It took me a little while to settle on Hong Kong as my Year Abroad destination, simply because it seemed so distanced from Kent- both geographically and culturally. In the end, I decided I was up for the challenge, and I’m so glad I did. Within minutes of arriving, I knew I had made the right choice; words can’t really explain the excitement I felt while coming in to land, looking out over the islands and ocean. As it turns out, the shock of the humidity was more of a challenge than getting myself to my new University accommodation, thanks to the super-efficient Airport Express Train, and the Hong Kong University Greeters at the airport. It took no time at all for me to realise that my initial reservations were totally unnecessary, as Hong Kong is a place where East meets West; it is a vibrant, exciting place, but English remains a widely used language, so getting around is no problem. There is also a disproportionate amount of McDonalds restaurants, which also have a home delivery option, so a taste of the British high street is never far away! That said, you really don’t need fast food in this city, because once you’ve tried the Michelin Star dim sum in Tim Ho Wan, you’ll never want to eat anything else. The fact that the average cost per head is about £5 there means there really is no better choice.
The most amazing aspect of Hong Kong University was the opportunity for travel around the rest of Asia. In my year there I was able to travel to Thailand twice, Cambodia, The Philippines, Borneo and Macau. Flights are really cheap, and there is a huge population of exchange students at HKU, so finding a group to travel with during your reading weeks and holidays is very easy. Speaking of which, you really do make friends immediately in Hong Kong, thanks to the number of students that enrol each year from different countries, and who are all in the same boat as you. I met some of my best friends during my year abroad, and I will never forget the memories we made while sailing in the sunset in Boracay, or watching the fireworks on Chinese New Year.
The academic aspect of taking a year to study outside the UK cannot go unmentioned, either. At first, I was nervous about studying somewhere where I was unfamiliar with the grading systems etc., but, once again, my concerns were unfounded. I actually found that my grades went up during my year abroad, because being around a different set of people, and students who think differently to me really helped push my thinking and my writing outside the box. I’ve also noticed since returning, that my attitude to my studies at Kent has changed for the better; I am really ready to knuckle down, and have definitely gained academic and creative insight during my time spent in Hong Kong.
Ultimately, deciding to go to Hong Kong on my year abroad was the best decision I have ever made. It is a place that welcomed and challenged me, but was never scary- only fun. It is the most exciting and beautiful city; where else can you hike, shop, lie on the beach and window shop in Gucci all in one day?!
Sophie, Stage 3 English and American Literature with a Year Abroad