Elise Giles on her exchange in Hong Kong

Victoria Peak, Elise Giles
Victoria Peak, Elise Giles


Deciding to live in another country for seven months was quite possibly one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make and to be honest it could have been the best or the worst decision pending how the experience was.

I was very fortunate to receive the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Award to study and work in Asia. Within a month of receiving the award, I was packing my bags and heading to Asia to live, study and work in Hong Kong.

With the advantage of Griffith University having partnership links with hundreds of universities internationally, I was easily able to study and get credit back home without the extra charges to study overseas.

When I first arrived in Hong Kong, after enjoying backpacking around Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos with a good friend, I suddenly came to the realisation that I was now on my own in a completely foreign country with no language competency. The first week was really, really hard: I did not know where to buy food from because nothing was in English; I was scared to catch a bus because quite frankly they were so different; and I felt out of touch because I didn’t have phone and internet services 24/7. However these ‘out of comfort’ feelings were short lived after settling in my tiny student accommodation room with a fellow Aussie.

Whilst there were so many differences and challenges in Hong Kong, I know that these experiences made me resilient, patient and understanding of other cultures. These challenges were also outweighed by the incredible opportunities such as the Junk Boat events, Island hopping, cultural tours, travelling to other countries, trying new foods, meeting new people, bargaining at the Ladies Market, attempting to learn another language and lastly teaching Hong Kongers to say ‘Righteo Mate’.

I cannot reiterate how important it is to either go on a short term or full semester study program. It is tough, but the experience that you have will be life long and so fulfilling. The people that I have met in Hong Kong and from my travels have created incredible memories.



The main purpose of my decision to undertake an exchange in Hong Kong was related to my interest in how the  ‘great Australian dream’ of owning a quarter acre block and communities compares to cities such as Hong Kong. I also wanted to see and compare how they utilise small spaces to generate events that build a sense of community. With these interests, I utilised my time in Hong Kong to conduct research on liveability in high density living and discussed and created strategies of how this can be implemented into Australian society.

I honestly hope that this article has helped motivate you to travel or study in Asia; understand the importance of being a global citizen; have tolerance and patience for diversity in society and the workplace. My parting advice – there are so many opportunities, you just have to look for them!


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Elise Giles

Elise is a Prime Minister Australia Asia scholar. Having exchanged in Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore, Elise is an advocate for Australia-Asia relations. Elise is currently focused on tourism in Australia and will continue to pursue her love of travel.

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