By Mark Ryan
I’m on a full-year exchange here at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and so far it is has been a great experience. HKUST is very different to Trinity. One of the great things about this university is the campus itself. We are right on the side of a cliff overlooking the South China Sea which gives us great views. The facilities include everything you would want in a university with lots of dining options, both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, barbeque pits right beside the beach, sports pitches etc. I take classes in the Lee Shau Kee Business School which is only three years old and a great improvement to the Arts building in TCD. The only disadvantage about the university is that we have to take a mini bus and then an MTR train to get into the centre of Hong Kong, which gets difficult late at night and there can be long lines for buses at times. It is very different from Trinity where we are in the centre of everything, but given that the city is so overcrowded and busy it’s not such a bad thing.
Hong Kong has lots to offer exchange students. Firstly it is a great place to travel from. For around €100 you can get cheap flights to Thailand, Vietnam, mainland China or Taiwan. I took a trip to Tokyo in November, which is 4.5 hours away from Hong Kong. We spent five days visiting temples, Japanese gardens, the zoo, a cat cafe, street markets, anime stores, palaces and eating sushi, ramen and Katsu. I also spent the first week of December getting sunburnt on a beach in Vietnam rather than studying for finals. Hong Kong itself has lots to do. Weekends have been spent hiking, cliff jumping, going to Disneyland or Ocean Park theme parks, museums, Korean karaoke bars, squid fishing, and going to the horse races as well as LKF, the nightlife area in Hong Kong. As we are right beside the sea there are many boat parties in HKUST organised by different student societies on the weekends. A boat will arrive and take you out to sea for a day of banana boating and socialising, a great way to meet other exchange students.
There are a huge number of exchange students in HKUST from all over the world so despite being the only Trinity student here, getting to know people was no problem. Every exchange student is assigned a ‘buddy’ who is a full-time student in UST, and one of the first days of our exchange was spent visiting Stanley Market and The Peak with all of our buddies in the business school, which helped us to learn about the city and culture here. There are also activities organised by the university for exchange students which we can attend for a reasonable price, such as tram parties through the city, mooncake workshops and a day tour of the city.
When it comes to academics, HKUST is very competitive compared to Trinity. While the majority of exchange students are on the pass/fail system and do not have to worry too much about the grading curve, this doesn’t apply to me as a Trinity student and there is still pressure to do well at exams. All of the courses are one-semester modules so finals are sat in December and May. Attendance and class participation is also monitored closely by most professors and midterm exams, assignments, group projects and presentations carry more weight than in Trinity. One of the great things about the Business school here is the smaller class sizes and the option to create your own timetable.
Overall my first semester in Hong Kong has been a great experience and going on exchange has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in university.