Student Testimonials: University of Hong Kong (HKU)
Name: Linda Zhang
Highlight of my semester abroad:
- Being challenged in every way without the safety net of NYU (the school itself and the community), whether it was academics, roommate conflicts, or culture shock. You get to test yourself and you might be pleasantly surprised to learn you are much more capable than you think!
- Integrating myself into the HKU community was another highlight of my IBEX experience. I joined a student consulting group called the Eureka Consulting Group (ECG) and completed an “internship” for credit. Both opportunities allowed me to interact with local and other exchange students in personal and professional settings. Also, HKU’s “Learning Commons” was a nice change of pace from Bobst. It looks like it’s straight out of an IKEA catalog and is actually an inviting workspace.
- And lastly, of course traveling within HK to neighboring islands and outside HK to places such as Singapore, Taiwan, and China. I loved trying all the local foods and spending the day sightseeing.
If you go to Hong Kong, you must...:
- EAT! BBQ pork buns, congee, egg tarts, soup dumplings, dim sum, Korean fried chicken, pepper lunch, Indian, Mexican – the options are endless and you can find whatever you might be craving somewhere in this incredibly diverse city!
- Go hiking and ride a vintage “ding ding” tram.
- Be prepared for the hot and humid climate, but appreciate that HK is a city literally in the mountains. You can get amazing views from almost any vantage point and constantly walking up hills and stairs will keep you in shape.
- Learn some survival Cantonese as best you can. The further away you move from the city center, the less likely it is you’ll find locals who can speak or understand English.
- Two popular tourist destinations are Macau and Lantau Island. Macau is accessible via the ferry, and Lantau Island via public transport. The airport is actually on Lantau Island, but so are HK Disneyland and Big Buddha, which are common excursions. There is a light show called “A Symphony of Lights” every night in Victoria Harbor. You can watch it from the Tsim Tsa Tsui (TST) or Wan Chai side, and you can also go to the Promenade on the Wan Chai side to see the skyline at night. Dragon’s Back is a popular choice for hiking. Causeway Bay is the “Times Square” of HK. It’s always bustling at any time of day or night and you can go there for all of your shopping (and eating) needs. There are also various local street markets such as Sneakers Street and Ladies’ Market.
What I would say to students considering participating in IBEX:
- IBEX is truly immersive and rigorous (in a positive way!). Especially if you go on IBEX after completing NYU study away, it’s a completely different experience. Do some research on your host university and country. Embrace the challenges and learning opportunities that come your way, while keeping in mind your personal motivations for participating in IBEX. Also, utilize the abundance of resources that are made available to you through the UC Special Programs & Exchanges office, whether that’s connecting with IBEX Ambassadors or administrators at your host university. Be proactive about asking questions and getting answers to help you be as informed as possible before, during, and after your exchange, but also understand that you can’t prepare for absolutely everything and be open to going with the flow! Remember to enjoy your exchange at the end of the day because it’s genuinely a unique study abroad experience!
Contact me about HKU:
Linda Zhang - firstname.lastname@example.org
More Student Insight
- Airline ticket to/from IBEX site: $800 - $1,500 USD
- Housing: $1,000 - $1,500 USD/semester
- Food: $40 - $60 USD/week
- Local Transportation: $150 - $200 USD/semester
- Books: $100 USD/semester
- Entertainment: $50/week
- Phone Calls: $50 - $100 USD/semester
- "I opened a Citibank account in HK. When you also have a Citibank account in the U.S., you can do the global transfer for money free of charge with a good exchange rate."
- "I continued to use my checking account, paying international fees which were 1% of ATM withdrawals."
- "If students would like to avoid fees or be able to deposit money while abroad, open an account with a bank like HSBC which is located both in New York and Hong Kong."
- "Residence hall- furnished, dormitory-style. No meal plan. Arrangements made through IBEX partner school. I was satisfied with the living arrangements-- would definitely recommend future HKU IBEXers to stay in the Residential Colleges (Jockey Club Village III)."
- "Before my departure to HKU, I applied for housing and placed my request for multiple on-campus housings. However, I was placed off-campus at Patrick Manson where it is really far from the campus and students and the dorm is only for exchange students. After I arrived at HKU, I realized that HKU dorms have a really strict culture in which students in on-campus dorms need to participate in a lot of university activities in order to stay at the dorm."
- "Residence Hall. I was satisfied. The IBEX partner school arranged it. However, HKU has a particular hall culture that should be explained: lack of studying, fraternity-like events until 3-4 am in the morning, no study room whatsoever."
- "I lived in Simon K.Y. Lee Hall, located on the west end of campus. Along with Sire Hall, it was one of only two halls located directly on campus, whereas the others are about a ten to fifteen-minute walk away."
- "The dorm room was basic, relatively small, but comfortable. It had two beds with drawers underneath, two desks - each with three shelves, and two closets with drawers underneath. Bathrooms are shared at the end of the hall, but are kept very clean."
- "Dining halls are located in several of the residence halls, including a few on campus. The selection is wide and the meals are very cheap. Also in Simon K.Y. Lee Hal, there are kitchens on each residence floor, though this is not the case in all the residences."
- "Near campus, there is a large supermarket called Wellcome, where you can buy almost anything you can buy in a regular American supermarket."
- "Quantitative classes tended to be more difficult and qualitative classes tended to be easier."
- "The workload is less compared to Stern classes and there's a lot of teamwork."
- "The grading system is definitely much tougher than Stern, but also incredibly more ambiguous. Nobody knows any of their grades until the final grades come out."
- "Academic grading standards are less difficult than Stern's, though coursework and quality are comparable. However, this can vary among instructors."
- "HKU's course offerings were published in around August so none of my classes were confirmed prior to arrival. They did, however, automatically enroll me in two of the classes I listed on my IBEX course sheet. Their system is very similar to Albert so I didn't have any problem navigating through the site. For the Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) though, some classes need to be requested by handing in a written application, which was slightly confusing at first."
- "During the partner school’s online application process, you will be asked to select courses from a list of choices on the school's website. However, this process is very flexible once you arrive there, as you can meet with an adviser from the Faculty of Business and Economics to discuss courses. You will also have about two weeks from the time classes start to change your classes online - similar to the process at Stern."
- "The whole registration process is very last minute. When we had issues we couldn't talk to the HKU registration staff but instead, we had to write to them. The email response would only come a few days later and only a limited amount of classes are open."
- "Some classes were confirmed prior to arrival, but if there were any mistakes or the class was full, you had to go through a lengthy and tedious process of submitting a hand-written paper form. The faculty then had to approve it... which took a really long and stressful time as they had to manually do everything within a 2 week add/drop period."
- "Criminology - Fun because of its group project / Investment and Portfolio Analysis - Not fun because it was basically Foundations of Finance"
- "Intro to Social Entrepreneurship taught by Elsie Chien. The teacher had a clear grasp of teaching in English and had a lot of global as well as local insights on social enterprise. She was also very interactive and assigned interactive & engaging group projects. I would not recommend the Economics classes."
- "My favorite class was Change Management with Derek Man. It was a small classroom, and the professor was very serious and attentive. Many of the finance classes are quite boring and lackluster to attend in class: the processors are not enthusiastic. However, the TA's for the classes are INCREDIBLY responsive and helpful, spending hours helping myself and other students prep for exams. I would not recommend Creativity and Business Innovation with Ali Farhoomand, or Operations Management with Avi Taheri."
- "Governing China was a really fascinating course about Chinese politics - both historical and contemporary issues - from a notable professor who has studied in the U.S."
- "Residence hall life will vary based on who your roommate is as well as what other students are on your floor. My roommate was a very curious student from Mainland China, who was a lot of fun to talk with and go out with. At the end of the semester, I visited his hometown of Wuhan in central China for a couple of days."
- "Student life is very spirited within each residence hall. Athletic teams are based on each hall and competitions are held between each hall. There are also a variety of well-advertised social and cultural gatherings and guest speakers on campus."
- "It was easy for me to meet HK students because I spoke Cantonese, but others felt incredibly ostracized. I had a good mix of international, American, and HK friends."
- "It can be difficult to get to know some of the local students if you don't know Cantonese. However, even though I did not know the language, they were very friendly and helpful."
- "Hiking - Dragon's Back Trail, Infinity Pool, Sai Kung Cliff Diving; Lamma Island; Mana Fast Slow Food (Mediterranean, healthy food) in Soho."
- "Most bars and clubs are located in either Lan Kwai Fong or Wan Chai."
- "Lan Kwai Fong is, in my opinion, cleaner and more lively with a ton of international travelers and students. D'Aguilar Street is the main street with bars up and down both sides."
- "Soho is near Lan Kwai and has a lot of great international restaurants. Soho Spice was my favorite. Wan Chai is a little seedier, but still very safe and a lot of fun to go out."
- "HK has a lot of cheap air tickets such as HK Express. Traveling to Malaysia and Thailand using such websites would only cost around $200."
- "Plan well, meet other people, participate in any social media related to exchange students wanting to travel."
- "The University of Hong Kong is located in the heart of Hong Kong and this makes the city much more accessible."
- "Traveling is definitely encouraged as Hong Kong is centrally located to both East Asian and Southeast Asian countries."
- "Pack lightly. Take only what you need. You can buy a lot of things once you get there for relatively cheap."
- "To save time and money, determine where you want to go at the beginning of the semester, then go to the Bank Centre in Mong Kok where there are two floors of travel agencies that compete for discount business. If you plan ahead you can get package deals, which include airfare and hotel for competitive rates."
- "Out of all the places I traveled in Asia, Hong Kong was my favorite. It offers the greatest diversity of cultures and experiences and is a great introduction for anyone who has never been to Asia."
- "Travel and be open to new experiences. Some of the first friends I met were in a grocery store. It's a matter of staying open and getting outside your comfort zone."
- "I signed up for CEDARS career mailing list. Students can email HKU CEDARS to join the mailing list or go to the office for job information."
- "HKU had emails and also many posters about career activities. There were mostly informal recruitment talks."
- "Though Hong Kong is still a premier international city where you can get by in English, it can still be tough to communicate. Be prepared for some frustration, but it is minor compared to all of the benefits of the experience."
- "It is difficult to get to know the local students because of the language barrier. Though classes are held in English, students speak Cantonese to each other outside of the classroom. Students can read and write English, but their spoken English can vary widely."
- "The best part of the experience was meeting so many different people and seeing so many new and exciting things."