What to Think About Before Studying Abroad in Hong Kong

I am over a month into my abroad program and I am having so much fun! Hong Kong is fantastic and there is always something to see or do.

Me, under one of the lantern-lined streets

Now that I have been here for a little bit, I have encountered some of the logistics involved with being here. What should you know before studying abroad in Hong Kong? I’ll cover some topics below!

Conversions
Get ready for the metric system! Hong Kong (like most of the world) uses meters kilos and Celsius. A quick trick: to get a ballpark number when converting C to Fahrenheit, double the number (for example 19c becomes 38) and add 30 (roughly 68 degrees Fahrenheit)!

Apply for Student MTR Card
The student MTR card is a huge saver, especially if you plan on exploring! The fare saves you 50% of the regular price, and the savings add up quickly as the MTR charges by how far you go, not a flat fare like the MTA does in New York City. Once you get your student ID from the school, you will be able to apply.

Figure Out Your Cash
Back home, I rarely use cash, however it is incredibly useful here! Most stores and food places do not take card, or if the do they take Octopus Card (the HK equivalent of a MetroCard, but much more useful), which has to be reloaded with cash. Make sure your bank has low fees for currency conversion, otherwise your money will quite literally be less valuable.

Transaction Free Cards
Make sure to do some research on a credit or debit card that does not have fees before you set off. 1-3% adds up, especially when you will be spending over four months in a country! Additionally, I would recommend researching what is commonly accepted where you are going. The card I use back home is basically useless here. I opened a new card specifically for my time abroad.

Get Ready for a Different Diet
Any time you travel, your eating habits and diet will change. Personally, I have noticed there aren’t many dishes that include cheese. Most dishes have a base of rice or noodles. In New York, I usually have a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, but I have yet to even see a bagel since I have arrived! I have switched to bread with peanut butter because that is what is available.

If you have any allergies, or are vegetarian/vegan, make sure to consider what food options you might have. While many people here speak English, guaranteeing a food is safe for you to eat might get lost in translation.

Language
Nearly everyone here speaks enough English that you will be able to communicate. However, it’s not a bad idea to get the Google Translate app. There is a function that allows you to scan text and translate within the app. This is great for signs around the dorms or for receipts, which tend to list out line items in Chinese!

These are the things that stood out to me the most so far, and if anything else arises I will be sure to update!

Best,
Sam

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