I’m in Hong Kong SAR! That abbreviation stands for ‘Special Administrative Region’; I learned this interesting fact during my preparations for the year abroad. I arrived in Hong Kong, via a 15 hour flight from London Heathrow Airport. I received my entry visa at Hong Kong International Airport. This was a vital requirement of my study visa. If you plan to do some pre-study travelling in Asia during the summer holiday, you must remember to get your entry visa at the airport once you enter Hong Kong.
As I exited customs a ticket was thrust into my hand by the enthusiastic staff. It turned out that this ticket would give me access to lots of free stuff from the Hong Kong Tourism Board. I received free beauty face masks and a free ride on the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour. I couldn’t find the taxi area, but thankfully a helpful airport worker guided me toward the taxi designated area located just outside the airport.
I think it’s important to share the following information with you:
- Red taxis usually go to Hong Kong Island and green taxis go to the New Territories. Alternatively, you can take the MTR train or city link airport bus to travel to the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I took a green taxi, because the Chinese University of Hong Kong is in the New Territories. The cab fare was around 280HKD.
- Some exchange students meet up with other exchange students at the airport, to travel together and share the taxi fare. They make contact with each other via the CUHK Exchange Students Facebook Group.
- It’s handy to have your destination written in Chinese on a piece of paper to show the taxi driver. I got the Chinese translation of the Chinese University of Hong Kong from the university website.
Once I stepped outside the air conditioned airport, the intensity of the humidity hit me. It warmed me to the very core, but thankfully so did all the sights; I was surrounded by hills, tall apartments and buildings. I was filled with excitement and awe. Till today I wonder how many people live in the average residential complex.
I arrived at my orientation hostel lobby using an elevator that only goes directly from the ground floor to the 10th floor. It doesn’t stop in between. 😛 After registration I met my orientation roommate, who was from France and just as excited as I was to finally be in Hong Kong! We talked about life in our home countries and our home universities. Then we went for a guided group tour of the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus. We walked up and down steps cut into hills. The guides, who were local Hong Kong students that had previously studied abroad, showed us the short-cuts and hidden elevators. It was a humid and hot day. We worked up a sweat and as we walked around people from the group pulled out pieces of paper to fan the beads of sweat away.
Then, along with other exchange students, I went to register at the Office of Academic Links. I filled in multiple forms and questionnaires regarding contact details, emergency contact details and my expectations about the study abroad experience. I also filled out a form with my credit/bank card details to pay a maintenance deposit to the permanent accommodation hostel I would soon be staying at. It was all worth it in the end, since I received a free official CUHK exchange t-shirt and a student ID card!!
For my first meal in Hong Kong I ate lunch at SH.HO college canteen on campus with other exchange students. It cost around 24HKD. Afterwards, with my new found friends I hopped on the free university bus to the mini-supermarket called Park and Shop. It was surprisingly bigger on the inside and there is a range of things to buy. I bought apples, water, sprite and some bread; which, looking back, was definitely a strange combination.
In the evening, a group of exchange students and local Hong Kong students met at the conveniently named University Station, which is located just outside campus. We went for dinner in Sha Tin at a traditional Chinese restaurant in New Town Plaza. The train fare was 5 HKD (40p) one way, which I think is a relatively cheap train fare. I didn’t have a student octopus card at that time, but it is beneficial to invest in one as soon as you can, because it provides a 50% travel cost discount for trains. At dinner I met exchange students from: Italy, USA, Venezuela, France and Sweden. Did I mention that the food was delicious? I ate a Chinese noodle dish and hot jasmine tea was provided with the meal. After dinner, we all went on a late-night Ikea trip. The orientation hostel had kindly provided a pillow, pillow case, bed cover, towel and a couple of hangers, so I didn’t buy anything from Ikea.
By the time I got back to the orientation hostel I was incredibly exhausted. To conclude the fast-paced day, I phoned my parents to let them know that I was alive and we chatted about my fun first day in Hong Kong!