Exchange Students' Adventures: You Only Live Once

Let's admit it: amidst the throng of Asian-looking faces we see every day, sometimes seeing a foreigner is like a breath of fresh air. You see them in a horde, chatting away on the grass patch of the Student Residence. Most of the time you see them outside of Hall 4, ready to kick off the night at Billy Boozers or LKF, or out and about in the city of Hong Kong.

They are adventurers, ready to travel thousands of miles away from their hometowns to visit the city that never sleeps. They are curious souls, ready to explore a culture that is so different from their own. However, we – the citizens that call Hong Kong home – are often so involved in our own worldly affairs that we forget to explore and stop reaching out to take what Hong Kong can offer. We stopped being adventurers and we stopped being curious. What better way to rekindle that flame than to talk to those who know it best?

During the Study Abroad Fair organised by the Global Engagement Office (GEO) held on 27-28 October, DiverCity got up close and personal with CityU's inbound exchange students to sneak a peek into their lives and see Hong Kong through their eyes.

What made you choose Hong Kong as a destination for exchange?

"Ever since high school, I always wanted to go on a study exchange but never got the chance to do it. I also love languages and wanted to go to a country that didn't speak English as its native language. Hong Kong is the perfect country – a combination of East meets West."
- Llewelyn

I heard you speak Cantonese! Can you give other non-locals tips on how to catch on to the local language?

"Cantonese is a language of tones, so first try to listen to radio podcasts to get a flow of how the language sounds. Second, buy a textbook and learn as much vocabulary as you can. Third, give yourself tiny milestones to achieve. Challenge yourself to say a sentence or two every week, and you'll be surprised by how much you can master after only a few weeks. Last and foremost, don't be afraid to talk to people! It can be something as simple as, 'Good morning! My shirt is blue!' You may get laughter in return, but in actuality, people appreciate you for trying to speak their language!"
- Llewelyn

What was your most memorable moment so far?

"My best moment so far was passing by students shouting on the AC1 escalator! It gave me mixed feelings – I don't know if I was fascinated or hated it."
- Kenneth

What culture shock did you experience here?

"I guess I've had many awkward exchanges with the locals because they couldn't understand the idioms we Westerners use. Sometimes they don't get sarcasm either, which ends up in a bit of an awkward silence."
- Reid

"Hong Kongers are always so excited when they meet me. They keep asking me questions about animes and mangas even though I know nothing about them. That kinda made me feel like a celebrity!"
- Kenneth

Do you know any hidden gems in Hong Kong?

"Cheung Chau! Get there from the pier in Central. That island has an abundance of seafood and there're a lot of small hawkers selling fresh seafood!"
- Haruka, Kenneth, Yui

"Definitely check out Bride's Pool. It’s a little hiking trail in the New Territories that leads to a massive waterfall. Pro tip: there is a bus in Tai Mei Tuk that goes there only during the weekend, so check your dates before going!"
- Llewelyn

"Tim Ho Wan! I'm a food lover so that Michelin-star restaurant is on my top to-go list. The Peak is awesome too when you want to enjoy the city lights from above."
- Christoph

"My favourite spot so far is Sai Kung. You can cliff jump and chill with a couple of friends. I’ve always thought of Hong Kong as an urban city so I was pleasantly surprised to know that there are a lot of hiking places and nature all around the city."
- Reid

How is Hong Kong life different from where you're from?

"Oh man, everyone is always on their phone!"
- Juho

"There's no drinking culture here, which is good. You don't see people wasted on the street on a Friday night."
- Llewelyn

"People are really friendly here! The security guard in my hall always greets me every morning and the guards at the gym are on a name-to-name basis with me. He’ll call me and we’ll chat for a minute or two."
- Christoph

Have any locals caught your romantic interest here? Do you plan on finding a boyfriend or girlfriend during your short stay?

"Yes! Hit me up, girls!"
- Kenneth