I recently graduated with with a Master’s degree from a university in Hong Kong. For me it was a culmination of almost four years of hard work. I had always wanted to take a Master’s degree and I decided to do it whilst living in Hong Kong. It took me two years to save for the tuition fee, and another two years of studying part time and juggling full time work commitments. I was the first western woman to take my course, and the second westerner to ever be accepted on the course.
I encountered many difficulties, particularly the language barrier. First of all, many professors prefered to use Mandarin, as this was their first language. Unfortunately, I cannot speak Mandarin too well, and had to drop some courses when professors wouldn’t change handouts/ translate lecture notes for me. This I felt was a little unfair, as coming from a British university, I was used to an environment where everyone’s needs were met. I encountered a lot of prejudice from some students and even some lecturers.
Many students thought I came from an affluent background, and many lecturers thought I would not take the course seriously. I had to work hard to prove myself, living in a one bedroom apartment alone. I would work 9 hours, travel to university after work and attend three hour lectures 2-3 times a week. My weekends soon disappeared due to the demands of the course and my studious attitude. I missed a lot of time spent with friends who soon after moved out of Hong Kong permanently.There were many times that I wanted to give up and felt very alone.
However, I gained so much from this experience. I made a very good friend, a sign language interpreter from Japan, who introduced me to sign language and explained the different varieties. I met friends keen to improve their English and have assistance with their presentation skills. I was able to learn more about Cantonese, a language which I have put a lot of effort into learning these last four years.
I was lucky to have wonderful lecturers who inspired me, and I learnt more about language acquisition and bilingualism. My favourite course was bilingualism as it focused on the Hong Kong environment and I found it relevant to what I witnessed in my everyday life. The backdrop for the university I attended was beautiful, and I had to literally climb the mountain to get there!
To anyone looking to self-fund university or further study in Hong Kong bear the following in mind.
- Depending on the course, it is fairly difficult to a non-permanent resident to get funding.
- Depending on the university, you may be one of a few western students.
- Prepare for some prejudice/ stereotyping from your classmates.
- Work hard to break these!
- Meet interesting people and have fun!
Thanks for reading!