Face off: Is Hong Kong a good city for foreign students to study abroad in?

  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a showdown that does not necessarily reflect their personal viewpoints
  • This week, they debate whether international students should consider coming to the city to study
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Would you recommend that foreign students study in Hong Kong? Photo: Shutterstock

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For: Nayab Qureshi, 18, True Light Girls’ College

When you mention Hong Kong, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Bruce Lee? The city’s famous food scene? There’s one other blooming flower that attracts students from all around the world: the world-class tertiary education in Hong Kong.

The city’s political situation has dominated headlines lately, but as the dust begins to settle, prospective international students shouldn’t discount this bustling financial hub as a potential study abroad destination.

Hong Kong is home to many of the world’s top universities, three of which – University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology – made it to the top 10 of the Times Higher Education Asian University Rankings 2022.

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But the indispensable thing that makes any place stand out is the work-related opportunities it provides. Fortunately, Hong Kong comes with lots of them. According to Study in Hong Kong, a site operated by the Education Bureau that encourages students to pursue their studies in the city, there are plenty of opportunities for international students to find internships, as well as part-time work options on campus to support themselves.

International students can also appreciate the city’s fusion of cultures. Hong Kong is a unique city which blends both Eastern and Western cultures. But there’s more to this than meets the eye; people from many different nationalities and religions live in the city. In fact, diversity is a key part of Hong Kong’s identity.

You can find most anything and anyone in Hong Kong. Photo: Shutterstock

Finally, who isn’t aware of the excellent public transport in Hong Kong? Options range from ferries to the metro system (MTR). Hong Kong’s MTR has been called the world’s cleanest, and its railway system covers most of the city. All these transport options can be used with a convenient payment method in the form of the Octopus Card.

In just a short period of time, you can go from densely packed streets to the seaside and beautiful hiking trails. What better way is there to escape the concrete jungle and take a break?

With so many communities calling the city home, its fantastic public transport, and its internship and job options for students, Hong Kong is an excellent study abroad option.

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Against: Teresa Kwok, 17, South Island School

As an international city and Asia’s financial hub, Hong Kong seems like the ideal study abroad destination. Looks are deceiving, however, and I daresay the city is not a good place for foreign students.

Firstly, foreign students may find it difficult to adapt to Hong Kong’s study and work style. Most Hong Kong students communicate with each other using Cantonese at school, and foreign students may find it hard to adapt to school life and struggle with daily communication due to language barriers and cultural differences, and they would end up feeling lonely.

Language barriers may frustrate international students. Photo: Shutterstock

Secondly, Hong Kong’s education system fails to inspire students to be inquisitive learners. Hong Kong has an exam-focused culture, forcing students to become test-taking robots. This leads to a competitive learning environment, which may negatively impact students’ mental health. Hong Kong study culture is definitely too tough for foreign students – and local ones, as well.

What’s more, although Hong Kong is an international city, its global exposure in many fields remains restricted. Hong Kong is famous for its financial and medical industries, so foreign students interested in these fields will benefit if they study here. However, if someone is more interested in technology or the arts, they may not find the experience as useful, and may feel like they have wasted their time.

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Employment and career opportunities are crucial factors foreign students need to keep in mind when deciding if they should study in Hong Kong. They may struggle to find internships and, if they stay long-term, employment due to language barriers. This could prevent them from gaining experience in their chosen field.

And finally, Hong Kong has a high cost of living, and foreign students would likely have to pay for expensive accommodation in one of the city’s notoriously small flats. Many students simply don’t have the money for this.

While Hong Kong is a good place for those who wish to learn more about Chinese and local culture, it is not good for foreign students who want to broaden their experience in certain career fields and be inspired to learn.

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