Naomi - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

B. Social Work
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

As a social work student, I was concerned that I would not be able to participate in the exchange program. My recommendation for social work students wanting to do the same is to plan ahead as much as possible. I learnt a lot about social work in Hong Kong, as well as how social issues are dealt with and understood within the context of Chinese society.

While on exchange at PolyU, you will have to take 5 courses to meet the full-time load equivalent. The courses I took on exchange were: Abnormal Psychology, Theories of Social Policy, Programme Planning & Evaluation, Understanding Ethics in Daily Life, and Elementary Cantonese.

My study load was not as overwhelming as I expected. The majority of my assessment were group projects or presentations, in-class exams, and term papers. For Cantonese, I had oral and written exams, as well two presentations. There were sometimes miscommunications between myself and my group members for group projects due to the language barrier, but nothing that cannot be worked around. 

My classes were all in English but Cantonese was used by the teacher for clarification or further explanation. Some guest presentations were conducted in Cantonese, but the students and teachers were willing to translate on my behalf. Lectures are not recorded like they are at UQ, so showing up to class is important. Not all lectures are compulsory, but the majority of mine were, as they counted towards my participation mark.

Personal experience

I have learnt so much from my exchange a PolyU. I have learnt to navigate myself in a foreign country and start learning a new language. I have also been able to expand my comfort zone and experience new things. I have developed friendships with amazing people and grown both personally and professionally.


As an exchange student at PolyU, you will be staying in the Hung Hom student halls. These halls are less than 10 minutes away from campus via the footbridge through Hung Hom MTR station. The rooms are very small, but more than adequate for studying and sleeping. Each floor is divided into different halls, and each holds dinner, events, and parties for all students. I did not attend any of these, but exchange students are just as welcome as local students. I had one other roommate, from Beijing, who was very helpful and willing to give me advice and support. My roommate and I also shared a bathroom and shower with the two other students who lived in the room next to us. There is a kitchen in the common room of each floor that is shared among all hall residents.


The main expenses I had on exchange, besides accommodation fees, was for food. There is canteen at the student hall, and two other canteens at the campus, which serve cheaper meals. The PolyU campus also has other restaurants, including dim sum. There are also plenty of places to eat around Hung Hom and surrounding districts at a reasonable price. I also had to pay for air conditioning and laundry services at the student halls.

If you plan to travel to other countries around Asia, which many people did, plan ahead before leaving. Also, save money for doing tourist activities around Hong Kong and try and stick to a budget. It is easy to overspend.

Professional development and employability

The three skills that I have built upon while being on exchange have been patience and listening. I have also developed more confidence. These skills have contributed to my professional development as a social worker, especially when faced with language barriers or foreign concepts.


The highlight of my exchange experience at PolyU has been the friendships I have made, the cultural experiences I have had, and the confidence I have gained.

Top tips

  • Try and learn some basic Cantonese phrases, either before you leave or while in HK. 
  • Be willing to do experience things you may not have considered before.
  • Try to make friends with local students, not just exchange or international students.
  • Be okay with the fact that you will feel lonely when you first arrive. It will get better.
  • Plan your exchange so you can stay for the whole year instead of just a semester. You will not regret it!
Naomi - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University