Category Archives: Hong Kong

Weekend Trip to Ishigaki, Japan!

Hi everyone!

This past weekend my friends and I took advantage of a sweet deal on flights to Ishigaki Japan from Hong Kong, and enjoyed every moment of it!  HK Express is the only international service that goes to this island in the far south of Japan, so it was definitely an exclusive experience.  We were also there during the off season, and it felt like we had the island all to ourselves!

Here are a few of the highlights from our trip:

I went with 3 of my FIT friends studying abroad in Hong Kong with me.  When we arrived, there was a massive downpour but the skies cleared up almost immediately.

Nakamura-ya, Ishigaki Japan

For lunch we went to a magical curry place.  The chef at one point went out to his garden and got celery to add to the sauce.  The set meal also came with chai tea for dessert.  Would definitely recommend!

Kondoi Beach, Taketomi Island

After lunch, we took a high speed ferry boat over to an adjacent island.  The ferry ride was a highlight of my trip- it was like an amusement park ride.  Once there, we took a bus to an island known for its star-shaped sand and cats.

Yonehara Beach Equipment Rental

Sunday was beach day!  We rented snorkel equipment and got to see lots of fish- my favorite were these tiny, electric blue fish.

Another fun activity was going to Yaima Mura, which is an outdoor museum similar to Jamestown in America.  There were some historic houses and replicas, with exhibits on how sugar cane was processed, traditional dress, and dance!  The best part was the spider monkeys, which you were able to feed with the provided treats.

Here are my friends dressed in the traditional dress, posing with a Shisa.  The shisas are all over Okinawa and Ishigaki, and are placed standing guard at entrances to ward away evil spirits. We saw them all over the island!

The last thing we got to do was glass bottom boat tours.  After snorkeling, it was great getting to see the fish and coral out further in the water.  Plus Kabira Bay, where we went, was stunning!

We had an absolute blast in Ishigaki, and it felt so special because there were so few foreigners there.  Everyone we met was incredibly nice and welcoming.  Unfortunately, very few people spoke English, but it was great practice for my Japanese minor at FIT!

Studying abroad is a trip in and of itself, but taking a weekend to explore somewhere new was so exciting.  I would definitely recommend it, especially if you get a great flight deal!

Sam

Why I Decided to Study Abroad

Hi everyone!
It’s a big decision to study abroad, so I decided to talk a little bit about how and why I made my choice.  Here are some of the things I considered before submitting my application and packing my bags!
Fantastic Educational Opportunity
Production Management is a global industry, and a lot of that traffic flows through Hong Kong.  Being in the classroom with peers who will possibly one day work at the factories I communicate with from New York is amazing.  Seeing things from Hong Kong’s point of view is giving me a chance to understand both sides of the manufacturing relationship better.
I Could Communicate
All of our classes are taught in English, and almost everyone here understands enough that we have no troubles.  Not being able to understand what is going on, or being able to read signs is really challenging.  There are times when confusion arises, but it has never caused more than a miscommunication or a silly mistake.  Definitely consider wether you will be able to understand and be understood wherever you decide to go.
I Knew Others Going
This is a big one for me- even though I love a good adventure and have gone places by myself in the past, spending a whole semester some place I knew no one was pretty daunting!  Thankfully a few of my friends were also applying, so we kept each other accountable during the application process.
I’m currently rooming with one of my friends from back home, which has helped keep homesickness away- any time we need to talk about NYC, we can!  I’m not sure if I would have considered going if I didn’t know others interested, but I think I would have loved the experience with or without bringing school friends.
I Find Asia Fascinating
The world is huge, and this is honestly my first time experiencing it.  Before now, the furthest I had traveled was Canada, and right at the boarder at that.  Having the chance to explore Asia, and see the sights was a big draw for me.  At FIT I take Japanese, and I look forwards to being able to travel to Japan while I am here!  Hong Kong has so much to do as well, a month and a half in we have barely scratched the surface.
I’m Okay with Being Away from Home
Something important to consider is if you can handle being so far away from family and home friends.  I had spent about three months away last summer, and enjoyed it for what it was, so I was confident I could handle being away for the four and a half months on exchange.  However, I know it won’t be easy the whole time.  I miss being able to easily communicate with home (the time difference adds a whole other level of separation!) but we have all been adapting and growing through it.  I definitely miss some American things too.
Those are some of the factors I took into consideration going abroad.  It is not a small decision, but it is one I am so glad I made.  I have grown so much here, and am having a lot of fun too!
Sam

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

Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

Hi everyone!

This past Tuesday was Chinese New Year! This is the Year of the Pig, which means there has been a lot of pink mixed in with the traditional red and gold.

We wanted to try and experience Chinese New Year in Hong Kong best we could, but I think the best way to celebrate it is with family. If you are thinking about visiting Hong Kong, I would suggest avoiding Chinese New Year and the crowds of tourists. Many enjoy the experience, but I personally find Hong Kong on a regular day just as charming and less packed!

Here are the three things we did to celebrate:

The Flower Market

Oranges are used for decoration to invite Prosperity

This was far and away my favorite! The market was packed with plants and people, and has a great energy. There were rows upon rows of the bright Mandarin orange trees. I didn’t buy any orange trees or other CNY decorative plants, but got a few leafy houseplants to keep in my dorm room.

If you visit the flower market, I recommend going in the morning- as the day progresses it becomes more and more packed.

The Parade

The crowds at the parade in TST

Tuesday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, we went to see the parade in Tsim Sha Tsui, a neighboring area to campus. The route was packed, mostly with visitors from Mainland China and other places around the world. It was fun since I went with friends, but overall between the crowds and the slow pace of the parade made it the least exciting activity of the week.

The Fireworks

CNY fireworks over the water

Wednesday night had a 20 minute firework display to celebrate. We viewed from the waterfront near the dorms, which wasn’t the best angle but it was a good show and the weather was great at night. There were more crowds towards the better viewing points, but we found an area that had a lot less traffic so it was easier to see.

Overall, Hong Kong during Chinese New Year is certainly an experience. However, I would personally recommend coming before CNY. Starting about mid-January all the stores began setting up displays, and the flower market began its seasonal transformation. During Chinese New Year however I found that there were many more tourists than usual, and several of the things my friends and I enjoy doing usually were closed. I think the period leading up to the holiday is just as vibrant, less crowded and easier to enjoy the city!

Have you celebrated Chinese New Year? What was your favorite part? I’d love to know!

Best,
Sam

PolyU Exchange Student City Tour

Hi everyone!  This weekend I had the pleasure of going on one of the excursions PolyU set up for exchange students to join in on.  We visited 3 different spots and got to experience a variety of things on our trip.

The day started at 9am, meeting up on campus to take a bus to our first destination.  About 30 minute ride from the bustling city area is Repulse Bay Beach, a beautiful location with a great swimming area.  It is still a bit too cold to swim here, so my friends and I looked at the statues, shops and scenery.

Morning at Repulse Bay Beach

A bridge that promises to add 3 days to your life every time you cross

Me sipping an espresso at a cafe on the beach

After that, we loaded back onto the bus to get lunch!  We were served Dim Sum, a Hong Kong classic where everyone just grabs from the middle.  I was surprised at how many things were served, one after the other.  It was a great way to try lots of dishes.

Our next destination was Stanley Markets, where we were able to shop from local vendors for souvenirs.  I got a tee shirt that says “Hong Kong” in English and in Chinese, as well as a saucer to go under the potted plants I bought a few weeks ago. Shopping in the markets here is fun because you never really know what to expect.

Overall, it was great having a chartered bus tour us around the western side of Hong Kong Island.  I’m glad PolyU arranged the trip for us, and I’m looking forwards to the other ones I signed up for!

Best,

Sam