Add & Drop Period
The recent protest activies in Hong Kong as well as the umbrella revolution have been unfolding dramatically and drastically, but I will refrain from commeting on them.
I've been in Hong Kong for about 6 weeks now, the most wonderful 6 weeks so far! Not only on a cultural basis but the friends I made and the experiences I had so far, are simply amazing. For instance, I survived my first typhoon which left the city of Hong Kong strangely empty. The government issued a number 8 warning Monday night, classes were not in session, stores were closed, streets were empty. But people here are used to these natural disasters and so noone seemed to particularly care for the downpour and the extreme winds (noone but the exchange students, who excitingly took a magnitude of pictures of the taifun, since the majority of us have never experienced one before!).
The University of Hong Kong is amazing, at least from what I can tell from the Social Science department. Their approach to studying is very different from a Western approach, so much so, that I find myself sometimes struggling trying to keep up with all the "suggested readings". But getting your hands on these books and articles sometimes proves to be difficult, because the bookstore doesn't carry enough books for all the students (and eta for delivery is about 4 weeks) and the library only has a few copies, which of course are all rented out. But as I was complaining to one of my local firends, I found out that you could easily request books from other libraries, which made it that much easier getting my hands on the books.
Classes have been in session from the beginning of September and it has been quite interesting. The first two weeks of the semester are called a "add and drop" period where you are allowed to test the waters of the classes that you are interested in. Once you made up your mind, you request a space in these classes and the professor then can approve or disapprove you wanting to take their classes. For the most part it is quite easy to get into the classes, that you want, depending on the demand of the subjects, after all you are competing with locals as well. But when I couldn't get accepted to the classes I wanted, I emailed my professor and he gladly took me in, on the premise that I was an exchange student and he wanted to diversify his class (most of my classes have very few exchange students though, I believe it is because I am studying in the department of Geography).
And since I am in Hong Kong, I also decided to take one Chinese class. It probably would have made more sense to study Cantonese but I decided to take a Mandarin class, since I heard it is just a little bit easier than Cantonese since they "only" distinguish between 4 sets of tones and not 9. But quite honestly, this one is the most demanding of my time. Not only are there homeworks due every week, you also have to prepare for dictations, quizzes, class activities and are supposed to study every day and if you are a little bit like me and like to seize every day with whatever live throws at you, it can be come challenging sometimes. But the approach that this particular teacher has, is very Chinese (her words, not mine), she will scold you relentlessly if you don't pronounce something correctly and she is demanding, but that is part of the fun. She says, if she doesn't do that, it means that she doesn't love you and don't we all want to be loved a little?
As far as the sparetime goes? I have been busy and about almost everywhere in Hong Kong, the outlying islands, as well as Macau and Shenzhen. Hong Kong people really like to hike, even if the humidity is well beyond 80% and it has 32 degrees (at the end of September!) and they never complain about the heat. Hong Kong has crazy busy markets where you can test your haggling skills as well as wonderfully gorgeous beaches (here, the high island reservoir).
They have exceptionally weird food (chicken feet) and always serve you hot tea. And Hong Kong people know how to celebrate festivals in big scales. A couple weeks ago the Mid-autumn festival took place and I witnessed a fire breathing dragon as well as big scale lanterns that lit up the nights. So, in retrospect, best 6 weeks of my life and if you are unsure on where to go for your semester abroad, Hong Kong should be on the top of your list!