Category Archives: Planning For University

Second Exchange! Coming Summer Semester at Cambridge!!


Disclaimer: This post is produced right off the confirmation that the writer received regarding his summer abroad application. A great deal of excitement and exclamation marks, uncommon in the writer’s style of writing, would be evident in this piece. Reader’s discretion is advised!


I never expected that HKU would nominate me for a second exchange. The reason why I call it a second exchange is because unlike other summer programmes, the one at Cambridge probably lasts the longest- for eight weeks during which I can not only take two courses from my field of study but also work on producing a dissertation under the supervision of a Cambridge professor! That means, including my twenty-two weeks at UCLA, by the end of next summer I would have in fact spent more than two semesters on exchange. Well, these justifications are for the most skeptic individuals who think summer programmes don’t count as exchange. What’s more important is that I am going to Cambridge!!!


Screen Shot 2016-12-10 at 4.29.24 PMI don’t know why reading the confirmation email on my nomination immediately reminded me of my humble upbringing. Growing up in a middle-class family in India and going to definitely not the top [read famous!] schools in town, life back there in Delhi was pretty mediocre- eat, sleep, pray and read; however, the past three years’ have been as exciting as the second half of the movie Deer Hunter (1978) lol! Leaving home at eighteen and from there so many interesting set pieces, one more exciting than the other, imprinted on the roll film of my identity. In my prayers, I always ask God do I deserve so many of such happy moments from going to Thailand to teach English to spending half a year in LA and now this opportunity to read at Cambridge!


Well, this post is not only about me and my feelings but also intends to be informational in nature. I highly encourage both current and prospective students to HKU to check out the summer exchange programmes that HKU has to offer at because there are some great universities like Cambridge, Columbia and Stanford on list who have semester-equivalent programmes during summer. Some of my friends also transfer the units earned from taking some courses at the host institute during summer back to HKU. Although I don’t really require to do so (courtesy to the units gained from doing 10 courses at UCLA!) yet I hope I will be able to pool the units earned for the course on Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind as an elective for Cognitive Science. Such opportunities are for those who would like to have a productive summer and to me what better way to describe my plan for the upcoming summer- going to Cambridge for a semester <3

Desi Survival101 – Setting Up in HK


So you guys are probably about to leave for Hong Kong in just over a month, and if you’re anything like I was, you’re beginning to get super stressed. It’s understandable, you’re moving to a new country to live alone probably for the first time, you probably don’t have any idea how to start setting up. Yet again, your friendly neighbourhood Vishnu is here to guide you.

Assuming you have completed your formalities (prior to arriving in Hong Kong) with the University and also regarding your visa, the first thing you need to do is make a list of the stuff you’re going to carry with you. I’m not going to get into the absolute nitty gritty but here’s a basic list of stuff you’ll absolutely need -

Clothes (shocking stuff, right?)

Warm clothes (by around November, it does get really chilly in Hong Kong, so be prepared)

Bedding (NOT mattresses, but you should have sheets, pillows, and comforters)

Basic Cutlery

Toiletries (The same stuff you’d take on vacation + Towels)

All your documents + 3 copies of each ( Identification, residence proof, mark sheets, all that jazz)

Passport size photographs (You’ll need these for a bunch of forms)

Sports/Musical equipment

Stuff you can buy for your room once you’re in HK - 


Laundry bag



A broom for your room

Box fan

Iron (if you want)

What to do once you’re in Hong Kong

So once you land in Hong Kong, the first thing you need to make sure of is that your STUDENT VISA gets stamped on arrival. This is very very important. From the airport, you’re going to go straight to your hall/wherever you’re going to stay, and check in. You’re going to then fill in some forms and register at your hall. Set up your room, put your stuff in. Next you need to register with the Uni and your Faculty. The University will be sending you a schedule for all this stuff so don’t worry if it seems like a lot right now.

You should also start deciding a time to go get your HKID (Hong Kong Identity card). You can book an appointment for it online. If you don’t get an appointment at a date which is soon enough for you, you can go for the Walk-In option. However there’s a very limited quota for walk-in, and the lines are very long, so you want to go to the office first thing in the morning, even before it opens, and get in line.

Once you’ve got your HKID receipt and temporary card, you can go on about setting up your bank account in Hong Kong. There are branches of HSBC and Bank of East Asia on campus, as well as near campus, and they have plans suited for international students, so this process won’t be too complicated.

Before you get to Hong Kong, a smart thing to do would be to check out the map of the area surrounding your place of residence, as well as a map of the Uni. It can be very overwhelming when you have so much to do and no idea where you are or where you’re going. The maps are all available online, so check them out, because our campus is quite big, and it took me about a month to properly figure out where most places were.

Setting up in Hong Kong won’t take too long, but it can be really stressful and quite overwhelming if you have no guidance. Make sure to ask around if you need to, because everyone at HKU is willing to help. Good luck!

Desi Survival101 – Hall Life


One thing I wish I had more information about before starting school at HKU is Hall Life. Which hall should I pick? What kind of facilities are included? What is it like living with a bunch of strangers from all over the world? Any of you coming to HKU this fall surely will have similar questions. You probably haven’t found too many answers yet. Well fret not, I am here to shed some light on your living situation for the next four years.


First question. Which hall should I pick? Firstly, you could go for either a Residential College (RC) or a Hall. Both RCs and Halls have their advantages, so you need to figure out what’s more important for you. The RCs are newer and have better facilities and infrastructure than the halls, however most of the halls are closer to campus and give you the opportunity to participate in the Hall Culture and activities, which you can’t really get at the RCs. I’ve spent my first year at HKU living in Starr Hall, and I’ve really enjoyed it. All the RCs are located together, and have pretty much the same layout. The halls aren’t the same. The halls are located in different clusters, some on campus and most of them  very near to campus.

The 4 Residential Colleges

The 4 Residential Colleges

In terms of facilities, it’s fundamentally the same for all types of student residences. Each floor has a number of rooms. Most rooms are double rooms, with a maximum of one or two single rooms a floor. Each floor has its own toilet and shower room, and common room/pantry. Most pantries have basic cooking equipment. A fridge, microwave, hotplate,some pots and pans, sink and water cooler. Some common rooms have televisions as well. In the residential halls, its pretty common to find gaming consoles, DVD players, and music systems hooked up as well. In terms of food, barring maybe one or two halls, there are no meal plans. All halls have vending machines in the lobby or ground floor, and a cafeteria located right next to them, where you can buy food.tian xiao cheng

Starr Hall

Starr Hall

SKY Lee Hall

SKY Lee Hall

Sharing a room and coexisting with a bunch of strangers is something which will be new to most of you, but it won’t be too bad. It takes some getting used to for sure, but I think the ability to step out of your comfort zone and reach compromises to live together is a major skill which you’ll pick up while staying in hall (hopefully).

Freshmen Dilemma #18: How come you are doing a Double Major?


Recently I have been getting this question from several incoming freshmen for which I don’t necessarily have enough time to answer them individually at UCLA while juggling seven courses in one quarter, therefore I thought of sharing how I happen to be doing a double major in Psychology and Cognitive Science. For those who are not thinking of doing a major or minor in the aforementioned disciplines you are more than welcome to leave us at this juncture and maybe join us again in my next article where I will brag about my Trans-Canadian journey that happened during the spring break :p! But for those who chose to stay and read further, let’s take a deep dive into some details, fully comprehended only by Psyc majors!

So, initially I thought of majoring in Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science (choice to minor in Economics is another story, I will discuss in some other article) and also study Spanish as my fourth language (or probably fifth if I count in my limited proficiency in French!) but unfortunately studying Spanish came to a halt after my first semester when I submitted my application for exchange (during the second semester of my sophomore year) to Universities like Columbia, Toronto and of course UCLA (technically its UCEAP!) and decided to redirect my academic interest into studying advanced courses in Psychology so that by the time of my exchange I will be able to start doing lab courses in order to gain research experience. As a self-proclaimed rational decision maker, I can justify the choice I made last year and I don’t think the opportunity cost of not learning Spanish would be more than what I gain currently from my exposure to different labs and research projects that I am involved in (anyway I just got an A in my Spanish speaking test, in which, after hours of learning and practice, I really felt I deserved an A+).

Still I hadn’t made the switch to declaring Cognitive Science as my second major but then I realized that each 4 unit course that I study at UCLA only accounts for 5 HKU credits. Left with more units to study even if I am officially finished studying a HKU equivalent course here at UCLA, I decided to make the big move, which is actually just doing some basic change in settings in your online student portal! By the end of my exchange I will be done with all my core courses in Psychology and even some courses from my second major so for the remaining two years at HKU I can focus on my second concentration along with working on my thesis, which actually helps my profile since I intend to do PhD in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience that deals with cognition, brain and behavior.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Now, I assume, the background is clear so let’s move on to the logistics. So in order to major in Psychology (no matter as your first or second major) you need to complete 96 units of credits which more or less involve studying 15-16 courses with around 10-12 courses from the Psyc Dept. and the rest from other disciplines under the Faculty of Social Sciences. To give you a concrete example, let’s take my case into review, so by the end of my exchange I will be done with 90 units and I would have to complete one more lab course as part of my capstone experience (although I have finished two lab courses in Cog and Dev Psyc  here at UCLA, but I am transferring the units gained as part of the Global Citizenship credits (12 units in total which involves off-campus learning that you can gain either by studying some courses that are equivalent to 12 HKU units while on exchange or by doing an internship during the semester or during summer). It’s not necessary for anyone who is majoring in Psychology to write a thesis which is a 12-unit year-round course, if you have satisfied the 96 units as seen in Figure 1 (to zoom in click on the image once). But for students like me who want to go to Grad school, it’s a good option to start working on research from Undergraduate level itself. Two important things before I move on to explain the logistics of taking Psyc as a minor are that, first of all, majoring in Psyc requires a lot of stats so if you are not up for it then better drop the plan of majoring in it (a lot of freshmen who initially want to major in Psychology forego their plan after doing the Introductory Stats course offered by Psyc Dept.- PSYC1004, there is an advanced course too in Stats which is a must for all Psyc majors) and there is another off-campus learning called Social Innovation (12 units) which you must satisfy in order to major in Psychology by either doing an internship during the semester or during summer (I already finished it last summer with MOEI by conducting a psychological experiment on my students along with teaching them English, it’s a really intensive yet one of the best courses I ever had at HKU!).

Psyc as a minor is fairly much simpler and extremely flexible since now you just need to study 36 units of Psyc courses i.e. study 6 Psychology courses. It’s basically designed to give students a flavor of what we study in various streams of Psychology. I think Figure 1 and 2 are self-explanatory in this regard.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Moving on to Cog Sci as a major, first of all, let me tell you that you are allowed to double count up to 24 units if you are doing a second major which shares certain courses with your first major and it’s an advantage for me since I just have to complete 48 units of courses instead of 72 to major in Cog Sci. This is because I can double count 2 pre-requisite courses that I already did from other disciplines for my first major along with Bio and Cog Psyc that are two of the numerous electives offered in Cog Sci that I already studied for my first major. For remaining 48 units I need to take 2 introductory courses (aw once again, I thought was done with them in my first year :p) and also study 3 compulsory courses in Cog Sci that include Foundations and Seminars in Cog Sci along with a research project in Cog Sci. These are the only three courses that are exclusive to Cog Sci discipline since all the other electives come from the dept. of Psychology, Computer Science, Linguistics and Philosophy. Therefore there is great flexibility in terms of choosing which particular stream to focus in Cog Sci. A computer science major who wants to do a major or minor in Cog Sci can just focus on doing electives from the Artificial Intelligence stream while a Philosophy major can focus on the Philosophy of Mind stream. As for me, I am specializing in Brain and Cognition coz that relates back to my research interest.

Similar like doing Psyc as a minor, when Cog Sci is taken as a minor, you just need to 36 units of credits which include the two core courses (Foundations and Seminars in Cog Sci) while the rest you can choose from the courses offered by the 4 departments that jointly handle this discipline.

I assure you, this is by far the best summary you can find anywhere of the degree regulation book from my faculty; maybe I should seek part-time employment at my Department’s general office to offer clarifications to students with major/minor issues in Psyc Dept! Btw This doesn’t mean that I knew everything from the start but talking with my mentor and officials (a special mention to Hayson Chan- the most patient and helpful guy at my faculty office- I trouble him so much with my constantly updating application for credit transfer!), spending some time finding the right resources online and always being curious to explore the area of my interest helped me a lot to get a clear sense of this issue and also share the info with my peers and address it to readers like you who are interested  to become a Psycho!!! So get into the habit of searching for relevant info both off and online, it will help you a lot in the long run- that’s the greatest takeaway message for those who stayed with us even if they still have no plans of doing a major or minor in Psyc or Cog Sci, lol!!

For more info on each course offered by Psyc dept. you can play around this website- and yeah you also get to see my pic on the homepage taken during last year’s Award Ceremony, too much media exposure and I seem to love it :p!!

Desi Survival101 – Food

Those of you who are preparing to begin your journey at HKU this fall will surely have a bunch of questions on your mind. I recall listing out all the things I had to research and figure out before leaving for Hong Kong last year. The first thing that came to my mind, was food. To be honest food is always on my mind, but still, figuring out how you’re going to feed yourself is definitely top priority. As you probably know, nearly none of the residential halls at HKU have a meal plan, so figuring out daily food is totally up to you. Chill, it might seem a bit daunting, but the University has made sure that food is available to you pretty much anywhere on and around HKU property.

So the trend with most students here is that they eat most meals on campus or at their halls, at restaurants and canteens. The campus is full of chain restaurants, as well as student canteens, so anywhere you go, good food is available. And of course, HKU has made sure the pricing at all of these joints is student friendly. A lot of us pick up a sandwich or cookie at the campus Subway, or sit down for a quick plate of fish and chips at Grove cafe between classes on a busy day.

The haven for Desis, however, is Ebeneezer’s. Eb’s has all your favourite Indian food, from chicken tikka, to dal makhni, to biryani. It’s pretty bomb. Also, there are two Starbucks outlets on campus, AND all HKU students get a 30% discount on everything, so all you trendy (basic) kids can pick up your triple mocha supreme latte frappacino no fat no cream no if no but only jat ariana grande on your way to a lecture. (That’s not actually a drink).

If you’d rather cook for yourself than always eat out, you can pick up groceries at any Wellcome or ParkNShop supermarket near you. The halls and residential colleges have pantries on every floor equipped with basic cooking stuff and a lot of students cook their own meals. So if you know how to cook, you should be set.

 Hong Kong is littered with really great food and restaurants, so even away from campus you’ll be exposed to a variety of cuisines and dishes. But somehow every single Indian student from my batch managed to incorporate McDonald’s into their diet at least 4 times a week in their first semester. So I advise you, the incoming students, don’t make the same mistakes we made, there’s tons for you to discover.

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