There are several university halls as well as university owned apartments around the Hong Kong Island area, so getting accommodation from the university is not very hard, especially if you are on exchange from one of the renown partners (such as The University of Glasgow). They keep extra spaces for exchange students from our university – which is good-good!
The accommodation application opens in the beginning of May (around 10-13th), but if differers every year. This year it opens on the 11th of May at 10 am. Apply as soon as it opens! You will most probably not have received your acceptance letter by then, but apply anyways and CEDAR will process your accommodation application as soon as they get the acceptance letter from you (you’ll have to email it to them when you get it).The accommodation allocation is on the first-come-first-serve basis so check the time difference and apply ASAP, it usually opens 10 am HK time. Here is the link to the application and information about all the colleges you can apply to: http://www.cedars.hku.hk/sections/Accommodation/News/HallsofRes.php.
The application is fairly simple and takes less than 10 mins. In the application you will have to mention activities that you are interested in, your gender, sexual preference and religion so that they can assign you to a college that is best suitable for you. HKU has a very diverse environment, with students from various backgrounds and religions so in case you belong to a minority, they will do a great job making sure you are in the right accommodation! They will also provide you with a section where you can add any additional information. You will be asked to make a choice out of 3 colleges, so state your most preferred one first. When I applied they somehow did not have all the colleges on the list so I got slightly confused and put in whatever was there… That might happen with you but do not freak out. It will all be alright in the end!
In terms of residences, you can pretty much forget the single rooms, because those are reserved for PhD students, tutors or students with children. You can also forget about the small 2 bedroom flats, because those will also be reserved for tutors or families. Hong Kong is the 10th most densely populated city in the world and rent is VERY expensive, in Hong Kong Island especially. Just to give you an idea, e.g. for 5000 HKD you can probably get a tiny little room somewhere in Kennedy Town but you might even have to share it. On the other hand, the university receives some money from the government to make the accommodation more affordable for students. So the competition for single rooms is very high and that is why everyone (even families) are applying for university owned residences!
Another thing to keep in mind is that all university accommodations have separate floors (girls/boys) and many university accommodations have guards and you need to sign in your visitors before they can enter your room.
If you want to avoid the guards and all that hassle, you should apply to Pokfield Residences or Student Flats. The downsides with student Student Flats are that it is only for girls (but I heard they change that sometimes, e.g., they admit only girls one year and only guys the next year, but I do not know if it is true) and they have very small rooms, bunk beds and the apartment is veery old…there are no supermarkets nearby or places to eat and you have to go to Kennedy Town or campus every time. But if you are not planning on spending your days in bed and if you plan your grocery shopping well – it works fine! There is a 7-eleven downstairs in case of any emergency snacking 😛 Not the most comfortable choice though. But I was in Student Flats my first semester and we had a 3 bedroom flat with 6 people and it was very nice! I had amazing flatmates and that was the best part! We had so much freedom and could even throw a house warming party! There is a non drinking policy at uni accommodations, e.g. you are not allowed to drink in the kitchen areas or in the rooms, but the rule is quite relaxed in Student Flats. Student Flats is not the most comfortable choice though, and the facilities are not great. So you have to decide whether you want comfort or freedom, you cannot have both…
I have never lived in Pokfield Residences and not even visited but I have friends there. They have shared rooms with small on-suite bathrooms/kitchen and a large room, no guards so no need to sign in your friends. Pokfield is where I wanted to stay, but unfortunately I did not get that choice. The residences are situated close to uni (7 mins) and Kennedy Town (where all the food is haha) and 2 mins away from the gym. BUT Pokfield is on the top hill, so getting back from Ktown is a bit of a workout! The price for Pokfield Residences is similar to Student Flats, on average 6500 HKD per semester. Residential Colleges are also nice but very strict. There are also 22-25 students on the floor and the people on the floor are not very well integrated, and the price is on average 2000HKD higher because of the compulsory high table dinners. RC are very clean and comfortable, so you have that, but you have very little freedom and many floors have a tutor on the floor. Unless the tutor is nice, you can expect a lot of tip-toeing. There is also Simon K.Y.Lee Hall that is on campus and there is a perfect mixture of local and non-local students there! Super hard to get it though. Or Starr Hall, or Jockey Club Village 1 or 2. There are plenty of comfortable choices, but they all have security, so that is not something you are able to avoid!
If you want to get to know more locals then you should apply to the Residential Colleges/Lee Hysan/Wei Lun/Starr Hall/JC 1/2/3 or any other colleges to be honest. Student Flats and Pokfield Residence have the highest amount of exchange students, other colleges are fairly mixed. The only thing to keep in mind is that local students to not really have time to get to know you – they are so busy keeping the 4.0 GPA that they will most likely not extend the conversation beyond the “Hello, are you on exchange?”. They are just toooo busy!Not to turn to any stereotypes here but…Exchange students are known for travelling, partying and being less preoccupied with their grades and that describes an average pass-and-fail exchange student pretty well. I have on several occasions heard the locals making fun on how the exchange students are always travelling, coming home late and sleeping past noon. Glasgow University students are however, not on pass-and-fail and we have a very different lifestyle. I can somehow relate to the way locals think and to be honest, I was withdrawing myself a lot in the first semester because I found it very difficult to deal with the immense workload, and I could not find any time to go out. It is difficult to be surrounded by friends who are out every Wednesday, while you constantly have to say no, so I think that is the problem for the local students. Locals are always willing to grab a quick lunch on campus, but will not necessarily join the evening activities, so keep that in mind! I only went out 3 times in my first semester. So while other exchange students will go to LKF pretty much every Wednesday, you will not. Most of the local students have never been to LKF or had a night out. Those are the cultural differences you might take into account. Perhaps a better way of meeting locals is to volunteer as a language partner or a join the HKU-mentor program at CEDAR instead of choosing a residence college with only locals, you might feel quite lonely on the floor not having anyone to talk to about your exchange experiences.
I think that should be all for now, if you have any more questions, I am encouraging you to write them all down and either ask me on FB or Skype me in the end of the month! 🙂