Germany? Norway? Spain? United States? South Africa? South Korea? Hong Kong? I considered all of these 7 destinations. My previous university, Utrecht University, offered more than 500+ destinations. While it is nice to have so many options, it was incredibly hard to choose between all those options, because what should you really look for?
Every destination has its charm and its perks but in my mind this was really an opportunity of a life-time. Utrecht University encourages its students to study abroad by creating space within your curriculum to go abroad without any delays in your studies.
After talking to former students who studied abroad, it was really a no-brainer for me to choose for Hong Kong. The former colony of the United Kingdom inhabits more than 7 million people, has a wonderful skyline and is known to be international with one of the most open economies in the world. With great research universities, Hong Kong ticks all the boxes.
Upon arrival, the humid climate of South East Asia can be uncomfortable at first. But your body will get accustomed to it after a week or two. Besides that, going abroad means you will face many other challenges. You might not speak the local language, the food is different, you are not used to the new university you are attending, and you left all your friends and family behind. Everyone is by him or herself in the beginning and when you realize that, it makes it easier to connect with all those lonely people!
Luckily, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is very used to exchange students. In the first week, they will help you with all the challenge you will face, from going to IKEA to get essentials for your dorm, to hosting tours around campus, and introduction drinks with other internationals. I had to share my dorm with another Dutch student, which was strange at first. Luckily, we became great friends and it was not a problem at all.
Classes were really different to the ones at my university. The level of teaching is about the same, but students in Hong Kong are highly competitive. The library was packed on the first day of the semester and students spend the night or will take naps at their desks – you wouldn’t see that in the Netherlands!
There was truly no boring week in Hong Kong; it houses many great dining places, offers great hikes, has a vibrant nightlife and is simply a great hub to reach other cities and countries. I have tried Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and Chinese food. During my exchange, I was fortunate to visit cities like Macau, Shanghai, Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul. Every destination was within 3-hour reach! Immersing yourself in these cities, by yourself or with friends, was an experience in itself. From celebrating Halloween in Shanghai to eating a delicacy like live octopus in Seoul, to have the freedom to travel around was liberating.
Studying in Hong Kong has not only helped me academically, where I attended classes related to management and social sciences, it has helped me develop professionally as well. I had the opportunity to be a Student Ambassador, to host the Ambassadors of United Arab Emirates and Finland in Hong Kong at our university, to meet the President of HKUST, and to attend an event hosted by the Dutch Embassy.
One semester never went by so fast. An exchange is incredibly value and an amazing opportunity to experience another country, culture and university during your student life. Future employers will appreciate this experience, but above all, it is one big experience that you will cherish for your entire life. I would like to encourage everyone who thinks about studying abroad to take the leap of faith and just do it!
Author: Ying Wai Cheung (the Netherlands)
Education: BSc Psychology: Industrial &
Organisational Psychology (Utrecht University, the Netherlands)
Current position: President at EFPSA