My First Month in Hong Kong

Starting a new phase of your life, coming to a new city, a new place with new culture and new people, can sometimes be a scary yet exciting experience. We interviewed a few international freshmen to see what their first month in Hong Kong and at CityU was like!

1. Sagar from Pakistan

Culture shock
I did not receive any major cultural shocks because Hong Kong is such a metropolitan city and has a mix of people and cultures. However, if I were to pick one thing, I would say the food! I have had Chinese food in Pakistan, but it is nothing like Cantonese food! It was a shock to learn that the Chinese food I grew up eating is not similar to actual Chinese food!

Homesickness
I was homesick for the first week, but then I started going out and talking to different students in hall and class. I joined student groups and explored the city to make new friends, and soon Hong Kong became more comfortable for me.

Overall experience
It was like an orchestra! I cannot separate the different elements and my feelings. There were mixed emotions, the ups and downs of adapting to a new culture, new people and a new place, and self-exploration. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and have come out stronger and more focused.

Tips for newcomers
Try to visit Hong Kong before settling here. Knowing the city can help you get adjusted sooner.

 

2. Howard (Left) and Danny (Right) from Taiwan

Insecurities before arrival
H: I thought I would have difficulties in communicating with locals because I didn’t know Cantonese. But then I realised there is nothing to worry about since most people understand English and Mandarin.

First impression
D: It was definitely not what I expected! CityU is full of international students, and you don’t feel out of place.

Main challenge
H: I come from Taiwan, so I look like a local. People would start talking to me in Cantonese!

Lesson learned
H: I was scheduled to take an English proficiency test in the first week. However, I forgot to check the venue beforehand and left my residence hall just 15 minutes before the test. I couldn’t locate the venue and got lost, which resulted in arriving late for the test.

D: I woke up at 9:00 am and realised I had a class at 9:00 am!

Impressive thing
D: I am really touched by how helpful and passionate the locals are.

 

3. Sandeep from India

First impression
The pace of life is really fast in Hong Kong. Initially it gave me the impression that someone had just announced that free iPhones were being given away, and that’s why everyone kept rushing everywhere.

Main challenge
Budgeting was difficult in the initial period since you don’t know where to buy things from and you end up spending more than needed.

Impressive thing
Hong Kong has so much energy. You look around and find people busy with their work and excelling. This really motivates you to work hard and strive harder as well.

Tips for newcomers
Choose your courses wisely in the first semester. Don’t overdo your coursework, as you are still new to the system. Talk with local students and teachers, as they can give the best advice!

 

4. Nicky from Thailand

Insecurities before arrival
I worried about whether I would fit in since this is a different culture altogether. But then I contacted other seniors from Thailand, and they were able to guide me and help me settle down.

Homesickness
I was lucky to not feel homesick since the people at CityU are very friendly and welcoming.

Main challenge
Laundry! I had never washed my clothes by myself, and figuring out how the machines work was a major task for me!

Cultural difference
In Thailand, when you go to a local restaurant, the entire table is for you, and no strangers will sit with you. However, in Hong Kong, when you go to dine at a local restaurant, somebody might share a table with you. This allows you to communicate with people who otherwise live such busy lives and don’t have time to communicate.

Impressive thing
I am really impressed by the Octopus Card! You can use it almost anywhere and everywhere, from travel to supermarkets!

 

5. Belikse from Bosnia

Homesickness
There is so much to explore in this city that you are always occupied. As for family, Skype helps a lot!

Class at CityU
The students are encouraged to ask questions and to think. Professors do not expect the correct answers, and that helps you to open up and discover things without the fear of being incorrect.

Impressive thing
Most European countries either have a lot of nature or a lot of buildings. Hong Kong has a perfect balance of both!

Tips for newcomers
Be open-minded. Learn to see and understand differences.

 

It was exciting to learn about the experiences of new international freshmen in their first month in Hong Kong. The best part about interviewing them was finding out how they overcame the challenges that the first month brought. Every one of them was so excited and happy to be in Hong Kong that an outsider would not be able to tell that they were new to this city. Although homesickness and cultural shock are common phenomena when you move out of your hometown, CityU’s community helps you feel comfortable and treats you like family!