Oriane Lefort

Date: SP2, 2014
Degree Program: DBIB
Host University: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Host Country: Hong Kong

Why did you choose your host university?

I have always wanted to study overseas to learn and understand another culture, to increase my language skills, practice and improve my Chinese. I have chosen ‘The Chinese University of Hong Kong’ as it is one of the best universities in Hong Kong (ranked second best) and Asia (ranked 5th place in 2012). ‘The Chinese University of Hong Kong’ also provides a large range of business courses that are not available at The University of South Australia. I wanted to gain more of an ‘international’ perspective of the world. In addition, I believe that studying in Hong Kong and ‘The Chinese University of Hong Kong’ is a great advantage in terms of impressing future employers.

Hong Kong is the heart of economic and finance with numerous worldwide finance centres. As an International Business student minoring in Chinese and economics I see Hong Kong as the ideal place to enhance my studies and will add weight to my future job prospects in finance and economics. 

Lefort 1What was the university like?

The university life at CUHK was very different from ‘UniSA’. There were a lot of activities, associations and organisations you could join to meet locals and other exchange students. The lectures rooms were small – max 50 students per lecture but last for 3 hours. The lectures are in English but sometimes very difficult to understand (very strong accent).  I didn’t have any tutorials whilst other exchange students did. Depending on your course your assignments are structured differently, my economics and finance courses were all group assignments (group of 5 people). This was a good way to mix with other local or exchange students. However, keep in mind that most exchange students will travel most weekends and will take a few days off. So it is a bit challenging if you aim for a high result when most of your group are travelling abroad. On the positive side, the university is full of resources. The library has recently been renovated and it is very modern with a large number of computers and books, it is very spacious with a lot of choice from lounges, group and individual tables, theatres, separate rooms for meetings with an electronic board. The underground learning garden is where all the exchange students meet to study and for the group assignments, it is open 24 hours 7 days a week. However, on the weekends the local students all go back home, so the University will seem very empty and quiet. The university campus is huge! There are 13 bus lines just to go from one class to another. 

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

This was a life changing experience that helped me grow academically, personally and prepared for my future career. I became more independent and develop leadership skills as I organised numerous event such as cultural exchange through cooking and festivals. I have become more multicultural and tolerant as I made good friends from all over Asia and America. 

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

CUHK has a large variety of accommodation from international dorms where it is obligatory to eat three times a week. Many exchange students appreciated this option as they were quickly integrated with other exchange students. I chose this option however I was placed in a dorm with only locals – we were only 4 exchange students in a dorm of 300 students. Although it was more challenging to meet other exchange students, I made lifelong local friends. The accommodation was very affordable - it was a lot cheaper than Australia! 

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

Hong Kong is an ideal location for travelling.  It has many hidden gems such as hiking trails, beaches, typical Chinese neighbourhoods hidden in the very modern European district. You can easily travel to neighbouring countries. Many exchange students were allowed three entries into main land China. The top destination was Thailand. Personally, I went to the Philippines during the Chinese New Year and to Thailand for a long weekend. After my exams I visited my friends who were on exchange in Japan. 

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

The hardest challenge when meeting new people is to break the ice! Don’t expect the locals to start a conversation or say a little hello, it is you that must go up to them and ask a few questions or directions. Once you have started a conversation you realise that they are very, very friendly just a little shy. They even take their time to show you around the campus and the local restaurants. The university has a large number of societies organised by the dorms, the courses, or the degree. I participated in many dorm activities such as the Chinese New Year event, the food night and the floor night (all the girls who lived on my floor reunited to share dinner). Also, I attended social activities that are organised by the exchange society such as the young and beautiful night (Gatsby theme) and the ball. I highly recommend for you to join the CUHK exchange student’s Facebook page as there are many people giving out useful information and organising beach parties, night outs and hiking and travelling weekend trips.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Studying in Hong Kong has improved my ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds and has prepared my career in working with foreign or multinational companies, also I have become more aware of diverse practice and customs that are essential in working life and everyday life as the world is becoming more and more multicultural.

Whilst looking for an internship I have built a good network portfolio within university organisations, guest lecturers and corporates I met when I was travelling in Hong Kong.  

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Hong Kong is one of the easiest cities to travel, nearly every street there is a metro station (MTR) and everyone speaks English! Don’t worry… you will survive!  It is very cosmopolitan and has a strong European influence, so it is very easy to integrate and settle in Hong Kong. The city does not sleep! Shops are open until 1:00am whilst others are open for 24 hours. In Hong Kong you have to get used to the crowd and the hassle. It’s what make the city bustling with life. 

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