Students and Alumni

CLASS study tours:
Happiness Index for Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea

In addition to collecting data, we also visited the magnificent Osaka Castle in Japan.

CLASS students interviewed the local citizens in Osaka and their pronunciation were corrected by some friendly Japanese.

CHAN Ka-tung (Department of Applied Social Sciences)
LEUNG Wai-ting (Department of Linguistics and Translation)
NG Tsz-yan (Department of English)
SO Hung-chak (Department of Chinese and History )

In January 2016, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences organised study tours to both Osaka and Seoul. The overseas experiences encouraged Year 1 students to broaden their horizons through an emphasis on freshmen self-exploration. The tours were an unprecedented learning opportunity that involved conducting street surveys designed to elicit information about the Happiness Index among citizens of Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. As student mentors, we were responsible for coordinating and leading professors and college staff members in addition to assisting the freshmen with their research and facilitating a smooth study journey. Although the study tours only lasted a week, they required significant preparation. Thanks to the guidance of professors and tour leaders, these enlightening explorations were a rousing success. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the College for including us in these educational tours.

Our Happiness Index research was the highlight of these study tours. Street surveys were distributed in Hong Kong, Osaka and Seoul. In Hong Kong, we encountered few communication problems, but inviting respondents to participate on busy streets during the hustle and bustle of daily life proved arduous. After numerous attempts, we were able to see the fruits of our labour. In Osaka and Seoul, the language barriers became the main hindrance. Aware of the lack of English language use in Japan and Korea, the College arranged to have the study tour participants take crash courses in Japanese and Korean during the pre-departure briefing session. Throughout the interviews conducted in Osaka and Seoul, we experienced innumerable failures before each single success, but the difficulties never stopped us from trying again. Some students even reaped an unexpected reward in Osaka; that is, their pronunciation was corrected by the Japanese respondents, which enhanced and accelerated their Japanese language acquisition.

In addition to collecting data for our research project, we also visited various non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and famous scenic spots, including Japan's LGBT organisation; Osaka Castle Park, which represents the city's history; the renowned Kyung Hee University in Seoul; and the Gyeongbokgung Palace – the first royal palace built in the Joseon Dynasty. In particular, a local Professor in Osaka arranged a lecture on LGBT culture for us. The speakers shared what it was like to be LGBT individuals in Osaka, and how the Yodogawa-ku government has offered assistance. In Yodogawa-ku, the local organisations and government protect and promote LGBT rights and interests – a stark contrast to the situation in Hong Kong, where the government seldom takes part in LGBT issues. It is usually Hong Kong's local non-governmental organisations that fight for LGBT rights and legalisation. The actions taken by the Japanese government are worth reflection for their ability to inform our own city's progress. After visiting all of these spots, we developed a deeper understanding of both Japan and Korea's social, academic and historical cultures.

One of the most indelible parts of the trip was seeing street sleepers in Seoul, despite the temperature being a few degrees below zero. We were shocked, as it contradicts this metropolis's prosperous, modern and glamorous public face. Although Seoul, as a soft power, is flourishing, people tend to see only its good side. This trip confirmed that local social problems should not be ignored. Above all, this study tour gave us all a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of Korea and Japan.