Hi, my name is Debra Cohen. I studied abroad in the spring of 2018 in Hong Kong. It was an experience of a lifetime. I have lived in many different places but nothing quite like HK. When I first decided to go, I was really struggling with all the many decisions I had to make and all the plans I had to figure out. But if I had known what studying abroad was going to be like, I maybe wouldn’t have stressed and complained so much😊. So, for any of you thinking about studying abroad, I’m going to try and explain my trip as best I can and give some tips to make it a bit less stressful.
Hong Kong is an English-speaking Special Administrative Region of China that was colonized by the English in the early 1900’s. It is located in a cluster of islands in Asia and the city is built into the side of mountains. In the city center there are massive tall sky scrapers and buildings. A wide river (Victoria Harbor) runs between two islands with a ferry to take passengers across.
Transportation is very simple between the very efficient MTR, slow but scenic tram, or cheap taxis. I enjoyed taking the double decker tram on days when I wasn’t in a rush and wanted to see the city. Sometimes I would take a good book with me and sit on the upper deck by the back window and chill. I used taxis mostly after going out on the town to LKF.
Now I’m not promoting partying, but Hong Kong is known for it bars and clubs. And what’s more, 18+ can drink out there! So, go but don’t go too crazy. Actually, our apartment had a local bar downstairs from it and we spent a bunch of our time down there and got to know the locals pretty well. If you ever end up there, go check out quench bar in Kennedy town, I believe we made it on the wall 😊.
We lived at unisuites. They are very cute apartments located in Kennedy town just a short metro trip or decent walk to school (LOTS of stairs). I loved our apartment and location compared to some of the dorms. However, the dorms were a quarter of the price and if you lived there you made instant friends, something that was a bit more challenging for us because we were kind of out of it.
About HKU (Hong Kong University). I loved the school. HKU is a very big school with many different faculties. Which means whatever field you go into you will most probably be able to find the classes you need. The classes themselves I found a bit challenging being that I was in the science program but honestly, they are very doable if you put in the work. The teachers are ready to help you and they do give very clear instructions on what they expect of you. My favorite class was lab for organic chemistry. They really expect you to know your stuff and a expect tentative lab report at the beginning of each lab. It is also where I became good friends with my lab group. They have an excellent program for exchange students which is where I made most of my friends. Before the school started, they have different trips set up for the exchange students to meet each other and explore the city and the outer regions. These short trips are some of my fondest memories of Hong Kong. The campus itself is very large and beautiful with lots of study spots and many different restaurants. I spent a lot of time with my friends on the top floor of the arts building on the grass or in the very large library where they had gorgeous views of the city and the river.
Now, about the traveling. While studying there I visited a few different surrounding countries. It was always easy to find people to travel with being all the exchange students traveled A LOT. There was one girl I knew who literally just traveled for a month strait. I do not recommend this because missing that much school work was probably not a good idea. My first trip I did was to Cambodia and Thailand. Such beautiful countries. Cambodia was a 2nd/3rd world country while Thailand was a bit more built up in some places.
In Thailand, we stayed in Bangkok first and saw the castles and then went on to Phuket where we got to see the most beautiful islands.
In Cambodia we went to the temples and at night we went to the night markets. This whole trip cost about $200-300. These Asian countries are so very cheap. For example, our lavish breakfast costed $3. Flights out of Hong Kong are also pretty cheap.
The next trip I went on was to Vietnam. It is the most beautiful and underrated country. We biked down the coast for the whole day on motor bike and the views where breathtaking. We went to a small beautiful old village in Hoi Ann and did some shopping. I then parted ways with my friends and stayed in the executive suite of a hotel for the rest of the week for $200! It was finals week and wanted to study in luxury lol.
My last trip I took was to Beijing in Hong Kong. I want to say it was the highlight of my trip, but I really enjoyed every aspect of my journey so it’s hard to choose. I went with an exchange student I met on my trip. We climbed the great wall of china all the way to the end, 20,000 steps! It was not easy. We explored the old city and we went to the summer palace. Beijing was a very interesting city and we mostly took the subway which took us about 1 hour to get home and we had to change 3 trains 3x! stay closer to the center of the city if you plan to go.
Studying abroad is for everyone and anyone who wants to live life to the fullest. It’s an experience like no other. If one cannot do a full semester, they should definitely do the faculty led trips but there is nothing like the full semester study abroad trip. When you live in a country for a whole 5 months you really get to know the place you’re living in. You get a feel for the culture and the history of the city. You are forced to learn your way around and it becomes your home. I can’t wait until I have the chance to go back. I miss it terribly.