Hong Kong University of Science and Technology: Student Feedback

Student Profile

Joyce Su

Highlight of my semester abroad:
Difficult to choose one thing, but I think it was making friends with people from all over the world and exploring a different culture with them. Now I feel like wherever I go, I have a friend who lives there who can show me around!

Who I spent most of my with abroad:
I mostly spent time with other international students from all over the world (there were 400 of us total and 200 in the business school). We automatically formed a community. Full-time students were a little harder to meet since they're pretty reserved and already had friends, but they were all really nice and helpful when you needed help. We also had exchange buddies too who helped us figure things out when we got there so that was an automatic local friend.

What I would say to students considering participating in IBEX:
HKUST was the perfect balance of city and nature. It was like paradise every day since it was secluded and overlooked the bay, but it was only a short bus ride to the MTR (subway) so the city was always right there. I really enjoyed having a closed campus as opposed to being in the middle of the city.  Hong Kong has everything - it blends modernization, tradition, Eastern and Western cultures, urban life, and nature.  Live it up, be open, always be doing something because you don't waste a single minute of your time abroad.  

Additional Student Profiles

Name: Beatriz Plata

Beatriz Plata 

Highlight of my semester abroad:
Everything Asia has to offer! It was completely out of my comfort zone. Went without really knowing anyone and came back with friends from all over the world. You feel so close to them because you are traveling and that immediately creates a bond. You are experiencing a completely different academic setting which helps you adapt and develop new skills that you would not be able to do so otherwise. I recommend IBEX to anyone that asks! 

Who I spent most of my time with abroad:
Most of my friends were international students or Americans. 

Something about me you might be interested to know:
I also took a semester abroad in Madrid. I went to Hong Kong not knowing anyone and it was unbelievably scary. You will freak out; if you don't then I am very impressed. Take advantage of this opportunity before you go out in the real world and have "real" responsibilities! 

What I would say to students considering participating in IBEX: 
You will have doubts, but I guarantee you will never regret this experience. 

Student Feedback


Airline ticket: $900 USD - $2500 USD
Independent travel: About $200 USD, round trip air, hotel, tour and food for most places in Asia except for South Korea, Japan, Cambodia and Vietnam. Depends on the month and package you choose. About $8 round trip train ticket to go to Shenzhen, China.
Housing: $600 - $1700 USD/semester
Books: Roughly $30 USD/textbook
Entertainment: $5 USD movies, $1 USD or $2 USD for museums
Food: $50-70 USD/week
Local Transportation: $200 - $500 USD/semester
Phone: $30 - $100/semester.  Used Skype or Magic Jack



"Citibank debit card worked perfect for me because there were no international transaction fees."

"Taking out cash from ATM. Most of everything was dealt in cash. With chase banks, I had to pay the equivalent of 5 usd for each transaction. Most payments were dealt in cash."

"Credit card and cash. Remember to get octopus card right away. You can pay for subway, bus, meals and even shopping with this convenient card!"

"I bought all my money to HK in AMEX traveler checks. I have a HSBC account here so I had my NY branch write me a referral. I had a savings account in HSBC in Hong Kong. On campus, there is a Hang Seng and a Bank of China. Students tend to start accounts at Hang Seng because they're available in every subway station. Hang Seng is majority owned by HSBC so you can get money at either Hang Sang or HSBC ATMs if you have accounts at either. Combine, they make up over 2/3 of Hong Kong's banks. Credit cards are not very accepted in HK and you may have to pay an additional 2% for using them."


"Living accommodation was satisfying. I lived in a residence hall with the university, big room, correct amenities (I had a refrigerator, AC, fan). Hall is well maintained and local students fo a lot of activities. I definitely was not in the nicest dorm of the school but I am not complaining. Also, they pair exchange students together which is great."

"I lived in a residence hall (Hall 6). It just had a bed, desk, dresser, and a small sink for my roommate and I to share but the bathrooms were communal for the floor. I had to purchase my own pillows, bedding, etc. upon arrival.  There was no meal plan, but there were many dining options on campus including various canteens with Chinese food and some Western options, McDonalds, a Chinese restaurant, a campus bar with food like burgers and sandwiches, and now apparently a Starbucks opened up just when I left! The food wasn't the greatest and I ate off campus a lot but it was definitely fine and SO CHEAP so I didn't mind it at all really. I found the dorm through HKUST."

"Rooms were extremely small; however, it was up to Hong Kong standards. Meals were great, fresh Asian and Western cuisines were offered on campus at a cheap price."

"Provided by Housing Office; found out before I arrived."

"On-campus, fully furnished, dorm style"

"I lived in Hall 6- New Hall. It was brand new when I moved in so everything was new. They're dormitory style doubles or triples. The beds are much smaller in HK. Since I had a double, there are two beds, two desks, two shelves each person, a sink and one half of a closet per person. Each floor is made up of 2 wings, one side for girls and one side for boys. Each wing shares a common room with microwave, fridge and TV and a bathroom/shower room. Hall 6 is the best because everything is new. I really like Hall 6. It was very nice and clean. PG Hall 2 is extremely tiny. They were Graduate singles that were converted into doubles for undergraduates. They're all bunk beds with barely any moving around room. Hong Kong does not use a meal plan. I bought a rice cooker and cooked most of my food. I ate a few meals in the cafeteria- it was ok. I tend to eat out with the other exchange students on weekends."

"I loved my dorm. It was a newly built dorm so I basically enjoyed all the new facilities. It was a decent size and I had a roommate who was another exchange student. I was happy that I didn't need to purchase a meal plan because the food in Hong Kong was so cheap, I ended up eating out almost everyday. I was satisfied with the living conditions and I absolutely loved eating out."


"I think that the quality of instruction was similar to NYU but that the workload was SLIGHTLY easier which I really liked. Another strength is the emphasis on group work. It forced me to spend time with local students rather then only other exchange students, which I thought was really cool. The grading system was pretty similar to Stern I think with a curve also."

"The professors were good. They taught American style business (using American companies as examples). The classes are much smaller than at Stern. The students are quieter. You get graded from A-F, with 10% A, 30% B and 60% C and below. The workload is lighter and the classes are easier but professors are much less likely to give out A's. Also, don't be surprise if you have exams scheduled at night or weekends."

"I felt that the classes were structured the same way as classes are here at NYU. The grading system might have been slightly more lenient. I felt that the students were just as competitive but the work load might have been less demanding. There were just as much group work and exams."

Course Recommendations

"SOSC 1130: Science, Technology and Business with Dr. Naubahar Sharif who is the best Professor at HKUST by far. Good communicator, interesting insights and material."

"My favorite class at HKUST was Pop Culture of East Asia. To be honest, I wasn't the biggest fan of the teacher but the course content itself was really interesting. I would definitely recommend it as an elective. It gave an interesting insight into various aspects of pop culture in Hong Kong, China, Japan, and Korea, and how they are all similar and different from one another. We watched many movies and TV shows and read some interesting articles. We also had to make a creative project for our final which was really fun. My friend and I ended up going around Hong Kong with a GoPro filming various parts of the city trying to create a video demonstrating the differences between the western perspective of Hong Kong and what it actually is like underneath the surface."

"Equity Valuation. Especially if you take this class before Corp Fin you will come back a bit ahead. Or vice versa. The people in my class were also absolutely amazing so the group work was manageable."

"My favorite class was my Pop Culture in East Asia class. For homework, we got to watch Japanese animes and Korean dramas and Chinese movies. We studied the relationship between pop culture and the socio-political dynamics in east Asian countries. It was a pretty analytic class and was actually a lot more intensive than I expected it to be. The professor (May-yi Shaw) was a wonderful teacher who graduated from UPenn and Harvard and she really cared about the students and forced us to actually use our brains and look past the surface of many issues. This class was a really good supplement to my time in Hong Kong, especially with the protests going on.  I would not recommend personal finance, mostly because it was boring and the professor wasn't that great at teaching. It was kind of difficult because most of the students in the class were locals so the professor expected everyone to know about the Hong Kong tax and retirement systems, which, being an American, I didn't. I took this class because I thought it would be useful, but it really wasn't, especially because I'm not a Hong Kong resident."

"My favorite class was Behavioral Finance. The professor was really nice and the most notable thing about the class was that it was almost all exchange students. On the last day, we even took a group picture. The class was different from all the other finance classes I took and it was actually more interesting and less quantitative. All my other classes were ok and there isn't one class I wouldn't recommend. The class work was fair and the professors were understanding."

"Contemporary Chinese Politics was an awesome class. The professor was really experienced and gave us an unbiased view of Chinese politics-both the good and the ugly. The class I regretted taking was Corporate Strategy. You really don't learn too much in there-lots of people recommended the Negotiation class instead. Supposedly the professor was awesome. One comment on academics: although our classes are pass/fail, don't slack off. Later on you may decide to go to grad school, and they will ask to see your study abroad transcript."

"I would recommend the course International Management. I met lot of people through that class. It was a truly international experience with a professor who really allowed the class to interact."

"I like Global Marketing with Professor Dontoh. It was a fun and interesting course. I also like Professor Hung's East Asia and the West: Culture in Contact course because it teaches Asia history from a neutral standpoint as opposed to the usual “this is how the US saved the world” viewpoint. Business courses are in general easier in Hong Kong."

Student Life

"The extracurricular activities were extremely hard to participate in as they were conducted in the local language. It became very tedious to have a student translate everything to me, and so I mainly associated with the other English speaking students. I did join the dance society, as well as the business students union."

"There's a huge exchange student community at HKUST so I mostly hung out with them and we did our own thing. There was an International Student Association that hosted events for international students and if we signed up, we'd get discounts to the events. Didn't participate in any clubs or teams though. But there was a huge club fair that lasted for a few weeks where we could sign up. HKUST is definitely spirited and people are really into their clubs and all the clubs are open to exchange students too."

"Each dorm organizes different events which would show a lot of local culture. They have BBQ by the seaside once in a while depending on the weather. Grab some friends and travel!"

"I spent most time with other international students. It was extremely easy as there were over 300 students came on exchange. Everyone was very open to meet new people and extremely diverse."

"The students were friendly and helpful. Like anyplace, the students varied. Many local students liked to work on their English skills and would befriend exchange students. However, some students were intimidated or nervous to use their English with a native speaker, making communication more difficult. Working with local students on group projects is not a good idea unless you speak Cantonese! The local students work dynamic in group projects was quite different and working with them was sometimes difficult due to the language barrier."

"I spent equal amounts of time with local and exchange students. It's much easier to hang out with local students if you know Cantonese because they're very shy. There are a lot of international students. It's really great because you end up hanging out with people from all over the world. Most of your classmates will be exchange students mostly because exchange students tend to be juniors and seniors who all need to take the same few advance electives."

"I spent most of my time with other students from other US universities and from foreign universities. It was easy though to meet local students because I would meet a handful from my classes and they were pretty helpful."

"Since I knew Cantonese, I sometimes hang out off campus with local students. Mostly, I'm with other exchange students. The majority of exchange students are shopping and eating in Shenzhen, China on weekends or going on 4 days vacation tours."

Restaurants, Shopping, Must-See Sites

"Hon Wo Korean Restaurant (Mong Kok and Causeway Bay): all you can eat Korean BBQ for 90 minutes / Teakha (Sheung Wan): Tea cafe, yummy, cozy / Victoria Harbour (Tsim Sha Tsui): amazing view of the skyline, right near Harbour City Mall for shopping / Tim Ho Wan (many locations): dim sum restaurant with amazing BBQ pork buns / Ozone Bar (International Commerce Centre): highest bar in the world with amazing view of the city / Man Cheung Po Infinity Pool (Lantau Island): infinity pool on a mountain, good hiking, amazing view / So many blogs and lists online so check them out!!"

"Must hike the MacLehose trail in Sai Kung!!!!! It is incredible.  Also hike Lion's Rock.  Some of my favorite restaurants: Yardbird (Soho), Tim Ho Wan (various locations), Linguini Fini (Soho), Zuma (Central).  Definitely check out Sai Kung -  it is a small fisherman village a short bus ride from campus where there are a ton of local Chinese restaurants with cheap delicious fresh seafood."

"Definitely go hiking! Lion's Rock, Dragon's Back, Ham Tim Wan"

"Lockhart Road, Wan Chai / Cheung Chau Island / Po Toi Island / Ocean Park / Avenue of the Stars, Tsim Tsa Tsui, Kowloon"

"LKF! TST! Knutsford! SOHO!"

"You must go to Lan Kwai Fong, the street with all the bars. All the exchange students are always there. You also must visit the Peak; it's gorgeous up there. Other than that, I think going up the Great Wall of China was memorable too."

"Don't eat American! If you don't want MSG in your food, specify it. Learn to eat with chopsticks or you will starve. If you go to mainland China, remember that dog often appears on the menu."

Travel Tips

"Booking far in advance definitely cuts down prices, but booking the week or even days before is doable. Some websites will offer huge deals so keep an eye out for those. Travel tip: in Asia, carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you everywhere because you never know where some country won't have the same bathroom hygiene standards as you do (some places charge for toilet paper). Also when exploring a country, we found that using a food list to guide you is actually very helpful since you. Just list all the food you want to try, and in the process of finding the food, you'll experience the culture and run into tourist sights. It's nice to go to a country with a plan."

"Traveling is extremely easy though the airport is a bit far away. There are many buses to the airport which are cheap however if you are traveling in a group it won't be as much and also more convenient. I took all flights. Visas to go to china take 5 days so plan for that when booking trips to china (exception for Shenzhen, you can get a visa at the border). Visas for Americans are way more expensive than for Europeans, so keep that in mind. I traveled a good amount and I would recommend to however also take advantage of what your host university has to offer."

"I travelled a lot within Hong Kong island and nearby countries such as China and Vietnam. It was very easy since Hong Kong is the regional hub. Make sure you have the visas you need before you book anything."

"I traveled whenever I could. It was easy and cheap. I would tell students to plan out where they want to go and travel as soon as they get there. They should also apply for their student metro card for transportation."

"Don't sleep for the entire night before you take your flight. You don't want to be awake for 20 hours! It's much better to sleep for half of the flight and then read a good book and watch a few good movies for the other half. When you get to Hong Kong, don't sleep. Try to adjust as quickly as you can before class starts or you will be miserable when it does! The time difference is brutal."

Culture Shock

"The culture may be hard to get used to, especially coming from a Western culture. Many habits of the locals may come across as rude, even if they do not have the intention. Also, though most have a grasp of the English language, the English skills are far less than I would have expected considering Hong Kong was once under British rule. the food may also be hard to get used to. Otherwise, lifestyle is just as fast paced and rushed as in NYC, maybe even more so."

"The food is very, very fatty and has lots of MSG. It will definitely make you sick after a while. I bought a rice cooker and prepared lots of my own food to keep sane."

"At many of the restaurants you go to, the menu won't be in English. It's best to always try to go with a local student in the crowd."

"It's really crowded in the city-don't let it get to you."

"It's been said that Hong Kong is the most materialistic city in the world, and I would agree with it. Everyone's favorite past-time is to "go shopping." You will hear that thousands of times while you're there."

"If you're an ethnic minority-especially if you're Black or if you have blond hair/blond eyes--prepare to be stared at in the poorer areas of the city."

"You will see many extremely poor and deformed people lying on the ground and begging for money. Nothing like NYC homeless, trust me. These people will be like nothing you've ever seen before. Do not give money to them-they are part of a very interesting crime network in Asia."

"Don't be offended if some of your close local buddies don't invite you to their homes. Hong Kong "flats" (as they call them) are extremely small and very private. It is very rare, and thus a great honor, to be invited to a HK home."

"Everyone has a cell phone, and you will need to buy one too since you won't have a phone in your dorm."

"Don't be too verbal about your dislike for the Chinese government, if that is your inclination. Remember that you are in a communist nation."

"Overall, I had a great experience in Hong Kong. I met some wonderful people that I'm sure I will keep in touch with and had many opportunities to travel through most of Asia. There were some negative experiences, but the only thing I really regret is not meeting more local students and getting to know them better. One of the biggest challenges was getting accustomed to the cultural differences in terms of simple courtesy and attitudes. It was also difficult to adjust to the teaching style and examinations. Hon Kong didn't turn out exactly the way I expected in some good ways and some not so good ways. Nevertheless, there is no equivalent experience to being a student studying abroad and I wouldn't ever change my decision to come to Hong Kong."

Necessary Language Skills

"It would be nice to know Cantonese. The students there are very cliquey. But don't worry about it…and I'd honestly recommend not trying to learn Cantonese. Not only are there no good classes to take at all at the school or outside it-but it's also actually the most difficult language to learn in the world, with over 8 tones. Your time would be better spent traveling and experiencing the culture."

What You Should Bring

"Medicine: like things for headache and diarrhea (you'll thank me for this one!)"

"Travel guides to the places you'd like to visit-all the English books, and especially the English travel guides in Hong Kong are VERY (I REPEAT, VERY) expensive (Between $25-$65 US dollars.)"

"Flip-flops, for the showers. They are pretty gross."

"A bathing suit and workout clothes. There's a great gym and a beautiful outdoors track."