Interview about the University of Hong Kong

What was your motivation to go to Hong Kong ?

To be very honest, I did not apply to go to Hong Kong. I applied for Sydney, Osaka, and Calgary. However, when the Exchange Office e-mailed me I would not be able to go to one of these places, but they had another offer, I was ecstatic. Since I never even thought of Hong Kong, I still had to do a bit of research. The city is a real metropol but with lots of nature. HKU is the #2 university in Asia, which felt like an honour to attend.

Did you have any expectations before leaving?

I tried to limit my expectations but of course still had some. I expected the great weather, a bit of a culture shock, and a good time! I also expected the course load to be very high and the grading system to be extremely tough. Luckily, I was proven wrong about this.The work ethic was still very different and people work extremely hard. However, I felt that it was quantity over quality when it came to studying. Emphasis was on how much you studied, not how effectively.


Did you find the application procedure difficult? Do you have any tips?

I think everything about the application is quite clear in Mobility Online. So my main advise is to start thinking about your exchange on time so you can easily follow all steps on Mobility. One other tip: check if your chosen university needs a score for English proficiency! If they do, you might need to do a TOEFL or IELTS test, and you have to order those on time :)

Were there any initiatives supporting Erasmus/international students throughout their stay?

The exchange office created several group chats for all exchange and/or new students. I think this was the main network for planning trips, activities, asking questions, etc. There were some older students available in the chat willing to answer any question people could think of. As an exchange student, you will also get assistance in finding university housing, so no need to worry about having a place to sleep. Though, the streets are clean and safe ;)


What did/do you think of the university?

Hong Kong consists of two parts, the bigger mainland part and the island. HKU is located on Hong Kong Island. The University has its own metrostation, so getting there is very easy - no matter where you live.

The campus is huge. Buildings are very modern, with a lot of AC’s to combat the heat. Since campus is so big it can take you up to 15 minutes to walk from class A to class B. But no worries, the views are amazing and there’s lots of green on campus, so walking around is actually very nice! There are a lot of different restaurants and cafe’s on campus where you can get cheap and delicious meals. They have western food, local food, vegetarian, coffee places, and more.

Tip: go to the second canteen and order a “Hot sizzling plate”, you will not be disappointed.

I went to HKU business school and followed courses in business and law. The lectures are 3 hours, but time seemed to fly by during those. I really enjoyed my courses and learned a lot as someone coming from IRIO. I did feel like our classes and coursework back home were a lot more challenging than at HKU. This gave me a lot of free time to explore the city, the nature, and surrounding countries!

Most of the teachers were really good at their job, had great motivational skills, and were always ready to help out. They have quite impressing resumes and love to talk about their field. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, or ask about an article they’ve written. It’ll only help you connect!

Did you like the way of teaching and studying?

I enjoyed the way of teaching. It was very interactive (mainly because people get points for participation) and a lot of group discussions or questions. As I mentioned earlier though, I did not really enjoy the way of studying. The focus on amount rather than effectivity didn’t really resonate with me. But then again, you don’t have to study like the locals if you don’t want to.

How was the workload compared to IRIO?

I think it really differed per person, I had some friends (non-IRIO) who had a lot to do during the week. I, however, found myself with A LOT of free time at hand. Compared to life in Groningen, I had a lot more time to hang out with friends, work ahead, and start my own projects. There were weeks where most of my friends were busy and I would explore the city or started researching thesis topics, master’s programmes, etc. So I think it might depend on the courses, or maybe it depends what you’re used to, I’m not sure.

Social contact

What about the people?

During orientation and in the university halls (housing) you’d meet most of the other exchanges. I also met most of my friends during parties or class. There were so many other international students, it is hard not to meet anyone.

The locals were usually busy studying or working, so most of the time you’d hang out with other internationals. I did have some local friends, but it was a lot harder for them to find “free” time and go on a day trip or something.


How did/does it go financially?

- Did you acquire a fund?

I got a Marco Polo fund, which I think a lot of Non-EU exchanges will receive. You have to hand in some documents but the process was very easy.

- Did you have to experience a difference in lifestyle compared to living in Groningen?

Most homes in Hong Kong don’t have a lot of space. So, people eat out most of the time. If you find the right places it can be very affordable to eat out 4 days a week. Sometimes it’s even cheaper than doing groceries. If you do decide you want to cook, try to stick to local foods. Western food in the supermarket is a lot more expensive than local food.You can say goodbye to cheese, it was so expensive :(

- Was it hard to find accommodation? Was it affordable?

It was actually quite easy. I found my room via the university (you’ll get a link and everything from them). The room cost me around 350 euro per month. I shared my bedroom with one other girl, my floor (including bathrooms, showers, and kitchen) with 18 girls or so. In my hall the bathrooms and kitchen were clean - but this is not everywhere.

- What about spendings on food, public transport and leisure?

People go out to eat a lot, you can have a full meal on university campus for around 5 euros. Outside it can range from 2 to 15 euros for a meal (with drink). Groceries are more expensive than in Groningen.

For public transport you will need an “octopus card” which you can top up at a 7-11 or at an MTR station. Transport is SUPER cheap! For the bus rides you don’t pay per stop like in the Netherlands, but you pay the same for one stop as you do for the 8 stops. I think most bus rides will cost you around 70 cents. Using the MTR is also great, it’s really fast, really cheap, and the trains arrive every 5 minutes.

Activities vary in costs. There are a lot of hikes and beaches in Hong Kong which are free. As a girl you can enter clubs for free, as a guy you’ll probably have to pay. Other activities can range in price from 5 to 50 euros.


Did/do you go out a lot? Where? Can you give any recommendations?

Going out on the weekends people would go to Central - LKF. This is the area with all the clubs. Personally I enjoyed going to OMA’s, Geronimo shot bar, Faye, and some other places.

On Wednesday they have something called “Wan Chai Wednesday”. After the horse races on Wednesday people will go to a bar “Carnegies” in Wan Chai. It has a bit of a European vibe compared to most of the other places. So I would definitely recommend checking it out!

Did/do you practice any sports there?

I joined the basketball team and went to the gym. The university gym is free for students, so you just need to reserve a spot. There are a lot of different sports associations, and there were also some initiatives amongst international students to do workouts or form dance groups etc.

What was/is your favourite place there?

Really tough question. I loved walking around the Kowloon promenade and in the Art Park. It’s also a really nice place to have a picnic or just sit on the grass and read a book. I also loved Deep Water Bay, it is a white sand beach with some spots in the shade. It was not as busy as a lot of other beaches and also much cleaner.

Were you able to do some sightseeing and/or travel within the country?

There are a lot of hikes and islands and I could recommend them all to be honest. Going to temples, visiting Lantau Island, going to the then thousand buddha’s monastery, and other cultural places is also a must. Hong Kong has an amazing culture and interesting history, so definitely look into it!

I had a lot of free time and made a list of things I wanted to see/do/visit - I’d recommend doing this as well! I also had time to travel during the semester with some friends. We went to the Philippines, Vietnam, and Mainland China (Beijing). The semester ends in December and the new semester in Groningen starts in February. This means you have another month to explore and travel around!

Cultural insights

What was/is your favourite local food there?

The sizzling hot places on campus will always have a spot in my heart.

What was the most surprising thing about this new culture?

All the traditions that are still in place were very interesting to me. Local students are so open about it, they really want to share certain experiences. It was a really nice surprise to be invited to a lot of cultural outings.

What is the most funny word you learned in the new language?

I don’t know how to write it, but they call sodas like Coca Cola and Fanta “fat boy water”. Which is kind of insulting, but it did make me chuckle a bit.


Something you have learned/grown with thanks to the experience?

I learned how important a work/life balance is for me. I’m not really into the fast-paced living, which is extremely present in Hong Kong.

Were there any notable things you didn’t expect?

Because of the colonial past that only ended quite recently I expected people to speak English very well. But outside of the university, most of the conversations consisted of key words in order to understand each other.

Is there something you want to tell students who will go to that place in the future? Is there something you wished someone had told you?

First, it’s something you just need to experience. Second, you do not have as much time as you might think in the beginning. I did not do everything on my list because I always expected I had more time and suddenly I had two weeks left.


Points of interest (not so many ←→ lots of museums etc.) Medium

Food (only local food ←→ great variety of restaurants) Great variety

Nature (none ←→ several natural parks/recreational parks) A lot of nature

Recreation/Sports (limited ←→ many options/extra courses) Many options

Social Activities (limited ←→ many theatres/cinemas/pubs Many social activities


Size of the University (small <-> big) Huge

Relationship students-professors (informal <-> formal) Quite Formal

Language requirements (English suffices <-> Official Language) English suffices

The study programme (easy <-> difficult/intense)

(interesting <-> not interesting)

Easy + interesting

Internationality (few international students <-> many int. students) Many internationals

Students from Dutch universities (few <-> a lot) Quite some

Location of the University (hard to reach <-> close by) Close by


Funds (difficult to acquire <-> very easy to acquire) Very easy

Accomodation (difficult to find & expensive <-> easy & affordable) Takes time, affordable but not cheap

Food (expensive <-> cheap) Depends on what and where you eat

Public transport (expensive <-> cheap) Cheap

Going out (expensive <-> cheap) Expensive

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