MDes Talks: Finding Home Away From Home

Finding an accommodation in a different country sitting in your hometown, browsing through various websites and Facebook groups can be efficient, but sometimes the information and images shown on websites could be misleading. The sense of doubt always remains until you see it in person. Hong Kong is a dense city where apartments are very small but rents are nerve-wracking high!

Being a self-financed postgraduate student, I did not have an option to apply for the University’s Halls of Residence – they were mostly for publicly-funded undergraduates – but was eligible to apply for the University-managed off-campus housing. The entire process took much time, including the wait after we confirmed our acceptance of the admission offer (between February to May) and before the application period began (around mid-June). Then we were supposed to fill out an application form and submitted it as soon as possible and to wait for a couple of weeks more for the result.

For me, finding an accommodation was very stressful. I found it hard to consider options outside the University-managed accommodation. It was not an easy job to locate the best place that is furnished with basic amenities and within a desired price range. Finding flatmates to share the apartment (and the rent) increased the difficulty. Above all, the University-managed off-campus housing seemed to be more trustworthy and promising, compared to other places I kept as an option at that time. Fortunately, the University’s Student Affairs Office was very helpful to provide all the information I needed periodically.

I was offered a place in Siuching Mansion in Sham Shui Po, one of the properties managed by the University and I opted for it. Sham Shui Po is one of the earliest developed areas in Hong Kong, with a high density of old buildings, busy streets and cheap neighbourhood. This old district differs drastically from main city areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui or Central and new residential areas such as Lohas Park.

MDes Talks: Home Away From HomePhoto Credit: Brodle Karel/ Flickr

MDes Talks: Home Away From HomePhoto Credit: Ronald Woan/ Flickr

When I first arrived and saw the flat allotted to me, I was surprised to see how small it was in reality. The off-campus housing offered same gender accommodation, and I shared the flat with three other girls. I lived in a shared room where we had bunk beds and two very small wardrobes to fit in all our belongings. The flat was compact; it had everything required for day to day use, for instance, a common living space with study desks, a tiny kitchen, a washroom. Yet I started feeling homesick – I felt that I would not be able to live the way I had and had to make adjustments whether I liked it or not.

To cope with homesickness, I went and stayed at my family friend’s place in Hong Kong for a couple of days. I wanted to be in my comfort zone when I tried to mentally prepare myself to get okay with the tiny living environment in Hong Kong.

MDes Talks: Finding Home Away From HomeMDes Talks: Home Away From Home

What made the transition easier was when I met my flatmates and got to know them better eventually.

Despite coming from different places, different backgrounds and even different age groups, the four of us shared a sense of belonging – we all came to Hong Kong for the same reason.

I got to know my flatmates through observing – they have been bringing a positive attitude to how they lived and managed school work. This positivity motivated and changed me. I started to adjust more willingly, bringing many positive changes in my life. The challenge has turned out to be a great learning experience for which I am very grateful.

Photo Credit: Saijal Sharma except as specified

Posted by Saijal Sharma - Born in Jaipur, India, graduated in Bachelor of architecture (BArch) and currently pursuing my master's study, Urban Environments Design (MDes). As an architecture student I have grown to love design, learnt to experiment with my space. Space has helped to build my own perception to things and lifestyle. My decision to move to Hong Kong came from the wanting to explore and gain exposure. Hong Kong is a wonderful city and this blog will play a part to document my life here.  

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.