Accommodation Awards: Victor

Greetings students! Thank you for joining me today. I am your host, Victor, that Engineering student from down under. You are all cordially invited to this year’s Auckland Abroad Accommodation Awards, right here in the busy, bustling, and breathtaking city of Hong Kong. So, prepare some Hong Kong-styled milk tea, get comfy in your favourite chair, and let’s get started.

“The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.”
– Italo Calvino

 “…what do you mean we only have one nominee?”

“Well, you only did live in one hall, so isn’t that…”

“Yeah I know that, but it’s going to look pretty…oh shh shh we are live!”

Hey sorry about that folks! We had some technical issues but it’s all fixed now. So without further delays let’s present our grand winner tonight, the humble abode where yours truly resides, the one and only:

LEE HYSAN HALL

The hall, towering before you.

Modest, yet respectable. Welcome to my hall! Location-wise it’s just a short bus-trip to HKU, and from listening to the testimonials of some local students who have to take an hour or even longer to get there, I think I should feel quite lucky (they do give priority for hall housing to incoming exchange students). As for travelling around the city from here, that shouldn’t be a problem as the Hong Kong subways are world class and they have a station right at the university, so your destination is just a train-hop away.

Now let’s just step to the left a little and see what’s around the corner…

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Just your friendly neighborhood 7/11
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The sneaky restaurant tucked away at the basement

The dynamic duo, 7-11 plus the student canteen, literally at the hall’s feet. This definitely scores well in my book. These have become an inseparable part of the hall life now that I’ve come to realize how much I depend on them. Class is starting in 40 minutes and you just woke up? Get that sandwich plus coffee deal from 7-11 on the run. Trudging your heavy steps back after a 4-hour lecture block? Treat yourself with a $5 (yup, that’s NZD) steaming plate of curry chicken or BBQ pork rice. I even had the pleasure of casually strolling down to refill my fresh milk supply for my cereal when it ran out. That’s right, affordable and accessible food and drink is a life-saver for a student living abroad, and probably for anyone else in general, too!

The Floor

Now we continue the grand tour inside. Arriving at the 10th floor, you will see that the space is compact and the hallways narrow. Coming from the context of endlessly stretching farmlands and fields of New Zealand, this might take some adjusting to. After all, this is Hong Kong, which is so much more densely populated than Auckland, and people will have to be packed just a little closer together. But that is not stopping my hallmates from decorating the place in high spirits! They will gladly tell you that a home is what you make it.

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The two lifts for the hall
The colourful legacies of my hallmates
The colourful legacies of my hallmates

 

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The (enclosing) hallway

The Common Room

Here we step into the place where your path collides with your hallmates, the kitchen and the dining/gathering/partying area all in one. To be expected, the place is quite messy and crammed to the maximum with everyone’s stuff here and there, which could be a little inconvenient. It’s honestly not that bad though, you do get used to it after a while, and with a bit of respect and consideration everyone gets by just fine. As a bonus, you can often meet and chat with others here when they are not busy dwelling in their natural habitat, their room…

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Looks like people had fun last night
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The family of appliances
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Where did I put my milk?!

The Laundry

Hey, nobody likes to do it, but it’s gotta be done. Living here by yourself, your dirty clothes pile up, and eventually you need to wash them. The hall provides laundry services on the top floor with several washers and dryers, with their service requiring a reasonable small fee. There is a balcony in which your clothes can be hanged to dry, but after several failed attempts due to the seemingly permanent cloudy and dank weather that is in Hong Kong, I have found it less trouble to just simply throw it into the dryer to get it done with.

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The laundry room
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Great balcony, not-so-great weather

The Room

I’m going to be a bit cheeky here and reuse the photo for my room from my last blog entry, because it’s honestly the best shot of the room I have (and now it’s…slightly less suitable for photography). My points from last time still stands: the room is fairly small, but it provides everything a room should. It’s got sufficient storage space for all your stuff, a great view, and above all a trusty old bed you can come back to every night. The prophecy has come true: my room is a big ol’ caveman’s mess, and thus it is now my home.

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The Wrap-up

Give a big round of applause for Lee Hysan Hall, everyone! The well-deserving recipient of the “Place to call home” award! It may be a bit cramped, shabby, and a few holes here and there, but it’s everything you need and more to make your overseas stay at Hong Kong a cozy and welcoming one. Before long, I think I will start to miss this place, for it has, without a doubt, become a second home for me.

That’s all we have in store for you folks today. Stay tuned next time for more wonders and woes of Hong Kong, and good luck with all your studies back home!

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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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What I’m Packing: Victor

Hello fellow students! Victor here. Hope the university life is treating you well as it has for me (albeit it being a little bit stressful). Just enjoying the last bit of the soothing and somewhat cool summer here before I’m off to Hong Kong to begin my six-months exchange at the University of Hong Kong, where I will be spending a semester studying Software Engineering and Computer Science courses. This post shall mark the beginning of my odyssey into the unknown where I attempt to make sense of all things weird and wonderful in a faraway land.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius

That includes packing your things with all your heart, as you can never be too prepared for a journey or pack too many things, only things that you forget and leave behind (it’s probably a good idea not to actually pack too many things).
Let’s start from the top, shall we?
  • Guitar and sheet music – Probably not common for many people to bring along, but I wouldn’t leave anywhere without my trusty old six-stringed friend. I imagine they will keep me great company for the inevitable homesick nights I spend abroad.
  • Valuables – This includes the i-family of phones and pads, as well as headphones. Don’t forget about the laptop, I am doing software after all! Oh and the wallet, it’s actually amazing how often I leave this behind…
  • Assorted books – I’m a guy that likes reading, so you probably wouldn’t catch me without them anywhere. In this case I got myself the Lord of the Rings trilogy I’ve been meaning to start for a while now, as well as this guidebook for discovering the hidden gems of Hong Kong which I will sure be using when I get myself some free time.
  • Accessories – Now, I’m not a very fashionable person, but I do still have my share of vanity. In this category are my watch, sunglasses, cap and the pair of Skechers I’ve been wearing daily which is probably not going to change. Finally, you can’t go on exchange without sporting some local pride, so I also scored myself some sweet UoA shirts.
  • Sports gear – It’s important to stay active and fit, even when abroad. This is why I made sure to bring along my badminton gear to help me avoid gluing my bottom to a chair all day (as I so often would). Add in a small bottle of deodorant and we have a fitness starter-pack right here.
  • Backpack – Last but certainly not least, here is my faithful companion, Mr. Backpack. He may look a bit tattered and shabby here, but he’s as reliable as they come. Four years and still going strong!
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That’s about all I have for now. I will be travelling soon so wish me a safe journey, and I will keep you posted in my next post when I officially begin exchange in Hong Kong in January next year. See you soon!
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