Studying in Hong Kong: A chat with Josef Talaoui
Q: Why did you choose Hong Kong Baptist University?
A: The phrase ‘where East meets West’ must have been created to describe Hong Kong (HK). It’s an incredibly unique city: on the one hand, it’s distinctly Asian and packed with cultural characteristics, on the other, its Western influence is written into the landscape. You will notice British brands, such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer, and you’ll quickly realise that they drive on the same side of the road as the UK! As HK is hugely influenced by the West and East, it provides an opportunity to experience Eastern culture as well as enjoy the Western lifestyle.
Very few places could boast one of the world’s busiest ports, its own beach, spectacular mountains to hike, and a fantastic metro that allows you to explore all that HK has to offer. In addition to that, HK is cheaper than America. However, what can make HK expensive is rent, but the student accommodation prices were very reasonable.
In general, I wanted to gain a better understanding of China and Asia. I consider this to be important as soon it is becoming a more substantial super power, and is playing an increasingly significant role on the world stage.
Q: Did you make many friends?
A: One of my favourite parts was socialising and having fun with over 15 nationalities! As you’re all in the same boat, you make friends very quickly. People are very friendly, and they would always say hello when they walked past.
There was a café on campus where everyone would sit and talk, and I got into the routine of going there every Wednesday after one of my lectures. There was also an Irish pub virtually on campus, where I went to watch the football.
Since we’ve been back, I know that some people have met up in their respective countries. I’m planning to go to Paris in the Summer and my American friends are hoping to visit Europe sometime.
Q: Were the language barriers difficult?
A: In HK, the locals speak Cantonese and generally there would not be a language barrier as the natives’ English is very good, and signs are translated into English. All of the younger generations speak very good English, and those who you will need to ask for information or directions will be able to speak reasonable English.
Q: How much did the course differ from your degree at Swansea University?
A: Unlike Swansea, where we have three modules a term, in HK there were 4 modules all with exams, an essay and a presentation. Myself and my friends did consider this to be more work than what is expected in Swansea, and because our results were transferred and impacted our degrees, it was very important that we did well. It was a little difficult sometimes seeing some people enjoying travelling and relaxing, whilst we were studying!
Nevertheless, you have enough time off – as HK celebrates both British and Chinese Bank Holidays - and you can go travelling during Easter and after the semester has finished. There’s always someone to go with!
Q: What are your top five tips for someone embarking on a trip to Hong Kong?
1 – Although the metro service is very good, it’s best avoided in rush hours as it’s even worse than the London Underground (although a lot cleaner!)
2 – Be aware that although HK has its own beach, it gets incredibly busy on Bank Holidays – we waited two hours in a queue for a bus to the beach! But it was definitely worth it.
3 – One of my favourite places to eat was Mr Wong’s in Mong Kok. It offers unlimited food and beer for just Hk$60 (£6)! We went every week, and it was very popular with exchange students. The atmosphere was brilliant. Mr Wong was incredibly welcoming and loved speaking with people from different countries.
4 – After we’d visit Mr Wong’s we would go to a roof top bar on the Kowloon side, overlooking the skyline. At night time, this view is absolutely incredible, facing the famous HSBC building. I would definitely recommend this!
5 – When you meet expats, take the time to chat to them. I found it very interesting to talk to them, and hear about their experiences working and living abroad. The most common career was teaching, and this was particularly insightful for me as I had only ever considered teaching in the UK.