We catch up with Tejal Shah, Queen Mary Global Law LLB Student and Turing Scheme Grant Recipient, on her year abroad in Hong Kong!
It has been 3 weeks since my HKU exchange programme finished. With one click, not only did I complete my exchange programme, but also my Global Law LLB degree. Yet to me the exchange programme got over much sooner. The exchange was always about the place – Hong Kong. And once I had left Hong Kong, that marked the end of it for me.
It was perfect. It was quite possibly my favourite 3 weeks in Hong Kong. I knew I had very limited time, and I made the most of it. I was present and enjoying every moment. I was also able to say goodbye and spend quality time with the friends I had made in Hong Kong, whom I would not be seeing for a long time.
Sai Kung Rock Pools. I had already been to the Sai Kung area multiple times and twice for camping. I had not realised that it also had a stunning rock pool display. Not only did I visit it, I also cliff jumped from it!
Hong Kong’s famous Dragons Back hike. This was one of the easier hikes, with beautiful views looking over the coast.
The streets of Mong Kok. This is where you can find a lot of cheap things in Hong Kong, including souvenirs. I bought some scrapbooks to take back with me.
Must visit (food): One of the best sushi in Hong Kong is Mr Maki, located in TST. They have a vegetarian menu! Kyote Joe is also up there on the best sushi in Hong Kong list, but it is very expensive.
Aqua Luna boat. It’s a traditional boat with red sails that one could always see at the harbour. It was very overrated, and the sails did not even go up! But it was great being able to actually do the experience.
Tian Tan Buddha. Colloquially known as the Big Buddha. It is situated in a quiet village/town called Ngong Ping. The atmosphere feels completely different there. In normal times, you could take a cable car (one of Hong Kong’s greatest attractions) directly to the village. But due to the Covid restrictions, it was shut, and I took a longer route to get there. I was so amazed by the Tian Tan Buddha and the village that I went back within a few days. Best place to buy souvenirs: I love Hong Kong shop in the Ngong Ping Village. Let’s just say… I bought a lot of souvenirs from there.
Victoria Peak. From not visiting it at all in semester 1, I visited it 6-7 times in semester 2. It’s one of the best places with the best views of Hong Kong.
Tai O fishing village. It was one of the places that must be visited when in Hong Kong. Like most places, it was very pretty.
Aberdeen sampan. Another highly recommended activity. You stand by the river and locals come to you with their sampans (boats) and take you on a little tour.
Lamma Island. I never went to Lamma Island. I knew I had to go before leaving.
I was there for the university’s 111nth anniversary. Although the university did not do any live celebrations due to Covid, I volunteered to attend a photoshoot and made a brief video celebrating the University’s success. The campus is one of the prettiest I have seen. It is a shame in-person classes were cancelled in the second semester. Yet, that also gave us a chance to explore more of Hong Kong.
On my very last visit to the HKU campus, I found the last piece of souvenir I’d take back to the UK with me. It was a toy model of Hong Kong’s red taxi.
On my last day in Hong Kong, I wondered around the city. I finally sent postcards to the UK. Something I wanted to do within the first month of arriving in Hong Kong. I then walked around the harbour, had many conversations with myself, took many pictures of Hong Kong. I also ate at my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong for the tenth and final time, Woodlands. Not to brag, but the manager said they’ll miss me. At that moment, I realised I had become a local. I went back to the Wan Chai area, the area where Hong Kong begun for me. I saw what my 3-week quarantine hotel looked like from the outside and revisited my self-monitoring hotel. The last day was an emotional yet very good goodbye to Hong Kong/Home Kong.
I have been fortunate enough, with the help of my QMUL Gianni Sonvico scholarship alongside the Turing scheme, to be able to continue my adventures. So far, I have been to Thailand, Bali and I am currently in Vietnam, on a 12-hour night bus heading to Hoi An - to be precise. I still have a few months left before I eventually return to the UK. Many more travel stops are planned. If you want to continue following my adventures or take a look at my time in Hong Kong then check out my virtual travel diary – Instagram: @tejalinaa
Due to Covid, it was impossible to do trips whilst we were in Hong Kong. Otherwise, the December holidays would’ve been spent travelling. On the other hand, also because of Covid, I was able to see all of Hong Kong, travel to many more places and spend more time at each. I am also travelling with exchange friends I made in Hong Kong, which makes it extra special. It was a very unexpected South East Asia tour. And I can’t help but think how different things would’ve turned out if I had not studied abroad or studied in Hong Kong.
As a final year student, this exchange programme, and all the travelling after, was hands down the best way to spend this last year of university. The best way to put it is that it felt like a gap year as well as a grad trip. If you’re considering whether to study abroad… Just go. Take the leap of faith and watch it unfold magically for you, as it did for me.