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My Semester Abroad in Hong Kong

My Semester Abroad in Hong Kong

Home University: University of Calgary
Exchange Location: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

Program: Global Business
Term: 6 months (End of January to End of July, 4 months school and 2 months internship)

Dorm: HKUST UG Hall 7 (Waterfront)
Budget: $8,500 Canadian

Cost per month: $1,400 ($250 rent + $300 food + $250 transportation + $500 travel/entertainment)

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The View from HKUST UG Hall VII

The View from HKUST UG Hall VII

My favorite parts of living in Asia

 

  • The Cheap Travel

While overseas in Hong Kong, I was able to tick a good number of countries off my bucket list.
My favorite places were:
-Taiwan
-Thailand
-Japan

-Macau
Similar to traveling within Europe, once you’re there everything becomes ridiculously cheap. I remember booking a $200 flight to Taiwan, a $350 beach vacation package to Sanya (China’s Hawaii)… you get the picture.

Hong Kong is like the travel hub for the rest of Asia. We could pick up last minute flights, insanely cheap packages and even Groupon had unbelievable offers for travel to the rest of Asia.

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From the Mountains to the Ocean!

From the Mountains to the Ocean!

  • The Exchange Student Life

Everyone knows how hard students in Asia work and to be honest, I thought my classes were going to be a grind. I envisioned pulling all-nighters, sleeping in the library, that kind of stuff. Little did I know, HKUST and many other exchange programs function on a Pass or Fail basis. What does that mean? It’s as simple as it sounds: regardless of whether your grade is a 51% or 99% – congratulations, you’ve passed the course!

That’s not to say that my classes weren’t amazing… they really were. The quality of the instruction was top-notch, our projects were relevant, even the guest speakers were world class. In one of my Management classes we actually had the CEO of Pepsi Asia come speak to us.

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Exploring Hong Kong by Junk Boat

Exploring Hong Kong by Junk Boat

  • The Incredible Food (downside: gaining 15 lbs)

If there’s one thing I can say I miss the most about Asia… it’s the food. It was cheap, delicious and everywhere. On campus alone we had a plethora of cafeterias, restaurants and even fast food options. Not only was the variety incredible, we had access to delicious food 24/7. Places were always open late if you were craving late night pancakes or dim sum after the bar.
Our favorite places to eat were:
– Tim Ho Wan (the cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant in the world with the most unbelievable dim sum you’ve ever tasted)
– Tequila Jack’s (Mexican food in Hong Kong? Yup.. All you can eat tacos on Taco Tuesday = happiness)
– Any place that serves sushi. I’m serious. Aside from Japan, best sushi I’ve ever had
– Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine in Causeway Bay (The HK version of Thai Green Curry is to die for)

Dim Sum @ Yum Cha Restaurant

  • New Friends From Around the World

When exchange ended I really didn’t want to go home. I had made new friends who had basically become family – we saw each other every day, took classes, went out for dinners, partied, and traveled together. That being said, I now have friends from literally all over the planet. If I’m looking to travel anywhere, I know I’ll be greeted by a friendly face and maybe even a place to crash. Exchange really opened my eyes to other cultures, not just learning more about my own.

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HKUST Exchange Friends by Victoria Harbour

HKUST Exchange Friends by Victoria Harbour

FAQS


Do you have to be able to speak Cantonese or Mandarin?
I have basic knowledge of Cantonese but I had peers who didn’t speak or understand a word of it. All of our classes were taught in English and most people in Hong Kong speak English just fine. The only time I ever really heard of it being an issue was traveling to different countries, such as Mainland China. In short, no knowledge of Chinese is required to function in everyday HK life.

 

Is it really expensive to study abroad?
This myth has been going around for ages and it was surprising for me to find out it wasn’t that true. First of all, when you’re doing an exchange, you keep paying fees to your home university so your tuition stays the same as its always been. Living costs were surprisingly cheap, I lived in a GORGEOUS waterfront newly built dorm (albeit, in a shared room) for the equivalent of $250/month. Food, clothes, necessities were all cheaper in Hong Kong. The only thing that sets you back is the flight there and back, plus any weekend/holiday travel you expect to be doing.

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HKUST Hall 7 Exchange

HKUST Hall 7 Exchange

How did you have so much time to travel?

For starters, I had no classes scheduled on Fridays which meant I had a long weekend every weekend.

At HKUST in particular, there were breaks galore. Here’s a shortlist of the 2016 Holidays:
First day of Spring Classes: Feb 1
Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year): Feb 5-11
Mid-Term Break: March 24-29
Ching Ming Festival: April 1-4
Labor Day Weekend: April 29-May 2
Study Break: May 6-16
Exams: May 17-28
Last Day of Classes: May 28

See what I mean? With all the breaks combined, we had about 3 months of actual school.
Combine this with the Pass/Fail mentality of many exchange students and you can see why traveling took priority over attending classes. (Hey, some people learn better that way.)

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Exploring Hong Kong on a Junk Boat

Exploring Hong Kong on a Junk Boat

 

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