Living and studying in Hong Kong

Living in Hong Kong and renting or owning a house in would be relatively expensive, even more expensive than in Finland, if you wouldn’t be a student. For an average citizen the apartments are also not very big and many apartments don’t even have a proper kitchen, and that is one of the reasons (or results) that people eat more outside instead of making food by themselves, it’s just more convenient and price can be same or even less. That is very different compared to Finland where people save a lot of money by cooking by themselves. Apartments have to be small also because there is a lot of people living in a small area, and that’s why Hong Kong is building towards the sky.

Building next to my quarantine hotel

Architecture in Hong Kong is on the other hand very interesting because they have a LOT of high buildings, but on the other hand most of them look pretty similar. They have done some interesting choices in building, and especially at first it was pretty complex to follow the instructions of a navigator app because due to the differences in altitude everywhere, there is stairs, elevators and walking bridges but also dead-ends everywhere so it is pretty easy to get lost of your track or find a need to turn around. The most interesting aspect of architecture for me (because I ride BMX) was the abundance of small different structures in the streets, like this:

Me riding my bike on a nice sculpture (photo credit @oscarrr in Instagram)

Studying and learnings

Studying in PolyU’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) and Hong Kong in general was interesting and inspirational, but on the other hand I felt that the common busy rhythm of living was very visible and many students and other people too seemed very stressed. One person actually said to me: “this city sucks the life out of you”, which doesn’t sound very pleasant. I can understand why he said that, the need to work hard for your expensive rents for example. Even though, it was naturally easier to enjoy the positive sides of the city for an exchange student who doesn’t represent a permanent resident of the city. But thanks to these busy local people, there is a lot of things to experience in that place. For a Finnish person who is used to relatively peaceful rhythm of life, Hong Kong really feels very busy like big cities usually, even though due to the words of locals it is very quiet compared to earlier times, before the riots and covid. PolyU area for example is completely forbidden from outsiders nowadays.

Main entrance of PolyU

Anyways, the studying was nice but the assignments naturally can take a significant chunk of your time but that’s acceptable because that is after all (one of) the main reason(s) why you go to exchange. I decided to take only the minimum amount of classes, which meant three courses. I didn’t need more to cover my remaining JAMK courses (besides internship and thesis) and it was also enough for the student money of Kela for my three months abroad. Therefore I was able to leave a lot of time for free time activities too, and I am very happy about that.

As I mentioned, studying in Polyu was really good, but only thing that I have to mention is that sustainability and responsibility were not so centric topics there, so I have to give more points to JAMK for that. But on all the other topics it was really some top-quality stuff and all of our lecturers seemed to be some very experienced professionals. I enjoyed how we also had some very interesting practical assignments, like a development project with local restaurant chain called Pirata group for example.

Tastings from the restaurant chain we did an assignment for
Recipe testing day at SHTM

I tried to balance with all of the things that I should do and that I wanted to do in there, and after all I think I learned to manage pretty well in that and actually time management and prioritizing are one of the main learnings I achieved from the period. The other main learnings are definitely communication and language skills in general, especially English. I feel that my speaking and writing abilities in English improved, but as importantly I gained more courage to use it.

End

While writing this, I have already spent a few days back home in Finland, and it was truly a great journey but I am still very happy to be back home! When I started planning this trip, I was dreaming about travelling to some other countries nearby, but due to corona that was naturally not an option. Now when the period is over I have to say that it was actually a good thing because I had more time to really focus on one place and experience it more deeply. Even though, I still think there is an endless amount of things to see and feel, so I recommend this destination for everyone to visit for a vacation or exchange or whatever. I waited this period a lot and expected a lot from it, but as cliché it is, it was beyond expectations.

Harbour view in Lamma island
Surfing in Hong Kong island
Market street in Mong Kok
Night view from Victoria peak