Time’s up but not yet

Today I had my last final exam. Yup, my school work here is now done. It’s hard to see clearly how this period of time has affected me, it went so fast! Still, at this point I can already say that I’ve gained great experience both culturally and professionally.

Looking back

I got to know my initial class timetable only few days before the beginning of semester. I noticed that I was put into courses that were different to my original preferences. There were some third year subjects that were interesting so I thought it was okay. There is an add/drop period during the first weeks when students can make changes to their subject selections. That’s when I selected a course of Chinese.

Occupational therapy studies here are very different. During my first weeks I was a bit shocked. Lecture rooms are completely full of students, a hundred students there at the same time. Me and my exchange-peer from JAMK, Sara, just sitting there in the middle made us feel different to everyone else. We are the only OT exchange students here.

In Finland our schedule is different every week but here there was usually one lecture and one tutorial/practical session a week per subject. So at least the timetable was clear from the beginning. I came to study theory and that’s what I got! Some teachers are called professors here and they are known clinicians who all have a lot of experience with different kinds of patients. Some of them have long careers behind and numerous stories to share. I’ve found it very inspiring but at the same time I’ve realized how inexperienced I am. I was very reserved at first but I soon noticed that the teaching staff is very laid back and helpful!

A basic Powerpoint presentation in a lecture has at least one hundred slides. Sometimes our teachers didn’t have enough time to go through them all. The pace is crazy at times and that information overload has sometimes felt like it’s too much to take. It’s a matter of adaptation though. One of the greatest things I’ve learned to be better at in here is to forgive myself if I’m not able do something. And to allow myself more time and space.

And the professional vocabulary… One of my subjects requires some detailed knowledge about anatomy so for that I had to revise even some basic things. These students are used to studying in English and know correct professional terms. Then there’s me: “You use this device to help you with this stuff.” 😀

After presentations, time is allowed for some challenging Q&A done by both teachers and other students. Here in PolyU I can see that having a skill to justify your ideas and present yourself well are highlighted in education. Sometimes it just goes too far when students don’t want to admit that they are wrong. They may keep on trying to explain what they have done even if it doesn’t make sense anymore. Maybe people don’t like to admit their weaknesses here so easily.

The atmosphere is more competitive than it is in JAMK. Grades have more meaning. I’ve heard that the better GPA a student has, the better chances they have when looking for a job after graduation. I actually understand it. If a class has one hundred students in total you have to put more effort to stand out. Here I can see more grading and there are many exams: both practical tests and written exams. Final exams are huge and they are really testing all the knowledge you’ve gathered during the semester.

I’m grateful that my studies have challenged me to think. I know I’ve grown a lot. One time I was having lunch with Sara. We were joking around and discussing that it’s a typical cliché that people go to Asia to search for themself doing a spiritual journey in a different culture. But in a way for us it has actually been like that. 😀 Going to a park at midnight listening to music just to have a time-out. Being inspired by Kung Fu. Reading my Chinese textbook at the sea. There have been times when I’ve had to ask myself simple questions like what am I really good at, what is the meaning of this and that… Some very deep processes of thinking going on inside my head. I think it is a good sign to be able to question things and to be critical. Living my daily life in another culture has made me do that frequently.

One of the best ways to get to know new culture and reasons behind the things you see is getting to know local people. I’m happy to have been welcomed by PolyU with warmth and friendliness. My classmates have taken me out to eat and helped me out. PolyU has a buddy program and arranges every exchange student to have a “buddy”, a local student. Thanks Mika for taking me to fun places and giving advice!

I think one semester in Hong Kong has been enough, just the right amount of time for me. I’m really looking forward to going back to Finland but it’s still very distant. I’m doing more travelling in Asia before going back. Super excited about things to come!

Some tips for you, if you’re planning an exchange in Hong Kong:

1. Try the food!
-I know I haven’t written about food a lot in my posts. For trying new foods, HK is the place to be. This street food culture gives plenty of options and positive surprises.

2. Discover Hong Kong and travel around Asia!
-Hong Kong is a diverse place. Staying for such a long time allows you to take your time to explore. I’m drowning in pictures and videos I have taken here!
-Travel to other countries once you already came so far. Hong Kong has a great location for any Asia travels – and cheap flights (except during public holidays like Chinese New Year)!

3. Get to know local people, get to know other exchange students
-This will happen without the slightest effort but it is still worth reminding.
-Having friends from different parts of the world really is precious. It gives you knowledge and new perspective… And of course you want to go out together to see some nightlife (Lan Kwai Fong)!

4. Don’t stress about school
-You’re an exchange student and you are understood even if you feel lost. Feel free to ask questions and be yourself.

5. Cherish your interests and let them lead you!
-Whatever it is that you like to do, I bet that there are people with similar interests in PolyU or at least in Hong Kong. For example if you like to do some sports, there is a great possibility that PolyU has a team. Look around you in the campus area. There are posters about activities everywhere!

City of opportunities“, as this city is described in the previous post. Take a chance and go after your dreams, you won’t regret it, bla bla… That sounds so worn out but hey, that’s how it is. Just telling you the truth!