Studying Abroad in Hong Kong
Why were you there?
I was there for a study abroad exchange at City University of Hong Kong from University of Nottingham. It counted as my 3rd year of uni, so I had some work to do (unlike a lot of my friends out there). I was there from September 2017 to June 2018 with a couple months spent travelling in other countries. My application process was trickier than most as my university messed up and sent me to the wrong university….but it ended up working out for the best, as I got to live in a better area, had less uni work to complete and met some great people. Surprising to me, I found the work there a lot easier than my 2nd year at Notts.
There was a little bit of a language barrier, but on the whole, it was easy enough to get around with google translate. I would say a lot of people do speak English (Apart from taxi drivers, so learning how to say 135 Lai Chi Kok Road was essential). I was one of the few year abroad students who wasn’t given student accommodation, which at first was terrifying as I moved to HK with a week booked in a hostel, going to the wrong university, trying to sort out courses that matched with home uni and trying to also fit in socialising and exploring. However, it was a great challenge and I genuinely wouldn’t change any of it. The lack of student accommodation meant I found a place to stay by myself (all student accommodation there was shared rooms, and they were either not that nice or were out of the city). The place I settled in was perfect (Mong Kok) and in a cheap area. Every night I would go out for meals as I found it cheaper than buying food and cooking (probably as I didn’t know the local spots to shop and ended up shopping at big chains).
If you can and are adventurous, find a place that isn’t in halls and make sure your uni doesn’t send you to the wrong uni (although it did work out incredibly well for me)
Mong Kok is where I lived. I was spending 5000HKD a month (~£500). I was fortunate to make friends with the lady who ran the hostel and she told me about a storage room she had on the 10th floor of the building. She cleared it out, I bought a bed and mattress and I stayed there.
Student accommodation would make your life less stressful initially, however I loved living in the heart of the city, not out in the sticks where the university was located. It can be very expensive; HK is one of the most expensive property markets in the world
LKF Road is where I spent a large amount of time in the first semester. It is a road full of bars that all the expats and students go to. It was busy every night, at most hours. I got pretty sick of it after a bit (not my taste of music or night out) so would end up at ‘Club 7/11’ which was essential going to 7/11 (convenience shop) buying alcohol and drinking on the street outside in massive groups. In my second semester we found some more underground places to go out to which featured HK DJs, as well as some discos on the top of mountains overlooking the city which was insane. I would say this is slightly harder to find but speaking to locals who enjoy this sort of scene is the way to find it. Also check out ‘Mr Wong’s’ – a bar you can eat and drink as much as you want for ~£7. He has a fridge out back full of beer that you can go and take as you please. Hygiene is not at the top of the list… so if that is an issue for you maybe give it a miss.
LKF if you like chart music, speak to locals who go out if you like other scenes. There are also some really nice bars to visit (Iron fairies was a favourite). Ladies’ night is a Wednesday in LKF and Thursday in Wan Chai – Girls enter for free to certain clubs/bars and get free drinks, boys pay extortionate prices to get in and buy drinks… not ideal for guys. Although there is ‘WednesGay’ where Wednesday night at Petty Coat Lane bar guys drink free.
I never saw much in the way of danger, but there are some dodgy drug dealers hanging around LKF. Also, I heard of some people getting spiked. I wouldn’t say more so than Nottingham though. Just take the regular cautions you would on a night out, being a little bit extra cautious just because you are in a new place that you don’t know as well. With the situation now being a bit more delicate due to the political situation, take necessary measures for that as well. Be smart!
MTR (Trains) are the best mode of transport in the city- they are mad! The best trains I have ever taken. You would just need to buy an Octopus card (similar to Oyster cards in London) and top it up. Super cheap, super easy.
MTR stops running at night, but there are always busses that run from the island back to kowloon. They just sit there and wait for enough people and leave when full.
Essentials & Money
Film Camera. I bought a realllly cheap shitty film camera from a shop in Mong Kok which really got me into photography. I am so happy I started taking film photos out there as I now have over 300 photos in a photo album to look back on.
Hong Kong Dollar. I also had a Caxton Card (any currency card would be good). A lot of HK island is fine to get around with card, but Kowloon is a lot more reliant on cash. There are plenty of ATMs so this isn’t an issue.