Is it my jetlagged self or is it real that Hong Kong awakens much more slowly than the places I have recently visited in Thailand and Myanmar? Or maybe it is because I am watching from afar and from my window on floor 16, as compared to having my feet on the ground?
Perspectives change depending on where one stands (high above, at ground level or deep below); depending on where one is (at home or abroad, in Europe or in Asia); and depending on how one feels (jetlagged or rested). Probably I will need to address this issue once more after a good night’s sleep ….
Some of the last days’ discussions at City U and Hong Kong University showed that Hong Kong students would certainly chose Swedish universities to study a term abroad, because Sweden is a European country, where much of the teaching is being conducted in English. Sweden also enjoys a good reputation for its social welfare and childcare systems, and for gender equality. Other positive aspects of Sweden, which are often mentioned by students who had studied at Swedish universities, are the nature, the distinct seasons, the clean air and the vast unpopulated stretches of land. Some SE Asian students may have never seen snow before and winter is for them something really exotic!
Compared to densely populated Hong Kong, which is about half the size of the island of Gotland, but has almost as many inhabitants as Sweden as a whole, Sweden really must seem like an empty place. Even the Stockholm region, which we often perceive as densely populated, full of traffic, and a big problem when it comes to housing, seems like plain countryside when compared to Hong Kong!
We thus do have many positive aspects to offer to incoming students. But what would Hong Kong universities have to offer to our students? And would our students, who often are pretty reluctant when it comes to studying abroad, want to spend some time at universities here?
Personally I think that Hong Kong has a lot to offer. The university education is in English, some of the universities are among the top ranked, and many international businesses are located here. The step between university education and finding a job is thus fairly small. The geology students who guided us yesterday told us for example that each of the 50-60 earth science students who graduate each year, can easily find a job in one of the multinational companies that are based in Hong Kong.
Since English is spoken everywhere, alongside Cantonese and Mandarin, Hong Kong offers easy access to Chinese culture without the need of being able to speak Chinese. Maybe this could count as an additional attraction?
Asia seems very far for many Europeans. But less than a 10-hour flight away from Europe is a huge and dynamic region where more than 2/3 of the world’s population live. Maybe just this fact should make us and our students interested in knowing and learning more about this part of the world?