Erfahrungsberichte

zur Übersicht

Wer

susanna.tran[at]uzh.ch

Typus/Richtung

Austausch - OUT

Jahr

12/13 WS

Universität

CN-
Hong Kong - Chinese University of Hong Kong

Studienfach

Volkswirtschaftslehre (3020)

Gesamteindruck

I have enjoyed my exchange semester at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to the fullest and can say that it has been my best semester so far.

I warmly recommend the exchange semester at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to all students independent of their major. However, I believe that economics students can benefit from the exchange semester in particular because CUHK offers courses which are either not available (yet) or whose topics are only partly covered in other courses at UZH. In personally was able to attend courses on the Chinese economy, China's economic development in the recent years as well as other courses that offer an insight into cultural aspects of either China or Hong Kong. Furthermore, CUHK offers Chinese language courses in both Mandarin and Cantonese for beginners as well as for more advanced speakers.

Furthermore, Hong Kong is known for a place where East meets West, which I totally agree with. It is fascinating to observe how Hong Kong people and Western values go hand in hand in some aspects but can be distinctly separated in other terms. One the one hand, the Hong Kong people still hold on to traditional Chinese values and customs. On the other hand, one can clearly perceive Western influences and opinions in the daily life in Hong Kong.

Going on exchange abroad inevitably requires some paperwork, which might seem quite troublesome at the beginning. However, if one is highly motivated to spend a semester abroad and eager to experience student life in a different cultural environment, the effort is absolutely worth it. 

Vorbereitung

Firstly, for the application at the home university UZH the motivation letter is very crucial. Even if the grades so far are not outstanding or hardly above average, I believe that stating one's motivation plays an equally important role along with the grades. 

Secondly, the application process might seem a bit troublesome as one must first be nominated from the home university before being admitted at the host university, which takes some time. However, I have heard that once nominated at the home university the admittance at the guest university is as good as granted. 

The student visa is only valid for the study period (starting from early September until mid January of the following year for the autumn fall). It is a multiple-entry visa for Hong Kong only. Students who wish to travel to mainland China need to apply for a visa. For Shenzhen, however, a visa (valid for Shenzhen only!) can be directly purchased at the border when leaving Hong Kong and entering mainland China.

Shortly after the admission, the CUHK IASP sends newsletters with useful information and updates for all the exchange students. They also open a facebook group for coming exchange semester. All the exchange students are invited to join. We were roughly 500! It was a nice first step to get to know each other and to make some friends already prior to the arrival. It is also a nice way to meet up with other exchange students who arrive at approximately the same day and time to share a taxi, so called 'taxi buddies'.

Furthermore, I recommend applying for the buddy programme. I had the great honor to be assigned a local student who spent her last semester in Switzerland, Fribourg. She was the best buddy that an exchange student could ever imagine. We talked a lot, went out for dinner off-campus and even went on a trip together after the semester ended. 

For some unknown reasons, it is not possible to get to know the room mate in advance. But normally, exchange students share a room with either one or two other students, mostly local students. This gives another opportunity for better integration among Hong Kong students.

Ankunft

As mentioned before, I joined a small group of taxi buddies who arrived at around the same time as I did. They were my first friends that I made during the my exchange semester in Hong Kong. We were all a bit jet-lagged but still excited and curious how our semester in Hong Kong is going to be. 

After arriving at the CUHK, we first had to register and check-in to our orientation hostels nearby. We then joined the campus tour and were pretty much free to explore the whereabouts on our own. The schedule for the orientation week is quite loose. In my opinion, it could have been a bit more tight with more events and activities to bring the exchange students together and get to know each other better. The first evening, pretty much all the exchange students that had arrived on that day gathered to go to Mr. Wong's place for dinner. Apparently, it was part of the tradition among new exchange students to go to Mr. Wong's restaurant in great numbers to share dinner together. We were roughly about 100 young people, happily talking, patiently waiting and cheerfully drinking with each other. It was a pleasant evening and a nice way to get to know more people. 

I personally enjoyed the welcoming dinner towards the end of our orientation week most. It was a well organized and fancy dinner with typically local dishes. Most people were dressed formally, the atmosphere was cheerful and there was also a short introduction to the Cantonese language.

Later on, I was told by my roommate that while the exchange students had the orientation before the semester really started, all the freshmen joined so called 'O-camps' (O for orientation). They shout and do 'dan-beats' (dance beats). It was very impressive and I could feel the spirit and motivation among the young freshmen. I wish we exchange students could have joined, too. During the semester one will get used to hearing and seeing the dan-beats all over the campus.

Zimmersuche
Wohnen

Living on campus during the exchange term at CUHK was a great and unique experience to me. I did not have any hostel preference and was randomly assigned to United College, Bethlehem Hall. I shared my room with a local freshman. Most local students stay at the student hostel during the week and go home during the weekends. However, most of them stay up very late and come back to the student hostel fairly late. They hardly sleep and are very active. So, do not be surprised when you hear students talking and giggling outside in the middle of the night, especially long after midnight.

In order to use the AC in the room and the washing machine, one must first load their student link card (CUHK student ID card) with 'points'. (1 point = 1 HK$, ask a local student or your room mate to transfer the money on your card as a local bank account is needed). Before we arrived at CUHK we were told that we need to bring our own bedding set but when I arrived at my hostel, I was a bit surprised when there was no pillow. So, first thing to do was to go shopping in IKEA (in Shatin). I also recommend buying cooking utensils at IKEA. The kitchen in the Bethlehem Hall was equipped with induction cooker so better make sure to buy compatible pans and pots. If you bought a wrong one (you will recognize latest when your pan/pot does not heat up on the when on the stove) you can easily bring it back, reimburse it and buy another one at IKEA. 

Laundry can be done on the top level/roof. Washing requires four points and takes about 30 minutes. Before using the washing machine one must reserve the machine beforehand by filling out the desired washing time. During the autumn semester, the weather is nice and warm enough to hang up the wet clothes outside for drying. Only once or twice when it was raining or too cold and foggy I had to use the tumbler. I also highly recommend buying clippers as it can get pretty windy now and then. 

Here is a short overview over the different student hostels.

- Chung Chi College: closest to the MTR station 'University', about 5 min walk

- New Asia College: located on the hill but can be easily accessed via shortcut (elevator)

- United College: next to New Asia College and known for its convenient location as it is close to the university library and supermarket

 - Shaw College: furthest away but very nice view, 

-  Morningside & S.H. Ho Colleges: during the orientation week most of the exchange students lived near here, 

 - I-House: behind United College, mostly exchange students lived there, 

Universität

Overall, I would claim that CUHK and UZH are quite similar.

The course booking was also online (CUSIS) and was comparable to the module booking system of UZH. Some courses provide information and materials online on a separate homepage called 'blackboard', which reminded me of olat. Also, making copies will be charged from the student account (value can be added online).

Most courses that I booked consisted of lectures held by a professor. Some offered some tutorials that were mostly optional. If one had already visited English courses back at CUHK, there should be no problem attending the courses at CUHK. Some professors might have accents but it hardly impaired the understanding or the quality of the courses. 

I really recommend attending Chinese courses either Putonghua (Mandarin) or Cantonese, although the points cannot be transferred to ECTS as only language courses from UZH/ETH give ECTS. Yet, I took two Putonghua lessons and really enjoyed studying Chinese. CUHK offers courses for beginners as well as advanced speakers. However, it is easier and more efficient to go to the 'placement test' once you have arrived at CUHK. There you can talk to the teachers directly and even have a look at their teaching books before signing up for the appropriate level.

When talking about examination, I would say the biggest difference was the mid-term exams. Out of the six courses that I had booked, I had mid-terms in four of them. In my opinion, it is better because it already puts some pressure at the middle of the term and prevents students from cramming at the end of the semester. It also gives a first insight into the style of the written exams. And in the end, it is more balanced in terms of assessment. If one did not perform so well at the mid-term, there is still the final exam at the end of the semester to make up for it. Or if one did very well at the mid-term, there is less pressure for the final exam. 

What was very new to me was a part of the assessment of the Chinese language courses. Most of them have a lab-session in a computer room where students need to fill out online quizzes (listening comprehension, gap filling) or record their answers to questions. It was a bit unusual at the beginning but I got used to speaking to the computer to record my answer after a while.

Leben/Freizeit

In my opinion, living on campus of CUHK was never boring. There was always something going on. Depending on which college and which student hostel one is assigned to, there are different kind of events and activities offered. Especially the residence association are highly motivated to address and gather many student hostel residents to participate in different sport events, food fairs and other (socializing) group activities. But it is also possible to organize events and parties on your own on campus. We often met up in the kitchen of one of the student hostels and cooked together, for instance. Sometimes, we booked a room in the multimedia library (United College) to organize movie nights. 

Nevertheless, no matter how nice the facilities and how big the campus of CUHK are, it is normal to go off-campus now and then to distract oneself and become a tourist again. From the University station it takes about 30 minutes by MTR (local metro) to go downtown (Shatin, Mongkok or Central). Eating out was always nice in Hong Kong as there are so many restaurants of different cuisines and price ranges. 

In addition, travelling around Asia from Hong Kong is quite convenient and fairly cheap (I recommend Air Asia and Peach for flights to Japan, Osaka).