A cosmopolitan and highly developed city, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The deep harbor and unique sky scrapers provides an impressive and expansive skyline. Ride the tram up Victoria Peak for a panoramic view of the city, or hang out at the latest hot spot to experience Hong Kong's active nightlife.
Chinese, English, Cantonese
HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW
After more than 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong returned to the People’s Republic of China as a Special Administrative Region on July 1, 1997. The formation and evolution of higher education in Hong Kong has been unlike that in mainland China. Additionally, as a Special Administrative Region of China, it continues to function with a high degree of autonomy, legislated under its Basic Law, which encompasses higher education.
There are nine degree-granting institutions of higher education in Hong Kong, including seven universities, a teacher education institution and an academy of performing arts. All of these institutions, except one, are financed by the Hong Kong Government. Entry to university is competitive and is largely determined by public examinations during the last year of high school.
Most universities operate on a credit-based system—students are required to have obtained a certain number of credits in order to be eligible for graduation. The typical undergraduate degree takes three to four years to complete depending on the discipline and number of credits required.
CUHK's housing and student unions are organized into Colleges, which roughly resemble Houses in some other higher education institutions. Take a look at CUHK's different Colleges here. Note that some Colleges are not available to ISEP students because of extra fee requirements.
STUDYING IN HONG KONG
The CUHK campus is set on a beautiful, lush green mountainside in the less populated New Territories. The facilities include modern student unions, lecture halls, library, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and recreation facilities, and a university shuttle bus that helps transport students between buildings. The dormitories vary in space and amenities, but all are quite livable. You will be placed with one or two Chinese roommates, and will have to get accustomed to more rules and regulations than on a U.S. campus. Many classes are taught in English, but the availability of English language classes varies from year to year and requires flexibility in making course selections. ISEP participants will be affiliated with the International Asian Studies Program, which offers Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese language courses (through the Yale-in-China language program).
There is a registration period on campus after orientation, though be sure to check with CUHK to ensure nothing needs to be done prior to arrival.
At CUHK, one unit is roughly equivalent to one hour of instruction per week. In general, most 3-unit courses are composed of 3 hours of lecture, or 2 hours of lecture and 1 hour of tutorial per week. As a student, you will take three to six classes per term, spending about nine to 18 hours per week in class. Semesters are roughly 13 weeks long.
Exams & Grading
ISEP participants will be evaluated according to the standards of each academic department at CUHK. Criteria for assessment may include any one or any combination of the following: attendance, class work, written work, laboratory work, field work, research papers, tests, exams, and other criteria. Students are required to attend classes (or receive special permission to be absent), to sit for all examinations given for courses in which they are enrolled, and must submit all written work for each course to the satisfaction of the teacher within two weeks from the last day of class for the term. A student who does not complete all such requirements before the end of the term will be given an F for failure.
ISEP participants should complete the check-out procedures as stipulated by Office of Academic Links before leaving CUHK to ensure that his/her transcript will be issued and mailed to ISEP in a timely manner.
Visa and Residency
COVID-19 Update: Visa and Residency guidelines are subject to change and may be updated without warning a result of COVID-19 governmental regulations. Students should review the Special Conditions of Placement in their ISEP Acceptance Package for the most current information.
Visa regulations can change at any time and without notice. All students are required to obtain a visa to enter Hong Kong. Visa requirements can vary depending on the country your passport is issued in.
Students should not under any circumstances apply for a student visa at the Chinese Embassy or consulate. CUHK acts as a sponsor for international students who have been admitted to the university. CUHK will send students instructions for obtaining the student visa ultimately issued by the Hong Kong immigration department.
Visa fee: HK $580
When to apply: immediately upon acceptance
o Application for entry for study in Hong Kong
o Passport size photo
o Photocopy of valid travel document
o A letter of acceptance from CUHK
o Proof of accommodation arrangement
o Proof of financial support
o Confirmation of delivery address
Application Guidelines: Complete and send the application form, supporting documents and payment to CUHK. Your host university will submit the application to the Hong Kong Immigration department for processing.
General Processing Time: 6-8 weeks after CUHK submits the application to the Hong Kong immigration department
While most people in Hong Kong greet each other in a bow, most people from Hong Kong will greet foreigners using a light handshake, and will avert prolonged direct eye contact. Chinese citizens will traditionally have three names (a surname and two personal names). If the person you are acquainted with would like to move to a first-name basis, they will personally advise you which name to use.
Communication in Hong Kong can often be less direct and verbose, and understatements are often made. This is to maintain harmony between speakers and to avoid both speakers from “losing face” or feel embarrassed. Non-verbal communication and body language (such as facial expressions or posture) can convey people’s true feelings.
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND FAMILY
Chinese citizens highly value respect and hierarchy in the family. Filial piety plays a major role in family relationships and elders are honored for their wisdom. For this reason, it’s common for grandparents to live with the immediate family and to be taken care of by their children. Children themselves will also commonly stay at home until there are married or secured a job for themselves.
Confucian beliefs also influence major holidays and ceremonies in Hong Kong, such as the Qingming Festival, where families pay their respects to their deceased loved ones by preparing food and leaving it at their burial site.
Hong Kong offers a wide variety of Chinese cuisines to explore—though Cantonese cooking is one of the most widely popular versions. Many dishes involve steaming, stir-frying, roasting, and fermenting ingredients. Rice is served with nearly every meal and main dishes consist of meats, fishes, vegetables, and broth. Drinking tea alongside meals is also very common.
Meals are often served in large portions to be shared with one another. People commonly eat dim sum for lunch together, which is usually eaten in small bite-sized portions/ Streetfood like char sui bao (steamed pork buns) and eggettes are available in stalls across the city and are usually inexpensive.
If you’re vegetarian/vegan, it may be best to practice a few phrases to kindly ask for dishes with “no meat”, “no fish sauce”, etc.
While people in Hong Kong tend to stand close when conversing with one another, touching and any sort of physical contact are much more reserved.
Sitting with your legs crossed can be seen as offensive.
People from Hong Kong avoid pointing at people with their index finger and use an open hand to gesture towards others/things.
You can leave small bits of your meal on your plate as a way to show that you enjoyed your meal. Avoid laying your chopsticks sticking out of your dish when finished eating, and rather lie them on the table beside your plate.
Sources of Information
Hong Kong is a very busy city (one of the top 5 most densely populated cities in the world) with a thriving urban environment and extremely tall high-rises. There is so much nightlife and activities to offer for students interested in a fast-paced lifestyle. Since life moves quickly amongst locals there, interactions with strangers can be short and deeper relationships require persistent effort and communication.
Since both Chinese and English are the official languages in Hong Kong, most international students should be able to navigate comfortable and interact with citizens on a day-to-day basis (especially with the younger generation). Cantonese is the most common form of Chinese spoken; however a good amount of Hong Kong citizens also learn Mandarin growing up in school and can communicate if students are looking to practice with a new friend.
FOOD & LEISURE
Western food in supermarkets can be slightly higher priced and have limited variety. Dining out can be relatively cheap depending on the cuisine, and casual street food is generally very inexpensive.
Since Hong-Kong itself is mainly a city, students looking for a quieter, natural environment to wind down should visit the outlying areas for places like national parks (Tai Mo Shan Country Park, Kam Shan Country Park, etc.)
While Hong Kong is a very densely populated area, it is incredibly accessible to get around using the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), taxis (they typically only accept cash), or buses. Students should purchase an Octopus Card upon arrival, which is a reusable card that can store value and make purchases in local transportation stations. There are even ferries that travel between Hong Kong, other surrounding islands, and China’s mainland.
It is recommended that LGBTQAI+ students conduct personal research on their host country before departing for their program. Students should keep in mind that social attitudes and acceptance may vary based on a number of factors including region, age, and the local political climate. If you would like to be connected with your host coordinator or an alumni who identifies as LGBTQAI+ before your departure, please contact your Student Services Officer.
Health and Safety
Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference our Guides and Tips section for general information regarding health and safety abroad.
ISEP expects changes to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for 2021 and 2022 programs. If the student's host country, host university, home university, home country, or travel provider require a COVID-19 vaccination, students must comply with that requirement. ISEP will notify students if we become aware of changes in the terms of participation for their program.
For helpful tips for before, during and after your study abroad trip, please visit this page of the CDC website.
If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here. Please contact your Student Services Officer and ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions.
Detailed information about Hong Kong can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections.
Please review the CDC's Health Information for Travelers to Hong Kong.
Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S. nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections.
Hong Kong is in a unique position in the banking and finance world. Its prominence as a major international port and its location in a time zone that covers the gap in working hours between Europe and America have made international finance one of its major industries. As a result, there are few problems in exchanging currency and cashing traveler's checks. A full range of banking services is offered. Reportedly, however, a month is required to clear foreign checks. Hang Seng Bank, located on the campus of CUHK, may be a convenient place for you to open a savings account. The bank also has a branch in New York City. The Hong Kong monetary system is based on dollars and cents and is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Please visit (http://www.xe.com ) to see the latest currency exchange rate.
Sources of Information
Hong Kong Tourism Board
Online edition of the South China Morning Post
*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com Web site for content and purchasing information.
Culture, History, and Politics
Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment
Fenby, Jonathan. Dealing With the Dragon: A Year in the New Hong Kong
Morris, Jan. Hong Kong
O'Reilly, James (editor). Travelers' Tales Hong Kong