Crossing Continents - Meet Jill a Final Year Student from Hong Kong

We chatted to Jill Cheng, one of our Final Year Chiropractic Students from Hong Kong, to hear her perspective on what it’s like being an international student studying at AECC University College.

Making the transition to study in the UK must have been a big decision. What was it like moving from Hong Kong to the UK?

“The first thing I noticed was how fresh Bournemouth felt and how friendly the people were, they were all really nice. I noticed that when you walked down the street you might not see anyone, but this is normal. By comparison to my city in Hong Kong, this is quite different, as everywhere is so busy and crowded with lots of people – even at midnight. So, for me, that was a big change. Also, in the UK it’s a slower pace compared with Hong Kong; people are more chilled. In Hong Kong, everything is so efficient, very immediate, straight-away, so it’s good to be calmer otherwise you can get easily agitated.”

Before leaving Hong Kong, how did you prepare for the transition from moving from Hong Kong to the UK?

“At the beginning I thought I’d be able to prepare many things. I even tried to find a place to live before I moved to the UK, but I think unless you know someone it’s not that easy. Instead, I decided that when I arrived, I’d organise myself and open things such as a bank account, which I did, you don't need to rush. I’d say the main thing you need to prepare is your emotions, your attitude to be mentally ready.”

When moving to the UK, how easy was it for you to settle in and what support did you receive?

“When I arrived, my classmates, peer group (especially those living locally) and other students from Hong Kong (in higher years) at the university, all helped me. My landlord, who I lived with, helped me too, it was like living with a friend.

“My advice to anyone is to talk. Don't be afraid to ask anyone if you need help, you can deal with situations together rather than by yourself.

“The Student Services team at AECC UC were the most helpful in supporting me emotionally, even if it was just supporting with how to deal with my schedule. Sometimes they would advise, and other times just listen. I'm really thankful to them, they’ve helped me a lot over the last five years.

“Food is culturally important and there’s lots of places to eat, especially Chinese if you feel like you’re missing home. I’ve also started to learn how to cook. If you are cooking at home, it’s easy to find Chinese ingredients locally as there are Chinese markets in the area. When I first arrived, I bought many ingredients with me from Hong Kong, however, you can buy everything here. Also, there’s the Asia Pacific Society at university – a student community that you can join whilst studying here. They are happy to share everything with you, especially food, just don't be afraid to ask!

“The university is a really close-knit community if you need help, you can talk to everyone.”

What is it like living in Bournemouth?

“If I compare living here to Hong Kong, I’d say you’ll feel like you’re living in Discovery Bay – it’s similar as it's close to the beach. I really like to go to the beach for walks, or a run. There’s also lots of natural places nearby like the Jurassic Coast, Durdle Door, and Hengistbury Head. The New Forest (a National Park) is nearby too, and all are amazing for exploring with friends.

“There are shops nearby in Christchurch, Southbourne, and Poole, which are all very nice. Generally, Bournemouth is relaxed and a relatively quiet location, so you can focus on your studies. If you live in London, you have so many things you can do which can distract you from your study.”

What do you like to do locally here in Bournemouth and for free?

“It's become a bit more expensive over the last few years, but I don't think that’s isolated to the UK. I have friends who live in Canada and the USA, and they say the UK is not that expensive. Of course, some parts are more expensive than others, but I would say if you can cook you can save a lot of money. Eat local food like beef, it’s amazing, and bread is really good too.

“I often visit London as it's very convenient AECC UC being located so close to the train station (Pokesdown). It only takes two hours to travel there, and I like to go for shopping and when friends come to visit, as I take them to the large museums such as the V&A and National Gallery – both of which are free to enter. There’s lots of free places to see and visit, but transport is probably the most expensive thing in the UK.

“However, compared to London, I know it's a lot more expensive living there. I have friends who plan to work in London who are looking for accommodation, and renting a room in the centre of London is around £1000 a month versus Bournemouth which is between £400 - £500 a month.”

Some UK lecturers are striking. Have you experienced this at AECC UC?

“There are strikes in some UK universities, but not at AECC UC. Our tutors advised their unions that they would not be striking and subsequently we as students were not affected by this, which is amazing for us, and we are grateful.”

Finally, were you able to receive any financial support or guidance?

“I don't have any financial support, but I do know during COVID some students at AECC UC had financial support. For me, I can work part-time at AECC UC. There are lots of opportunities, for example: being an ultrasound model, a patient chaperon, clinic receptionist, student ambassador, even as a cleaner. So, there are many roles you can do. In the UK it's not difficult to find a job as there is lots of part-time work offering good money.”

Jill Cheng

Above: Jill Cheng, Final Year Chiropractic Student