Going to University – West vs East

I had my graduation! It’s officially over now! I’m no longer a student! …I’m really going to miss it… 😦 University changed me for the better, not because of my course, but because of the experiences of moving away, living by myself and meeting new people.

Education is clearly rather different in the West and the East. Focusing on Hong Kong and the UK, the pressure in Hong Kong to do well is far greater than in the UK. Children do many more exams and from an earlier age. According to my boyfriend, children are ranked in their classes from best to worst (I couldn’t disagree with this more) and some primary schools want to see how clever the child is before they let them attend.

I want to talk about the ideas and attitudes that British and Hong Kong people have when going to any university in general, but maybe other countries will fit into what I am saying. I have no experience of the education system in Hong Kong. I can only talk about what friends have told me.

Here are 3 stories from my boyfriend (Hong Kong born but lives in the UK), myself (lived in the UK all my life) and my friend (Moved from Hong Kong a few months ago to attend university in the UK) about the decisions when it comes to the last part of education; university.

Story 1

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My boyfriend was living in the UK when it was time to choose a university, and he applied to the 2 in his home town. His parents didn’t go with him to open days or look at the universities. All they did was tell him which course he was allowed to do, not considering the fact he may not enjoy it, not want to do it as a career and most of all, he may be quite bad at it! He wanted to study Business or ICT. They chose for him Accounting and refused to sign guarantor papers for the fees and his rent unless he did what they said. My boyfriend has told me it is because they thought it “sounded better”. He had some huge arguments with his parents about moving into halls of residence. They didn’t want him to go because they lived a bus ride from the university he got into. Money saving was more important than the experiences you can gain from university. I admit for many people there is nothing they can do but save money. With the rising costs of university, people aren’t being able to leave home. But my boyfriend had the money to do it and he wanted to do it.

Story 2

union-jackMy parents expected me to go to university like they did, and that was fine because I expected myself to go too. It just felt like something you do, in the same way you progress through school. I always knew what course I wanted to take, a subject I loved, and my parents were more than happy for me to take whatever I wanted. They took days off work and drove me to various universities all over the country. They helped me decide on the pros and cons of each university, the city or town it was in, the location and the course. They gave me advice, but not once did they tell me where they wanted me to go. They didn’t want to influence that decision because it was mine to make, even though I’m hopeless at decision making! I think I picked the university they thought was the best for me anyway. They also supported me financially by paying for my fees, so that I would only have to cover rent and food and I wouldn’t have to take out a loan. I know I’m lucky, because a lot of parents couldn’t afford to shell out £3,000 a year.

Story 3

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My good friend recently moved from Hong Kong to the UK. She really wanted to move here and is currently studying at university. However, she had also applied for a course at a Hong Kong University. While she didn’t want to stay in HK, she was convinced that the course in would mean better job prospects because it was a slightly more highly regarded university. While this may be true in Hong Kong (I don’t know for sure), in the UK this isn’t such a big issue. Oxbridge may initially look appealing to employers, a 1st degree at a middle of the range uni is far better than a 3rd at Oxford, and probably easier to achieve. She was then extremely upset when she didn’t get into the Hong Kong university, or her first choice of course (this is understandable) and is planning on doing this degree, then applying for a different degree once she has finished, then doing further higher education courses afterwards. Now she is here in the UK, I think she has lightened up a bit, but she still seems desperate to be better than everyone else.

In my opinion…

…of course you want to get a good degree, you don’t want to waste all the money spent to come away with nothing to show for it, and you want to get a good job eventually, but university is so much more than working. It’s about learning to be independent, buying your own food, cleaning for yourself, socialising with new and different people, managing your own time and money, experiencing a new place, discovering yourself, and most of all having fun! You will have a life time of working ahead of you. You might as well have some fun while you can. University should be the best 3 years of your life.

What are your thoughts? What do you think is the most important reason for going to university? 

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How I met my boyfriend

This is the story of how I met my boyfriend. Not how I got together with my boyfriend – how I met him and how we became friends, way before he became my boyfriend.

I had just arrived at my halls of residence. I knew that the next day my parents were going to leave me in this place, 250 miles away from my home, where I knew no one at all, and I was pretty scared! As we moved some of my things into my room, an Asian guy appeared in the corridor and my Mum started the conversation for me as I am shy and awkward.

My Mum: Hi, do you live here?

My boyfriend: Err, no, I live in the room here. *Points to the room next door*

(That’s what she meant!)

We introduced each other, shook hands (we’re British!) and he told me if there was anything I needed, to ask him. That was it for day one. I knew nothing about him except his name. I assumed he was a Chinese international student because of his accent. Little did I know his accent wasn’t as Chinese as it could be. I’d never spoken to a Chinese person before so I had no idea.

I’d chatted to some of my other flat mates, but mostly I just stayed in my room. I decided I needed to take the opportunity to chat to someone, so a couple of days later when I saw him coming out of his room, I said…

Me: Hey, I was just going down the shops, I wondered if you wanted to come?

My boyfriend: Oh..err…I can’t. I have to go to university. Maybe another time though.

Me: Oh, ok, see you later then.

And I walked off to the shop, feeling rejected. Normally at this point I would give up, I’m really that lazy when it comes to being sociable. However, I managed to chat with him a few times in the kitchen over the rest of the week. He offered to take me around the city, as he had lived here for 9 years at this point and I had no clue where anything was. He gave me a mini tour of the city while I talked non-stop and he just nodded occasionally. It was at this point I found out he wasn’t a Chinese international student, he had lived here for a while and he actually knew English quite well. He took my phone number just in case of emergency, like getting locked out of the flat. (Something he had already done several times)

I was going through a really bad time in my life when I started university. In the second week, my Mum came up to visit me and give me some bad news in person. While I was crying in the hotel, he text me. I told him what had happened and he text back saying sorry…he didn’t seem overly sorry but at least he hadn’t made a horrible joke like I know some people would have. He then asked for my MSN address so we could talk a bit more.

From that moment on we talked on MSN for ages, even though we were living next door to each other. It was easier for us both to have long conversations on MSN, then message “Going to the kitchen now, want to come?” and have a chat in there while we cooked. I found out an actor I liked was at the theatre in my city, so I invited him to come with me to “stalk” the actor after the play ended. He agreed to come along, and I think that moment revealed just how truly mental I am…and he accepted me for it. We sat outside the theatre eating fish and chips, and he took photos for me as the actor left out of the stage door. That was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Soon after, he sent me an MSN message asking me out. I said no…but that’s a story for another time. 😀

I don’t know about you, but i’m feeling 22

At the end of July, I turned 22. I don’t actually feel 22. (I just felt like getting a Taylor Swift quote in the title)

I’m actually often mistaken for a 16 year old – I think it’s because I do look younger than I am mixed with the fact that I don’t wear make-up and I don’t dress very adult-y. I’m a jeans and t-shirt sort of person. But I’ve finished University and I’m looking for a job. I’m officially an adult no matter how much I don’t feel like one.

Yes, I’ve been allowed to have sex, get married and smoke for 6 years (smoking age actually changed from 16 to 18 when I was 16 but who cares, I don’t want to smoke), I’ve been allowed to drive for 5 years and I’ve been allowed to drink, gamble, go clubbing and vote for 4 years…but due to the fact I don’t overly care about those things, being allowed to do them hasn’t made me feel any older.

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This doesn’t make me feel older. It usually just makes me feel a bit bored…

But I admit, I don’t feel the same as I did when I was 18. I have grown up a lot and I think I have changed significantly. Going to University and falling in love are the main 2 things that affected me. At the age of 19 I moved 250 miles away from my parents to live on my own. At the age of 20 I first had sex. At the age of 21 I left Europe to go to Asia for the first time, and it was my first time on a plane without my parents. At the age of 22, if all goes to plan, I should be moving in to my first real flat or house with my boyfriend. All that has definitely made me a different person but for the better. I am more confident, more independent, more sociable (still not very sociable but that’ll never change) and more understanding of the world. I’m not the same person I was 3 years ago…but that still doesn’t make me feel old enough to be an adult!!!

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Living in halls of residence and meeting my boyfriend really changed me.

Recently, my Mum revealed to me that she met my Dad when they were 22. I had wrongly assumed that they were around 25 when they got together. I don’t know why but it really surprised me to think that they got together when they were at my age. For me a relationship is an adult thing. I don’t believe many people are old enough for a real relationship before the age of 18, though admittedly there are  fair few people who are under 18 and much more mature than many adults. I know I definitely wasn’t ready before I was 18 years old, or after for that matter! Now when I really think about what is happening in my life, with my relationship and with my age…it makes everything seem a bit more real that it did before.

I see all these 13 year old girls dressing up like they are in their 20s and often you can’t tell! You can see why some guys end up sleeping with under age girls, it’s not obvious at all. I’m not condoning it but if a young girl who looks 20 is leading them on, they aren’t going to ask for a birth certificate. These girls often look a lot older than I do. I just think, why would you want to grow up!? Being a teenager is so much fun. I admit, late teens is more fun than early teens – you can do what you want, you can live by yourself, you can have fun and you have no responsibilities. I miss university so much already and I only finished it a few months ago.

Maybe everyone at some point feels like they aren’t old enough for the life they are living…or maybe I am just desperate to not grow up. 

Images: dontstayin.com