Español & IR in Hong Kong- Deanna Coleman

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Deanna invites you to check out her coursework from her Spanish class at Hong Kong University…. As a student of IR, Deanna chose to study some brilliant modules in HKU as well as continue her Spanish studies! She hopes this video on Hong Kong, the university and history and her life there will encourage language students to look further afield when choosing study abroad opportunities.

Deanna also kindly answered our questions on academic culture in Hong Kong… Read on for top tips on how to navigate HKU!

  1. Where did you study? Which modules did you take at your host university?

The University of Hong Kong: Environmental Policy, Hong Kong Politics, Latin American Politics, Spanish Intermediate, and Spanish in Hong Kong. A total of 5 modules are required per semester, I took Spanish ones because that was part of my degree and I didn’t want to forget it. You can take beginner languages if you wish.

  1. What was the biggest academic culture shock you experienced?

Big class sizes! In St Andrews I’ve always had a close relationship with my professors or tutors, but it seemed very impersonal and hard to achieve in Hong Kong, as you can have up to 300 people in a class.

  1. How did the contact hours compare to your experience at St Andrews?

In my experience, it was only the exchange students that took advantage of contact hours. Due to large class sizes it may involve queuing or arriving early. But I have found that tutors were very responsive to emails.

  1. Who was your main point of contact for issues with academic work? Did your university have a Global Office equivalent for study abroad queries?

I mainly spoke to the professors/tutors of the classes I took. I didn’t have any point of contact with the university outside these classes.

  1. Did you notice any differences in academic terminology? What did you call your tutors? List any words and their definitions that confused you at the start of your experience that others may find helpful to know e.g. What are mid-terms? Is everyone called Professor?

I would look out for assessment criteria. I chose modules that were 100% coursework, but they still required in class exams under exam conditions with invigilators that took place over the last week of term, as opposed to during the exam weeks.

  1. How did you navigate the resources available?

The HKU portal is incredibly complex and very hard to navigate it, but there are staff at the library and the learning center that would help you if you have a question about using the system.

  1. How did the workload compare to St Andrews?

The idea of having 5 modules as opposed to 2 is quite daunting. I feel as though all of them required as much work as St Andrews, if not more, but you have to remember that the weight of it is different because it means they’re only 20% each instead of 50%.

  1. How were you assessed in your subject? Coursework/exams/mid-terms? How frequent were assessments?

I was definitely always busy; if you don’t have an essay deadline or a class quiz/test of some sort, then you probably have a reading presentation or something. Mid-terms were a very big eye opener for where you are in the module, and reduce the stress of an overall exam at the end of the semester, as the module was broken down more. I chose coursework only modules, but until you take the module, you won’t know that some HKU modules will still put exams in the coursework; it’s just that they won’t take place during the official exam period.

9. And finally, share your 3 top tips for navigating the academic culture in your host country

  1. In HKU there is a learning centre, which is a beautiful building (Chi Wah) with a lot of open space and desks, simply designed for doing work. I definitely recommend spending as much time there as possible! It is the perfect balance of embracing the culture, hanging out with your friends and getting some work done. It also has incredible views of Hong Kong.
  2. Stay on top of work. With 5 modules and a new country to explore, you can fall behind quite quickly, so always try and be one step ahead.
  3. Take modules that are about Hong Kong. There are so many modules available about HK history, Chinese history etc., I really wish I had taken more of these!

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