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School of Law

Studying Abroad in Hong Kong: Settling In

We catch up with Tejal Shah, Queen Mary Global Law LLB Student and Turing Scheme Grant Recipient, on her year abroad in Hong Kong!


Now that I am somewhat settled into Hong Kong and I have accounted for all the missed days of fun I had due to quarantine, I can finally talk about the reality of an exchange programme.

It can be very overwhelming. A lot is happening at the same time. That is the university, social life, the constant thought that you need to be out and exploring this new city all day long, staying in touching with those back home and adjusting to this new place. I found that if I really wanted to have long conversations with family/friends back home then I really needed to take a day off and stay in. I’ve also started taking more days off for myself and trying to recharge as I have felt my social battery draining.

New things from last time

Tejal Shah at the top of a mountain looking over the Thousand Islands reservoir in Hong KongI camped two more times. I used to hate camping; I didn’t get the point of it. Until I came to Hong Kong and camped three times here. I visited the closest island to China, where you can see China very clearly – Tung Ping Chau! I cycled to the border of China. Visited a famous Christmas Market in Hong Kong at Discovery Bay. I found my happy place/favourite hike in Hong Kong, Thousand Islands. Something at that place draws me in and makes me feel at peace. And I attended a HKU Law lunch, it was very nice.


I’m going to be completely honest; it is tough. For me, the actual course content was not that difficult. It was more about keeping on top of it. Being a law exchange student at HKU felt very different to QMUL. At HKU, I did not have any tutorials. All I had were 3-hour long lectures for each module. Surprisingly, for Cantonese, I had 2 classes each week and a lot more workload.

I struggled a lot with balancing university studies. To the point where I did a 5200-word research paper in 24 hours, in December despite being given it in September. It was not an ideal situation, but I did pass the module, so I guess it worked out. In hindsight, I could’ve managed my time better and devoted more time to it. That said, it is relatively easy to pass modules as a law exchange student at HKU - that is if you meet the deadlines and do the work you’re told to do.

In December, I had my first in-person exam in Hong Kong and indeed first in-person exam after 2 years of online exams. It was an open-book Criminal Procedure exam. Admittedly, I picked that module knowing there would be an exam because I wanted to see what it was like doing exams in Hong Kong…



Leafy green trees in the gounds of HKU HallsI hated my halls for a good week when I first moved in. It felt very much like a jail, and it didn’t help that the windows had bars on them. But I settled in quickly after my roommate moved in. I started decorating my room and made it feel very comfortable. I also had very nice flatmates who made the halls feel like home.

Also, the halls offered by HKU are very very cheap. The prices of getting private accommodation in Hong Kong are ridiculously high. It is totally worth staying at halls.


The biggest shock I had in Hong Kong was the lack of vegetarian options. As someone who has been a vegetarian for her entire existence, I have never had such issues in the UK. However, Hong Kong either seemed to not know what vegetarianism is or did not have any vegetarian options. In the UK, at least one dish would be vegetarian but in Hong Kong majority of restaurants did not have any vegetarian dishes. Perhaps plain noodles/lettuce if you’re lucky. Being the only vegetarian amongst your peers is also difficult as they are ok to eat at the first restaurant they see, whereas you have to walk down about 5 streets only to find something reasonable.

I turned this negative situation into a positive one towards mid-December. I taught myself how to cook by following my mum’s advice/youtube videos and made my own food. It became one of my favourite hobbies and I found myself cooking whenever I had alone time/felt very happy. I even cooked Indian food for my exchange friends that lived in my halls.


I was only offered accommodation by HKU after my first week of quarantine. I was very happy to have received the offer, however, I was hoping for a single room (that is a room to myself). I was instead offered a double room (sharing with another person). I was informed this is how most students live there, as accommodation has always been a problem in Hong Kong, too many small apartments. And most exchange students were accepting the offers. I felt if everyone is living like that, then surely, I could manage.

At first, I was doubtful about sharing a room with a stranger. That is your personal space, privacy and alone time completely gone. And out of all the other things, what happens if you just do not get along with this person? I even googled how to live with a roommate as well as the pros and cons.

I accepted the offer anyway. I thought it would be a unique experience. And I am glad I did. My roommate moved in a week after I did. And we got along very well. She was from a completely different background to me, with different ages and stages in life. I thought the halls paired people together based on backgrounds/interests, but in my case, there were no similarities. And that was fine! I learnt how to adapt to different environments, being respectful of another person’s space and privacy and overall, it teaches you to be a nicer person. In the UK everything can feel very individualistic and isolated whereas this felt very collective.

A time to remember

A beach beneath mountains in Tung Ping ChauDue to Covid-19, we are not allowed to visit other students’ halls. One thing we all knew was that we were not going to wake up on Christmas Day in our dull halls away from friends. Hence, we booked a very nice Airbnb from early on. Where we were able to cook our own Christmas dinner, watch Christmas movies and have a wholesome time together.

I had the most beautiful Christmas. I never celebrated Christmas. It was always an ordinary day for me. But this year, together with my chosen family (that’s a group of friends I’ve gotten so attached to that they feel like family to me), we collectively made it a very special day. What I will take away is that going forward I will be celebrating Christmas every year.

The start of goodbyes

One thing that I was not prepared for was saying goodbye. Before coming to Hong Kong, I was a part of a group chat that consisted of optimistic individuals who, despite many barriers, were keen on coming to Hong Kong for the exchange. Funnily enough, the one who made the group was the last one to arrive. But we all did make it here. I was lucky enough to have made two friends through the group who greeted me on my first night out of quarantine. Sadly, they both left having completed one semester here.

Although I didn’t have any expectations about this exchange programme overall, I really did not think about friendships and goodbyes. An exchange programme is so much more than just studying and sightseeing.

New Year 2022

Teja Shah standing by the harbor in Hong Kong at nightI am so grateful to be in Hong Kong. At the start of 2021, I would have never imagined to be ending the year in Hong Kong as an exchange student. It is very funny how life just happens sometimes. Things do work out, a friend of mine told me “what’s for you will never go by you”, and they were right.

Read Teja Shah's first blog on living and studying in Hong Kong.



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