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This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Specialists advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Phone: (805) 893-6152; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Finance Accountant
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Pre-Departure Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
Once abroad, a host university faculty or staff member representing UCEAP will be your first point of contact for all matters. Among other things, the designated person provides support with academic matters, program logistics, and personal issues.
It is critical that you understand the role of each person involved with program, logistic, and academic issues, and remember to communicate your concerns with all parties (both in Hong Kong and at UC).
The University of Hong Kong
Ms. Cathy Wong, Program Manager
Office of International Student Exchange
Global Lounge G/F, Fong Shu Chuen Amenities Centre
The University of Hong Kong
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-852) 2219-4131
Phone (calling from Hong Kong): 2219-4131
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code .......... 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Hong Kong country code ........852
Approximate Time Difference
Courses are offered in a full range of academic disciplines; however, some restrictions apply and are noted on the University of Hong Kong website. Clinical courses in the faculties of Medicine and Dentistry are not open to exchange (UCEAP) students.
All courses, except those offered by the Department of Chinese, are taught in English.
Chinese (Cantonese) language study is not required, but is recommended, as Cantonese is the primary language of Hong Kong. Former UCEAP students have commented that knowing just a little Cantonese made a big difference.
- Minimum of 20.0 UC quarter units per semester (usually four courses); 25 UC quarter units (five courses) recommended; 30 UC quarter units maximum allowed. No exception to the minimum or maximum number of units will be permitted.
- If you take 4 courses, you make take one course on the pass/no pass grading option; if you take 5 courses, you may take two courses on the pass/no pass grading option.
- The majority of your courses (minimum 50%) must be taken in the faculty to which you are admitted (usually two or three courses per semester).
Note: The Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) does not count Chinese language courses when calculating if you meet the 50% requirement. If you are taking Chinese language, you may take two courses from FBE, two courses from other faculties, and your Chinese language course. FBE encourages exchange students to take Chinese language, therefore they added this flexibility. Chinese language courses do count toward your minimum unit requirement.
UC quarter units are based on University of Hong Kong units. Most courses are 6 HKU units which equal 5 UC quarter units.
Some broadening courses are 3 HKU units which equal 2.5 UC quarter units. These are usually lower-division courses (also called common core) that are rarely open to exchange students.
You will take between 24 and 36 HKU units (20 to 30 UC quarter units) per semester; 13.3 to 20.0 UC semester units for Berkeley and Merced students.
6 HKU units = 5 UC quarter units = 3.3 UC semster units
Past UCEAP students have noted that everything from course registration to final exams is different at the University of Hong Kong. To help international exchange (UCEAP) students adapt to these changes, the Adjustment Tips for Non-local Students' Guide provides helpful tips and videos on such topics as group projects, communication with professors and tutors, workload and assessment, library resources, and more. Most of the tips in the Guide were provided by past students.
Instructors usually distribute syllabi and reading lists at the beginning of the course. Group projects are common in business administration and other disciplines though they are not as common in the humanities.
While courses are taught in English, Cantonese is the language used in dormitories and in the community, and it may also be used in tutorials, labs, and studios. Some basic Cantonese will facilitate your interactions both in classes and in everyday activities. Lecturers may have accents that are difficult to understand. Before finalizing course enrollment, make sure you understand the main lecturer in each course.
You are expected to study independently, do the background reading, and incorporate class work and reading in your written papers. Some courses involve fieldwork, practical experience, or lab work. Student-centered inquiry and problem-based learning are encouraged. At the same time, be prepared for more memorization for exams than you may be accustomed to at UC; local teaching style emphasizes the repetition of lecture material on written quizzes and exams.
Courses are taught in English except for the Department of Chinese which teaches in either Cantonese or Putonghua. If you wish to take such courses, you must be fluent in both written and spoken Chinese.
Information for exchange (UCEAP) students is also on the HKU website
Chinese language study is offered at HKU through the Chinese Language Center
. Cantonese as a Foreign Language (CHIN9511) has been taken by many UCEAP students and is recommended if you do not speak any Cantonese.
Course Numbers and Levels
HKU has various numbering schemes, including:
- Numbered by year and level: 1000 first-year courses are lower division (with very rare exceptions); 2000 may be lower or upper division depending on the content and if they are in the 3-year or 4-year curriculum; 3000 and 4000 are upper division and generally have strict prerequisites.
- Course numbers that start with 0 are advanced courses with prerequisites in most departments.
- Courses listed as beginning or advanced. Beginning courses are lower division and advanced courses are upper division.
- Common Core (CC) courses are broad interdisciplinary courses that are usually lower division, with a few exceptions. You may register for these courses during the add/drop period.
Universities in Hong Kong are in the process of changing from a three-year to a four-year degree structure. This is limiting course availability in many departments. UCEAP recommends being flexible and having several back-up courses when doing course selection.
Course registration procedures vary among the different schools and departments. You will do preregistration with your host institution as part of your predeparture checklist and final registration after arrival. For some departments registration is online and is fairly simple; others require that you go to the department in person and request approval to take the course. Be patient with the registration procedures and seek assistance from the Study Center if needed.
The add/drop period typically takes place the first two weeks of the term. It is very important to attend all classes you may want to take during this time to see if the classes are suitable for you (i.e., you understand the lecturer, the course is taught completely in English, there are no time conflicts, you meet the prerequisites, etc.).
You will also register with UCEAP by completing your MyEAP Study List. Instructions will be provided after arrival.
When completing the HKU application, carefully choose your courses and make sure you fulfill the courses’ prerequisites. If no course changes are required after arrival at HKU, you will sign a form agreeing to all the courses selected before arrival and your courses will be listed online in the HKU course selection system. This is the ideal procedure; however, changes are possible during the add/drop period. If you need to change your courses after arrival you will go through the add/drop process. There is a risk of not getting enrolled in the new classes and this is a very time-consuming and often stressful process.
You must complete your final course selection within the HKU add/drop period. You will need to exercise patience when registering for courses.
Most courses include mandatory tutorials in addition to set lecture hours. Registration procedures for tutorials will vary among faculties and may entail: registering for the tutorial time slot during the first lecture; signup at the faculty notice board; or online registration. It is very important to attend the first two sessions of any class you may want to take to learn the specific tutorial registration procedure and to ensure that tutorial time slots do not conflict.
Grading at Hong Kong institutions reflects the rigorous academic standards. Grading curves are very rare. If you apply yourself and adapt to local practices and expectations, you can earn good grades. Be aware that grades assigned by Hong Kong instructors are likely to be lower than you are accustomed to receiving.
Your academic progress will be assessed by methods that include fieldwork, laboratory assignments, individual and group projects, quizzes, exams, and any other criteria relevant to the particular course. Course attendance and participation may also be considered.
Most exams are in short answer or essay format. Class participation may be especially important in seminars and in courses that have tutorial sessions. You are required to attend class regularly, take all exams given for courses in which you are enrolled, and submit all written work for each course to the satisfaction of the instructor.
Language course grades are usually based on periodic quizzes and tests, homework assignments, class performance, and a final oral and written exam. You must attend every class unless you receive permission to be absent. Classes are small and absences will affect both your personal progress and grade for the course.
The University of Hong Kong releases unofficial grades to students via the HKU portal about one month before official grades are sent to the UCEAP Systemwide Office. You will receive an email from HKU when this is done.
UCEAP cannot report grades to the UC Registrars until the official transcripts are received.
Official fall grades are usually available in mid-March.
Official spring grades are usually available from late July through early September.
Students in the year program will receive fall grades with spring grades.
Early grades are not possible.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Due to immigration policy, exchange students, including UCEAP participants, may not participate in internships in Hong Kong. However, research, independent study, and volunteer projects may be available. Arrangements for such opportunities are generally made after arrival in Hong Kong.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extending your UCEAP participation is possible. If you are considering an extension, submit a Departmental and College Preliminary Approval to Extend (DPA) form prior to departure. Once abroad, make an appointment with your Study Center to initiate the extension. The Study Center submits a Request for Final Approval (RFA) form to the UCEAP Systemwide Office. UCEAP must receive the RFA by the deadline indicated on the form. If you do not submit an approved DPA before departure, then you must submit a Petition to Extend form, which requires campus and department approval, and can take up to eight weeks to process.
Both UCEAP and the Study Center must approve your extension request. Approval is based on a number of factors including program criteria, academic performance, the support of your UC campus department, and available space.
Once your extension has been approved, UCEAP will notify your UC campus registrar, Financial Aid Office, and Campus UCEAP Office. For information about the steps you need to take with regard to finances, see the Extension of Participation chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
are excellent resources.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals.
You will also need to understand the local culture and history. These sources will help you prepare before departure.
The line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior is hard to draw in Hong Kong. It can be difficult to navigate gracefully amidst Hong Kong’s mixture of Chinese and Western customs. Chinese people expect Westerners to follow what they understand as Western ways. Even students who try to adapt to local ways have a hard time because most people are too polite to admit that someone else’s conduct or dress is conspicuous or offensive, except when it causes embarrassment or misunderstanding. Be sensitive to local mores. Your curiosity and willingness to adapt will be welcomed by new Chinese friends, who will appreciate the respect you show them and their culture.
A certain code of conduct predominates and you need to be aware of the following aspects of that code, both on and off campus:
- If you are seen frequently with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you will be the subject of common gossip. If a friend of the opposite sex visits you from the U.S., some people may assume you have an intimate relationship. Note that most residence halls in Hong Kong have restrictions for visitors of the opposite sex. You are expected to obey these regulations.
- Chinese people do not greet each other by kissing or hugging. This common Western custom creates discomfort among Chinese, even if they are only observers. Most people restrict physical contact to a brief handshake. On the other hand, physical contact between members of the same sex is common, and you will frequently see women walking arm-in arm or a man with an arm around a male friend’s shoulder.
- Although some people in Hong Kong speak loudly, calling loudly to someone at a distance is considered impolite. Similarly, loud laughter or shouting in public places attracts unwanted attention.
- Ordinarily, the Chinese do not quibble over small amounts of money when in a restaurant or taking public transportation, and consider the American habit of splitting every expense as somewhat discourteous. When out in large groups, each member will usually pay his or her own way. If, on occasion, someone offers to treat, it is a common courtesy to reciprocate the generosity later.
Drugs and Alcohol
The Hong Kong government deals harshly with foreign students who are caught in possession of drugs. Your status as a foreign citizen does not provide exemption from Hong Kong penalties for the possession and use of drugs. Hong Kong drug laws are extremely severe. Possession of marijuana is treated as a serious offense.
Never feel pressured to drink. Being under the influence of alcohol is the single biggest risk to your safety while here, as it can lead you to make poor decisions.
If you are of legal age and choose to drink, you are advised to use good judgment; do not display any intoxicated behavior in public places. If you abuse alcohol, behave in a disorderly manner, or cause problems for your housing or host university, you will face disciplinary action by UCEAP.
Differing attitudes towards romantic relationships can complicate your social life. Young Westerners tend to form both casual and intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex more rapidly. While Westerners often have several girlfriends or boyfriends before settling down and marrying, the ideal among some Chinese remains to fall in love once, with courtship leading to marriage. Chinese are thus much more cautious about love and tend to view the Western approach to romance as irresponsible.
Problems occasionally arise when Chinese friends misinterpret gestures of friendship as signs of romantic interest. Many actions considered perfectly commonplace in the U.S., such as occasional outings or meetings for lunch, good-natured teasing, casual physical contact beyond shaking hands, invitation to tea after a lecture, all without the absolving presence of a third or fourth person, are fraught with meaning to many Chinese people.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Official UCEAP Start Date
Do not plan to travel outside of the U.S. after finals at UC and before the program begins. Each year, the host universities send acceptance letters and visa documents on different dates, sometimes only a short time before the program’s Official Start Date. You need to be in the U.S. to receive the materials.
Travel to the Host University
The dates of the program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any unrecoverable transportation charges incurred for independent travel arrangements.
In order to keep informed of program changes, update MyEAP with any changes to your contact information.
Failure to arrive before the Official Start Date is cause for dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Section 10). More detailed arrival information and directions to the check-in point are provided in the UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist online.
If you plan to arrive in Hong Kong early you will need to make your own hotel reservations. UCEAP cannot make arrangements for you to move into the dormitory earlier than the established move-in date.
Not all taxi drivers are familiar with the campus residences. Look up the location of your destination ahead of time. Provide the driver with the address of your housing assignment and have a campus map with you to show the driver exactly where you want to go.
After arrival you will participate in mandatory on-site orientations organized by your host university that cover a variety of topics. Orientations vary by location, but most include a welcome dinner, lunch, or other get-together and various outings to the local neighborhoods.
The orientations cover such topics as:
- Money matters
- Course registration
- Academic policies
- Introductions to important offices and people
You are required to attend and actively participate in all orientation events.
"The activities during the orientation were very helpful and well planned. I was able to explore the campus and adjust to the culture before school started." - UCEAP Student
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip fares, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
There is no UCEAP group flight to Hong Kong. You are responsible for making your own flight arrangements. It is recommended that you arrive during regular business hours.
Detailed arrival instructions are provided in your UCEAP online Pre-Departure Checklist.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Program Budget for the program. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student fare to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
You must carry at all times your Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID) if you have one, or a photocopy of your passport plus your local university student ID card. Police officers make occasional checks and you may be fined if you fail to produce required identification.
Hong Kong Student Visa
A visa is an endorsement issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department that grants you permission to enter and reside in Hong Kong for the purpose of study.
Unless you have a valid Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID), you must apply for a student visa. The host university will serve as a local sponsor and work with the Hong Kong Immigration Department on your behalf. According to Hong Kong immigration regulations, student visas cannot be issued for nationals from Afghanistan, Albania, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nepal, or Vietnam. If you are a citizen of any of these countries, contact UCEAP immediately.
The student visa is a self-adhesive label that will be placed on an empty page in your passport. The visa is valid for you to use one time as a single entry into Hong Kong on or before the date indicated.
When entering Hong Kong, you must already have affixed your student visa label in your passport before handing it to the Immigration Officer. If the documents are separate, the Officer will not validate the student visa.
Upon arrival in Hong Kong, ensure that the Immigration Officer stamps your visa to activate it. With an activated student visa and valid U.S. passport you may leave and reenter Hong Kong anytime before the expiration date as long as you remain in good standing with your host university.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, contact the Hong Kong Immigration Department to determine applicable travel restrictions and whether or not you will need supplementary documents for your visa application and/or reentry documents. Students holding a passport from China (PRC) will need to apply for an “Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao” (EEP). Taiwan ROC citizens are required to apply for a multiple-reentry visa if they plan to leave Hong Kong for any reason and return to continue your studies.
Hong Kong Identity Card
An HKID is proof of Hong Kong residency and is an official identity document issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
If you maintain the right to reside in Hong Kong, clear immigration with your Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID) and passport. You will not need a visa. Obtain further information through the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
If you are enrolled for the full academic year and maintain a valid student visa, you may apply for a temporary HKID. Host university staff will provide guidance.
You will not be eligible for a temporary HKID if you stay in Hong Kong for less than 180 days (i.e., for one term only).
Student ID Cards
Be sure to take extra passport-sized photos to Hong Kong, as these will be needed for the student ID card issued by the host university.
U.S. Travel Registration
As soon as you know your flight plans prior to departure, register online
with the U.S. Department of State. Registration is free and allows for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to be a source of assistance and information in case of difficulty or an emergency while traveling abroad.
It is easier to replace lost or stolen documents when you have photocopies. Photocopy all important documents in duplicate, including passport photo pages, visa pages, vaccination certificates, travelers checks receipts, airline tickets, student ID, birth certificate, credit cards (front and back), etc., then leave a copy at home with a parent or guardian and pack a set in various pieces of luggage. Spending a few moments copying documents now will save you time if you lose important documents.
AB540 students should consult an immigration attorney to evaluate the risks of potentially being unable to re-enter the United States and any impact that participation in UCEAP might have on any deferred action applications.
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
Identify all luggage on both the outside and inside with your name, home address, and destination.
When traveling always carry your passport, visa, airline tickets, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
Due to limited storage space in the host university dormitories, you should pack reasonable amounts of clothing and personal items. Most items are available for purchase in Hong Kong.
- A limited and comfortable wardrobe, including washable, easy-to-care-for clothing, lightweight shirts, slacks, jeans, and conservative shorts
- Appropriate attire for formal dinners and special events (a suit jacket and tie for men, a dress for women)
- Comfortable walking shoes that are easy to slip on and off (large-sized shoes are difficult to find in Hong Kong)
- Prescription medication
- Several passport photos (to use for identification cards and government forms)
- A few books, including a Chinese-English dictionary and a travel guide with a detailed map of Hong Kong (books in English are expensive in Hong Kong)
- A few American gifts for foreign hosts and new friends (suggestions: Frisbees; T-shirts; UC pens, pencils, or decals; baseball caps representing major league teams; California pistachios or almonds, postcards, or scenic calendars)
- Pictures of family, friends, and the UC campus to have a reminder of home and share with new friends
- Electric converter and plug adapter for any electronic items you pack (Hong Kong’s electrical system operates on 220V 50Hz)
- Digital recorder (especially useful if you will be studying Chinese language)
- Mosquito repellent and after-bite medicine
- Athletic gear, including a swimsuit
- Bathrobe and slippers
- Small travel backpack
"A backpack is essential for traveling (and if you fill it, that undoubtedly will be too much stuff)." - UCEAP Student
Do Not Pack
Pepper spray, knuckle-dusters, tear gas, flick-knives, crossbows, and other items used for self-defense, which may be legal in the U.S., are considered illegal weapons in Hong Kong and prohibited. If found with these items, they will be confiscated and you may be arrested and prosecuted.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protections for your property, as in spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP's travel insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends you to examine the details of the UCEAP travel insurance benefits and to purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, MP3 players, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
You may decide to purchase additional coverage, especially for high-value electronics (e.g., computer, tablets, camera, etc.). If you decide to do so, purchase supplemental coverage before departure because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. You can safeguard your belongings from damage or theft by locking your room and securing money, travelers checks, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip fares, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase a ticket that allows changes to the return date.
The estimated airfare amount in the UCEAP Program Budget is based on the cost of a changeable round-trip student ticket.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
The official currency unit in Hong Kong is the dollar (abbreviated HK$ or HKD). Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Before leaving the U.S., you are encouraged to exchange $100 into Hong Kong dollars. Besides providing an opportunity to become familiar with the currency, the funds will be useful upon arrival for snacks, transportation, tips, and unexpected purchases. U.S. banks can purchase the foreign currency; the process may take a week or more. You may also exchange money at the airport in Hong Kong. Transportation from the airport must be paid in Hong Kong dollars.
It usually takes a few weeks to become financially established abroad. Prepare enough funds to cover expenses for the first two months (at least U.S. $1,500). Long delays in receiving mail and clearing personal checks abroad are more often the rule than the exception. Personal checks are rarely accepted in Hong Kong.
You may need to have enough money to pay your entire housing fee upon arrival in Hong Kong. The fee must be paid directly to your host university in local currency. Be sure to keep receipts. See the Housing section for program specific information.
You will be required to pay a refundable deposit for the residence halls, facilities, and libraries. The amount varies by host university. This money will be refunded after completion of the program if you have no outstanding debts and follow the appropriate check-out procedures.
UCEAP students have had bank accounts at the large American banks in Hong Kong, including Bank of America and Citibank. The Bank of America and Citibank operate several branches throughout Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the New Territories.
Opening a bank account in Hong Kong, with both savings and checking options, is relatively simple. To do so, you must apply in person and take a valid passport. There is a charge every time money is transferred to Hong Kong from another country (or vice versa) and there are standard fees for cashing travelers checks.
There are Hang Seng Bank, Bank of East Asia, and HSBC branches at HKU. The campus branches are open Monday through Saturday and provide normal banking services.
Many businesses throughout Hong Kong will accept credit cards (such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express). However, most universities and venues on campus will take cash only.
If you plan on using your U.S. ATM and/or credit card while abroad, be sure to notify your bank ahead of time. Otherwise, they may freeze your account on suspicion of fraud.
Transferring Money Abroad
There are several basic ways to send money to Hong Kong from the U.S.:
- You can have money deposited into your U.S. account, from which you can draw funds using the account’s corresponding ATM and Visa, Citibank, or MasterCard debit card. There is no fee because it is not a cash advance. This system usually works for the following debit cards: Cirrus, Global Access, PLUS, Jetco, and EPS. Check with your bank in the U.S. to see if this option will work abroad for your card.
- If you open a Hong Kong bank account you can also get an ATM card from that bank and use it in ATMs in MTR stations. There is an annual charge of about HK $50 for the ATM card.
- Money can be sent directly as an interbank deposit from a U.S. bank to its Hong Kong branch.
- Funds can be cabled from any U.S. bank to any Hong Kong bank; funds sent in this way are usually available a week from the date they are sent.
- You can deposit U.S. travelers checks into a local account in Hong Kong and withdraw cash immediately. Most foreign currencies and travelers checks can be exchanged at Hong Kong banks, hotels, or money exchangers.
- Up to HK $500 can be sent through an international money order, available at selected banks.
- You can deposit a bank draft or any check, personal or institutional, into your local account; however, the Hong Kong bank will require one month for such checks to clear, during which time the funds will not be available. An additional service charge will be assessed for this kind of transaction.
- Western Union can be used to have money wired from home in a short amount of time (sometimes minutes). In most instances, you will receive local currency at competitive foreign exchange rates.
- Charles Schwab account holders can withdraw money from international ATMs and be reimbursed for fees incurred. However, there may be a minimum balance requirement.
Of all these methods, the most efficient and convenient is to use a U.S. ATM card at a Hong Kong ATM, or to have remittances sent directly from a bank in the U.S. to the local bank account in Hong Kong. Funds should be transmitted in U.S. dollars to avoid poor exchange rates. Funds remaining in the account at the end of the program can be converted to any currency, including U.S. dollars.
The HKU Computer Center and the student amenities centers provide computer terminals. The Computer Center has a full range of facilities, with both Mac and PC computers with up-to-date software and campus Intranet and Internet access. You can sign up for an HKUSUA account upon arrival, which will allow you to use the networked PCs in the various amenities centers and labs.
Color and standard printers are available for a standard fee. The main computer lab (located in the Shaw Building) is open 24 hours a day, and a help desk is available. You may take your own laptop and use HKUACE (Access Everywhere Network) from various locations on campus to access the campus network. There are also wireless LAN access points at many locations on campus.
Most dorms have shared phones and normally do not permit international calls. You can purchase a phone card, which can be used to make both local and international calls. These cards are available at supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Hong Kong. Many students buy cell phones and use them for both local and international calls.
"It is easy to buy a new cell phone in Hong Kong, and many students choose to buy a cheap one so they are not as afraid of losing an expensive smart phone." - UCEAP Student
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the technology for transmitting voice conversations via the Internet, is popular with students who take a laptop abroad. Social networking software such as Skype
is commonly used to make free or low-cost calls over the Internet.
There are multiple dormitory options. You will receive your mailing address after arrival in Hong Kong.
General Housing Information
The cost of university housing is a fraction of what it costs to rent a single room in Hong Kong. It provides very basic amenities and facilities at a low price and is most likely less comfortable than the dorm rooms offered by American universities.
If you arrive early, you will be responsible for making your own temporary accommodations until the residence hall opens.
You may find striking differences between residential life in Hong Kong and dormitory experiences in the U.S. Chinese and British influences create a greater sense of formality and hierarchy than is customary on American college campuses. For example, in some dormitories men and women may meet only in the public lounges.
Every dormitory is locked at a certain hour each night, and you will receive a key or security code so you can enter after hours. Although the security codes may occasionally change, this system is convenient. Some dormitories have a security guard who will open the door after hours and a registry that must be signed by residents who return late.
You might disagree with some of the regulations, but they are designed in the context of Hong Kong norms and should be respected. Failure to abide by the regulations may have unfavorable consequences. For instance, one female student was expelled from her assigned housing because a male friend stayed in her room after curfew hours.
"What my roommate helped me learn was the difference between American and Chinese students. She gave me a view of a lifestyle that I would have never been able to make up or learn if I didn’t live with her for four months." - UCEAP Student
Expect that your roommate(s) will speak English, some fluently and others with less confidence. Often a Chinese roommate will help you with your Chinese language studies, if asked. Cantonese is the language most commonly used in the dormitories and social settings.
Adjusting to different living habits may also cause tension between roommates. Many Chinese students, especially females, are extremely modest and prefer to undress in complete privacy. They will expect consideration. It is a good idea for you to be aware of your roommate’s way of doing things in these and similar matters. For example, donning a pair of flip-flops rather than going barefoot (which is considered unhygienic by most locals) will assist you with building good roommate relations. If a situation is especially problematic, discuss it with your roommate tactfully.
Student experiences in the university accommodations vary. Living in a residential hall is a challenge in cross-cultural adaptation. Past participants liken dorm life to that of a fraternity or sorority, in which group activities are organized to promote a sense of camaraderie between hallmates. Halls can become quite lively at night with local students staying up late to work on projects or socialize.
"Hall life is much different from that of my home campus. Living in a residence hall is like living in a fraternity house." - UCEAP Student
The differences in dorm life between UC and universities in Hong Kong will take some adjustment. It is important to adapt to local residence hall culture if you are to make the most of your experience. Flexibility, cooperation, consideration, sensitivity, and respectful communication are critical for success.
"Live in the halls and mingle with the locals. Halls are known for their strong hall spirits and ridiculously busy hall activities. Participate in one or two events so you can get a taste of what local student life is like." - UCEAP Student
The atmosphere in the residence halls changes remarkably on weekends when most of the local students go home. On Saturdays and Sundays the residence halls will empty out. The weekly exodus can be frustrating, because you’ll be spending more time with the other international students and it may hinder your efforts to make local friends.
To counter this problem, you can arrange to meet Chinese schoolmates off campus for meals, movies, or other activities on weekends. Convenient public transportation makes it easy to meet in town—and while the Chinese may be slow to extend an invitation, they may eagerly respond to the suggestion of an outing. Housing in Hong Kong is crowded; therefore, an invitation to visit a friend’s home may not be a common gesture.
There are thirteen halls, eleven that are directly administered by the university and two that are financially and administratively independent. The residence halls provide housing to over 3,000 undergraduate students. About a quarter of HKU’s full-time students reside in these halls. Nine of the halls are coed, one is for women only, and three are for men only. Most halls are located within either a short bus ride or walking distance to the main campus. The nonresidential halls serve as meeting places for student groups such as sport teams, “high meals,” or study. Each hall has a warden or manager to assist with the administration of the hall and several tutors.
"HKU dorms are close to the campus. They are normally very tall apartment buildings with shared bathroom and shower facilities. The common rooms are nice and security is very good." - UCEAP Student
The Residence Halls differ in size, cost, location, and amenities due to university availability and resources, but are usually a convenient distance from the campus. All rooms are air-conditioned. Each room has a bed, mattress, wardrobe, writing desk with a lamp, chair, bookshelf, network connection, and a shared phone line. Residence halls usually have shared bedrooms (doubles or triples). You will most likely share a room with local students.
Common rooms, such as bathrooms, lounges, laundry facilities, recreational facilities, and quiet study rooms are available. Communal bathroom and toilet facilities are provided on each floor. Each floor has its own pantry and is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, hotplate, water boiler, and drinking fountain.
You will need to pack or buy your own bedding and towels upon arrival. While most students purchase these items after arrival, you may want to bring a twin-size sheet set and a towel to get started. The rooms are cold during January and February, so you will want to purchase additional blankets or quilts at that time.
You will be responsible for cleaning your own room and the common rooms—the cleanliness of these areas will be determined by the cleanliness of the tenants. While the university’s facilities are generally modern and convenient, it takes time to adjust to the new living conditions. The halls are kept in sanitary condition but may not be as clean and well-furnished as facilities at UC
HKU is experiencing a serious housing shortage and will not be able to guarantee university housing for exchange students. Housing is assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. You will receive a link to the online housing application via email shortly before the system opens. Apply as soon as possible.
When choosing a hall, read the HKU online descriptions carefully. The various halls have different and distinctive identities and activities, attracting specific types of students. You should choose one that meets your interests. Regardless of which hall you live in, you will be expected (by your fellow hall residents) to fully participate in all hall activities. Go to the HKU website
for specific residence hall descriptions and information. Each hall also has its own website.
You may indicate hall and roommate preferences on the housing application, although preferences cannot be guaranteed. HKU determines final assignments, and notification will be sent to you via e-mail prior to departure.
Charges for undergraduate halls last year were HK $6,000 to HK $11,000 per semester. Fees are subject to change for this year. Some halls have mandatory meal plans, which cost around HK $6,000 to HK $8,000 per year. Not all meals are covered in this plan. Charges for other hall-related costs, such as hall association fees, the key deposit, high table fees, etc., are paid with the rent at the beginning of each semester. HKU recommends that you budget HK $1,000 to HK $2,000 per semester for other hall-related fees.
You will pay rent in Hong Kong dollars directly to the residence hall or to the housing office, depending on the hall policy. You must make your own housing payments (even if you are on financial aid). If you live in the residential hall for the academic year, you will pay hall charges in two installments (one in October, and one in January). If you participate in a semester program, you will pay the entire semester’s rent on arrival.
The housing usually opens one to two days before orientation. You are encouraged to arrive during regular business hours on the Official Arrival Date so you can easily check into your room. If you arrive in Hong Kong before then, you may have to pay additional fees for your room for that time (pending availability) or arrange temporary accommodations. See the UCEAP program calendar for details.
It is highly recommended that you live in the halls to get the most out of your experience. However, you may seek permission to live elsewhere. UCEAP and HKU do not provide assistance with outside housing. It would be your responsibility to research all options and understand the leasing terms.
"Eating really became a dream come true in Hong Kong. Snack stands are at every corner of the street. Sweet waffle balls or deep-fried edibles on a stick are sold for less than U.S. $1 for five pieces. If you want fresh seafood, go to the seafood market (in Choi Hung, I believe) where I guarantee that your fish and shrimp will be moving until you get home." - UCEAP Student
Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong is likely to be different from your prior experience. You can choose from hundreds of regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, ranging from popular Cantonese dim sum to pricey Chiu Chow fare. Hong Kong is a culinary paradise. Food guides can be purchased at local bookstores and at the Hong Kong Tourist Association.
Most students prepare food in shared kitchenettes in the residence halls or eat in the numerous canteens (cafeterias) on campus. In the canteens, every meal features a standard entrée served over a big dish of steamed rice. There are also menus that offer combinations of stir-fried meat, seafood, noodles, vegetables, bean curd, and mushrooms. Tea, coffee, and soft drinks are served in all canteens. Menus vary by canteen. Some canteens also have Western menu items such as sandwiches, salads, and pasta. There are also many dining options available off campus.
Your initial dining experiences may be daunting—especially if your local roommates start you off with chicken feet and pig intestine. Avoid retreating to the nearest fast-food chain. As you learn more about Chinese cuisine, you will find a range of choices and dishes palatable to your taste.
"People eat with a tiny bowl, not with a plate. The plate is for bones—don’t eat off of it. In small eateries, soak your utensils in the tea to disinfect them." - UCEAP Student
Vegetarian students report that eating at the canteens is difficult. You will be better served by either preparing your own meals or eating off campus. If you eat fish, you may have more options. If you follow Kosher or Halal dietary practices, you will find that food options are very limited, perhaps even nonexistent, on campus.
Three major restaurants are located on the main campus, in the student centers below Swire Hall and Simon K.Y. Lee Hall, and in the Chong Yuet Ming amenities center. Meals cost between HK $20 and HK $40. You can choose from a menu of Chinese or Western dishes, as well as a variety of sandwiches and drinks. The restaurants are crowded around lunchtime, so plan your schedule accordingly. Off campus there is also a wide variety of reasonably priced restaurants, food stalls, coffee shops, and even a McDonald’s.
If you have special dietary restrictions (for health or religious beliefs, for example) you may find that the offerings at the restaurants on campus do not meet your needs. You cannot cook in the residence hall, but grocery stores for snacks and drinks are available nearby.
You will have a special opportunity to meet and discuss various issues with prominent individuals from different sectors of the Hong Kong community during the high table dinners held at the residence halls. These are traditional, formal events. Participation in the high table dinners is mandatory for residents and fees are assessed.
"Take some dressy clothes and shoes for high table dinners at HKU. Once a month, each hall eats a formal dinner together while listening to speakers." - UCEAP Student
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Hong Kong’s public transportation system is both varied and extensive, with double-decker buses, minibuses, trams, taxis, electric trains, subways, and a train line that continues into China. The system is efficient and inexpensive. Most options accept a specialized debit card (the “Octopus Card”) for payment, making it convenient to get around town.
"Hong Kong’s transportation system is one of the best that I have ever seen. It is extremely convenient, advanced, efficient, and affordable. You need virtually no planning to get from one part of Hong Kong to another as long as you’re on a subway or a bus." - UCEAP Student
Hong Kong is built around a harbor, and there is a considerable amount of water travel. The main service across the harbor between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island is provided by the Star Ferry, which is about a five-minute ride at a reasonable cost. Ferries also make frequent runs to the larger Hong Kong islands.
Hong Kong has a very good transportation system called the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). The MTR closes early, so if you like to stay out late at night, be prepared to pay a cab fare to return home.
"In Hong Kong, your number one friend in terms of transportation is the subway system called MTR. Your other number one friend is an Octopus Card. The Octopus Card is your way to pay for the MTR, and it is also accepted at almost every store and at many restaurants to be used like a debit card. You can add money to your Octopus card at all MTR stations." - UCEAP Student
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while abroad is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community.
Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
"Do something you enjoy (e.g. sports, arts, or social events). It’s the best way to meet other people and to learn how local students do things." - UCEAP Student
The international and contemporary influences on Hong Kong may prevent you from noticing the hidden cultural richness. You will need to be proactive and seek out cultural opportunities. This may mean speaking Cantonese (even in situations where English is acceptable), willfully spending less time with American friends, or asking a Chinese friend for information about local activities. Chinese traditions will become more apparent the longer you are in Hong Kong.
UCEAP Study Center staff has information on cultural activities and may arrange various excursions. University-based and civic organizations also sponsor cultural and educational programs.
"Go to the popular attractions as well as the less popular ones too! You never know what neat surprise you can find in the New Territories or some of the outlying islands." - UCEAP Student
The host universities provide buddy programs through which you will be introduced to local or expatriate hosts.
Most Chinese students socialize in groups. Camping trips in the New Territories, barbecues, organized singing contests, and various clubs are all popular activities. Housing in Hong Kong is extremely cramped; therefore, most social activities take place outside the home.
Student Clubs & Organizations
Since many local students live off campus, you are encouraged to join at least one club or organization to increase your interaction with local students. UCEAP students have previously participated in several student clubs, including photography, music, drama, chess, volunteer, and debate.
Student organizations offer a wide variety of ways to interact with the student body and to reach out to the local community.
Festivals, such as Chinese New Year and Mid Autumn, are celebrated with enthusiasm in Hong Kong. Host universities and local students are usually eager to include exchange students in these activities.
While the traditional Chinese religions of Taoism and Buddhism are the most widespread, other faiths are practiced and English-speaking religious services are available in Hong Kong.
You can participate in numerous sports activities while in Hong Kong, including martial arts, tennis, aerobics, swimming, and golf. There are also intramural team sports at the host universities. If you enjoy outdoor sports and activities, review the Hong Kong Agricultural, Fisheries, and Conservation Department
website for a variety of information including hiking trails, camping permit instructions, and mountain bike regulations.
"There were many buildings and structures, but you won’t see buildings everywhere in Hong Kong. There are also trees and very scenic nature places." - UCEAP Student
Students with Disabilities
While in Hong Kong, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Hong Kong law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government generally enforces these provisions. The law mandates access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities.
For more information:
When you leave your host city for more than 24 hours, you must complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account. Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know where to reach you promptly.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Hong Kong is also the transportation hub of Asia. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to travel from Hong Kong to other locales in Asia.
"Travel, travel, travel! Take advantage of weekends and the time between classes to see the country. There is so much to see. Traveling can be amazingly cheap." - UCEAP Student
Most students travel to the People’s Republic of China, including trips to Guangzhou for a weekend and more extensive tours of the mainland. Research visa requirements when traveling outside of Hong Kong. People’s Republic of China tourist visas can be obtained in the U.S. prior to departure or after you arrive in Hong Kong.
" Before you leave, try to get a multiple-entry visa for China. Applying for a China visa in HK is a hassle because you can only apply for a double-entry visa here in HK (you can only get a multiple entry visa in your home country) and if you go to China more than twice then it is just annoying to go back to your embassy and pay again for a double entry visa. It is extremely easy to get to China from HK." - UCEAP Student
Additional information about traveling throughout Hong Kong and Asia can be found in such guides as Lonely Planet’s Travel Survival Kit for Hong Kong, Macau & Canton, and Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.
"In general, I would not suggest traveling outside of Hong Kong alone. Always travel with at least one other person, carry enough cash and contact numbers in case of an emergency, and inform people on campus where you are and when you are expected back." - UCEAP Student
Attitudes toward the LGBT community continue to evolve. Most aspects of public and official life demonstrate ambivalence toward homosexuality. The government does not actively support the LGBT community, but neither does it impose sanctions. Urban Chinese tend to be accepting of homosexuality, but in deeply conservative rural areas, homosexuality is neither discussed nor socially accepted. The result is a complex risk environment that has few clear social guidelines but little overt threat of violence or abuse.
For more information,
Before you travel:
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You can submit a claim for a refund of covered expenses to the UCEAP insurance carrier.
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is the patient's responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term. Your UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims
ACI at email@example.com.
Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong.
Prescription drugs are widely available, although they may have different names than those in the U.S.
Hong Kong emergency service response times for police, fire, and ambulances are good. Some emergency personnel are trained to paramedic standards, though most are trained at the first responder level to perform basic stabilization and transport to the nearest hospital.
Doctors and hospitals require immediate cash payment for health services and generally do not accept credit cards.
In addition to the information provided in this guide, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
maintains a listing of English-speaking medical providers.
University Health Centers
University health centers serve as primary care facilities and provide clinical services to all local and international students. The host university is not responsible for any charges incurred for visits with a private physician without a referral from a university health center physician.
HKU provides primary health care through a clinic located in the Meng Wah Complex on the main campus. Preventive care and other services, such as dental treatments, are also available for a standard cost. When specialist services or hospitalization is required, students are directed to public clinics and government hospitals nearby.
Bring your passport and valid student visa with you to the public hospital. Persons permitted to stay in Hong Kong by the Immigration Department, and not classified as visitors, may be eligible for local rates when admitted into public hospitals. The cost of hospitalization in general wards, related treatment, and surgery depends on the residential status of the patient. Treatment for permanent residents of Hong Kong is provided at subsidized rates. Visitors to Hong Kong are not eligible for subsidized treatment and are charged as private patients.
Public clinics and hospitals do not operate on an appointment system and waiting times are often unpredictable.
Arriving in a new country is a very busy time and there are a lot of changes to go through. There are differences in food, weather and customs to cope with. In this type of situation, with all its stresses, you may find yourself paying less attention than usual to your health.
Existing health problems can also be made worse by the effects of adjusting to unfamiliar food, a different climate and the emotional strains of being away from home. It can be easy to concentrate on your studies and forget about taking care of yourself.
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page for health risks present in the country where you will be studying. Know what to do if you get sick.
Good basic personal hygiene and hand washing are critical to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating.
"Students are expected to wear surgical style masks in public when sick with a cold or flu." - UCEAP Student
Food and beverage precautions are essential to reduce chance of illness. While serious health concerns are low, it is beneficial to follow basic health precautions such as washing your hands often with soap and water (if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel with at least 60% alcohol), drinking bottled water, protecting yourself from insect bites, and observing hygiene standards. Avoid raw or undercooked seafood. Be wary of poor sanitary practices by street food vendors.
If you are sick or injured, seek care, pay for services up front and submit a claim through the UCEAP travel insurance. If you have questions about benefits or claims, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Although you should always travel with a copy of your prescription from your U.S. doctor, many pharmacies in other countries will only fill prescriptions written in that country.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor to get a similar prescription that a local pharmacy will fill. It will be critical to have a letter from a U.S. doctor during this appointment explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen.
- In some cases, the local physician will need to confirm your diagnosis before issuing a prescription. Note that a doctor's visit to get refills may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. . If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at email@example.com. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Most countries will only allow quantities of medication for personal use; only a 30- or 90-day supply.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage to adjust to time zone changes.
- Always carry medications in their original containers.
- Have a letter from the prescribing physician indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk to your doctor immediately to switch you to another medication.
- If you are taking psychotropic medications (e.g., Adderall, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Vyvanse, etc.), find out whether they are legal in your UCEAP country before your UCEAP program starts.
- Talk to your doctor. If intending to travel with a prescription containing controlled substances, review medication regulations in official government sites. Addresses and excerpted national statutes for most countries can be found at the International Narcotics Control Board. You can also check your UCEAP Program Guide, Prescription Medications section for direct links.
- Pack your prescription medications, in original containers, in your carry-on luggage. Do not pack the medications in your checked luggage.
- Carry copies of all prescriptions, including the generic names for medications.
- Have a letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
- Leave a copy of the written prescriptions at home with a friend or relative.
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country in quantities to last through your stay, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure, so you can have time to consult with your doctor on any resulting complications. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. Consult with ACI, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section
If you take prescription medications that contain controlled substances:
- You are responsible for confirming in advance that your prescription medications are legal in Hong Kong. More information is accessible through the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department.
- Prescription drugs are widely available, although they may have different names from those in the United States. Note that for many medications, a prescription from a Hong Kong doctor will be needed for purchase in Hong Kong.
- Do not plan on mailing medications to Hong Kong as they may be confiscated.
Pharmacies in Hong Kong are reliable. Both pharmaceutical and herbal Chinese medications are generally available. Pharmacies offer convenient hours and locations but they will not acknowledge U.S. prescriptions. However, some prescription-only items in the U.S. may be available over the counter at pharmacies in Hong Kong (for example, birth control pills).
Your mental health is important to us all. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home. Read the Mobility International tips, Ups and Downs of International Travel
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., it is extremely important to discuss your plans to go abroad with your doctor. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician well in advance about getting the supply you need for going abroad. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor.
Plan and budget to pay up front. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit receipts to the UCEAP insurance company for reimbursement. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at email@example.com. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process
The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
compiles a list of counseling and specialized services. There are several community organizations that provide mental health support or referral services. The Resource Counselling Centre
offers individual counseling in up to seven languages, including English, and is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. The Samaritans
maintains a multilingual 24/7 suicide prevention hotline. When calling from Hong Kong, dial 2896-0000.
Do not be surprised to think, “It’s not what I expected.” Expect the unexpected and be sensitive to romanticized misconceptions or unrealistic expectations. Living abroad is stressful by its very nature. Life in Hong Kong is fast-paced and adds crowds, noise, and a foreign surrounding. Ask for insight from locals and acknowledge that this is a valuable learning experience.
Toilet paper and hand washing facilities may not be available in public restrooms in Hong Kong. It is advisable to carry tissues and antibacterial hand wipes as you travel throughout the city.
"Always take toilet paper with you anywhere you travel in Asia." - UCEAP Student
Most fruits and vegetables sold in Hong Kong originate in mainland China where pesticide use is unregulated. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
Hong Kong remains at "Alert" response status for Pandemic Influenza. UCEAP continually reviews information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, works closely with medical experts on the UC campuses, and monitors local host university and country health resources.
The risk of avian flu transmission to humans remains low, but avoid live birds and undercooked poultry. Feces of infected birds contain large amounts of the virus. Avoid direct contact with surfaces or objects contaminated by bird droppings in live food markets. Monitor your health for 10 days after leaving China and consult a health care provider if fever or respiratory problems occur.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Air pollution is increasingly serious in Hong Kong. Congested vehicle traffic and mainland factories pump out ozone, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides, leading to a visible haze in the atmosphere on most days of the year. Average roadside pollution levels exceed WHO guidelines by 200% and continue to deteriorate, creating health risks for those with allergies, asthma, or cardiac problems.
Short-term symptoms of exposure to air pollution include:
- itchy eyes, nose, and throat,
- wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath,
- chest pain,
- nausea, and
- upper respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia),
- exacerbation of asthma and emphysema.
If you have a chronic medical condition, consult with a health care provider before travel, carry sufficient medication, and ask whether an FDA-approved respirator is recommended for days of high pollution concentration.
Electronic cigarettes are regulated as pharmaceutical products, so possessing them without the proper authority could result in a stiff fine and up to two years in prison. Read more about entering Hong Kong with electronic cigarettes and e-cigarette regulations and laws worldwide.
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being.
Staying safe in another country is similar to staying safe in a large U.S. city. Understand the potential threats, know which neighborhoods to avoid, and remain vigilant (pay attention to your surroundings; do not walk around while talking on the phone or while listening to music).
If you will be traveling, think about how you are getting to your destination and/or any travel inside a country. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel. Be proactive about your safety. Be prepared.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and contracted with emergency service and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and avoid being a victim of a crime:
- Assess your surroundings.
- Remain aware at all times. Do not walk around talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones.
- Be attentive to what is unusual or threatening. Trust your "gut feelings"; if you feel threatened, leave the area immediately and find somewhere more secure.
- Research potential risks you can encounter while traveling.
- Increase your safety and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by staying on top of your drinking.
- Practice the buddy system, which promotes safety. This system helps ensure that you, and a partner, will look out for each other. Choose your buddy wisely. The ideal buddy should feel that the buddy system is very important. If you are having a problem, your buddy can help to alert others and get you to safety.
- Have a communication plan. Who will you call on site if you are facing an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Putting yourself, fellow students, or the reputation of the program at risk is cause for dismissal from UCEAP.
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
Hong Kong has a low crime rate and the same petty crime problems as other major cities, especially in crowded venues. Exercise caution when in congested areas and pay particular attention to personal belongings while traveling on public transportation.
- Watch personal belongings in crowded areas
- Travel in groups at night and in certain areas including parks in the Victoria Peak area, where there have been recent incidents of assault and robbery
- Keep a close eye on your drinks and food while at bars or nightclubs and never accept a drink or food from strangers; criminals have been known to drug victims in order to rob them
- Report criminal incidents, including theft, immediately to the Study Center, the local police, and the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong
- Carry picture identification and emergency contact information at all times
- Sign out through MyEAP any time you travel for more than 24 hours
- Update your local contact information (including cell phone number) through MyEAP
The general police support and response to foreign victims of crime is excellent. The Hong Kong Police Force is highly trained and professional. There are numerous police stations strategically located throughout the various districts and communities of Hong Kong. Their response time to emergencies is under five minutes.
The best deterrents against crime are awareness and common sense. Take prudent measures to protect your own well-being just as you would do on your home UC campus. Be aware of your surroundings and vigilant at all times.
Pay attention to all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Buses and trains are typically very crowded; safeguard personal belongings, particularly cell phones, and keep baggage within eyesight. Never carry an unlocked backpack on your back when walking or travelling. Do not place items of high value inside.
Keep your room door and windows locked, both when you are in your room and when you are not, and never allow strangers to enter the premises. Do not invite strangers or questionable acquaintances to your dorm.
Do not give your personal information to strangers or go places with them alone. Caution is necessary in isolated areas, particularly at night, and traveling in groups is advisable. Some portions of the campus are not well lit at night, so exercise caution. If you are traveling in an area and feel unsafe, leave the area immediately.
Show purpose and awareness while walking around, assess your surroundings and heed all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Situational awareness is necessary to avoid being a victim of crime.
Protests involving democracy activists, labor organizations, and civil society groups occur with some frequency. Pro-democracy rallies can be quite large, but are usually peaceful and disruptions are typically limited. Do not participate in illegal demonstrations.
Visas may be terminated abruptly if local authorities learn of any involvement in public political demonstrations or political activism that they regard as disruptive.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
About 90 percent of the population in Hong Kong rely on public transportation. Public transportation is generally safe. The China Motor Bus, although providing the most extensive service, is considered an unsafe bus company. Many drivers speak some English. Have your destination written in Chinese characters. Taxis, buses, and the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) are readily available, inexpensive, and generally safe. The MTR is an underground railway network and is the most popular mode of public transportation, carrying an average of 3.5 million passengers a day.
"Women traveling alone should avoid the unmarked taxis, known as pak pai. Although cheaper, they are not registered and can be dangerous." - UCEAP Student
Hong Kong has a highly developed and well-maintained road and highway network. Traffic moves on the left. During the daytime, traffic congests Hong Kong’s urban areas. Traffic accidents are a serious problem. UCEAP does not recommend that you operate any vehicle abroad.
Bicycling can be hazardous. UCEAP discourages riding a bicycle in the city due to congested traffic conditions.
During the typhoon season (July through September), the Hong Kong Observatory
issues typhoon warnings an average of six times a year and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently. The Hong Kong Observatory has produced an application, Hong Kong Weather, to provide official weather forecast and updates.
Travel Warnings and UCEAP Policy
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Warning after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy voluntary departure on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP, is covered by UCEAP insurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
The Hong Kong Fire Services Department is an emergency service responsible for firefighting and rescue on land and sea. It also provides an emergency ambulance service for the sick and the injured, and gives fire protection advice to the public. There are altogether 80 fire stations, 37 ambulance depots and six fireboat fire stations. Facilities are strategically located to provide emergency response for all areas. The graded response times for building fire calls are 6 minutes for built-up areas and 9 to 23 minutes for areas of dispersed risks and isolated developments.
Fire - Dial 999
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Ambulance, Fire, Police: call 999
CUHK: (011-852) 3943-7595
HKU: (011-852) 3917-2882
HKUST: (011-852) 2358-8999
U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
American Citizen Services
26 Garden Road, Hong Kong
Phone: (011-852) 2841-2211
Fax: (011-852) 2845-4845
Hours: M–F: 8:30–noon & 1:30–4 p.m.; Wed: 8:30–noon only
After-hours emergencies: (011-852) 2523-9011
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condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
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