Given a choice, mainland undergraduate Judy Su Xiaolin would prefer to stay in a hall of residence to enjoy university life to the full.
Instead, the second-year politics student at the University of Hong Kong, like many other mainland students, has to rent a private flat in Western District. Returning to the city after an exchange programme last semester, she failed to secure a room in the residential hall where she stayed during her first year.
"If I had a choice, I'd love to stay in a student hall to experience the hall culture," Su said. "It's more convenient because it's equipped with everything."
Now, she pays HK$3,000 a month to share a two-bedroom flat with two other students.
And she sleeps in the living room. "I was lucky to find the flat on mainland online social network Ren Ren," she said.
Su is one of thousands of mainland students who have to find their own accommodation in the city. Some of her peers say that, like their local neighbours, they are worried about rent rises in the red-hot property market.
For now, Su's rent is not a burden to her family in Beijing because the university grants her a rental subsidy of HK$2,000 a month, so she pays only HK$1,000 out of her own pocket.
"I know housing is a big problem in Hong Kong. Of course it affects us mainland students. If the landlord raises the rent next year, I may have to look again," Su said, adding she would have another go at getting into a residential hall in the next academic year.
Her friend Nathan Yang Naitian, who studies civil engineering, managed to get a place in a new hall on Lung Wah Street, Kennedy Town, after he was kicked out of another dormitory for not being sufficiently involved in its activities. "Flat hunting is time-consuming," he said. "The help centre on campus has a list of private flats available for rent, but usually the properties are expensive, charging HK$6,500 per person a month, excluding Wi-fi and utilities."
Xu Bing, president of Chinese University's Postgraduate Student Association, said that of the 5,000 mainland postgraduates enrolled in the institution each year, about 3,000 took taught programmes rather than research work, and so had to look for their own accommodation.
They tend to live along the MTR line near Sheung Shui, Fanling, Ma On Shan and Tai Wai.