If someone was to tell me that I’d enjoy living in a bustling city of 8 million, crammed into an area 25 times smaller than inner Sydney, frankly, I’d tell them they’re dreaming. But that was before I spent June/July doing a PRIMO short-course program, studying in this amazing city at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). In the melting pot that is Hong Kong, with three official languages and rich history split between British and Chinese rule, immersion into this foreign culture was honestly the best experience of my life.
Having arrived not knowing a single soul, the university quickly facilitated interactions between its students, where I met lifelong friends on the first day. With these people, and many others who I was privileged to meet throughout my studies, I explored Hong Kong; experiences I will treasure for years to come. CUHK ran activities every weekend, showcasing the best of which Hong Kong has to offer. The Big Buddha, Tai O (a traditional fishing village) and Victoria Peak were all must see attractions the university made sure we experienced. However, with classes only three days a week, there was a fair amount of time to go on our own adventures. Together with my fellow study abroad friends, we explored Hong Kong at a more intimate level, searching for the best street food, best bars (of both sky and basement varieties) and making sure to get the most of the beaches when the sun occasionally made its appearance. Having lived in Canberra all my life I realised I have not made the most of nearly enough of our natural surrounds. Hiking at least twice weekly, we got to see Hong Kong from an elevated view. For the thrill seekers amongst us the university provided tickets to Ocean Park, a theme park/zoo that certainly took the crown from movie world (the only other park I’ve been to).
As for my studies, I took an international relations and a management module. Both of these topics turned out to be extremely relevant, as the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China has made it a talking point amongst the international community while it still remains a major economic centre where management is key. The standard of teaching was extremely high, with my management lecturer making an ordinarily dry subject into one of the most enjoyable courses I have done. The university itself was a bit spread out for my liking. Being located on a hill you’d be walking to class in 100% humidity. However the bus system was very efficient, much the same as the amazing MTR (tube) system that connects all corners of Hong Kong.
Being centrally located in Asia, it was common practise amongst my cohort to take advantage of the extremely cheap flights (~$100) and go for a weekend holiday to another of Asia’s beautiful cities. For myself and four others, Vietnam was the destination of choice. We spent four days in Ho Chi Minh City, making the most of what it, and its surrounds, had to offer. Shopping for $1 Tommy and $10 runners that would normally have emptied my bank account in the Ben Thanh market, taking that tentative step on to a bus that we prayed would take us somewhere near a beach, and subsequently sleeping in the footwell of a bloke’s car we were hitchhiking with on the way back from said beach, were definite highlights. By far and away the best (and most terrifying) activity though was hiring motorbikes for $10 and spending the day riding 200km through a river delta, stopping at a monkey park where you had to pray that a monkey would not mug you for your bag. I honestly think riding that scooter in Saigon took 10 years of my life!
Back in Hong Kong, the heartbreaking day came when I had to see off Hong Kong and the friends I had made there. On the 10-hour flight back to Canberra, reflecting on where I had been for the past month, I realised how grateful I was for having the opportunity to participate in such an enlightening program. If I could, I would do it all again! I could not recommend this opportunity highly enough, and would like to say a massive thank you to the Global Programs team who made this possible.