Why YOU should participate in an international summer school next summer

Victoria talks about her experience in Hong Kong as subsidised by UoN's summer school bursary

During the summer of 2018, I headed off to Hong Kong for 5 weeks to participate in an International Summer School as part of UoN’s summer school programme. Here is why YOU should do the same next year:

1.It’s an insanely cheap way to travel – unfortunately, there isn’t a Ryan Air equivalent flying out of Hong Kong International airport, and so you’re looking at £500 upwards if you were to visit here off your own accord. Thankfully, UoN’s Summer School Bursary covers the majority of your flight costs, meaning personally I was able to make it to Dubai, go up the Burg Khalifa, and travel onwards to Hong Kong for just £70!

In addition, Hong Kong is the most expensive place in the world, when it comes to housing. But why pay for 5 week’s worth of accommodation, when you can have it for FREE? My host university’s halls featured a gym, PLUS an outdoor pool, yet we only had to pay for the air-con.

Not having to budget for flights, and accommodation meant I could spend my money on FUN things like exploring the city. Even then, transport costs are considerably lower than the UK; the MTR (Hong Kong’s version of the London Underground) comes in at around 50p a ride, whilst a return boat trip to a neighbouring island, will set you back around £3.

Our summer school programme also included an optional field trip, which was heavily subsidised. I opted to go to Taichung in Taiwan, where I visited places such as the sun moon lake, the famous night markets, along with the biggest stationary shop I have ever seen.

“the most incredible part of an international summer school is the people you will meet.”

2. You will learn A LOT – when I found out I was heading to Hong Kong, I asked googled where it was, and whether it was a country. Turns out Hong Kong is not a country, and is actually a former British colony, situated in southeastern China. Whilst at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University, I took classes in Discovering Hong Kong society, and the history and culture of the wine industry. Yes you heard that right: WINE! Let me tell you did we drink a lot of wine, all free of course.

Besides the fact we were all somewhat tipsy due to the aforementioned beverage, I am now familiar with the wine regions of Bordeaux, and know how to taste it like a ‘proper’ wine connoisseur.

Meanwhile, in my Hong Kong society class, I learnt about the social and political landscape of Hong Kong. Here I worked on a group project where we compared Taiwan’s Sunflower movement, with Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution. Our Whatsapp group was used to plan where we’d be having food, we’d never all be on time, and I called for a meeting at one of Lan Kwai Fong’s nightclubs. Yet despite this, we cut up our poster at 1am, stole some tape from the hall’s reception, and all made it to our 9am poster presentation.

“I got a feel of what it meant to live in Hong Kong as opposed to just being a tourist”

3. It’s an opportunity to build a global network – the most incredible part of an international summer school is the people you will meet. I met local Hong Kong students, as well as people from places such as Taiwan, Mainland China, and South Korea.

Having local students show me around the city, meant I got a feel of what it meant to live in Hong Kong as opposed to just being a tourist. For instance, one night we went to have Dim Sum (famous HK cuisine) at 3am, whilst on another day I was shown around Cheung Chau island, where we explored a cave, sampled the local food, and went to the beach.

It’s easy to think that people we would class as ‘international students’ if we saw them wandering about campus are massively different to those of us of non-Asian descent. However, what I found was that although Hong Kong students may not be familiar with the notion of pre-drinks, or listen to the same music as us, it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun together! Some of the most enjoyable days I have ever had occurred during this one trip which included visiting Victoria Peak and staying up until 5am chatting with my global buddies.

Now looking forward to 2019, I cannot wait to go and explore more of Asia, and reconnect with the wonderful people I met last summer. If after reading this, you’re persuaded to go on a summer school then keep an eye out on the University website for when the next destinations are released along with details on how to apply.

Trust me you will NOT regret it.

Victoria Pownall

Featured image courtesy of Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr. Image license found here

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