Gabrielle - The Chinese University of Hong Kong

B Commerce/Business Management
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I've always had a strong interest in working in Asia once I graduate from UQ, so I selected my subjects in Hong Kong, so that they would both give me insight into the business environment of Asia, as well as some that would allow me to learn more about the geopolitical and social discourse occurring at this period in Hong Kong and China.  As I am a Finance major I choose to take all of my elective subjects overseas for a change of speed. 

One of my subjects, "The Business Environment of China" had a project which took me out onto the streets of Hong Kong to find out, through first hand accounts, what "Hong-Kongers" opinions were on the changing political environment. 
Being in Hong Kong in late 2018 meant that I was there for the completion of the West- Kowloon train station and the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, both projects which many Hong Kong locals felt strongly were a tangible representation of China taking more control of the region.  Both the old and young felt very similarly- that they identify and had idiosyncrasies that were specific to Hong Kong and the integration of China and Hong Kong would mean a loss of identity.  I also did research into the "The Umbrella Movement" which continues to stand as a symbol for the pro- democracy ideology of Hong Kong locals. 


What I really enjoyed about this kind of study was how it was practical. Instead of lecture theatres I found myself in the centre of enormous markets talking to stall owners or interviewing the baristas at small coffee shops. This kind of academic study gave me so much insight, empathy and understanding around the political environment which was a fantastic change to the usual nature of my Finance major.

Personal experience

Because Hong Kong is transit city for International travel, flying around South East Asia is extremely affordable. On a budget I was able to get to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Shanghai, Macow, Taiwan, Phuket, BangKok, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Battabang and Shenzhen (by train)!  One unforgettable experience would have to be walking through a night market in Taiwan, making friends with the owners of a famous stall and spending the night with them, serving customers, drinking beers and trying to communicate to them in broken Mandarin on our end and broken English on theirs! 

Hong Kong itself never gets old, it has 250 outlying islands so many weekends we'd grab a bunch of our friends, get on a boat from central pier (for $5) and camp out for the weekend. The hiking is also incredible, some of my favourites would have to be Dragons back, Kowloon peak and Sunset peak. Hiking really gave me a new perspective of HK, you realise that its not all city and skyscrapers, actually 75% of it is considered "green" and the government doesn't allow commercial construction.

Accommodation

CUHK is a College system University with seven different Colleges which you get to preference once your accepted to the University. I lived in Wu Yee Sun College which was newly renovated building and what most students said was the most "Hotel like". 
It was extremely good facility wise, I shared a large room with another student, with two common areas and 2 kitchens on the level, it also had a college gym, food court, which served both chinese and western restaurant quality breakfast, lunch and dinner. My expectations were well surpassed.

Costs

Rent on Hong Kong Island is some of the most expensive in the world, so you have to be prepared to live in small spaces for high prices if you choose to live on the Island. The further out you get into the New Territories, the cheaper the accommodation becomes. 

Excluding street food, food in general and basic grocery shopping is more expensive then in Australia.  To dodge this, an inexpensive way you can shop is at markets where all the locals go. The closest to CUHK is in Shatin two train stations away and the closest to HKU is the markets in Wan Chai. 

As for transportation you can get a "Student Octopus Card" which allows a half price discount on all train and bus travel. I can't recommend this more as you will find yourself on trains most days and the long distances means expensive fares. 

I would say that you can do an exchange to Hong Kong for $10,000, if you live within your means and choose affordable options. The loans you can get from the Government are already almost $8000, which makes this kind of exchange so accessible for anyone.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I had was when my debit card was "captured" by a rogue ATM machine in Cambodia on a weeks solo trip - not having brought a replacement with me, it proved to be quite difficult. It felt like fight or flight mode when I realised I didn't have enough cash on me to last the day, let alone buy water to drink!  As Western Union wasn't open due to a public holiday, the odds certainly weren't in my favour that day. Although stressful at the time, the experience really taught me to be more organised when travelling, not to stress out about things you can't control and to ALWAYS bring a spare card.

Professional Development

Hong Kong was certainly a fantastic place to hustle!! The amount of ambitious ex-pats that were more then willing to grab a coffee and talk about their own pathway to Hong Kong was unlimited.  I really connected to many of them as I found so many similarities about their pathway and what I want to do in the coming years.  I actually managed to nab myself an Internship for mid 2019 which could possibility lead to a graduate role for 2020.  One person I met  told me "If you give Hong Kong 100%, it will give you back 300%"- sounds cliche but its proved to be pretty accurate so far.

Highlight

Although there are countless highlights, my fondest memories would have to be the many dinners in Dai Pa Dongs (street food kitchens) in the middle of the Mon Kok Markets. Authentic Hong Kong food, Tsingtao, great people and people- watching- can't get much better then that.

Top tips

Orientation is where I met some of my closest friends, so making sure you go to this would be a top tip.