I’ve been in Hong Kong for almost three weeks now so it’s probably a good time to jot down how I’ve found things so far. Rewinding back to day one, my flight was rather uneventful, which is probably a good thing. I flew from Toronto to Hong Kong with a two-hour layover in San Francisco. By the time I got here and moved in, it was almost 10pm and I was pooped. I live in a residence which I am convinced they used to incarcerate people in. Like maybe students who have performed some horrendous deed in order to be subjected to such atrocious living conditions.
(Note: This post is very graphics-intensive. Also please ignore the dates on the photos in this post. I didn’t bother setting up the camera properly.)
Ok that might be a slight exaggeration. I came in with low expectations and it met my low expectations. The facilities are all old and gross. Compared to UWP, it is, in politically correct terms, a shithole. In fact, living here has made me appreciate UWP so much more. I have cut my shower time down to 10 minutes because that’s when the hot water runs out. I have also accepted the fact that I will be greeted with a stream of freezing cold water for washing my face/hands because there is no hot water in the sink taps.
As for the people, there are a surprisingly large number of Canadians here, though there are definitely more from America. I live in an all-girls exchange students residence and almost half my floor is from California.
I spent the entire second day (ie. my birthday) running around HKU, taking care of administrative errands. My residence is about a 10-15 minute bus ride to the main campus. I set off on my own, which was obviously a great idea because I wasn’t aware you had to yell out to the driver when you wanted to get off. Thankfully I had a very nice driver who took me back along his route to where I needed to be. I expected blank stares or annoyed conversation, but the passengers were also very patient and willing to help.
The campus itself is the most confusing 160,000-square-meter plot of land ever. You can walk around with a map and still get hopelessly lost because the area is so hilly, the buildings are old and inconsistent, there are tons of stairs/escalators scattered around, and “ground floor” means nothing. On the other hand, the campus is simply beautiful. It’s filled with vegetation (many palm trees for some reason) and there are amazing views from nearly everywhere. Also, the 30% student discount at Starbucks doesn’t hurt.
Registration and everything took me the entire day, and then I went for dinner and a bit of wandering in Mong Kok with a couple of new friends. It was my first time on the MTR. I was as impressed by the cleanliness of the stations as much as the efficiency of the system. TTC can suck it.
The next morning, I headed to the official orientation for exchange students. After that I went exploring on the campus and around HK with some other students. We wandered Central, the viewing deck of IFC, and watched the light show in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The rest of the weeks has been kind of a blur of shopping trips and touristy activities. Some highlights are Victoria Peak and a tour of Kowloon/New Territories attraction points.
Life in HK and at HKU in general is a bit different than back home. HK has a 5.5-day work week. People are at work on Saturday mornings (there are even some classes too but thankfully I don’t have any) and dress casually. People like to be out. At midnight, on the streets, there are always masses of young people milling about. Their homes are too small for them to have privacy (much less their own rooms) so there’s not much to do other than going out. People don’t sleep either. At 2am, the dorms are as rambunctious as ever.
Profs are nice enough, but they may be too nice. Apparently it is perfectly acceptable to chat with your neighbours during lectures. I’ve even seen people answer their phones in the middle of class. If you actually want to hear what the prof has to say, it’d be in your best interest to take a front-row seat.
I’m a little apprehensive about the classes here. The students seem to be very bright and the environment very competitive. In any case, I will try to update this blog more frequently with shorter posts.