By Ronan Smith
My preparation for a yearlong sabbatical to Hong Kong was pretty normal, except for the fact that it only dawned on me when walking down the aisle of the plane that I was leaving home for the first time in my life and decided to travel to the other side of the planet!
After fourteen hours of flying with a two-hour stopover in Qatar, I landed in Hong Kong International Airport. It was 16:30 so the airport was alive and well. I organised a lift with a girl from Derry via Facebook who was also attending The Chinese University of Hong Kong which made travelling that little bit easier and cheaper. My first Impression of Hong Kong was the dead heat your hit with once you travel outside the many air-conditioned buildings. I don’t mind the heat but the humidity here is ridiculous.
Travelling through the city to the New Territories where my campus was located was lovely as you got to see the many skyscrapers Hong Kong is known for. The campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong is situated on the side a mountain and while the views are jaw-dropping, it is such an effort to get around anywhere. I have to use the shuttle buses in operation to get just about anywhere (so much for living on campus). My first night was a special one as a local guide brought us to his favourite outdoor, BBQ style restaurant reserved just for the locals. Four hours into my adventure and I was hit with extreme culture shock. Between the food, chopsticks and the way the workers performed their tasks, I was dumbfounded but mesmerised.
Classes are interesting and engaging. Attendance is compulsory for most lectures. Professors take this very seriously in Hong Kong as it is a sign of respect. The good news is that there aren’t that many hours each week (currently have twelve hours of lectures per week). I have so far been successful in making it through to the third trial for the college basketball team. The language barrier is an obstacle to overcome but really enjoying the challenge and the many friends I’m making.
At home, you are always struggling to find something to do on a weekend, however, in Hong Kong, this is not the case as there are numerous hikes with spectacular views and beaches to explore and enjoy. So far, this experience has been amazing and I would urge any student considering an exchange to apply to Hong Kong. The experiences and challenges you will face will not only develop you as an individual but also show potential employers that you relish being outside your comfort zone.