Semester 2 at HKUST
Physics Undergraduate Megan, shares her second semester of her study abroad experience at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where not only was she able to visit Thailand and the Great Wall of China but she also made some life-long international friends!
Semester 2 at HKUST was a wild ride! But let’s start with the winter break, Christmas dinner was a Dim Sum feast with our Columbian neighbour featuring homemade crackers and hats; the staff in the restaurant gave us the strangest looks! New Year comprised of a midnight hike to the peak of Lion Rock where we watched the fireworks in Victoria Harbor.
Soon after this my friends and I embarked on a two week tour around Thailand, where we worked our way from Bangkok to Krabi in the south, taking in some islands, hikes, and motorbike rides along the way (never thought I’d have to explain to a hire company why a helmet is important). The Thai street food is to die for and ignited a love in my belly for Thai food – when I got home to Hong Kong, I made it a weekly occurrence to eat at my local Thai place.
Back to classes I went to continue my studies and finish my honors project. This semester I took a class in Biophysics, as well as a class on Lasers, both were extremely interesting! I also joined the International Cuisine Society and only actually attended one society meetup, oops, at least there was an attempt to be sociable!
Before I knew it the midterms had been sat, honours project handed in and April 1st had rolled up, the day my Dad, wife Rhona and family friend Ruth arrived to visit! I had a fantastic 10 days being a tourist again, showing them all my favourite places I had discovered and being thoroughly treated the whole time and not having to live off a meagre student budget! We took a ferry to Cheng Chau (the Millport of Hong Kong as my dad described it), visited the Peak, drank at the Mandarin Oriental and wandered through countless markets. My time with the family was a memory I will cherish forever.
A few days after my family left, Femke and I headed off to China! We took the 11 hour bullet train to Beijing, or so we thought, I was wrong, it was only 9 hours, and when Femke noticed we were sitting at Beijing station we had to grab all of our things and make a run for it off of the train. We spent 2 nights in Beijing city, visiting the sights and walking alot. Tiananmen Square was a particularly difficult place to visit emotionally after knowing the massacre that occurred there but seeing unknowing locals dancing around and taking pictures. China was quite a strange experience, as there were constant passport checks, bag checks and pat downs whenever you were near to a tourist attraction. People were so happy all the time and it seemed like a bizarre eutopia from within.
After Beijing we went to the Badaling Great Wall, where we stayed at a hostel at the foot of the entrance to the Wall. Getting there was an interesting journey featuring many public busses, and almost hike along the motorway and then getting picked up by a stranger who didn’t speak English who it transpired was our hostel manager, luckily! The Great Wall of China was an absolute dream and I quite easily could’ve stayed much longer. The next leg was an 11 hour (actually 11 hours this time) bullet train to Guilin where we hiked through rice terraces, learned to make dumplings and had the most luxurious hostel stay of our lives. China was by far the best trip I went on as it was so overwhelming to all of the senses!
Back to Uni
After my trip to China I had 3 short weeks to study for exams, prepare 2 presentations, 2 reports and prepare for my project Viva. All were successful after the 14 days straight spent in the library with Megan, Femke, Nick and Thibault trying to keep each other focused and sane. There were no stress breakdowns for me this semester, thankfully, can’t say that about anyone else though.
Once exams were finished, I had to say goodbye to my friends as they all left to go home or to travel elsewhere, and then I spent a few weeks with my boyfriend just living the summer student life in Hong Kong. I explored lots and hiked all over with my friend John and spent time writing on my laptop and eating all of the food I was going to miss. The week and a half before I came home in July was spent with my best friend Joanne and her boyfriend, Sam, who came to visit and we repeated all of the tourist spots and ate some amazing food!
I booked a student fare on Finnair and was lucky enough to get an entire row to myself for the ten-and-a-half-hour flight to Helsinki and then Joanne picked me up from Edinburgh Airport and took me home to surprise my Dad who thought I was not going to be home for another week!
Overall, Hong Kong was an amazing experience and I would not have traded it for the world. I made the most amazing group of friends and explored a lot of parts of the country I would not have had an opportunity to do if I had only been there as a tourist. I am very sad that it is over but I now have an international alliance of pals who I plan on visiting a lot in the near future!
Written by Megan Clapperton
Megan with 'one of the bird mans' birds' in Hong Kong
Megan's Semester 1 at HKUST
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