Should I participate in HKUST

Experience report: semester abroad HKUST


1 Experience report: Semester abroad HKUST 1. Foreword by Florian Schlosser Contents 2. Arrival in Hong Kong and enrollment at HKUST 3. Life at HKUST 4. Studying at HKUST 5. Cultural differences 6. Other things worth knowing 1

2 1. Foreword If the reader is toying with the idea of ​​doing a semester abroad or an internship in Hong Kong, I can approve of this with complete conviction. I personally completed a semester abroad at HKUST and have to say that it has greatly enriched me both professionally and personally, and that it is an experience that I would not want to miss anymore today. I met some fellow students in Germany who were of the opinion that a semester abroad only unnecessarily delayed the graduation and was not worth it. This is a view that, in retrospect, I can only classify as wrong. As long as it is possible to have the certificates taken into account in the home university, or to write your thesis, and to get additional influences from other universities and their professors and standards, the amount of new impressions, contacts, specialist knowledge and cultural backgrounds provide such a clear added value that it even justifies delaying the graduation by a semester or the additional financial expense in all respects. So if you have decided to spend a semester in Hong Kong, you can be sure that you will not regret it. 2

3 2. Arrival in Hong Kong and enrollment at HKUST Visa After you have landed in Hong Kong, you have to take care of the visa as usual. As a German citizen you automatically get a tourist visa which is valid for 90 days. As an exchange student, however, you should stick the student visa (which was previously sent by HKUST by courier) into your passport and then have it stamped. This is important as it is a prerequisite for enrolling at HKUST. Without the STUDENT visa you will NOT be enrolled. It should then look like this: On the right side you will see the visa in the form of a sticker. On the left side you can see the stamp which the officer enters in your passport. As you can see from the picture, it is advisable to stick the visa on one side, the other side of which is still free. What to do if you don't have a student visa? Reasons for this could be that the courier does not deliver the visa in time for your outbound flight. In such a case I can only say (of course without 3

4 guarantee) that you should still take the flight and register a tourist visa for the time being. I met several students at HKUST who had such a problem and who could move into their dormitories and choose their courses even without a student visa. It has to be said that the official registration can only be completed once the student visa has been obtained. It is therefore advisable to notify the contact person for Exchange students at HKUST. The contact person was always very helpful and committed to such problems. Drive to University After getting your visa and getting it stamped, probably the easiest thing to do is to take a taxi to the university. Taxis are comparatively cheap in Hong Kong and rip-offs are very rare. Experience has shown that I would even say that you pay too much more often in Germany than in Hong Kong. The trip from the airport to HKUST should cost around HK dollars, which is the equivalent of around euros. Alternatively, you can of course also take the subway and bus to HKUST, but this is not advisable for anyone who is not quite as familiar with the area. If you have been assigned a buddy, you can also ask him or her whether he or she will pick you up from the airport. Which is probably the cheapest option. Registration in the dormitory In the weeks before, you will be informed by email which dormitory you will be accommodated in. As soon as you have been dropped off at HKUST, you go straight through the atrium, which is clearly signposted which way leads to the dormitories. As soon as you arrive at the dormitory, there are usually employees ready to guide you to the registration office. When you arrive at the registration office, all you have to do is fill out a few forms and take your key card. On the whole, it has to be said that the procedure is quite simple and there is little that can go wrong. After the room has been occupied, there is a two-week period to pay for the dormitory. The amount required for the entire 4th

5 semesters are due, so usually around euros (depending on the dormitory). However, as mentioned above, the Chinese are just as relaxed about such deadlines as they are about any other matter. In my dormitory there was a case where a student still did not pay after 6 weeks (i.e. 4 weeks over the deadline), and only then did the employees start checking ID cards to find the person. So if it takes a week or two longer to pay, no one cares. 5

6 3. Life at HKUST First of all, it must be said that you have three alternatives to living: Student residences on campus Residential complexes outside but close to campus Outside HKUST and within the city I personally lived in a student residence on campus, and met some people who chose the other two alternatives. For each of these possibilities there are some pro and counter points that I would like to explain below. On-campus Living in one of the student residences on campus is particularly attractive for people who are sociable and enterprising. A lot of exchange students are accommodated there, and you get to know new people from all over the world very quickly. Due to the close proximity to the university complex, you can hear a lot about the activities and actions on campus. The campus has a large number of canteens and cafes as well as various other restaurants. In the main complex there are 2 canteens, a (somewhat expensive) restaurant, McDonalds, Starbucks and, depending on the season, a branch of a local Arabic / Indian fast food chain. In the School of Science and in the Business School there is another cafeteria and another cafe. From a culinary point of view, every taste is served here, from Chinese, Japanese and Thai to European. The prices (with the exception of one restaurant) are very student-friendly and enable a very cheap lifestyle on site. They move within a range of around 2-4 euros per meal. The societies or student unions are probably the strongest argument in favor of accommodation on campus. These are student associations that have certain interests or hobbies. Interests or hobbies involved in this 6

7 on the one hand, leisure activities such as football, basketball, tennis, rugby, archery, dragonboat racing, board games, magic and many more are covered. On the other hand, there are also a large number of societies that take care of certain dormitories, faculties or academic / professional interests. These include, for example, the Robotics team, Entrepreneurship Union, Mechanical Engineering Union, and so on. Regarding the sporting activities, it should be said that membership in a society is not a prerequisite for being able to use the sports facilities. For example, all playing fields, swimming pools, squash courts and fitness centers are free to use at most times of the day without any fee or membership. The learning opportunities at HKUST are also excellent, as the Learning Commons are open 24/7 during the semester. They include computer rooms, group rooms for projects or study groups, as well as a large study room in which you can actually always find some free space. Probably the only downside to campus life is that it's easy to be tempted to spend the whole time on campus and not experience anything of the city itself. Since the campus offers everything you need to live, you can easily spend weeks here without leaving the premises. Football and athletics field 7

8 Gym Dragon Boat Race 8

9 Off-Campus There are residential complexes managed by HKUST that are very close to the campus. Plan to walk about 5 minutes. In itself a very interesting alternative, as you can make very good use of what the campus has to offer, and the apartments there are much more spacious than the student residences. However, I have to say that they cost accordingly more, and I only saw students living there who completed full-time studies at HKUST. So I don't know exactly whether these are also available for exchange students. Living within Hong Kong Island should only be considered if the necessary change is available, as the prices there can skyrocket, or if you have relatives with whom you can live. I don't think it goes without saying that this is the best opportunity to take some of the city with you. In order to be able to take advantage of the most of the cultural offerings here, I would only recommend asking some of the locals who are certain to be in the lectures or the workplace. 4. Studying at HKUST The difference between the lectures and German universities is most likely to be seen in the grading. While in Germany you often have to pass an exam or a lecture at the end, the grading here is often based on the following scheme: (varies from course to course) 5% oral participation 20% intermediate examination 25% final examination 50% exercises in some cases rather as an accompaniment to self-study and offer neither a script nor lecture slides. But this is more like 9

10 less often the case. The exercises and mid-term exams demand almost constant performance from the student, which means that what you have learned has to be repeated over and over again and it is very easy to remember. HKUST also offers a variety of language courses, which are particularly popular with exchange students. Another very positive aspect is that pretty much every lecture is accompanied by a tutorial in which the material is illustrated and explained very well by more experienced students. The courses I took were as follows: Artificial Intelligence (COMP3211) Here, a lot was dealt with the classic learning algorithms and how the environment can be mapped for an agent. The lecture was very interesting and the professor was really competent, but he had a very relaxed voice and it was a bit tiring at times. Fundamentals of Natural Language Processing (COMP4221) This lecture was my personal favorite. It was mainly about how to use statistical methods to develop a translator for English / Mandarin and vice versa. It has to be said that the exams in this event were by far the hardest, but the professor is a very talented speaker and quite able to make the lecture interesting (sometimes also games for illustration). Introduction to Data Mining (COMP4331) This lecture revolved around the handling of Big Data. Pretty much anything that deals with large amounts of poorly (or not at all) structured data. Another very interesting lecture with good assignments. The professor was very pleasant and had a good sense of humor. 10

11 Computer Communication Networks II (COMP4622) This lecture can be thought of as a middle ground between computer networks and distribution systems. It goes a bit beyond the basics of computer networks, but not as much middleware-heavy as distributed systems. This lecture is recommended for anyone who is enthusiastic about a more in-depth discussion of infrastructure and communication models. The professor was also very well structured and committed. 5. Cultural differences One of the quickest things that catches your eye is that there is a lot of belching in China, and that this is a completely normal thing. This may seem strange to you, but it is completely normal here. If you get the opportunity to eat at the locals, it is always advisable to leave something on your plate. If you eat all of the food, it suggests that the host did not offer enough to eat. Emotional behavior is an absolute no-go. Reacting aggressively or moodily to something is perceived as impolite and uneducated. It is therefore recommended that you always be in the right version and, if anything is unclear, rather calmly say what you are talking about. 6. Other things worth knowing You can go shopping in China pretty well, provided your own body conforms to Chinese standards. So if you are 2 meters tall or have shoe size 45+, you should better take the bare essentials from Germany. 11

12 In my opinion, the costs for the semester were similar to those in Germany. I have roughly approximated these in the table below. Description Costs (approx.) In euros Round trip 1000 student dormitories per month 125 food and drinks per month (without party) 250 parties per evening Transport and traffic per month 10 tuition fees In addition to the costs, it must be said that the food prices are a bit more expensive than in Germany, as a lot of things have to be imported. What is cheap, however, are taxis and means of transport. On the whole I have to say that this is only a minimal overview and cannot adequately reflect all the experiences and impressions. If you are thinking of doing such a semester abroad, it is best to talk to a former exchange student personally and think about specific questions. Nevertheless, I hope that I have been able to clarify a few questions and I wish all the best I only had to pay for my home university 12