I thought I’d take some time now to reflect on the last week, since I moved into my student flat. Firstly I was really worried about meeting my room-mate as how well you get on is going to significantly impact how well you enjoy the year. Having never shared a room before, I was apprehensive about the potential awkwardness of being cooped in the same space as someone you had never met before. I was expecting the nature of initial communications to be forced due to the pressure to get on.
Thankfully my room-mate is a lovely person. Not only is she very easy to get on with (there hasn’t been any of the anticipated awkwardness) but I have been lucky to be placed with someone who wants to get similar things out of her time in Hong Kong as me. The same goes for the rest of my flatmates and the girls we have come to socialise with in the neighbouring flat. I have been fortunate enough to find myself amongst a group of people who are all up for going on nights out together, trips sight seeing and who it is enjoyable to just chill with in between all the hectic chaos that has so far embodied our first week living at HKU.
The accommodation itself is basic but functional and very good for the extremely low price that we are paying for it. It has been a great advantage, in terms of socialising, having a living room which is something you do not get in halls accommodation. The two student flats on my floor, each containing six girls, consists entirely of international students. I had wished to living in Halls among the local Cantonese students but I suppose this arrangement has made adjusting a much easier process. I have yet to experience much of a culture shock, living with a mix of international students. Experiencing a new city with others in the same position as you, means that you don’t experience the feelings of isolation that can occur from moving somewhere so different from home. Whether we are from Germany, Italy, Australia or England, we all have being exchange students in common.
On the other hand, the downside of these living arrangements is that I have yet to have any opportunity to socialise with any local students . Though, I hear that even living in halls (where foreign students are in the minority) this has also been the case. During orientation week there are different activities for local and exchange students, and whilst our schedule is very laid back, they are busy seemingly all day and night, participating in compulsory activities designed to install the right values and halls spirit among them. For all the universities’ talk on exchanging cultural dialogue, fostering international and inter-cultural understanding etc, there has been nothing to facilitate integration between the exchange and local students. Obviously you can’t just expect to be welcomed into a culture without making an effort to put yourself out there, however it is made difficult when we are told to engage in separate activities. The other night a friend came round to our flat with his room-mate, as he had been told by the students in his hall that due to the bonding activities planned for that evening, they (as exchange students) had to either stay in their room all evening or leave the building. I don’t want to make the Cantonese students sound unwelcoming and hostile, as that is far from the case (many volunteer to be helpers to show us around and answer any concerns we may have). It is just that until the orientation period is over they simply do not have time for us exchange students. This is because their hall inductions matter in a way that can be hard to understand coming from the UK. If they don’t take part in the activities, learn the chants and prove themselves to uphold their particular halls values, we were told they are basically kicked out. Once this induction period is over and our courses begin, along with the clubs and society activities it should hopefully not be too difficult to integrate and make local friends so long as we put ourselves forwards. This I am looking forward to.
The whiteboard in our living room, with a list of things we want so see and do in Hong Kong on it and the rules of ring of fire.
Testing the limits that night of how many people we can have over and fit in our living room (when the air-con isn’t working)