4 ways USC is different from Hong Kong universities

Being able to go to a beach near school is a new opportunity for exchange student Grace Lam from Hong Kong. Grace Lam | Daily Trojan

USC exchange students visit Manhattan Beach. Going to a beach near school is a new opportunity for many of USC’s exchange students. Grace Lam | Daily Trojan

My name is Grace and I am an exchange student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology attending USC for the next four months.

It has been a marvelous four weeks here. I felt like I was a freshman again, overwhelmed by the number of clubs and societies at the Involvement Fair, wandering around campus trying to find my way to classes, and trying food in different restaurants and cafes on campus. Despite the fact that I was born in Singapore, I clearly identify myself as a Hongkonger after moving to the city when I was three. Having grown up and studied in Hong Kong for my entire life, here are some of my observations about USC that you would not see at at my home university.

1.Skateboards and bicycles

I was amazed by how swiftly students use skateboards to commute from one place to another. Hong Kong is a hilly place so it is nearly impossible to skate or bike from one place to another. To put things into perspective, my university is actually built along a mountain and not a single path connecting two buildings is flat. It is great to see that some of my exchange student friends have started to pick up skateboarding

2. Greek associations

This should not be surprising. Fraternities and sororities are just not popularized in Hong Kong. It is really cool that these associations even have houses for their members. Very similar to these greek associations, the society culture at the universities in Hong Kong is very strong too, always emphasizing heritage and legacy. Serving on the executive committee board in a student society is considered a “must-do” for a college student in Hong Kong.

3. Apartments for students

One thing you should know about Hong Kong, is how precious a piece of land is in the city. Hong Kong is notorious for sky-high property prices, and an extremely dense population. Due to a lack of space, a typical student dorm would be a double or triple room with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Luckily, the property price does not apply to university housing. For full-time students, the rent is also much lower than it is at USC. For example, at my home university, it costs around $1,300 annually .

4. Female students wearing backpacks

Believe it or not, I have probably seen more women wearing backpacks on campus in these four weeks than the two years in Hong Kong combined. Don’t get me wrong — there are backpacks sold in Hong Kong. It’s just that it is generally more popular among high school students than college students. Most female college students would not wear their backpacks they have worn in the past six years to a university, and would choose to wear shoulder bags or tote bags instead.