Home Tags Before you go

Before you go

How Are You Going to Keep in Touch with Family and Friends?

Studying abroad is an exciting and once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a chance to completely immerse yourself into a new culture and country. And a time where you will really grow and mature as an individual. However, it’s likely that you may have some concerns over how to overcome homesickness whilst you’re away from familiar faces and surroundings.

Why traditional methods of contact can be better than new technology.

As technology has evolved, the variations of ways to contact our family and friends are endless. You might be social media savvy, an avid Tweeter or maybe you prefer to FaceTime your best mate; whatever your preferred method of contact is, you will be spoilt for choice during your time abroad. However, while these new technologies do have their benefits, they also have their drawbacks. For example, when you’re so far away from home and they make us forget just how good traditional methods of contacting are…

1. Paranoia

Social media platforms are a great way to keep up to date with what all your friends are getting up to whilst you’re studying abroad. Whether you want to admit it or not, the majority of us will have done some sort of Facebook/Twitter stalking during our social media lifetime.

Not only is this a waste of your time, but it can also cause unnecessary paranoia. It’s likely that at some point you’ve incorrectly interpreted a conversation between two friends or trawled through hundreds of photos of that night out you weren’t invited to. Not only is this depressing but it’s also unrepresentative.

Even if the only intention that you have for social media is to use it just for contacting your friends and family, unfortunately, there are hundreds of people on the internet who don’t have the same intentions, with social media trolls becoming somewhat a big issue.

Before social media was around we didn’t have any of these problems. We weren’t exposed to hundreds of people on the internet and didn’t know what everyone was getting up to every second of the day. So the question is: was it better that way? After all, what you don’t know, simply can’t harm you.

2. Technical Faults

Whilst apps like Whatsapp, FaceTime or Skype are brilliant for contacting people for free, they’re not so great when there’s a technical fault or poor WiFi connection. You can all probably relate to a time when you’ve been calling your best friend on Skype when the video image of them freezes. While the position they freeze in is probably hilarious, it’s not so funny when you find yourself in a constant cycle of trying to get a good internet connection back.

People are forgetting just how effective the traditional phone call is. It’s simple, easy and it’s almost guaranteed that the conversation won’t be interrupted by any technical faults. Too many people think it will cost them an absolute fortune to call friends overseas when actually this isn’t the case anymore.

For example, Call Happy, are a company that offer cheap calls abroad ranging from cheap calls to Pakistan to cheap calls to Australia for as little as 5p per minute.

3. Impersonal

It might seem way too old fashioned, but receiving a handwritten letter os so much personal than your average email.

Emails are just another document that you will read on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Two letters that have been written by hand are never likely to be the same.

Letters are also way more fun. You can add your own personal touch with some doodles or personalised messages. You can make it unique to the person you are writing to. It’s like having a piece of that home in your hand. And it’s something that you can keep forever rather than losing or deleting it amongst all of your other hundreds of junk emails.

This article was written by Laura Harrison. Laura is a recent graduate from The University of Manchester and enjoys offering current students advice.

Winning Personal Essays in 500 Words or Less

Great personal statement advice from education professional Sharon Epstein. Here she gives us her top tips for acing the application essay despite the tight word limit.

Many college essays, including the essay for The Common Application, limit you to 500 or fewer words. It can be tough to write an interesting, creative essay and keep it short, but if you know a few simple tips you can stick to the word limit and deliver an essay that will impress.

1. Think small

Don’t try to tackle a big topic like world peace or what you did for your entire summer vacation. Choose a shorter span of time and a topic that’s not too broad.

2. Write about a moment

A moment is a brief period of time when you learned something meaningful to you. Moments can make powerful essays. Here’s an example of a moment:

A student working in a store noticed that a customer had dropped some change. It wasn’t a lot and he almost didn’t stop to pick it up, but then he did. The customer was extremely grateful and told him she was counting on that money. The student wrote about how he’d never forgotten that something insignificant to him could make such a big difference to someone else.

3. Begin in the middle of your story, where the action or conflict starts

This technique will not only save you words but it’s also a great way to draw the reader into your story. Here are two examples of introductions that were changed to start with action:

Example #1:

Before: “I spent my summer vacation interning in the emergency room of a hospital.”

After: “The bloody gurney wheeled past me. I closed my eyes and prayed for the strength not to pass out.”

Example #2: 

Before: “I always wanted to climb a mountain, so that’s what I decided to do my freshman year.”

After: “Hurry up!” my dad yelled, as I scrambled to collect myself for another day of mountain climbing.

4. Use adjectives and adverbs wisely

If your essay is too long, try to edit out some of your adjectives and adverbs. Here are two examples of edits and the reasons behind them:

Example #1: 

Before: As Andrew walked his large legs made heavy, thumping sounds. He turned to stare at the dawning sunrise.

After: As Andrew walked his legs made heavy, thumping sounds. He turned to stare at the sunrise.

Why the change?

  1. Size adjectives, like “large,” are often too general. “Heavy” and “thumping” are specific and convey the idea of being large.
  2. “Sunrise” is dawn. Look for these kinds of redundancies.

Example #2:

Before: “He walked convincingly.”

After: “He strode.”

Why the change?

One word conveys the same idea.

5. Edit Your Essay

Eliminate any details or explanations that don’t move you toward your conclusion. Don’t repeat your ideas. Pare down adjectives and adverbs (see tip #4). Ask someone else to read your essay. Sometimes, as writers, we get attached to our material and it becomes difficult to know what to cut. Ask one or more people who know you to give you suggestions.

Sharon Epstein is a college consultant in Redding, Connecticut, specializing in college essay writing and interview skills. Her business is First Impressions College Consulting and she blogs about college admissions at ApplyingToCollege.org.

How to Write a Personal Statement

Chris Williams is an Australian master’s student at Oxford University. He gives the following advice on writing a personal statement, also known as a statement of purpose or personal essay.

How to write a personal letter?

  • For everything you write, ask yourself the question “so what?” For most applications you will have very little space to prove yourself, so make sure that everything you present is important, and that its importance is clearly articulated.
  • Be specific. You need to be able to answer: Why YOU? and why HERE?
  • Limitations are important. DON’T go over page or word limits
  • REVISE. REVISE. REVISE. Make sure you ask other people to read and critique the statement. This will improve it, and may clarify it in your own mind.

Sample Structure (with guide questions!)

Paragraph 1: State your own personal desire to study in your particular field. BE SPECIFIC. What is it that you are doing and why do you want to do it?

Paragraph 2: Which specific degree or programme do you want to do, and why do you want to do that particular programme? What characteristics of it appeal to you? Why is this an ideal programme for you and your current position?

Paragraph 3: Why do you want to do it at this particular institution? Are there specific teachers/resources that make that institution the best place to study?

Paragraph 4: What will you do if (when) accepted and why? Outline your intentions and what you hope to (will) achieve.

Paragraphs 5 and 6: Provide some background and personal history as evidence of why you would be a good candidate. What have you done in the past to suggest that you will be a good investment in the future? Prove that you are ready for this opportunity now.

Conclusion: Be convinced and convincing. This is a final chance to say why you want to do what you want to do, but in a bigger picture. Where will it lead? Why is it important to you, and others? Leave them in no doubt that they have to interview you.

Hong Kong – Essential Guide for International Students

Hong Kong is becoming an increasingly popular destination for International Students, and it is easy to see why. Great food, easy access to other countries, and beautiful landscape – what more could you ask for?

We thought we would assemble an essential guide to Hong Kong for those thinking of studying there to give you an idea of the lifestyle you’d be living.

General Information

Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) – this is approx. 7.84HKD to every 1USD

Languages: English, Cantonese

Geography: Just south of China, and is made up of more than 200 small islands

Local Time: UTC (+8 hours)

Climate: Tropical. Either super hot and humid, or its Tsunami season. No in between.

Population: 7.4 million (95% Chinese). As you can guess, 7.4 million people crammed onto these small islands means that a great deal of Hong Kong is very built up and busy.

Transport: main transport is the Underground, ferries, and taxis. In Hong Kong, they have Octopus cards which you can use on all modes of transport, and even at some local shops! You can top them up at pretty much any station.

For more information about Octopus cards and how to get one, click here.

Annual Costs (approx.):

University Cost (USD): $13,444

Living Cost (USD): $18,696

Total Cost (USD): $32,140

Most students who decide to study in Hong Kong tend to stay on campus, as regular accommodation in Hong Kong is very expensive and typically quite small. However, food and transport are very cheap out there, and so your day-to-day expenses will not be so high.

Top Universities:

Click on the name of the University to visit their site.

All students require an IELTS 6.0 or equivalent. iGCSE/GCSE English grade C is also accepted. Students are required to have completed 3 HKALEs or equivalent. All Universities in Hong Kong use English as the primary medium of instruction, and English is an official language of Hong Kong (alongside Cantonese).

Individual University and course requirements can be found through their websites.

“There are a lot of people from different backgrounds and many of them speak English. That’s why it is easier for foreigners to live here” – Anastasia, an Indonesian student at HKU.


You will have to apply for a student Visa, the information for which can be found here.

With a student Visa you are eligible to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time, and for any amount of time between 1st June to 31st August (both dates inclusive).

The unemployment rate in Hong Kong is only 2.8% which is one of the lowest in the world, which suggests that you will not have trouble finding a job.

Things you HAVE to do:

  • Victoria Peak: See some iconic views across Hong Kong and the harbour. I recommend getting the tram up, and walking the winding path back down. There is a shopping centre at the top and plenty of photo spots! Very instagrammable.
  • Tian Tian Buddha (aka the Big Buddha): On Lantau Island, there is an enormous Buddha at the top of the mountain. Catch a ride on a glass bubble lift all the way to the top! There is also a temple at the top (called the Temple of a Thousand Buddhas, see if you can count them all!)
  • Ladies Market: You can genuinely spend hours here. Fake Gucci bag? They got it. Silk pyjamas? You betcha. Lucky Jade necklaces? Do you even have to ask? The ladies market is the place to be for bargains and cheap tat.
  • Light Show: Every single night at 8pm, the buildings along Victoria Harbour have a free light show. It is set to music, and is honestly such a sight to see. I recommend hopping on a Ferry during this time to see the display up close! The way the lights reflect on the water in the harbour is just mesmerising.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland: For all you adults with an inner child, I recommend Disneyland. It has fantastic rides and sights to see, as well as being reasonably priced! Space Mountain AND dim sum? Sign me up.
  • Tai O Fishing Village: this entire village is built on stilts on the sea, there is no land at all! For the cost of 10HKD (around £1 or $1.28 USD) you can get tour guide to take you whizzing off on a super fast boat, and see if you can spot a rare pink dolphin!

Food, Glorious Food

Hong Kong is world renown for its incredible food. Here is a quick list of dishes you MUST try when visiting:

  • Beef Brisket Ramen – An absolute classic, so hearty and warming. I recommend going to Sister Wah for it (although there is always a queue!)
  • Dim Sum – a traditional kind of cuisine made up of lots of little dishes. Think tapas, but more dumplings!
  • Egg waffles – these bizarre alien-looking snacks sold on almost every street corner in Hong Kong. You often get them drizzled in melted chocolate and covered in sprinkles – yum yum!
  • Pineapple Pork buns – known to the locals as Bolo Bao, these little fluffy buns of yumminess are filled with the sweet taste of pineapple, and the saltiness of pork. These are a staple in any Hong Kong diet, and I guarantee you will love them!
  • Instant noodles – a staple meal in any student diet, but in Hong Kong these are on a whole other level than Pot Noodles. These cheapy packets of noodles are packed full of flavour, and are often served in restaurants as they are so popular!

It is the culture to eat out more than to cook at home in Hong Kong (a lot of flats will not even come with an oven) so food markets are where you’ll find all of your meals. They tend to be cheap and have so much range, so go and enjoy!

Easy (and cheap) flights to other countries!

These are all approximate:

  • Philipines – 951 HKD
  • Malaysia – 799 HKD
  • Tai Wan – 949 HKD
  • Vietnam – 820 HKD
  • Thailand – 975 HKD
  • Singapore – 839 HKD
  • Indonesia – 1278 HKD
  • Japan – 1342 HKD
  • South Korea – 1058 HKD

All in all, Hong Kong is a spectacular place to visit, and to study there would be a dream. I have only shared a fraction of what there is to explore there! Below I will link a few useful links if you need more information.

Discover Hong Kong

Student Visa Application

Universities in Hong Kong

Undergraduate Study Abroad Programmes

Octopus Cards and General Travel Information