December: Finals and Farewells

by - January 02, 2014

Myself and Jake at the Avenue of the Stars
In a flash, the four months of the first semester had vanished.  After playing tour guide for my family and enjoying my birthday in Singapore it was time to knuckle down for the first batch of final exams.  Despite the much discussed pressure that comes hand in hand with the Hong Kong education system, I actually entered the exam period feeling more prepared and confident than I had ever done back in Bristol.  I partly put this down to the fact that I had already been graded for a significant proportion of each module through assignments and midterms (preventing the ‘all-or-nothing’ feeling of exams in the UK), but also for the first time in my time at university I felt like I knew my stuff a bit.  I had four final exams – all went pretty well and I was lucky enough to be finished towards the beginning of the exam period, allowing me time to visit Japan before returning to the UK for Christmas.

As it is now the New Year as well as the half-way point of the year abroad, it feels like a good time for a mid-term roundup and reflection.  I like to think that I have got it across in earlier posts, but the year abroad thus far has been superb – everything I could have ever wanted it to be and so much more.  Hong Kong is a true gem of a place and is a microcosm of everywhere I have ever been able to visit.  There can be very few other places on earth where the whole human tapestry is found so concentrated and so complete – from temples to skyscrapers, mountains to beaches and Eastern to Western.  From a personal point of view, it has been a necessary jump-start to my further education.  After drifting out of school and feeling like I had been struggling by, running on fumes for my first and second year, I can at last say that I am enjoying my degree  and (dare I say it) I’m probably not as awful at it as I first assumed.  Much of this has been down to the sink or swim nature of the education and examination system at UST – if you don’t know your stuff, you are found out very quickly. 

I also believe I have a lot to be thankful about for the atmosphere within UST itself.  As soon as I stepped onto the spectacular campus back in August I knew that this was a place where I would only have myself to blame for not performing.  As with the city itself, I feel that there is a buzz on campus.  It feels like a hive of activity and motivation – a place of innovation and inventions, internships and international outlook that will one day produce true captains of industry.  It is a place that you want to prove yourself worthy of.  My fellow exchange students as well as my full time friends from around the world have been key to this – their ‘can-do’ spirit is a source of inspiration to never stand still.  No sitting watching TV and waiting for things to happen – if you aren’t working, exploring Hong Kong or travelling around Asia you are wasting your life away.  Many of the wonderful exchange students that I have met thus far have been on a single semester programme, meaning that they won’t be returning in January and a new bunch of people will be arriving.  I have no doubt that they will be up to the challenge of keeping up the restless spirit of exploration and joie-de-vivre.

The well-thought out education system in Hong Kong allows all exams to be wrapped up at the end of the semester, giving a large six week break between semesters before Chinese New Year on the 31st January and the start of term on the 5th February.  I have chosen to make the most of this time by planning a four week trip to the south of India, which I have created a separate blog for.  So with that, Happy New Year, and see you again in February.

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