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December 6th, 2017

By Ciara Sexton, Business School Exchange to the Chinese University of Hong Kong

When I first arrived to CUHK my first impression was –  I will never be able to find my way around this campus! The best comparison would be that it is like UCD, except even bigger. The campus have their own shuttle busses which loops around all the accommodation buildings and the main campus area, where we have class, all the way down to the metro train station in the university.

Now, nearly three months on, I know the place back to front. Compared to the other big university out here HKU, CUHK is quite far from the centre of Hong Kong. At the beginning most people would always complain about this, but because of the distance we have the biggest and most beautiful campus is Hong Kong.

The culture here is very different to the Irish – as expected. One of my biggest adjustments was to cut back on my sarcasm because, no one could ever understand what I was saying.

The teaching style is mainly continuous assessment and group work involving plenty of presentations. The class sizes are also much smaller compared to Trinity. My smallest class size is about 10 students and my biggest is around 40. This means there is a lot more interaction with students during the lecture.

Overall the workload is quite intense, however this was mainly due to the subjects I picked. Something which I would do differently, is to take the add/drop period more seriously and make sure the subjects considered are going to interest you.

When I first arrived everything was so hectic, getting to know new people, moving into my new accommodation and trying to find my way around. This meant that I wasn’t able to take the add/drop period as serious as I should.

The best thing that I’ve done so far is getting involved in local sports teams. I play with the university soccer team and also the Hong Kong GAA team. By joining these teams, especially the university team I got to know more local students. It can be hard to become friends with locals –  as exchange students we tend to stick to each other and some locals aren’t very confident with their English so they are often embarrassed to converse with us at times.

Thankfully through these teams I’ve been able to get a proper insight into Hong Kong culture as I get to know my team mates more and more.

Something I never thought I’d do in Hong Kong is to play GAA. Back in trinity I played for the ladies GAA football team and when I left Ireland I thought I would be saying goodbye to that for a year. Within a few weeks I found out that GAA is played in Hong Kong and it’s even being taught in my university to local students. Every year a big tournament called the Asian Gaelic games takes place. This year it was in Shanghai and I was lucky enough to travel to Shanghai and represent Hong Kong. It was incredible to see teams from Thailand, South Korea, Japan Singapore and many more playing Gaelic out here in Asia. Although majority of the teams are made up of Irish, English and Americans, there still are many locals that also play. It was amazing to see how GAA has spread and is continuing to grow.

So far it feels like I’ve always been living out here and I’m definitely not ready to come home yet. As term one comes to an end over the next few weeks people are already preparing their goodbyes, as majority of the exchange students in CUHK are only here for one term. A lot of people find it strange when I tell them I’m here for the year but if I had the chance I definitely wouldn’t change the length of my exchange.

Ciara Sexton

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