Exchange Diaries: En route to Hong Kong

Brindan Baskaran is in Hong Kong on exchange for the upcoming year. He'll be sharing his experience as a regular contributor for QJBlogs.

In a couple of hours, I’ll be welcomed by Hong Kong and all it has to offer.

In the past, I’ve been on numerous road trips with my family, and through those trips, I have developed a passion to travel. However, I’ve never been outside of North America, all my pages on my passport are blank and I’ve never set foot on an airplane. Now, I’m up for something bigger.

I’m a third year Queen’s politics student going on an academic exchange to the University of Hong Kong until June 2014. I was born and bred in Mississauga, Ontario.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy - it took me almost as long as the exchange itself to prepare for my voyage. I'd like to take this opportunity to go through some of the hurdles I had to jump over in order to get to this point.

Once I made up my mind that Hong Kong was the place to go, I had to apply with the International Programs Office for Arts and Science (IPO). The application required a resume, an academic reference and a write-up as to why I wanted to go and how I have prepared myself to be ready for such a long-term commitment. Once I handed in the application in mid-January, I heard back from the IPO by the start of Reading Week.

I was glad that I made the initial cut, but that didn't mean I just had to jump on a plane and get going. I needed to get accepted by my host university. I received an email in April from The University of Hong Kong (HKU) requesting me to apply to receive my admission and visa. Applying to receive my admission required an official transcript from the Queen's Registrar office, and a lot of research into the courses they offer.

The visa applications were probably the most complicated set of paperwork I have ever done before! There were different instructions for those born in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan (due to China not recognizing them as a separate country) and everyone else (that's me)!

Once I sent that in, I had to wait until mid-May to apply for my residence. I was told that they were about 100 to 200 spots short this year, which could mean paying four-digit figures per month (and that's in Canadian Dollars). It was a first-come-first-serve system, and it was competitive. Within 15 minutes of opening the online application system, over 400 people submitted their forms! Thankfully, I managed to get a spot.

The rest of the summer was a waiting game. Two months later, I slowly heard back from each office. I received my acceptance, followed by my accommodation and visa. To those who are interested in applying to go on exchange, don't get dissuaded! It's a lot of work (and waiting), but get inspired to discover what's out there by following me for the next nine months while I share my experiences with you.

Keep track of Brindan’s journey. His next post will appear on Sept. 19.

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