“Have a Global Coffee with” is a series of interviews of ANU exchange returnees and students currently on exchange, about their experiences abroad. The first student we met is Kotaro Besant, who did an exchange semester at the Chinese University in Hong Kong last year.
Hi Kotaro, thank you for meeting with us :), tell us why you chose to go on exchange to the Chinese University of Hong Kong?
Doing my exchange semester, somewhere in Asia was a natural choice for me because of my Asian Pacific studies major. Another significant point was the language, I wanted to go to a university which teaches in English. I had to make a decision between Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. I finally chose Hong Kong. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) provides a huge and beautiful campus and is located in the mountains – quite far away from the city. Firstly, I thought the location would annoy me, but then I figured out that it wasn’t bad at all– one hour on the train to go to the city centre with your friends is fun. Coming back to the campus, there is a shopping mall and a supermarket, which is really convenient. Moreover, the view from the top of the campus, where my college was located, was gorgeous, literally a million dollar view!
Tell us about the people you met on exchange
I had a local roommate so I had the chance to meet many students from Hong Kong quickly. The university provides a large range of sport programs and I have to admit that I had never done any sports before, but I really wanted to meet plenty of local people. So I enrolled in the dragon boat team and guess what? I loved it! To summarize, 99% of my friends in Hong Kong are local athletes.
What about the courses? Did you enjoy the University academically?
I really enjoyed the courses but they run slightly different in terms of the size. Classes there are very small and here in Australia, the lectures tend to be bigger, I mean, tutorials are small, but the lectures can be up to 300 people. I had to do my major courses in Hong Kong and I enjoyed them a lot. Studying politics there got me insights in a unique political system with Chinese influence. It was highly valuable.
Tell me about your first day at CUHK? How did you feel when you arrived on campus?
I arrived in Hong Kong during the day which was very nice and people at the reception of my accommodation hall, checked me in. All exchange students arrived one week before the locals, that’s why the dorms were nearly empty. I got my room key and searched for it. I opened the door and there was this blank, empty room, with only a bed and mattress. It was a bit scary because I didn’t know anybody else. I then decided to go back to the lobby and try to meet other exchange students. Within the first week we had an orientation week for exchange students and it was really well structured. They gave us partners from other countries, so I wasn’t alone anymore. The University also organised campus tours, safety and basic briefings. At the end of the week all exchange students were invited to a welcoming dinner, where we got to know each other better. It was amazing. There was also the possibility to sign up to an exchange buddy program with a local student.
What is your fondest memory of your exchange semester?
I loved the sport team dinners, especially before and after competitions, where we were sitting together on a big table and enjoyed ourselves. It was so much fun. There were 18 people in our team and every member had this feeling that we worked so hard together as a group. These moments were the best – hanging out, eating together and becoming close.
Are still in touch with your friends?
Actually, I will go back to Hong Kong in two weeks for holidays. I will stay at my former roommate’s house for 10 days. After that he is coming to Japan to visit my family for a week. We are really good friends, we constantly message on WhatsApp and Snapchat. It is surprising how much we are keeping in touch.
The Hong Kong Exchange Portrait – If you were a…
…TV series, what would you be? – Dae jang geun : It is a Korean cooking show. My roommate and I used to watch it a lot because, we love food and watching TV.
…Song, what would you be? – I will be “Chandelier” – We danced on this song my roommate and I in our small room – was so much fun.
…Dish, what would you be? I would choose a dessert: Yeung Zi Gum Lo – It is made out of mango and coconut milk and fresh fruits. In Hong Kong you can find everywhere a dessert shop.
…Word, what would you be? “Ding zhu”– It means “hold on” and “keep going”, when you get tired. My trainer used to say that to us a lot.
…Favourite memorabilia: This is my College-jacket, which you actually can’t buy – you have to compete in a sport team and represent the College, to get such a jacket. I really feel attached to the College when I represented it and I was so proud wearing my jacket on campus.
See for yourself at the ANU Global Programs Fair at ANU Open Day.