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Hong Kong: Destination Guides

A student perspective on studying abroad in Hong Kong

Want to know more about Hong Kong? Find out what other international students think about this city with our exclusive Q&A.

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Are you thinking of studying in Hong Kong? Gain advice and inspiration from our Q&A with a group of international students enrolled at Hong Kong Baptist University. They share their personal experiences of moving to Hong Kong, revealing why they decided to study there, the best things to do in the city and their choice of accommodation.


1. Did you do much research before deciding to study abroad? What made you decide to study in Hong Kong?

Michael Chmielinski: Prior to my Masters, I studied in London, where I also participated in a study exchange in New York. Since I already had a few international experiences I knew what it meant to study in a foreign country. Nevertheless, I researched Hong Kong before coming here to make an informed decision. Good preparation is key to a wonderful study abroad experience!


My main reason to further continue education was to validate my studies in London. I choose Hong Kong Baptist University because my course - MSc Business Management is in the top 100 management courses. This was ranked by The Financial Times and the School of Business as one of the few business schools in the world that has triple accreditation.


It's not just the ranking that matters, Hong Kong is a truly special place which connects west to east. It’s a home to many western and eastern companies offering employment opportunities in various industries ranging from supply chain to financial services.


Apart from great career opportunities, you can enjoy a holiday lifestyle almost every weekend in HK! The excellent weather combines with nearby islands, hills, mountains and many attractions in the city that will not let you feel bored for a second!


2. What are you favourite things to do in Hong Kong? (away from lectures, of course)

Michael Chmielinski: Every week I try to do something different to maximize my time here. I already visited top touristy attractions such as Victoria Peak, Ladies Market in Mong Kok and I took a star ferry across to Hong Kong Island. More recently I started to explore lesser known places like Chan Kun Kee where you can try truly local dishes.


Almost every Wednesday, together with my friends, we hop on a Ding Ding (tram) to Happy Valley racecourse for an evening full of beer, burgers, and betting. Surprisingly, this is a very inexpensive activity, which in countries like the UK is considered very posh! The entrance fee is only 10 HKD and you can find a pint of beer for 50 - 60 HKD. There are various WhatsApp groups which frequently send offers to internationals with free entrance tickets and vouchers for free beer! So sometimes we don't pay at all for an amazing evening!


Our other weekly tradition is to try different foods. There is an abundance of dim sum restaurants, sushi bars and all you can eat buffet in Mong Kok. If you are a foodie and like to try new and different kinds of dishes, there's no better place than Hong Kong.



3. What makes Hong Kong such a great city to study in as an international student?

Michael Chmielinski: When choosing to study abroad I have taken many things into consideration. In my opinion, this experience is supposed to be well balanced, interesting but at the same time rewarding. You should benefit from enhancing your career prospects but also discover the culture and further develop as a person.


One of my interests is in entrepreneurship and start-ups. Before coming here, I wasn’t aware of places like Cyber Port and Science Park, which is Hong Kong’s version of Silicon Valley. The government, universities, and companies work together to offer an abundance of opportunities to fund, support and develop viable start-ups. If you are considering starting your business, and you are looking for a place to work on it, you should seriously consider coming to Hong Kong. Here, you will find talented people willing to work with you and organizations that want to support your business.


If you are not into building your own empire, Hong Kong is well-positioned in the world and a home to many western and eastern companies. They frequently offer networking events, company and campus visits. You can learn a lot about careers in different industries while making valuable connections and potentially starting a career here.


XiaoTing Huang: Study abroad is not a simple decision to make, you will always face different types of challenges and obstacles in your journey. However, if you are well prepared and know your goal in advance, you might be able to get much more from it. When I decided to come to Hong Kong, I know that Hong Kong is convenient and close to my hometown. The modern structure of the financial environment and diverse culture is the two things that attracted me to this special place.


The first two things that come to my mind are the diversity and the modern financial industries in Hong Kong which are attractive to me as an international student. Hong Kong has always been called the Asian version of "Wall Street", and the unique part of the international trading system is well developed in Hong Kong compared to mainland China. I found that financial jobs are easier to search for in Hong Kong, and the networking events organized by the school are also really helpful.


As an international student in Hong Kong, you should get involved with as many workshops, cultural and networking events as possible. The more of those activities I attended at school, the more people on campus I get to know, which helped me develop my networking for the future career planning. An example such as the AIA investment department internship program was introduced to me by a friend I met during a social event. Step out of your comfort zone, and you will find yourself able to achieve many goals in Hong Kong.



4. Does the teaching style differ to what you are used to the last country you were taught in?

Michael Chmielinski: Teaching style is completely different to what I experienced both at my UK and the US University. At Hong Kong Baptist University all of my classes emphasize group projects which are usually based around the real local company, presentations, individual assignment, and a final exam. It is certainly not a “walk in a park” type of degree especially for those folks who did not study business-related bachelors before.


Although the teaching methods are challenging and require a lot of effort, I see how much I have developed my time management, stress management, presentation and communication skills. Due to the sheer volume of different assignments, my knowledge is constantly reinforced. Yes, I find it very challenging, but I suppose this is how my university is preparing me for the “adult world”.


In the UK my modules were split into lectures and seminars, here we have one session per module (3hour long) which is usually a lecture combined with seminar alike activities.


Emma Mariani: The teaching style differs from the one I was used to in Italy under some aspects. For example, in Italy 100% of the final grade of every course is based on the final examination, while here only 50%. This is because students are required to engage in many group assignments as well as individual ones during the course, which contribute to the other 50% of the final grade. I think that this method is very useful, in particular in a business-related master degree like mine because it helps you to get used to team work which is an essential aspect of working in every company.


My course is designed with a 3 hour class for a single subject every day, while in Italy we usually have more classes of different subject during the day but of shorter duration; having only one class per day makes you focus on only one subject at a time and gives you a lot of free time to focus on other activities.


Finally, another aspect I’d like to highlight is that the relationship with the lecturers isn’t as formal as the one I was used to, on the contrary we are always encouraged to seek their help when needed and email or meet them whenever we need further explanation or advice.


5. What are your plans for the future after your studies in Hong Kong? Any plans to stay?

XiaoTing Huang: With so many job opportunities and network events provided by HKBU, I intend to apply for IANG Visa after my graduation. The financial industry in Hong Kong is one of the main reasons why I study here, therefore I would like to apply for the jobs in this industry. I really need to put myself in this industry to gain real work experience, so I am considering anything from internships to graduate schemes.


I believe it is always better to live in one place for let’s say three to four years to get to know the local industry and fully understand different operations within an organization. I would like to apply for financial analyst jobs in Hong Kong and I see myself living here for the next few years. This work experience will put me in the real business context and I hope to understand Hong Kong even better. I am already so in love with Hong Kong’s diversity and its unique culture, so staying here for work will be a pleasure!



6. What has been the hardest thing about moving to Hong Kong, and how have you dealt with it?

Emma Mariani: I was kind of used to living abroad, but I actually found living in Hong Kong under some aspects easier than living in Mainland China because of the lack of language barrier and the western-like mindset.


Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world so I’ve never felt endangered even when I walk around alone. The transportation system is extremely efficient and cheap, so going around the city has been easy from moment one.


What I found a little difficult to adapt to at the beginning was the cost of living! Prices are quite high here in Hong Kong, but after you get to know the city, you’ll be able to find hidden gems and cheaper alternatives!


Finding friends is easy as well, for example most of my classmates from mainland china have always been very friendly to me and we created good relationships very quickly, both at university and outside! Usually we hang out in a mixed group of foreigners and Chinese, and this helps us to understand each other’s culture.


People around the city are usually very friendly as well and will be happy to help you if you get lost or can’t find a place, so I would say I felt welcomed in this city from the beginning, and this for sure helped me to adapt quite quickly.


7. How have you found your experience with accommodation in Hong Kong? Are you in university accommodation or private?

XiaoTing Huang: I decided to live off-campus and have a bigger place for myself. University accommodation offered us a small room for two occupants, and no kitchen facilities or living room. I searched for apartments four months in advance. Thanks to "Weibo", "Facebook", "Instagram" and "WeChat", I was able to get in touch with one of the students who already graduated from HKBU. She put me in touch with a local student who also wanted to move out from her home and find a good apartment in Kowloon Bay.


The network is quite important in Hong Kong, and finding an apartment is a real example for me. Having friends who graduated from HKBU provided me with a lot of information about the apartment, transportation, and choices about food. This is the reason why I want to share my experience with you, and let you have a mindset before you really decided to study abroad, and choose Hong Kong as your destination.



8. What advice would you give to international students if they are considering studying in Hong Kong?

Michael Chmielinski: First, try to embrace Asian culture as much as possible. It's very easy to stick to the western side of Hong Kong, which in return will give you New York/London lifestyle. Hang out with Asian students, travel to China and nearby islands. This part of the world is incredible, your Instagram will go through the roof!


At university get involved as much as you can and take leadership roles! This will always have a great effect on your CV. It’s easier to find internships here, although many are unpaid, or pay very little, it is still an experience which you can put on your CV. You will have a splendid time while making friends with people from across the globe, and hopefully the experience will polish your skills and enhance your career prospects.


And finally, remember that locals grew up here in a completely different environment, culture and with values that are different from yourself. You don't need to agree or absorb those values, but try to understand and learn something from it. It's a different perspective in the end!



Emma Mariani: I would absolutely tell them to go for it, because living and studying here gives you the opportunity to meet people from everywhere in the world, open your mind and experience a new culture.


Another peculiar thing about Hong Kong is that it is located in a strategic starting point to travel around Asia to many different countries. So, if you study here whenever you have a free weekend or holiday, you’ll be able to buy a plane ticket to a nearby destination (Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia). This will for sure make your studying period here much more interesting!


I would also recommend to get involved in as many extracurricular activities organised by the university as possible, such as workshops, career talks or outdoor trips. There is so much to do and you don’t want to miss it!


Another important piece of advice is to come here with a strong sense of adaptability, but keep in mind that whenever you miss home, you’ll be able to find people from your country or restaurant having your favourite food.


Eventually, you need to know that the cost of living is high, but after you get to know the city more, you’ll be able to find cheaper alternatives and good deals.


Studying in Hong Kong will make you grow as a student as well as a person for sure!


Want to experience Hong Kong for yourself? Discover courses for your studies here.