Jane - University of Hong Kong

B Advanced Finance & Economics
Semester 1, 2019
I don't like to exaggerate, so believe me when I say exchange is hands down, the best decision I've made in my life so far.

Academic experience

On exchange, I used  my electives and studied courses that were a bit different to those offered at UQ. I studied at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and did courses relating to Private Banking and Wealth Management, Monetary Economics, Entrepreneurship, Foreign Trade and Investment in China, and Credit Risk. I found these courses really interesting and worthwhile and I had really engaging lecturers. My classes were much smaller than my UQ classes, and it was a nice change because it meant that I got to know many of my classmates quickly, the lecturers knew us each by name, and classes were more participation-based and interactive. It might also have to do with the specific courses I did, but the courses I did at HKU were less theoretical than the ones I've done at UQ. I felt like I had a much more personal and practical learning experience in HKU and I really enjoyed that.

What differed was that five courses - not four - is considered the fulltime load at HKU. For my courses, I'd say the workload was fairly heavy but manageable. The level of work is similar to UQ, but in a different way - my courses in UQ are pretty exam-based with smaller assignments, whereas in HKU, I had exams too but the assignments were either smaller but in larger frequencies, or big assignments. There were also homework tasks and pop quizzes throughout the semester. Most of my assignments were group-based, but a lot of my UQ assignments have also been group ones. Grading criteria for assessments were less clear too, and you don't necessarily get back your marks for all pieces of assessments before your final exams. 

There are no lecture recordings as well and I didn't have a tutorial for every class, but lectures are normally 3 hours. The sign-on and enrolment system is also quite different to UQ (more difficult). The process is a bit tricky because you don't know your tutorial times until the first lecture, and there is a drop/add sign-on period at the start of the semester where you can go to any classes and see what they're like, but class content is being taught already so if you do switch to another class, you have to catch up on any missed content from the start. I managed to enrol in all the classes I wanted, but I recommend you get as many courses pre-approved first so that you have lots of options and back-up plans if you don't get the course you initially want.

Personal experience

Exchange was something I knew I wanted to do since the start of uni and I went in with the mindset that I was going to have an awesome time. However, having done exchange, I can say it still surpassed all my expectations and is definitely the best decision I've made and one I would make again in a heartbeat. I enjoyed every aspect of my exchange and met so many new people. I became really good friends with my local classmates and my roommates - we still keep in touch and they've honestly become some of my closest friends. I enjoyed getting involved in extracurricular activities like karate, choir and a cultural program, where I was fortunate enough to bond with a local family over shared meals. 

I went in Hong Kong's second semester (UQ's semester 1), and this was the semester full of public holidays so I got to travel a lot. I loved exploring Hong Kong - to my surprise, I found out it doesn't just boast a big city with amazing markets and a vibrant night life, but also many hikes with great mountains and views and outlying islands with beaches and scenic views to explore. Hong Kong is such a bustling city so full of life that there's always something to do, see or eat! Hong Kong's culture is also so different to Australia's, and I managed to pick up some basic Cantonese phrases. I was also fortunate enough to have fun travelling outside of Hong Kong too - to Macau, Taiwan and mainland China. 

I can ramble on forever about how great my time on exchange was, but in short, it was an AMAZING experience where I grew so much as a person and developed the most wonderful memories and friendships.


I applied for student accommodation halls but didn't get any. However, I still got accommodation that was considered off-campus but still organised by CEDARS (the same organisation from HKU which organises student accommodation halls). This accommodation is a flat called On Hing Building, and it was much more expensive than student hall accommodation, but electricity and water costs are included and there's a cleaner that comes every few weeks. I'm really glad I ended up living there! 

The typical On Hing flat layout consists of three rooms to one flat (with two people sharing one room). So among the six of you, you share two bathrooms and a communal kitchen/living area, with a fridge, microwave and one hotpot stove included. Each person also gets a desk. On Hing is in a really good location. Like student halls, it's really close to HKU - about a 15 minute walk. It's super close to the MTR, the tramway and multiple bus stops. I found On Hing's location advantageous compared to student halls because most of the halls are in a residential area, whereas On Hing is on a really big and main road, with another main road parallel to it. Hence, there are lots of shops and restaurants around. 

Being in On Hing doesn't prevent you from getting involved in extracurricular activities and student life because you can still join many clubs and societies (just not as part of a hall). And, I was really fortunate to have had amazing roommates! On Hing is owned by a private landlord (but payments are still made through HKU) and so there are some local residents, but the overwhelming majority of people living in On Hing are also exchange students, so you get to meet lots of other exchange students too.


Living in off-campus accommodation, I paid much more for accommodation than what I would have in a student hall. My rent was around 3500HKD per month - the actual rent was 5000HKD per month but HKU offers a 1500HKD monthly subsidy. If you're living in a student accommodation, I'm pretty sure electricity and water expenses aren't covered in the rent, so you should factor that in too as an additional cost. Accommodation was definitely my largest cost, and food would be next. 

Breakfasts at local HK cafes are cheap, but most breakfasts, I had eggs, bread or cereal. Food on uni campus was super cheap, so I almost always bought lunch at uni during days I had classes (meals in uni are like an average of 25-40HKD). Outside of uni, if you eat out for lunch, it's also really affordable, especially for places that do lunch deals. You can easily find meals on average for around 40-60HKD. For dinners, it was a mix of home-cooked food and eating out. There is so many options for eating out in HK (I loved the food there) and just like in Australia, the cost really depends on where you're eating. On average though, I'd say eating out for dinner would set you back around 80-120HKD. Buying groceries and cooking at home definitely saved money but because of our kitchen appliances, we were limited to cooking pretty simple meals. There are also certain things that are very expensive in the supermarkets compared to Australia, like your meats, dairy and some fresh vegetables and fruits. So sometimes, depending on what you eat, it might actually be more worth it and convenient to just eat out. To get cheaper and fresher groceries, you can also go to many of the wet markets. For eating out, in general, the local HK food cafes (called Cha Chaan Tengs) are cheap, fast and have big sizing. I also highly recommend downloading the app Eat2Go - it has great discounts to many restaurants and can also give you ideas for where to go and try new things to eat. 

Transport is really cheap, frequent and timely - very convenient! Without a discount, normal transport prices are already cheap, but as a student, you can apply for a student Octopus card and get 50% off fares, which makes it even cheaper. MTRs and buses are more expensive than trams but still cheap, and trams have a fixed fare of about 2.80HKD. 

For my phone plan, I found a pretty good student deal through Smartone where I got unlimited voice minutes and 6GB of local data for about 136HKD per month (and this was on a non-fixed term contract so I could cancel whenever). 

So I think accommodation, food, transport, and a phone plan were my main recurring costs. The other costs you should factor in are those one-off purchases for housing things (e.g. kettle, bedsheets, pillow, crockery and cutlery etc.), travelling, and any shopping you might like to do. I did a fair bit of travelling round in HK (like the outlying islands), Macau, Taiwan and mainland China, so travel expenses were also a big part of my costs.


I guess the biggest challenges for me related to enrolling in classes in HKU and the language barrier. I found HKU's class sign-on process a bit confusing and much more restrictive than UQ's, but if you have many courses pre-approved, this will help a lot! At HKU, classes are taught in English, but you'll still hear many of the locals talking in Cantonese or Mandarin, and out on the streets in shops and restaurants, most locals only know how to speak Cantonese. Also, some shops will only have Cantonese signs and prices, and some local restaurants will only have Cantonese menus. I didn't know any Cantonese before living in Hong Kong, so that was one challenge, but it was a good kind of challenge! I was really keen to pick up some basic Cantonese - that was one of my goals of exchange - and I had a roommate that could speak Cantonese, so this greatly helped. What also helped me in picking up some basic Cantonese words and phrases to get by were language apps on my phone, and the fact that the karate class I joined was only taught in Cantonese. I think in terms of language, you just have to be really open and willing to learn and practice speaking it, even if you don't feel like you've got the exact accent or words down pact!

Professional Development

In my studies, because I did courses that are different to what's offered at UQ, I definitely learnt new things that I otherwise wouldn't have in my degree. Particularly for me as a business student, I learnt a lot about Fintech and entrepreneurship, and Chinese and Asian markets. Seeing as China has become one of the world's most important economic superpowers, this will be useful for my future career. In my classes, our lecturers also organised for people from industry to talk to us, and I participated in a business competition run by Bank of America. 

However, while your studies definitely contribute to your professional development, exchange develops so many skills too and makes you grow as a person. You improve on your organisational and time management skills when you try to juggle your studies, travels and extracurricular activities. You are in a new environment, culture and a different uni system so you have to be able to adapt, be independent and take initiative. You're surrounded by new people everyday who speak a different language and you may have to do group projects and presentations, so you have to apply teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills. And to make the most of every opportunity and create opportunities for yourself while on exchange, you have to step outside your comfort zone, challenge yourself and just be really open to trying and exploring new things. 

And so exchange really is the perfect combination of contributing to your professional career through studies and skills, and personal development. I think importantly too, it makes you a more self-aware person and a much more global citizen. It opens you up to so many new things.


I had so much fun exploring different parts of Hong Kong like the markets, hikes and outlying islands, and the places I got to travel to outside of Hong Kong. Chinese New Year in Hong Kong was amazing too with the fireworks, parades and horse races - the atmosphere was so festive! But for me, the absolute highlight has to be the people I met while on exchange, especially my roommates and classmates. Without people and the friendships I formed, the places I visited would have been nowhere near as fun. People really do transform your whole experience, and the memories, conversations and laughs that I have with the people I met are ones which I will treasure forever. You also learn so much from getting to know other people from a different culture and another part of the world.

Top tips

Tips specific for HK:
    • Try to learn some basic Cantonese before going to HK and download some translation and language learning apps. While in HK, if you can enrol in the Mandarin or Cantonese classes that HKU offers for beginners - do it! 
    • Apply for a student Octopus card. Your Octopus card isn't just handy for transport but for paying at convenience stores, supermarkets, and some restaurants and shops.
    • Hong Kong's not just about the city life! There's many hikes, parks and outlying islands you can explore.
    • Hong Kong has the best mix of foods from different cultures, but some must-do's for food: dim sum and Cha Chaan Teng's. More often than not, you'll also be sharing a table with complete strangers, and you may be kicked out if you don't eat fast enough!
    • Hong Kong has a fast pace of life and you may think some of the people are rude - but embrace it because it's all part of the experience of another culture and way of life.
    • Download the app Eat2Go! It has many discounts for food places. 

Tips in general for exchange:
    • Try to do courses that are a bit different to what UQ offers.
    • Get involved in student life and extracurricular activities…why not try something new?
    • Don't be shy! Meet as many people as you can - don't just stick to other exchange students but befriend the locals!
    • Travel as much as you can.
    • Immerse yourself in the culture of your exchange country.

In general, just have a really positive and open mindset and ENJOY YOURSELF!