Major: Business Administration
Hometown: Winston Salem, North Carolina
Study Abroad Program: Chinese University of Hong Kong - Summer
Unparalleled beauty, never-ending entertainment, and cuisine that touches all corners of the globe—this is what life is like in the epicenter of Asia, where “high finance meets high fashion,”—Hong Kong. A sixteen hour flight from New York through twelve times zones did little to phase my excitement, having never before ventured to the Far East. Upon arrival, I was welcomed by what has been voted as the best airport in the world. I can attest that Hong Kong International is indeed a state of the art architectural masterpiece that welcomes the weary traveler to one of the greatest cities Asia has to offer. A line of red cabs awaits—lack of Cantonese ability was not a deterrent for English-speakers. For those wishing for the “traditional” Chinese experience, I suggest hopping over to west China—the vibe in Hong Kong is a reminder of the chic New York City life.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where I studied, was situated on a peak of a set of hills. Although approximately thirty minutes to city center, the campus is in a good location, has beautiful vistas, and offers experienced professors who have a wealth of knowledge to share with eager students willing to listen. I took two electives on Asian business activity, including topics of foreign direct investment and international business relations, and I can attest the coursework is insightful and the student body offers perspectives from around the world—CUHK offers a classroom experience unlike any other I have ever had.
The culture of Hong Kong is embodied within its people—a fusion of young Western influence with rich colonial history. The population of Hong Kong is a strong 7 million, many of which are British, Australian, or American. The income disparity is impossible to miss—many of the financiers, real estate moguls, and exporting tycoons fuel the world renowned consumerism that has luxurious designers setting up boutiques along the tourist-heavy Nathan Road. Over the past decade, an influx of mainland Chinese have flocked to the city for spur of the moment vacations and shopping sprees, driving up prices in restaurants, nightclubs, fashion shops, and hotels. Three syllables describe the main-thoroughfare of Hong Kong: ex-pen-sive. For the budget-conscious visitor, however, three syllables also apply: M-T-R. The MTR is the expansive rail system that connects the major districts of Hong Kong which the department of tourism boasts as one of the cleanest, safest, and efficient transportation systems in the world. It goes without saying, I was impressed. On top of the cleanliness and efficiency, the trains have wireless access—a must have for any city as connected to the global marketplace as Hong Kong.
To escape the hectic business district and to avoid the nightlife scene, which never takes a day off, I suggest a “cultural tour” offered by the masses in the tourism industry. These half-day jaunts go to smaller islands, often uninhabited, and allow for ultimate relaxation. For those who get bored lying on a beach for hours, hiking trails are often readily available. A word of caution—Hong Kong has a tropical climate, so I suggest avoiding unnecessary activity outdoors in the summer months. If you do strenuous activity and risk a high dry cleaning bill from sweating through shirts, I can promise the beauty from the peaks of these nearby islands will not disappoint. Magnificent, untouched natural areas fill the waters between mainland China and Hong Kong, and a ferry with a tour guide is available seven days a week.
Sports enthusiasts will have a field day in Hong Kong—that is, assuming they appreciate racquet games of all kinds, horse racing, and martial arts. At the universities, ping pong is the game of choice while a quick ride downtown to exclusive rooftop sports clubs offers the best in squash and tennis facilities. The competitive spirit makes one-on-one fighting in mixed martial arts entertaining, and for those fans who want a multitude of options to bet on—there is horseracing. The grandeur of Churchill Downs hardly competes with the fast-paced urban setting of Happy Valley Racetrack. For people who prefer the felt instead of track, Macau is only an hour by boat. Regardless of the entertainment chosen, luxury will not be spared. From VIP boxes to the High Rollers room, those who want to live the life of celebrities in Hong Kong can do so. A quick disclaimer: Gambling has substantial risk involved, do so at your own choosing. If I had to suggest one place to experience the Vegas-like atmosphere—it’s the Wynn Macau—a dull moment never exists.
The lifestyle in Hong Kong can differ depending on disposable income, but the city wouldn’t be worth mentioning if its cuisine, mega malls, and street vendors were ignored. Hong Kong restaurants offer a fusion of food from the rest of the world. Japanese fish and Vietnamese noodles are among the most popular in malls, but the cooking of street vendors cannot be passed up. In certain districts, such as Mong Kok, merchants flock behind their counters everyday to either engage in selling on the street. Meat hangs from wires and counterfeit handbags are held up on sticks—luring tourists to part from their money. Most of the consumption, however, does not occur on the streets, but in expansive mega-malls which sit on top of the busiest rail stations. Western stores and western advertisement dominate the halls, but many claim that western prices are often absent. Technology can often be bought for less in Hong Kong, and food—which practically covers every corner of the downtown area and mega-malls—can be had for as little $2 USD. In my experience: you get what you pay for.
To relate the culture of Hong Kong to another city—western or Asian—is a waste of time. Hong Kong has an evolving culture and transforming history as a British colony until 1997. Since China’s acquisition of the land, little has changed. While the structure of the legal or political system may have shifted, Hong Kong remains one of the most business-friendly cities in the world and a haven for students and tourists to experience a city unlike any other. My study abroad at the Chinese University would not have been possible without the generosity from the Phillips family and the diligent work of the UNC study abroad staff. Thank you all so much.