Emily: Travel

Hey everyone! Emily here checking in! What a crazy last 7 months it has been…

I’m not even really sure where to start, but I thought I would try outline some of the wild travel adventures I’ve had for you all.

Simply being in Europe opens you up to a world of travel. You can catch a flight to Barcelona for 19 euros! On exchange I was lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. For the past 2 months I have had time off uni to go and visit these new friends in their hometowns, as well as a bunch of other places.

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In the past 8 weeks I’ve travelled to Ibiza, where I bumped into Ellie Goulding at an Amnesia opening party, Barcelona to marvel at Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces, Manchester to visit a friend and party at Parklife Festival, Nice for some French Riviera exploring and croissant consuming, Frankfurt to stay with my pal to discover castles older than New Zealand, Denmark for 8 days of freedom at Roskilde Festival, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London to catch up with some mates and attend Wireless Festival, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento to indulge in Italian culture and a multitude of pizza, Croatia for Ultra Europe Festival, Hvar island and finally Sutivan, a town on the coast of the island of Brač where I am currently writing this blog post.

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It has been an extremely full on 2 months with A LOT of stories to tell when I return to NZ. I have had the time of my life these past 7 months and could not recommend an exchange program enough to anyone who is interested! Lund, Sweden was a great university where I met so many exchange students from all over as well as Swedish people, as it is a popular destination for other exchange students. Lund is so close to Copenhagen that it enabled me to fly to a new city every few weekends thanks to cheap flights! It’s a European hub for travel with lots of budget airlines flying through there. Sweden was the best choice for me and I loved every second of it. I got a taste of everything in Sweden, from extreme snow storms in January winter time to sunny celebrations in the park for Valborg (a spring event). Valborg is a tradition where all the students of Lund university head to the main park for the day and enjoy music and drinks in the sunshine to welcome in the spring. It is a huge event consisting of about 30,000 students! It was one of the best weekends in Lund as we were able to hang out with all of our friends in one place as well as meeting a wave of new people!

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I will miss all the special people I met on my exchange so, so much. Luckily, the internet makes them feel a little less far away. I will be sure to go back for another visit once I have saved a few more pennies in my bank account! Coming from New Zealand is a huge honour when you are overseas, as most people have such positive connotations with our country and how beautiful it is and always express their desires to go there. I have already offered to host anyone who is interested in visiting and I have some friends coming over from Germany and Scotland during the summer to visit. I have definitely caught the travel bug after these 7 months away and I am sad it is all coming to an end, but I know I will be back in the near future!

As one of my Scottish friends told me, “you may be poor in money, but you will be rich in experiences.” – Kirsten McIntosh.

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John: First Impressions

My first experience with Singapore – a super liveable place filled with cultural gems!

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Welcome to Singapore!

Despite being smaller than Auckland in size, Singapore has a population larger than the entire New Zealand population! That is 5.6 million people living in Singapore versus 4.7 million in New Zealand.

Choosing Singapore to be my exchange destination has been one of my best decisions so far. It offers exposure to the busy city life that we do not get in Auckland. Also, Singapore has a diverse range of cultures as it is home to multiple ethnic groups. Because of its multicultural diversity, there is an endless option of food to choose from, and they are quite affordable too. If you like shopping, Singapore is the place for you because it is home to massive malls. Getting around the country is convenient because of its reliable public transportation. Other than that, the weather in Singapore is consistent with warm days or rainy days. Lastly, communicating with the locals is not an issue as almost all Singaporeans speak English.

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Window views are always worth it

Journey to Singapore

Singapore is about 11 hours by flight away from Auckland. That 11 hours is needed to travel the 8,400km between these two cities. Multiple airlines offer regular direct flights to Singapore including Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, and Jetstar. These return flights could cost you from NZ$500 (if you book it early) to NZ$1,500 for the humble economy class. If you have some extra cash, you can opt for the first class which will set you back around NZ$3,000.

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Singapore’s airport has been ranked top in the world multiple times

Best airport in the world

If you are flying to Singapore, you will arrive at the world’s best airport (according to Skytrax). At Singapore’s Changi International airport, you will find yourself admiring its design made with the best of both modern architecture and nature.  The airport offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment outlets – including spas, cinemas and even Singapore’s tallest slide! Prices at the airport are reasonable, unlike typical ‘airport prices.’ It is strategically located near to the city and is accessible by train, bus, and other public transportation. Because of its many facilities and convenient location, locals even go to the airport to hang out and shop.

Unfortunately, I was too tired to enjoy the facilities and wanted to check in to my university accommodation as soon as possible. I was glad that the immigration lines were quick to move and the baggage retrieval is only a few minutes away from the taxi stands.

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The taxi ride from the airport

You do not need to own a car in Singapore

My taxi ride from the airport to my accommodation at Tanjong Hall, Nanyang Technological University was about $35. However, do note that prices will be around 25% higher if you take it during peak hours (Peak hour table: https://goo.gl/aVodr). You can opt to pay either by cash or credit card. Taxis in Singapore are metered. You could also opt for Uber or Grab. Grab is something like Uber but is more popular in Asia. These might be cheaper options, but pricing also varies according to the demand. At the airport, you can utilise the complimentary Wi-Fi to book a ride with these apps.

 

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Tanjong Pagar aka Singapore’s business district’s subway station

Alternatively, you can take the bus or train, but I do not recommend it if you have a lot of luggage. It might be crowded if you arrive during rush hour.

However, if you do not have luggage, travelling by Singapore’s subway and bus system is both affordable and convenient. Singapore’s train system is one of the top ten best subway systems in the world according to ‘The Vacation Times’. The subway stations at Singapore have restaurants and shops inside them, so you can even dine and shop at the subway. Some stations even have grocery stores.

In terms of payment, both subway and bus system encourage EZLink payments which basically is Singapore’s ATHop card. Paying by EZLink is also cheaper than paying by cash for some reason. You can buy an EZLink card from 7-Elevens (a mini mart chain usually open for 24 hours) or use your university identification card as an EZLink card.

I found the best map to navigate around Singapore is ‘Citymapper’ which tells you which stop to get off, trip time and trip cost. At the time of writing this post, it is available for iPhones and Android phones.

 

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The Hive – designed to look like Dim Sum baskets/boxes

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Upon arrival at NTU, I was astonished by the unique architecture. For instance, there is a building called ‘The Hive’ designed to look like Dim Sum baskets/boxes.

In comparison to Auckland University, NTU feels much larger. Getting around by foot is possible, but sometimes it might take around 30 minutes just to get from one building to another. However, NTU offers free shuttle bus service which operates all week around the campus.

For the first few days, I find myself always lost around the massive campus. But as I familiarised myself with the campus, getting around NTU is pretty easy.

NTU has around 24 halls for student accommodation. There are options for shared double bed rooms or single rooms which I am staying in right now.  The toilets are mostly communal, and so are the pantries.

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1,200 exchange students occupy one of NTU’s larger lecture halls during our orientation

 Orientation

There are 1,200 exchange students from 40 different countries enrolled in NTU itself!  NTU encourages exchange programs as it sends about 6,000 of its students on exchange abroad every year.

There are two orientations organised for exchange students. One is for all exchange students, and the other is specific to my business faculty. Both orientation programmes are mostly about an introduction to the university’s facilities and administrative matters.

Making friends during orientation is entirely up to you. There aren’t any ice breaking activities organised, but I feel almost everyone is open to being engaged in a conversation.

NTU offers exchange students membership in the NTU Gem Club (Global Education and Mobility) which is a club exclusive to exchange students. They organise trips and have a ‘buddy pairing’ system similar to the one from AUSA at Auckland University which pairs you with a local so they can help you around town.

‘Starwars’ is what they call their course registration period after their ‘STARS course planner system’ because enrolling in courses is quite competitive. However, exchange students are given somewhat of a priority because some courses are pre-allocated before our arrival.

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NTU Fest 2017 – it’s carnival style fun

Welcome week

The first week of classes in NTU is also the ‘welcome week’. During the first two days of this week, there will be club expo. There are a wide variety of clubs to join in NTU and many interesting ones such as the beer brewing club, Chinese Medicine club, and the Taxation club.

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Edgar – NTU’s interactive robot

On the Saturday of the welcome week, NTU celebrates its new semester with the ‘NTU Fest’ which is a carnival open to the public. At NTU Fest, there are many games to play from such as laser tag to bottle tossing. You can even get your face painted. There is also an expo held which shows off NTU’s talents from different faculties. I had the opportunity to fly a drone using only my hand gestures. There was other cool stuff like an interactive robot and 3D printed masterpieces. The NTU Fest ended with live performances from famous artists.

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Warm and humid – that’s Singapore!

 Warm and humid at the equator

Unlike New Zealand, Singapore does not have four seasons due to its location close to the equator. There is only rain or dry seasons. The temperature in Singapore is warm and ranges from 25°C to 37°C. It is also very humid compared to Auckland. One thing I noticed is that you sweat a lot when you walk outside.

Remembering from my own soaked experience, the rain in Singapore is much denser than Auckland’s. Do not be shocked if you hear lots of thunders because it is a frequent occurrence.

 

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The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – you can even get a canoe ride in this mall

Literally, shop ‘till you drop.

Or at least, shop until your wallet is empty. The malls in Singapore are huge in comparison to the ones in Auckland. You can even do walking exercises at these malls!

Malls in Singapore are also designed to be a one-stop destination for shopping and dining. Their plan is to keep you there for as long as possible, and it always works. Most malls have a have a great variety of food ranging from affordable local food to Gordon Ramsay’s signature restaurants.

 

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Busy day at Bugis Street

You should visit one of Singapore’s famous ‘street malls’ like Bugis Street. These ‘street malls’ are similar to the night markets at Auckland but are open all week and even in the mornings. There are a wide variety of affordable goods from Singapore branded souvenirs, power banks, to sunglasses. You can also enjoy delicious Singaporean street food here such as the beautiful ice-cream bread. As competition is fierce in street malls, certain shops invite haggling but some only offer fixed prices.

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‘Yong Tau Fu’ offered at one of Singapore’s hawker centre

Cheap and Yummy Food

Singapore has a wide variety of delicious food reflective of its diverse multicultural heritage. For the same money in Auckland, food in Singapore is much better in value. For around 3 Singaporean Dollars, you can enjoy a full meal. A cup of joe would only cost around 1 Singaporean Dollar.

Expect the food here to be different because most foods are Asian style but western food is also popular.

I will be writing a detailed post about Singapore’s delicious delicacies with my recommendations soon!

The language

Almost all Singaporeans speak English. English is also a common first language here.  English is an official language together with Mandarin (Chinese), Malay, and Tamil. These official languages reflect on the three main ethnic groups: the Chinese, Malay and Indian. Most Singaporeans are mostly bilingual because learning a second language is compulsory at school.

Questions?

I am always happy to help anyone interested in going exchange to Singapore. Make sure to comment on this blog post, and I will reply whenever possible. Alternatively, you can email me at jlee575@aucklanduni.ac.nz

If you want to check out more of my pictures, please follow my Instagram account: johnleekw.

https://www.instagram.com/johnleekw/

Cheers!

Adobe Spark (2)

Here Are Our 5 Favourite Posts from Instagram

As Semester 2 rolls around, the Auckland Abroad team decided it would be a great idea to highlight some of our favourite Instagram posts from last semester. Every week, we re-post awesome photos on our Instagram from our students on exchange.

1. Into the Wild

2. Arabian Adventures

3. Spring in Scotland

4. Spanish Skies

5. Summer by the Sea

If you want to see more from our students…

During Semester 1, our students had some amazing adventures around the world. Follow our Instagram @auckland.abroad to keep up with our students on exchange. And if you’re going to be on exchange, be sure to caption your photos with #aucklandabroad and you might get re-posted!

And if you’re feeling inspired…

Check out the other posts on our blog at www.aucklandabroadblog.com to hear from our awesome student ambassadors about their amazing exchange experiences!

Follow us on Facebook to keep up with Auckland Abroad and all that we have on offer.

Check out our website for more information on the Auckland Abroad 360 Exchange programme.

And feel free to come in for a chat with an advisor during our Auckland Abroad office hours if you want to learn more about exchange! We are located on Level 4 of Kate Edger next to iSpace, and we are open from 2-4pm on Monday-Friday.

Money, Money, Money!

Going on exchange should be about having new experiences, travelling, finding your inner world explorer…but to do this, you need money. It’s what makes the world go ’round, unfortunately.

Luckily, here at Auckland Abroad, we’re here to help. We give away over $300,000 in scholarships and awards every year to our exchange students! Money shouldn’t hold you back from going on exchange – so let’s get to the point, and let you know what you’ve been waiting to hear…

1. Exchange Award

This is our main scholarship for students going on exchange, awarded to many of our students – we provide 100-120 awards per annum! Just a word of warning – this award is not available for students going to Canada, the USA, or London. If you’re going anywhere else, you may be eligible!

  • $2,500 to students going to Europe
  • $1,800 to students going to Asia/Latin America
  • $800 to students going to Australia.

There’s no need to complete a separate application for this award – you can be considered as a part of your exchange application. If applications exceed availability, scholarships will be awarded based on GPA.

2. Maori and Pacific Award

Eligible students may be able to receive $6,000 from this generous award to assist with their Auckland Abroad Exchange!

  • Eligibility will be for Maori and Pacific students and assessed by GPA if applications exceed availability.

Students will need to apply separately for this award.

3. Equity Award

Eligible students may also be able to receive $6,000 from this generous award to assist with their Auckland Abroad Exchange!

  • This award is limited to domestic students, who have one of the following criterion – the same as the Academic Potential Scholarship:
    • Have proven financial need (eligibility to StudyLink allowance).
    • Attended a lower-decile school.
    • From a refugee background.
    • Have a disability.
    • GPA will be assessed.

Students will need to apply separately for this award.

4. Prime Minister’s Scholarships

The New Zealand government is happy to fund exchanges in Latin America and Asia with the Prime Minister’s Scholarships. These scholarships are competitive and have limited availability – but there are resources available to help you with the application process.

These scholarships are extremely generous and you can read more about them here.

5. Study Abroad Scholarships (Languages & Literature)

The Faculty of Arts offers funding for students going on exchange who study certain languages (Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish). This is to enable students to immerse themselves in a country that speaks the language that they are studying.

It’s worth up to $2,000 and you can read more about it here.

6. Studylink

When you go on exchange, if you are eligible, you can take the full range of Studylink loans and allowances with you! And we’ll help you fill out the application. Oh, and you pay your normal fees to Auckland – don’t worry about pesky overseas fees for your exchange!

Basically, we’re here to help.

Check out these important links to learn more about exchange:

Also, feel free to come in during our Auckland Abroad office hours and have a chat about how you can add the world to your degree. We’re open from 2-4pm on Monday-Friday, and are located on the 4th floor of the Kate Edger Student Commons, next to iSpace!

My O-Week Experience: Courtney

Greetings from London!!

After 30+ hours travelling straight from Auckland, I arrived in the UK on a very dark, foggy afternoon in London. That’s something that was not mentioned to me – due to the UK’s high latitude, it gets dark around 4pm in January! Thankfully this means longer summer nights – which I will definitely be looking forward to. I arrived about a week and a half early, and fortunately was able to stay with my cousin in Wimbledon until I moved into my residence. This gave me a good opportunity to get over my jetlag and get myself acquainted with London.

I highly recommend going early if you can, particularly if you are travelling to the UK or Europe. The jetlag is not fun, and I’d met some poor souls from Australia trying to stay awake at orientation having arrived the day prior. I explored all the classic London tourist spots in that week – even if it meant leaving early in the day, as you wouldn’t see much past 3:30pm when it started to get dark.

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This is Somerset house, which in December hosted an ice skating rink! This beautiful historic building is right next to the Strand Campus, and nice for a bit of solitude in the busy city during the right times!

My first week at King’s was rather eventful, to say the least. Monday morning, first day of orientation we were greeted with a tube strike. Not just a few lines, but the entire underground system, which millions of Londoners require to get into the city each day, as only a few thousand actually live in the city centre. As you can imagine, the streets were gridlocked with replacement buses, causing me to be an hour late to orientation (along with many others!), as I ended up with a 45-minute walk when my bus got caught up in the madness.

Orientation was rather unstructured at King’s. We had a few morning sessions, welcoming us, informing us about British Life and Culture, and the school system. It runs fairly similarly to the New Zealand system, although the grading is a little different – 40% is actually a pass here! Although unfortunately it doesn’t mean it’s easier, as the way they grade means anything over an 80% is near impossible.

I quickly learned at King’s that you would definitely need to put yourself out there to meet new people. They offered a few events in orientation week, however many were group based and often people would quickly form groups – which is quite intimidating if you’re not comfortable with meeting new people. However, it is a great way to put yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

Friday of orientation week I also got another surprise – Snow! An extremely exciting event for someone who rarely sees snow. Unfortunately, London being slightly warmer than up north, meant that the snow didn’t settle. I’ve also managed to spot a fox that lives around my residence a few times – which again is exciting for someone who’s never seen one before. I’ve found I definitely get strange looks freaking out over squirrels (which are everywhere).

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Big Ben is just a short walk from the Strand campus. I made sure to visit it during orientation week because it is scheduled to have scaffolding go up soon, as it is under repair for the next three years!

Unfortunately, my residence has yet to do anything about any activities or meeting people, which is quite different to what I’m used to, living at Carlaw Park Student Village previously. I assume much of this is to do with the fact that I started in their second semester (January), and so many residents already know each other from orientation in September.

My orientation experience is only going to be relevant to King’s, however if you have any questions about UK Universities, feel free to contact me at cyul074@aucklanduni.ac.nz, and I might be able to help with my experience so far!

I’ve recently booked trips to Scotland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the next month, so looking forward to my European adventures! Feel free to follow me on Instagram @courtney_yule to follow my adventures!

Until next time,

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My O-Week Experience: Emily

Lund, Sweden – First Impressions
37 hours after leaving my home and family in Wellington, I arrived safely in Copenhagen. It was a shock to the senses stepping outside into a chilly -10°C, but I instantly fell in love with the icy winter landscape. The next step was departing Copenhagen to reach my final destination – Lund, Sweden. Mentors greeted myself and other fellow exchange students at the airport and directed us to the train that would take us on the short 30 minute ride to Lund.

After picking up the keys to my new home for the next 6 months, I arrived at Klostergården Student House, joining the 200 other international students living under the same roof. I opted for a twin room, complete with a kitchen and bathroom. After spending a full day at IKEA I finally felt ready to settle in. The plain white walls are now plastered with a growing collection of polaroid pictures as well as fairy lights and a New Zealand themed alphabet set.

Cobblestone streets and buildings that date back to earlier than the discovery of New Zealand give Lund its historical and charming atmosphere, making it easy to feel at home here. The snow has been an unreal experience for me as I have never seen anything like it back home in NZ. The locals probably think I’m crazy because I can spend hours playing in the snow with friends, happily abandoning the warm university corridors.

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Lund University hosted many events for their numerous exchange students, including a meet and greet night, a formal welcome from the Vice Chancellor, and a crazy welcome party. During the first week came the time to sign up to one of the student nations. Lund University has 12 student nations which host all of the bars and nightclubs, as well as many other fun and cheap events such as burger nights, brunches, and balls. However, once you are part of a student nation you can attend events from any nation. The city is basically designed around the university, where students make up almost half the population. The students really do run the city. It is incredibly easy to meet like-minded people from all across the globe, and I already feel like I have made some life-long friends here.

Lund is a fantastic destination for travelling, as it is so close to Copenhagen airport where you can find direct flights to practically anywhere in Europe. I have already visited Amsterdam and have flights booked to Paris, Zurich, Berlin and more for March. I am also heading to Lapland in February, 300km beyond the arctic circle, to witness the Northern Lights, take part in husky sledding and hanging out with the reindeer. Bring on some epic snowball fights!

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My O-Week Experience: Victor

First impressions of a faraway land

Actually, “faraway” isn’t too accurate. This is because I already made the trip to Hong Kong and then to the neighboring Shenzhen about a month ago, for a vacation with the relatives living there. As such, having casually driven to O-work and already well-adjusted to the surroundings, my experience may not be the typical jet-lagged, disorientated, hypnotized, and all-around confused type that is more common for exchange students that just hopped off a plane.

“You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you.” – Nury Vittachi

Greetings everyone! It’s been some time, hasn’t it? Now all the hype, the expectations, the anxiety, and the excitement converges at last. The exchange has begun!

The Accommodation
I am staying at the Lee Hysan hall, which is around 10 minutes’ ride to the university campus. The hall shares its grounds with two other halls, the R. C. Lee Hall and the Wei Lun Hall, which forms a triangle triumvirate that faces each other head-on like a Mexican standoff.

After checking in with the front desk, I arrived at my room on the 10th floor. On first impressions, the place seemed a bit smaller than I expected for two people, with each person occupying one side of the room. There’s sufficient space to deposit all of the luggage I’ve brought (even my clunky guitar case!), but the real highlight is the absolute killer sea view from the windows. I can’t imagine how much this would cost in Auckland!

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Killer window view!

Sometimes the local students get a bit loud late into the night as you are trying to sleep. Where’s noise control when you need them? Good thing I brought a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to act as makeshift ear-muffs. Generally, they prefer to huddle in their own groups, but by just saying hi and having a chat, you find they have a lot in common with you and are all very nice people.

There is a 7-11 just at ground level to the side of the hall, but for more extensive grocery shopping I needed to take a bus to a larger store. It wasn’t that far away, but you need to brave a mountain of stairs and hills to get there, so much so that I felt like I’m back in downtown Auckland. No, it’s not fun to carry 5kg of grocery and going for a hike at the same time, but a guy’s gotta eat. I would place a walking-distance supermarket much higher on my list if I ever do this again.

Overall, it gets cozy after a while, and you do feel like coming back to a home as you spend a feel days out exploring and dragging yourself back here, exhausted. You will know you have settled in when your accommodation room gets as messy as your own room back home.

New land, new friends
My roommate’s name is Chris. He’s from Maryland all the way in US, and he also brought his guitar like me! He’s studying electrical engineering and unfortunately quite jet-lagged when I first met him. I had to tip-toe around him for several days at 8 in the night while he’s turned in already and vice-versa when he’s up and about at 4 in the morning. I forgive him. I’ve been through this plenty before.

I met some more exchange students from going to the university to sign up for orientation events. We went out for some cool days and nights out in the heart of city, often walking our feet off. But it’s all worth it, as in the midst of the streams of people and zooming cars, you discover a city truly:

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The bustling Mong Kok markets
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Overwhelming skyscrapers at night
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Together with friends at the Victoria Harbour  light show

Definitely, definitely go out and explore the city with the new people you meet! Preferably before the semester begins and all hell comes crashing down (for me as an Engineering student, anyway).

You notice early on that while English is ok to get by in Hong Kong, not everyone is as proficient as you hope, and it’s somewhat difficult to mingle with the local culture and people without any Cantonese. Hopefully, with the class I’m taking and me being Asian, I can one day successfully infiltrate a local conversation with a mouthful of fluent Cantonese.

A side note, Hong Kong’s public transportation is phenomenal! From the double-deckers that come every five minutes to the metro than spans across the entire city, Auckland needs to step up its game.

The Food
I’m a guy that likes to eat, and Hong Kong is a heck of a place to tick that need. As the cultures of the West clashes with the East, you will be sure to find many authentic cuisines of both types, as well as innovative combinations of both! From dim-sum to fried fish-balls to beef brisket noodles, be prepared to work off those extra gains while staying here!

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Just something regular at the restaurant downstairs, less than $5 NZD!
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A “Pun Choi” at orientation events

The University
We can’t forget the biggest reason I’m here right? The University of Hong Kong, lo and behold it in all its glory.

Firstly, this place’s huge! You get a workout from just walking from one side of the campus to the other. Funny story, I spent about 30 minute trying to leave the school once after classes because I forgot where the exits were, akin to a kid lost in an amusement park. I was finally able to escape with the aid of various campus maps planted here and there, but not before I caught a glimpse of a different side of the university after nightfall:

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Campus at night

Looking at that picture, you wouldn’t really be able to tell it’s a university right? Seems more like a place you go to wind down and grab a few after a hard week. Overall, a real treat and privilege to study in a place such as this.

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Of course we do!

That’s all folks!
That’s all I have to blabber about right now. I still have so much to discover and do so I guess I need to be hurrying along now, dim sums and wontons await! See you next time!

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