MDes Talks: Advice for New Students: Making Settling-in Easier

It will be soon the period for new international students to arrive in Hong Kong and go through the usual settling-in process: finding a flat, opening a bank account, getting familiar with this new environment. Here, I am not going to explain to you how to get a phone subscription but to offer general advice to get the best out the whole experience of studying in PolyU. Or at least what I learned during the past year.


From Facebook groups to different meetings you are going to have at PolyU or elsewhere, gather your strength to do things that seem complicated (like the flat quest). Things that seem complicated dealing alone suddenly become much easier in a group. It really helps to figure things out and reduce stress from the start, and with the possible “side effect” - making good friends who will remain with you during your stay or beyond.

Rowing competition on Shing Mun river (Photo by Mathilde Gattegno / PolyU Design, MDes Talks)Rowing competition on Shing Mun river


First, the campus. There are a lot on it, different facilities, places, clubs, etc. and quite a lot of hidden spots too where you can take a break of have lunch. At first, you may follow school visits but sometimes it’s not complete: you may be overwhelmed by the information given and forget bits. So, it’s also good to go by oneself and find places that fit you.

But this advice works for the city and all territories. Hong Kong has a lot to show from nature spots (hiking, beaches…) to cultural and entertainment activities. Whatever you want to do or eat can possibly exist somewhere or just around. I obviously recommend the touristic activities but also to go off track – letting yourself be surprised by the city.

Cheung Chau Island at sunset (Photo by Mathilde Gattegno / PolyU Design, MDes Talks)Cheung Chau Island at sunset


This one follows the previous point but here I am talking about engaging with your surroundings. Not only exploring or passively taking pictures, but to have an exchange, to let the place have an impact on you. Even better if you are willing to get involved in any local associations and let yourself guided by local people. It works if you like big groups or small ones – find a buddy to go to the cinema, or a team to do sports together. Everyone is different and can find their niche.

Super moon of last September, we went out to take picture as a break during a working night (Photo by Mathilde Gattegno / PolyU Design, MDes Talks)Super moon of last September, we went out to take picture as a break during a working night


A more practical strategy and that linked with TEAM UP, COMMUNICATE is about making your life easier. Talk about your needs, what you have to do, what you are looking for. People will give you surprisingly useful advice you won’t find on the internet. This way, I got help to find my second flat and add furniture in it, or got advice on arranging daily lives, on where to buy certain kind of food. Just by saying the magic word “I need to buy” this, my friends would answer in light speed “have you checked this place/ this website?”

But it also works if you have a problem, feel sad or tired – and you probably will – because Hong Kong is a crazy city. Speak up to your friends and family, but also to PolyU staff. The administration, your tutors, or the counsellors of the STARS centre, if you need to. It is helpful and important to remember that you are never alone.

My birthday party, 6 months after I arrived in Hong Kong (Photo by Mathilde Gattegno / PolyU Design, MDes Talks)My birthday party, 6 months after I arrived in Hong Kong


The final one but quite important. You may be blown away by the fast pace of Hong Kong and lose your mind here and there. To prevent any crisis, you can go the hard way and plan REST TIME in your schedule or just take some time to breathe.

You may want to do everything and try everything, but time for yourself is essential. It is OK to allow yourself to feel discouraged and homesick from time to time – this is normal and part of the experience. It shouldn’t last long if you have enough rest (if not, go back to my previous point and look for support). Manage your expectation: it is certain that not everything goes smoothly at the beginning and that you have time for adjustment and improvement along the way. Be patient and get some zzz.

Rainy days are good days to enjoy some slow time at home (Photo by Mathilde Gattegno / PolyU Design, MDes Talks)Rainy days are good days to enjoy some slow time at home

Photo Credit: Mathilde Gattegno

Posted by Mathilde Gattegno – from Paris and love to see the world. Graduated from architecture with an option in civil engineering. Curious about everything, a huge bookworm, a little bit geek and also enjoy music, sports, going outside to take pictures. Hong Kong is a brand new playground!
MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.