In just over an hour’s time I will leave Bristol and return home to Belfast to chill with my family for a little while. Then in four days’ time, I will be boarding a plane to Hong Kong. Yikes. That’s way sooner than it has any right to be.
I thought I was basically good to go when my visa arrived a couple weeks ago, but oh boy was I wrong. The last week has been a nice stressful cocktail of class enrollment, sorting accommodation, and packing.
For my last two years at University of Bristol, class enrollment couldn’t have been easier. My course is mostly compulsory units plus maybe one or two open units which are timetabled for me by admin people. Easy! This was my first time enrolling for classes using the system of ‘you choose all your classes, just make sure nothing clashes‘. Easier said than done. Turns out some of the classes I wanted to take clash with each other. Great. Also, since I’m an exchange student and have no prior classes, I lack the prerequisites on the system and so can’t enroll in anything until I get approval from the class tutor. Awesome. Oh, and classes have a limit on how many people can take it; if it’s full by the time you’re able to enroll for it, hard luck mate. Join the waiting list and deal with it.
Luckily, I was approved for all the classes I wanted before they were full, and successfully enrolled in a standard load of classes which seem interesting and satisfy my home institution. Yay! Also managed to get Fridays off this term! Double yay! So I’m taking five classes: ‘Image Processing‘, ‘Human-Computer Interaction‘, ‘Heterogeneous Parallel Programming‘, ‘Practicing Cybersecurity: Attacks and Counter-measures‘ and ‘Chinese for Non-Chinese Language Background Students I‘. That’s right nerds, I’m gonna interact with my computer to hack you and process ALL your images while talking in Mandarin. And I’m not really sure what ‘Heterogeneous Parallel Programming‘ is either…
Strangely, although Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong, the Chinese course offered to exchange students is Mandarin. I’ve been told this is because outside of Hong Kong, Macau, and a few western Chinatowns, Cantonese is almost useless. There are around sixty million Cantonese speakers in the world, but over one billion Mandarin speakers. It’s more useful in the long term to study Mandarin, just funny that it won’t help all that much outside the classroom for the time being. HKUST is doing some kind of strange language-buddy program which is supposed to help us learn Cantonese. We’ll see how that turns out I guess.
As for my accommodation, I was guaranteed a room in one of the cool futuristic on-campus halls overlooking the sea. They were even kind enough to offer me the choice of a double or a triple room. Thanks guys, one roommate is plenty. I put my roommate preference as ‘Local Hong Kong Student‘ because I was worried it would be difficult to make friends with the local students under other circumstances. They tend to prefer hanging out in tight-knit groups, speaking Cantonese and eating Dim Sum together. Anyway, I got my hall allocation yesterday; hall IX! The newest hall, with more modern facilities, but a reputation for housing more international students and introverts.
There are four people (including myself) going to HKUST from University of Bristol, and we have a little Facebook chat to talk about stuff. We all hopped on to share our hall allocations. “Hey, I’m hall IX too, in this room, what room are you in Danny?” posted one of the guys. Lo and behold, I checked my room number and it was the same. He is bed L, I am bed R. So even though both of us requested local students as roommates, and did not ask to be put together, we’re in the same room. Is it a coincidence? There are like 2000 double rooms or something, I can’t believe it! I’ve no idea why the room assigning people put us together. I’m a little bit disappointed, cause I was hoping for a local roommate. However, I know this guy and he is super friendly so I’m actually kind of relieved. No more worrying that my roommate will be mean. We’re gonna take HKUST by storm; watch out Hong Kong, there are a couple gangsta engineers on their way!
Finally, packing my stuff has been a nightmare. I can take 23kg of hold luggage plus unlimited weight of cabin luggage when I fly Dublin to Hong Kong, but first I need to get back to Ireland. I made the mistake of choosing to fly Ryanair. £25 for a 15kg bag! “That’s plenty, right?” I told myself a month ago when I booked. Oh poor, naive past-Danny. How wrong you were. I packed about half of the stuff I wanted to bring and the bag already weighed over 17.8kg. Nightmare. I decided to pay Ryanair an extra £10 to upgrade my bag to 20kg (ripoff! ahhhhh) and just bring less stuff home with me. Just about managed to get everything in under the weight limits, assuming the cheap bathroom scale I’m using is accurate. If I arrive at the check-in gate and am told my bag is overweight, I will throw clothes into the bin before giving Ryanair any more money. Or maybe just cry until they let me away with it.
Despite all the unexpected stress of getting ready to leave, it still hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ll soon be living 6000 miles from home. I think that my brain is doing this as a defense mechanism; making me feel numb to all the nerves, worries and excitement of leaving so I can focus on getting everything organised properly. I think it will take a couple weeks of being in Hong Kong before I accept it. Oh well – I’ve got almost everything done now so I’ve got a couple days at home to chill. Gonna drink some beers and play with my dogs.
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