Admittedly, it’s been a while since my first and last blog post on Hong Kong! Just to remind you, I am a third year law student on exchange at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
Until recently, I had been taking 5 modules here in HK. The way it works here is that each module is worth 6 credits and students are to take between 24-30 credits per semester. You can take a non-law subject too (so, something like Buddhism or finance) which is great but the Law Faculty offers such a diverse range of topics taught by an array of academia legends that it would surprise me if you were to choose a non-law option. Just to give you an example, I had initially chosen subjects like Current Issues in Chinese Law whilst also taking Regulation of Cyberspace. However, the University gives you a 2-week window to switch module options that is quite aptly named the ‘add-drop period’. The only problem with this was that there were often low caps on the class sizes for many modules and competition was fierce. Conversely, the good thing about add-drop period was that although the topic might have sounded brilliant on paper attending class for the first week or two allowed you to really see if this was a topic worth your while. And if you dropped a subject, someone on the waiting list was then allowed to replace you!
As someone who earnestly believes they attract disaster, I once again had difficulties with my course selections. I had chosen my subjects online before the semester began, once around May and again in August. Arriving on campus, I had realized that I had not received any confirmations on my new online University ‘portal’ account. Checking this with the department they informed me that there was a technical error and they had not processed any of my module subjects. This was a huge problem primarily because of the competition for the popular subjects that I had set my heart on studying.
How was the issue resolved? By nagging of course! Well, here I was sat in the smallest office trawling through countless course descriptions, selecting and reselecting after I kept being told by the staff that the subjects I had chosen were full. After 2&1/2 hours, I managed to find 8 subjects that I was relatively content with, whilst I faced disappointment with 2 others that I had really wanted to study but were now oversubscribed. These were namely Alternative Dispute Resolution, which is an increasingly popular process used instead of court litigation to resolve legal disputes, and forms a huge part of the legal system in Hong Kong. The second subject was called ‘Issues in Intellectual Property Law.’ This would have been great to study for two reasons. Firstly, Hong Kong is a world leader in Intellectual Property Law so studying it whilst here would have been of the greatest benefit. Secondly, Intellectual Property is a module option that I am considering taking at the University of Leicester for one of my final year modules. This particular course would have touched upon various aspects of IP law without going into too much depth, enabling me to get a good insight on what it is all about and whether it is for me.
Luckily, after causing a ruckus, I was eventually put into the Alternative Dispute Resolution Class. Hurrah! This is a class that I have mixed emotions about. Whilst the lecturer is Canadian and therefore easy to understand, the lecture is 3 hours long and begins at 9.30am every Wednesday. Anyone who studies at Leicester knows how awful 9ams are. Nonetheless, lately we’ve been doing some simulations. These consist of the lecturer handing us scenarios where we are to represent a particular client and use different techniques to reach a settlement. So far, we have tried negotiation and mediation simulations, which have proven to be a lot of fun as well as a great learning experience. Last week I represented the managing company of a theatre as well as an oil company.
The University allows exchange students to select Masters modules here and the majority of my modules are Masters’ modules. This means two things: firstly, the lectures tend to be very theoretical as opposed to dealing with the black-letter law and secondly, this means evening lectures! I have no idea why anyone would torture us in this way. One thing I must highlight is that all our lectures are 3 consecutive hours; usually with a 10/15 minute break in between. As you can imagine, keeping your concentration in full swing is a huge difficulty and sometimes impossible once you’re back from the short break.
To summarize, the modules I am currently doing this semester are:
1. International Law in a World of Crises
2. Alternative Dispute Resolution
3. Introduction to Chinese Law and Legal System
4. Prevention of Conflict
I very recently dropped International and Regional Protection of Human Rights which was taught by my favourite lecturer but had too much reading which I felt I was unable to keep up with.
HKU is very strict on attendance! There’s a register in each class and if more than 2 lectures are missed then the teacher has the authority to refuse to mark your paper and/or you will be in trouble… whatever this means? Either way, unless you are in my Monday class, the lectures are very laid back when it comes to ticking yourself off in the register, so exchange students will often miss class to travel and get someone else to sign them in. But this is not to be encouraged, of course…
What surprises me is the huge discrepancies in the work ethics of international exchange students and the local students. Whilst the former go out an awful lot, the majority of us do the required work (i.e. the minimum). There is a saying for the latter, ‘work all night and sleep all day’. You’ll see many local students falling asleep at their desks because of the hard work they do. This makes me feel guilty but we have to remember that they have different aims in being at HKU and probably had to work incredibly hard just to be offered a place at the University.
What surprises me even more is that a lot of the time, the local students stay quiet in class even though I can see from the annotated sheets and typed out notes in front of them, that they have probably done far more than I have, yet I am the one who is more likely to speak in class.
Perhaps this is a language-barrier but who knows. This is why I was not surprised to see a student panel debate on reducing the number of non-local students at HKU.
Due to the large student exchange intake, we all tend to stick together whilst the locals tend to stick with the locals and the Mainland Chinese with the Mainland Chinese.
Another point of interest is the clear division between the local students and what are called the ‘Mainland Chinese’ students. This is probably due to the language barriers that exist between the two; Hong Kong students tend to speak Cantonese when Mandarin is the language spoken in most of China.
If you’re not aware, China is enormous and being the best University in Asia, the competition to get into HKU is fierce! Last year I read a statistic stating that there were more people in China with the HIGHEST IQs in the World than there were students in the WHOLE of the UK. Putting this into context, I got an easy pass into HKU, whilst they had to compete with other students with equally high IQs. This makes me really value my place at this University and thankful to the Law Faculty at Leicester for sending me here.
Now to lighten the mood I would like to tell you about Ladies Night. From what I hear, this is not restricted to Hong Kong but happens in countries like Singapore too. Basically, this consists of two nights dedicated to ladies occurring in two different districts: Wan Chai Wednesdays and Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) Thursdays. This means free drinks and free entry to most places for ladies alone. Sorry boys. As you can imagine, whilst girls are not appreciative of all the free drinks, this puts women in an extremely vulnerable situation, as men tend to flock these areas in search of what are probably heavily inebriated woman. Reality is, they will most likely find one!
Ladies night is not the only time and place where women are given preferential treatment. If a woman tries to go somewhere requiring an entrance fee, she is likely to get in for free as well as selected bars and restaurants that have events on just for the ladies.
Happy Valley Horse Racing
Having never attended a horse race in my life, I was thrilled to get the chance to do so in Hong Kong. The racetrack is located bang in the middle of a series of skyscrapers – amazing! For what equates to about 90p, I was allowed to enter the racetrack with expatriates and foreigners permeated the stalls and space below. The atmosphere was fantastic as everyone had come from work or University to let their hair down for what tends to be a fun-filled and relaxing evening at the races. Dress code was something I was unsure about initially but you can wear whatever, unlike the legendary Ascots in England requiring the upmost formal attire. People wore jeans to suits but there was one very distinct wardrobe accessory that was lacking – the big hats. Absolutely no one wore any in two times that I attended the races.
Bets can be placed on the horses and how you decide which horse you’ll place a bet on is entirely up to you. Some of the people chose by name, some by the horse’s track record and others by who had the prettiest outfit. So, you can take your fancy.
Bets started from as little as 2 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) which is negligible money – the equivalent of perhaps 10p. Watching the races is quite the experience if you’ve placed a bet as there is a surge of anticipation and adrenaline as you wait to see the results. Unfortunately, I did not win anything but I didn’t have much to lose!
Here’s an image I found on google:
Here at HKU, we get one week off per semester called the ‘reading week’. Of course to the exchange students, this is a week off for travels. Being located in the middle of South East Asia, it is vastly cheaper to travel from Hong Kong to a nearby country such as Thailand or Singapore.
Sadly I did not go anywhere this time around. Anyone who knows me will find it shocking that I stayed in Hong Kong. As much as I would have loved to go somewhere, I have had numerous, seemingly endless problems with my Bank in the UK. Money had been taken from my account in England and instead of sending me a new bank card, I spent a month and a half without money most of the time. Let me elaborate.
Before leaving to Hong Kong, I had not informed my bank that I was moving to Hong Kong so I did not change my address, which created problems in sending me a new bank card. The card had to be sent to my UK bank branch and from there, it had to be declared that I was unable to collect it in order for it to be sent to Hong Kong. I had to constantly dial my bank and often spend 45 minutes to get £100 out from my account. When in Hong Kong, you HAVE to spend money to get by. Whether dining, travelling, you are ALWAYS spending money so £100 never lasted me very long.
Lesson for today: change your bank address before you leave! This is just the tip of the iceberg for the money problems that I faced.
In my next blog, I’ll reveal more about the Hong Kong lifestyle.