Semester 1 at HKUST (Hong Kong) by Megan Clapperton

I’ve been living in Hong Kong now for almost 5 whole months and thus far it has been without a doubt the best experience of my life. I’ve been immersed into local culture, rented my first apartment, made a lot of new friends and experienced uni life in a very different way from back home.

The Beginning.
Arriving in Hong Kong after a very long 16 hour travel day was overwhelming to say the least! I am in a rather unique situation you see, my partner (Dougie) joined me for this study abroad experience by getting ‘employed’ by a recruitment agency here. This meant that we had to arrive before the other exchange students, get him to job interviews and start looking for an off campus apartment. We arrived at 11am on the 20th of August (Monday), booked into our hostel in Causeway Bay and immediately went apartment hunting. The next 3 days were spent being VERY jet-lagged, VERY sweaty, viewing 10 apartments a day and getting lost a lot but by day 3 we had a lease signed for a studio apartment in Mong Kok which is the most densely populated place in the whole world!

On the Thursday we took a Visa run to Macau in order to validate both of our visas. Macau for me wasn’t really an enjoyable place as I am not a gambler and the place is founded on gambling. However, it is undeniable that the architecture is beautiful – massive towering buildings laden with gold and marble in the city and in the outskirts there is a heavy Portuguese influence and it feels like you’re in Spain.

University life.
When Uni began we were all split into our schools (HASS, Business, Science and Engineering) and we got to know who we would be spending the next semester with. Of course, a lot of friend groups had already formed and I found it kind of hard to make friends at the beginning due to this, but it was because of my choice to live off Campus which I do not regret in the slightest. Once classes began I made my close friend group (Femke and Meg) who integrated me into their circle of friends and I’m so thankful to have such a close group of friends at Uni who will be staying the full year like me!

Classes, exams, and grading here are a lot different from back at good ol’ Strathclyde, well, for Physics anyway. A bell curve grading system is used here which basically means that you need to do well relative to the other class members in order to pass the course. But the good thing is that for my courses the final grade included continuous assessment and was not 100% final exam, in fact, one of my classes didn’t even have a final exam at all! I began the semester taking 3 classes: Quantum Physics II, Particle Physics and the Universe and Introduction to Stellar Astrophysics as well as doing my PH450 Project as required by Strathclyde in 4th year Physics. Due to taking more credits than required back home – I eventually had to drop astrophysics due to feeling very overwhelmed and stressed with the workload that was on my shoulders – I didn’t have any free time which isn’t ideal for studying abroad! But thankfully dropping that course helped lessen the pressure and allow me to enjoy the being abroad part of the study abroad.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a haven for explorers, with some of the most beautiful hikes and scenery I have ever seen. I have spent a lot of time exploring this beautiful country: taking a glass bottom cable cart over Hong Kong’s highest peak to see the big Buddha, kayaking in the beautiful bays of Sai Kung, relaxing on island beaches and exploring Nordic Christmas markets at Stanley in 30 degree heat.

The food here is also unbelievably good. Say goodbye to Greggs sausage rolls and say hello to Char Sui Bao’s: the most delightful thing I have ever had the pleasure to eat. Pineapple buns and bubble tea will become your new favourite foods. Dim Sum and Hotpot replace KFC and Nandos. The taste experience here is ridiculous.

If you’re into nightlife you’ll learn to love Wan Chai Wednesdays and LKF at the weekend. With Happy Hour beers being more expensive than a nice bar in the merchant city back home though your wallet will hate you… Unless you’re a lady, then you may enjoy one of the many ‘Ladies nights’ that Hong Kong has to offer where women can get free drinks all night at various places from dive bars to rooftop terraces, they have one for everyone.

Overall, despite a few downs, Hong Kong has been the best experience of my life and has way more ups than downs. I’ve met an amazing group of local and international friends for life, given my taste buds the best time of their lives and opened up my mind with challenging but engaging classes with amazing lecturers. I would be gutted if I was going home soon and am so thankful I got the offer to stay for the whole year!

Megan Clapperton

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