International perspective: students from Hong Kong in the UK

Making friends, learning local culture and homesickness were some of the things these students from Hong Kong were nervous about when coming to university in the UK. But they ended up having one of the best experiences of their lives

October 11 2019
International perspective: students from Hong Kong in the UK

Himmy Lee, biomedical sciences 

I had not been planning to study abroad for my undergraduate degree when I was a secondary school student. So when my family decided to give me the opportunity to study in the UK, I was excited but also nervous. I was only 17 years old, and there were many things that I was uncertain about. 

But Newcastle University, where I came to study, was supportive. As my parents did not travel with me to the UK, I had to complete the university registration and other administration work all by myself. Luckily, the university gave me plenty of help and clear guidance, making these processes easier to handle.

Whenever I didn’t understand something, the student helpers would immediately and patiently offer me assistance. Moreover, every student in the university is assigned with a personal tutor, who provides support across all aspects of university life.

Newcastle is a convenient city to live in – it is big enough to explore but small enough to travel on foot. There are pubs everywhere, and if I have some spare time on the weekends I take myself on a walk around the city.

One time in my second year, a couple noticed that I had dropped my debit card as I was walking along the quayside. They kindly returned my card to me, and we began a conversation – we even got a pint together in a pub. The people in Newcastle are friendly and make it feel like a safe city to live in.

Jasmine Ho, business, accounting and finance

Time flies so fast, I cannot believe I am already a third-year business, accounting and finance student. For the past two years, I have tried to make the most of being at Newcastle University

At the beginning, I was nervous about making new friends; however, everyone was friendly and welcoming. I have made a group of good friends, which has felt like having a family away from home. The university has more than 100 societies, varying from pole dancing to baking, and through them I was able to meet some friends who share the same interests as me.

Furthermore, my course allowed me to gain work experience to jump-start my career. I worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London as an associate for three months, gaining global exposure and getting a taste of the real audit world. Although the long hours were tough, the experience and lessons learned were fruitful and valuable.

University life is very different from school – you have to be more proactive. I was so used to being spoon-fed at school that university initially came as a shock to me. But the university has always been supportive, and it provides me with guidance and assistance whenever I need.

I have experienced a lot of new things by living in the city. Everything is easily accessible, and I have been able to join local activities such as walking tours and visiting the Christmas market. Ultimately, however, my favourite thing is that you will always see a friendly face around town.


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Natalie Kong, media, communication and cultural studies

In Hong Kong, students tend to talk about the “five must-do’s at university”, and they strive to achieve these “goals” throughout their university lives. The five must-do’s are: studying, dating, working part-time, being part of a university society and living in student halls. However, would those be the same for an international student in the UK?

The past two years in the UK have helped me to become more independent. When I felt homesick, I would go to Chinatown to fulfil my cravings for Hong Kong and other Asian cuisines. 

This year in particular has felt like a turning point for me as I am president of the Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service (HKPASS) Society. Because I sometimes find socialising quite stressful, this has been a challenge, but it has been one that is good for me. It was hard to engage the first-year students initially, but I soon realised that they might be experiencing similar difficulties to those I had before. Now I have become more dedicated to organising events to help them feel more settled. 

I have now come to understand that the five must-do’s at university can be defined by ourselves and shouldn’t be limited. Personally, I believe that it all depends on how we seize the opportunities presented to us. I encourage people to try as many new things as possible and to set their own goals during their university journey.

Winnie Yiu, psychology

I thought I would be lonely and unwelcome when I first arrived in Newcastle; however, this was not the case at all, and I’m sure I will miss this city when I leave. Through my course, I ended up making lots of friends. Many of them are also from different cultures, which is a bonus. The British locals have also helped me adjust to this new lifestyle. 

The lifestyle in Newcastle has changed me a lot. I have enjoyed more alone time, and I have progressed to become an independent learner taking responsibility for my own studies. In the UK, unlike the education system in Hong Kong, I am able to fully commit myself into studying the topics I am keen on, which I really appreciate.

I also love exploring the city on my own, and Newcastle offers a multicultural environment for international students. It has been easy to get to know people coming from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. I was able to expand my social network through taking part in house-warmings and other social events. This also improved my English substantially and expanded my knowledge of different cultures.

I also joined multiple university societies, including pole dancing and the Hong Kong society. Being the vice-president of the Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service (HKPASS) Society has added an extra spark to my university life. Having personally experienced the difficulties of leaving home to study and live overseas, I worked with other committees and hosted a wide range of events that all aimed at building a second home for the first-years.

Studying in Newcastle has been life changing. Not only am I able to meet people from all over the world, adapting to a brand-new style of life has allowed me to grow as a person. While occasional homesickness is inevitable, this once-in-a-life-time experience has been remarkable. 

Read more: Best universities in the UK

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