Chinese University of Hong Kong, China
UNCG offers exchange opportunities throughout much of the developed world, and when I was considering possible destinations, Hong Kong kept returning to the top of my list. There are numerous factors which might affect your choice of exchange destinations, and I would like to share some of my considerations with you.
Why Asia? It’s no secret that Asia is experiencing economic growth at previously unprecedented levels, fueled largely by foreign direct investment from developed nations. When the research and development company I worked for decided to relocate to Singapore, the impact of off shoring became a reality for me. I spent a year in Singapore and upon returning to the US, I knew I had to make a decision. I could either jump on the “They’re taking our jobs!” band wagon, or I could dedicate a few years of my life trying to understand who “they” are, and how I can take advantage of their emerging economies.
Why Hong Kong? Located on the southern coast of China, Hong Kong is perfectly situated to act as a central hub for business and travel in Asia. For most of the industrial revolution and until the last decade, Hong Kong existed as a British colony. Although Hong Kong is now part of the Peoples Republic of China, it is treated as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) which affords it certain privileges not found in Mainland China, such as freedom of press (blog with impunity!). I chose Hong Kong because it is an exciting and dynamic city, rich in diversity and perfectly positioned for affordable travel throughout south-east Asia. Because most of the population speaks English and is well educated, it is the perfect place to gain an appreciation of Chinese tradition without becoming overwhelmed by culture shock.
The Cost Benefit:Shopping, dining and entertainment prices in Hong Kong are comparable to those of any major US city; however, take a 20 minute train ride north and all of that changes. Nowhere do you get more value per dollar than Mainland China. Imagine enjoying a 5 course meal in a proper restaurant for less than $2. Travel was a huge part of my agenda, and I loved being in an area where I could travel to so many amazing countries on a limited student budget.
Where should you stay? The Chinese University of Hong Kong offers many housing options to exchange students. Where you chose to stay will definitely impact your experience in Hong Kong. I stayed in International House II, a 10 story student dorm designed for exchange students. Here, each floor is designed like a large apartment, and every floor has a mixture of 1/3 Local Students, 1/3 Mainland Students and 1/3 Students from other countries. When you register for your room, you can choose the preferred nationality of your roommates. Students wishing to maximize their exposure to local culture might prefer taking some of the other housing options, where you will stay with predominantly local students. If your goal, like mine, is to gain exposure to people from a variety of cultural back grounds, then the International House is definitely for you. The friendships you forge here will likely present opportunities for travel beyond the scope of your exchange studies. After my last semester ended, I spent the summer backpacking around Europe, visiting friends I made at CUHK.
My biggest tip: Get involved in campus activities, keep an open mind, get out and explore the world, try the local foods and customs. Do this and you will have a remarkable, life changing experience; I know I did.