Hong Kong University has a very unique campus. In fact, there is one characteristic that makes it really stand out compared to most other campuses around the world. That characteristic I got to realize the hard way. The first day of classes, I was using google maps to try to find where my classroom was. When I finally reached my destination, I was surprised to see that the classroom was actually a few dozen feet above what I had expected! As you can tell, the unique characteristic that HKU has is its “vertical-ness”. The university is built at the side of a hill, among a very lavish greenery. Even though most places on campus are a ten minute walk away from the busy Hong Kong city center, when walking on campus you can sometimes completely forget that and be immersed in the beautiful ponds and trees that surround you. As a result of HKU’s vertical layout, you will find elevators, staircases and escalators almost anywhere around you. Many parts of the campus are reminiscent of some exotic jungle resort, rather than a University campus within a busy city.
The university runs multiple organizations as well. You can find most of the common sports such as soccer, tennis or basketball. Unfortunately, many of the American sports, such as football or baseball, are not available. There are many ethnic/language organizations, as well as public speaking ones (e.g. Toastmasters, Debate team etc.). Then there are many miscellaneous organizations, such as the Biodiversity Society , a Hiking/Camping association and academic organizations (such as astronomy, engineering, math clubs). Yet, to become a member you will have to pay fee for the majority of these organizations. This fee is usually around 6 US dollars. For certain organizations you will also have to pay extra in order to participate to certain events, since there is no University funding. This may sound surprising, but we have to remember that tuition fees at HKU are just a fraction of those at American institutes.
The students here are very knowledgeable and can speak at least two languages (Cantonese and English). Most of them communicate in Cantonese with each other, yet they are always willing to talk to you in English in case you want to ask them something. I have also noticed that many students here prefer to study on their own mainly in the library and the learning center. I was surprised to see that these two locations are nearly full of students for most of the day even though it is still week 3.