hong Kong, really.
I’m not gonna write anything about this section, just see for yourself. :)
… is amazing! (And extremely positive-discriminatory, but well…)
Nightlife in Hong Kong and “ladies’ nights”
Hong Kong is famous for its concept of Ladies’ Nights. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, all girls drink for free in many bars and clubs around Hong Kong (usually before 1 am or something like that), which is unfair towards to boys who need to pay entry into clubs, but being a lady myself I definitely enjoyed free cocktails. Boys, don’t be sad though! In many clubs you will stumble upon people literally pushing champagne glasses into your hands, just because you’re non-Asian.
I am not sure how you feel about this, but I personally have to say I enjoyed the nightlife in Hong Kong. :D
With regards to the variety of places to go to, there are many clubs and bars that offer all kinds of music, so I’m sure everyone can find their place!
Especially before November, beach and junk parties are a weekly thing. Go on a boat with your friend or get a tent and enjoy partying a little bit differently than in the Netherlands.
All you can…
… eat, drink, anything.
Hong Kong is very famous for it’s “all you can” culture and I promise you will snatch quite a few good deals while in Hong Kong.
You may have heard Hong Kong is relatively cheap in comparison to the Netherlands, but I personally have to admit I have spent more money here than in the Netherlands, but that of course depends on everyone’s spending habits. There is simply so much to do here.
Here are a few examples:
campus - about €150 per month (you pay it in advance in August)
private housing - waaaaaaaay more
you cannot really cook here, groceries are more expensive than going to a restaurant
lunch/dinner at the campus - around €3-5
meal in a restaurant (tastier than school food) - around €5 -10
if you find places to go to, you can easily eat cheap and tasty
often you have restaurants where you can bring your own drinks or you receive tea with the food
you need to buy water, it’s not drinkable here - around €1 per litre
the rest of the prices in the supermarkets are rather comparable to those in the Netherlands
public transport: around €15-25 per month on the MTR
taxi: cheaper than in the Netherlands, from the clubs to the University it costs about €10, which you usually split
City University of Hong Kong
CityU is situated in Kowloon, which is to be distinguished from the Hong Kong Island (where the skyscrapers are), nevertheless, it’s very easy to get there by the using the underground.
Length of your semester
Semester in Hong Starts in the last week of August and you will be done with all your exams before Christmas, so you can either return back to your home country and have a month off or travel through Asia before your semester in Groningen starts again!
What may be different from the Netherlands is that you get graded for your attendance and participation in classes. It’s usually max. 10% of your grade, so it’s not too bad if you don’t go, but I’d definitely recommend you to show up as much as you can.
Classes + grading
Lectures take about 90 minutes while tutorials only 45 and you are required (by the University of Groningen) to follow 5 courses, therefore expect to spend a maximum of 15 hours at school per week.
You will need to pre-register before you go to Hong Kong, but throughout the first one or two weeks you can still change your classes depending on your schedule, so I’d recommend you to try to keep your Mondays and Fridays free, so that you can make the best out of your weekends!
As I already mentioned above, you only need 40% to get a six, so it’s generally not that hard to come home with really good grades.
Unless you provide a statement from your doctor (e.g. that you’re claustrophobic, insomniac, aggressive or anything else), you will share a room with another student. The Residential Office is, however, very smart and will most likely not put you in a room with someone too culturally different than you in order to prevent potential conflicts, which is why all exchange students are usually put in a room with people from their home university or, if there is none, with someone else from a similar cultural background. I am therefore sharing a room with my lovely, mess-tolerant year mate Xuejun!
The rooms are about 15 sqm (by my female, probably inaccurate guess), you get a single bed, rather large closet, your own desk and share a bathroom with your neighbouring room.
Get to know Asia!
Probably the most amazing thing your semester in Hong Kong is that it’s located so well that you are very close to many amazing places in Asia!
Great wall festival in China, scuba diving courses in Thailand, whale-shark snorkelling in the Philippines, arcade gaming in Tokyo, pagodas in Myanmar, a cruise in Vietnam’s Halong Bay, weekend in Taipei and way more! Myself I have not got a chance to do all of the above as I am leaving right after my last exam, but why can’t you?
If you’re smarter than me in scheduling your classes throughout the week, you may find yourself in a new country every weekend!
Seriously, make the best out of your semester! ;)
To be totally honest with you, Hong Kong was quite a popular destination amongst outside Europe choices of last year’s law students, which is why it may happen that you won’t be accepted, nevertheless, I am absolutely confident any Asian country will definitely be a memorable experience comparable to my Asian journey.
Please keep in mind this is a great opportunity to explore a new part of the world as, if you are at least half as ambitious as I am, you will probably not be willing to take a gap year just to travel and see the world in the nearest future. :)
I hope you enjoyed reading my very extensive and biased blog post and I wish you lots of luck in making your final choice, drafting your motivation letter, have a wonderful holiday and I will see you all soon! :)
Many hugs from Hong Kong and if you have any questions whatsoever, message me! :)