Insider Tips for Interning in Hong Kong from our Cultural Vistas Fellows

Fourteen American undergraduates, many of whom have never been abroad, stepped outside their comfort zone in order to pursue summer internships overseas as part of the Cultural Vistas Fellowship in 2018. Fellows interned in Berlin, Buenos Aires, and for the first time as part of this flagship program: Hong Kong.

During their eight weeks abroad, Jay’Len, Donovan, Amanda, and Nora gained confidence and newfound professional skills while interning at organizations ranging from Mission for Migrant Workers to Run Our City.

They also learned what it takes to adjust to and navigate life in a new city.  Here are some tips tricks of the trade they learned during their Cultural Vistas Fellowship.

Donovan, Amanda, Nora and Jay’Len are the inaugural Cultural Vistas Fellows in Hong Kong

Jay’len: Top Apps for Hong Kong

Visiting Hong Kong can get hard, but living here is a whole different story. Lucky for you, I have listed the top 6 apps that will make your stay in Hong Kong a breeze.

Jay’Len is spending his summer interning at Fair Trade International

1) MTR App
Hong Kong is a city that’s always moving so it is only right if they have transportation that functions similarly. The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is Hong Kong’s very own railway system that has united the city since 1979. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it helps Hongkong-ers from every corner of the country get form point A to point B. This app helps you plan your routes and ensures that you are where you need to be, on time.

2) My Observatory HK
The Observatory app provides you with weather updates and thunderstorm/typhoon warnings. Trust me, it has saved me from plenty of catastrophic events since being here. Not only does it give you real-time updates, it also alerts you of places that are safe and safe to travel to at the time due to weather changes. This is your Weather Channel away from home, so download it!

2018 Cultural Vistas Fellows spend a beach day together in Hong Kong

3) Nemo Cantonese
I know it can seem kind of annoying being the only English speaker in the room, but just think about this, what someone else has learned, you can too! Perfect your Cantonese using the Nemo app. It works on and offline, and includes simple phrases to help you verbally navigate any situation.

4) Klook
I know you all love Groupon and saving those coupons in your purse. But why do all that when you have Klook here ready to serve you. Klook connects you with the best deals for plenty of attractions in Hong Kong. Unlike Groupon, the Klook app is especially focused on specific areas around the world, Hong Kong being one of them. The deals offered on Klook are like none other. Download the app and see what you find.

5) Talkspace
If you’re like me and you melt under pressure or lock yourself in your room at the sight of fear, then this app is a must-have. With over 2000 licensed therapists, Talkspace connects you with someone who you can talk to and relieve stress with. The online therapists are trained to make sure you navigate the conversation, so they will only go as far as you want them too. I mean we all need a shoulder to lean on here and there.

Amanda: Transportation Tips for the Hong Kong MTR

2018 Cultural Vistas Fellow Amanda is currently interning at Health in Action in Hong Kong

It can definitely be overwhelming being in a whole new place and wondering how to get around. I know something that I was nervous about when coming to Hong Kong was how I would find my way and what would happen if I got lost in this busy, unfamiliar place.

Luckily, Hong Kong has a great public transportation system. In Hong Kong, over 12.6 million passenger journeys are made each day on the public transport system which includes railways, trams, buses, minibuses, taxis and ferries. This post will focus on my most commonly used method here, the railway system known as the Mass Transit Railway (MTR).

The following is a list of tips for all of your MTR travels in Hong Kong:

1) Download Apps
Before or upon your arrival, I would recommend downloading Citymapper and/or MTR mobile apps to help you use the public transportation system here. These apps will help you plan your trips and use the best routes. In the Citymapper App, you can even favorite trips and use them offline. Once you start the trip, your phone will alert you when your stop is approaching.

2) Get an Octopus Card
When you first arrive in Hong Kong, you will definitely want to purchase an Octopus card. This card is reloadable and can be used for a lot of your public transportation travels. You scan the card on your way into the first train station, and again on the way out of your destination train station where the fee is deducted. The Octopus card can also be used at other places in Hong Kong, such as for food. Always make sure to watch your balance and reload your card before it gets low. Luckily, there are reload stations everywhere near the trains, making it fast and convenient.

The Hong Kong cohort of Cultural Vistas fellows attends a horse race

3) Follow the Rules
One way that the trains and stations are kept so clean is that there is a no food or drink policy for inside the trains and throughout the train stations until you go through an exit. Make sure to stick to this rule, as there are fines for those who do not abide. Additionally make sure to follow all signs and arrows to keep the loading and unloading process organized.

4) Relax
The MTR system can feel overwhelming at first. When I saw that my trip to work required the campus bus as well as 3 train rides, I thought that it was going to be too much. After only one day though, I felt more confident getting there, as the system and transfers are well organized, and get you to places in a reasonable amount of time. Trains run so frequently that you rarely have to wait longer than 2 minutes for the next train.

Donovan: How to Save Money in Hong Kong

Donovan intered at Run Our City in Hong Kong

For many people, especially students and young adults coming from other countries, the prices are quite different. By looking at the exchange rate you may think that you are getting the bang for your buck, until you see those Hong Kong prices. For those that need advice on how to spend wisely, it is important to manage your money especially when you are in an intern in a non-paying NGO.

These tips are for those going to Hong Kong, but can be useful for anyone going anywhere.

Tip #1: Avoid eating out often: In Hong Kong an average meal will cost you $40-$50. In USD that converts to only spending about $7 or $8 but in Hong Kong it will eat at your wallet quickly.

Tip #2: When shopping, try to stick to food that will last longer: Peanut butter and jelly are good, oatmeal, even ramen noodles work well because they can last some time and you won’t be spending every other day at the supermarket. Which is easy to do when they are nearby.

Tip #3: Don’t overspend if you don’t have to: try to create a budget and stick to it. If your a student interning or studying abroad you will find plenty of things to buy, and while food is important, you don’t want to spend all your dollars on it.

Tip #4: Try to find stores with the best prices: Many grocery stores vary in price as we all know but in Hong Kong the difference can be mind-blowing. A bag of cereal in one store was $12HK and a small box in another store was $35HK. Be conscious of where you’re buying groceries from and yes just like everywhere else anything sold in a mall is overpriced.

Tip #5: Have fun. It’s cheesy but true. You’re in Hong Kong! Enjoy it! If you see something nice at a night market or while exploring the city, grab it. Don’t let money be the deciding factor in your experience in Hong Kong.

The sixth class of Cultural Visatas Fellows

The Cultural Vistas Fellowship affords U.S. university students from backgrounds underrepresented in international exchange the unique opportunity to advance their career goals, develop global competencies, and experience life in another culture. This fellowship opportunity is funded by Cultural Vistas.

Learn more at and follow updates in real time at #CVFellows18.