With Hong Kong one of the most popular destinations for exchange students from around the globe, Ada Kwok Lai-yin, executive officer of inbound exchanges at the City University of Hong Kong’s (CityU) College of Business, is very busy as the person in charge of helping incoming foreign exchange students adjust to life in Hong Kong.
“CityU is exchange partners with more than 170 universities. The diversity of the exchange students is huge. Before they come to Hong Kong, students and their parents have many questions about the city and my duty is to help them get a better understanding of living and studying in the city,” she says.
Kwok helps overseas students apply for student visas, register for the subjects they want to study and look for accommodation. “There is quite a lot of paperwork to handle before a student sets foot in Hong Kong. I send students information about Hong Kong and CityU to help them learn more about the place before they come. After they arrive, I focus on helping them get used to life in Hong Kong,” she says.
The school’s student-exchange club plays an important role in helping foreign students settle in Hong Kong. “The club is made up of local students who have themselves taken part in the exchange programme. Having been on an exchange programme to a foreign country, they are in the best position to help newcomers settle in,” Kwok says.
The club organises various activities to help foreign students learn about local culture, such as hiking, sports events and celebrations of Chinese festivals. “Through these activities, local and overseas students are able to bond,” Kwok says.
The mainland’s economic rise is one of the main reasons why exchange students choose to come to Hong Kong. “Hong Kong is a modern international city and it is close to the mainland. Many of the students are first-time visitors to Asia and they want to explore opportunities in the rapidly developing continent,” Kwok says.
Kwok loves her job because she gets to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures. “I have served more than 1,000 foreign students and I have made friends with many of them. I am very happy when I see them mature as a person during their stay in Hong Kong. Many students feel homesick when they first arrive, but they go home as independent young men and women who are not afraid to solve problems on their own,” she says.
Besides meeting students, Kwok also has the chance to meet with representatives from CityU’s exchange partners. “Every year, I attend conferences on international education and meet with partner schools. It is a great experience to finally meet in person someone who you have been communicating with for such a long time through e-mail,” she says.
One of the biggest challenges Kwok has to overcome in her job is the lack of suitable accommodation for exchange students. She hopes that CityU will provide more hostel spaces for the increasing number of exchange students coming to Hong Kong. “The school is expecting up to 500 overseas students next year and there is a need for more space in hostels to cater for them,” she says.