My biggest fear prior to going on exchange is that I wouldn’t make many friends or I’d get lonely or home sick. To my surprise, I made friends from all around the world and I was never lonely or bored. If anything, I ended up treasuring the time I had to myself.
Within a few days of arrival, I made local friends who were my hall mates and I became really close to them. They showed me all the best local spots and always made sure I participated in Hall activities.
Hong Kong has something special for everyone -- there is so much to do, see and learn that five months is not nearly enough time to explore the whole city. One of the best things about being on exchange in Hong Kong is that there are many expats, a rich culture, and a variety of food options. I chose to not have ‘western food’ while in Hong Kong and instead I discovered many different types of cuisines. I ended up falling in love with Korean food and I had extremely supportive friends who would accompany me to my favorite Korean restaurant for dinner at least once a week.
In Hong Kong culture it’s very common to share a table with complete strangers during peak hours. The locals are usually really impressed when they saw us practicing HK culture such as dipping utensils in hot water to wash them. By practicing HK culture, we would usually get the best service and the locals next to us would constantly form small talk and would give suggestions on what to order. Many of my friends and I learnt how to use chopsticks from strangers who would share a table with us. The locals were always eager to teach even if they didn’t speak English, whilst we waited for our meals they would show us where to put our fingers and how use chopsticks. As we ate they would check on us to see if we were managing and help were they saw us fail miserably. Even though we usually couldn’t understand each other, it was always pleasant sharing a table with locals who were proud to see us embrace their culture.
I had the best experiences while on exchange! I personally didn’t have many negative experiences that directly affected me. The only thing that was different in a negative way was being in a lecture/tutorial with more than a 150 students. I found this made it hard to get to know the professors. I had a group assignment in all my classes and most local students didn’t want to be in groups with exchange students because many had the belief exchange students don’t really put in hard work. Besides that, the local students were always friendly and happy to help even though most of them were shy.
Hong Kong is ‘divided’ into three main areas, Hong Kong Island (city), Kowloon territories (where CityU is located), the New Territories, and plenty of little islands to explore. To my surprise Hong Kong had beautiful scenic views everywhere -- I just had to explore. It also has quite a few mountains (great for hiking), hidden fountains, beaches, and nice camping spots. The weather in Hong Kong tends to be warm and extremely humid.
If I had to make suggestions to other exchange students, I would say:
Request a single room
Don’t be in a group with too many exchange students
Participate in all the orientation programs
Be open to trying new things
Since coming back to Australia, I’ve only had good things to say about exchange and I’ve encouraged my friends to go on exchange because it’s simply the best experience.