Amanda - The University of Hong Kong

B. Science / Laws
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I studied science courses, which are not HKU's speciality, and generally found the difficulty similar to that of UQ. For a full-time load we are required to take 5 courses so I found the study load a little heavier, however, some courses required fewer contact hours than UQ - in particular, not all of my courses had a lab component. 
I found the labs at HKU more relaxed and slow-paced than UQ, with looser safety standards. We were allowed to use phones and have our hair down in labs, which I think was because the lab wasn't certified for genetic modification experiments like the ones I use at UQ. Most of my lab tutors were willing to re-explain things and made sure everyone was following the right protocols. 
One of my courses, in particular, was very difficult, with several Masters students in the cohort, but I looked at the slides and the resources provided to help with assignments and study for the final. Generally, at HKU we were given everything we needed, and the lecturers didn't seem to be trying to trip up the students.

Personal experience

The biggest thing I gained from exchange was the opportunity to have fun experiences with new friends. It was fun to tell people about Australian life and culture, and learn about theirs - most of my friends were also exchange students, but I had a few from Hong Kong too. It's easy to get close to people when there's so much to do. 
Apart from eating together, we explored Hong Kong and travelled together - I went on a really fun trip with about 17 other people to Guilin in mainland China, a few train rides away from Hong Kong. 
Including travel before and after exchange, I went to Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Brunei and Malaysia. Visiting Japan was a good opportunity to practise my Japanese skills from high school, particularly as I wasn't able to learn much Cantonese because it's a very difficult language. 
I think that I improved my ability to make new friends by becoming more confident, and also became used to coping with challenges independently.


I lived in one of the HKU residential halls, Starr Hall. It was right across the road from one end of campus and about 300m from an MTR station exit, which was an extremely convenient location. It's also very close to a shopping centre with a big Wellcome supermarket. It took me about 20 minutes to walk to class because my classrooms were on the other end of campus, but my friend only needed about 5 minutes. The halls on campus are very convenient for getting to class, but living off-campus means you're more likely to eat and explore in Kennedy Town instead of just eating at HKU all the time. The residential colleges are very nice and new and close to places to eat in Kennedy Town, but they're a bus ride away from campus which my friends found fairly inconvenient. 
Starr Hall is known as the international hall, but doesn't actually have that many exchange students - instead, there are quite a few international full-degree students. I was the only exchange student on my floor. My floormates were friendly and said hello when we passed in the hallway - I wish I'd tried to chat more and get to know them better early in the semester.


Rent was extremely cheap for a residential hall - less than AU$1500 for the whole semester. This is particularly amazing in Hong Kong, where property prices are very high. 
An inexpensive meal was usually around HK$40-55, around AU$7-9, much cheaper than Asian restaurant prices in Australia. However, Western-style food was mostly only available at high-end restaurants and relatively very expensive, sometimes even more expensive than it would be in Australia. Some restaurants near HKU offer student discounts. 
At supermarkets, vegetables, milk and cheese were more expensive than Australia but other things like certain snacks or noodles were cheaper. 
With the student discount, transport is cheaper than Australia - around AU50c to $1 for an MTR trip and about 30c for a tram ride. Ferries to the islands will cost a few AUD. 
In terms of entertainment, many of the things to do in Hong Kong are free or quite cheap. Hiking, visiting islands and going to several museums and cultural sites is free, and if places had entry fees they were generally just a few dollars. A good form of entertainment is shopping at markets, which is also cheap if you know how to haggle! 
The cost of travel depends on where you decide to go, however, the convenient location of Hong Kong means that you can travel to many parts of Asia for around $200 return if it's not a popular time to travel. It's also possible to catch the train to visit nearby areas of mainland China, which is also quite cheap. 
Overall, I spent around AU$15 000, including extensive overseas travel after exchange. If I had stayed in Hong Kong alone I probably would have spent less than $10 000, however, I definitely recommend budgeting money to travel if possible because it was a really important part of my exchange experience.

Professional development and employability

I think an important contribution to my professional development has been gaining confidence and resilience during my exchange. I have also improved at quickly becoming acquainted with new people due to meeting and chatting with so many different people, which will be very helpful for future networking. In addition, I have become much more comfortable with unfamiliar situations and environments. 
I also realised how much the culture and day-to-day life differs around the world - for example, manners in Hong Kong are quite different to Australia. This knowledge will help me to deal more professionally with clients from outside Australia in my career. 
I'm sure that there are other things I gained from the exchange experience that I haven't even realised yet!


The best part of my exchange was seeing amazing places and having exciting experiences with new friends.

Top tips

  • I would definitely recommend going on exchange! I was very nervous about whether to apply, but I'm really glad I decided to go because it's an amazing opportunity that won't be available once we graduate university and start working, and I never once regretted it. Particularly if you're doing a long degree or further study at UQ, exchange is a great way to introduce some variety and excitement into your studies while still gaining course credit.
  • In order to have the best exchange experience, it's really important to think hard about which country and which university you want to go to. I considered things like what there was to do in different countries, food, cost of living, climate, accommodation, the quality of the university and the number of courses available in my study area.
  • I personally chose Hong Kong because I most likely won't have another opportunity to live there and because I wanted to go somewhere with a very different culture to Australia, but where to go depends on what you want from exchange.
  • It's very important to make sure there are enough courses available in your study area, because sometimes if a course has limited places full-degree students are prioritised over exchange students.
  • I'd also definitely recommend planning to travel before/after/during exchange, because this was definitely one of the things that made my exchange so memorable. 
  • Finally, make sure to be open to new experiences, because you might find out that you enjoy things that you never thought you'd do if you're brave enough to try!
Amanda - The University of Hong Kong