Out of the CityU Blocks – Off-Campus Peer Support Ambassadors (OPSA)

Written by Florence Woo & Frank Yung
Photos taken by Cocoon Cao & Maxwell Li

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We are often told to be more culturally and globally aware, and our University has been providing ample opportunities for students to increase their international exposure. With activities and programmes like Student-initiated Projects (SIP), International Friends Club (IFC), Global Mixer (G-mixer) and G-mix programmes, etc., we are able to meet and interact with students of different cultural upbringing and backgrounds.

Even so, is there a better way to truly immerse ourselves in an intercultural community by having more personal cultural exchange?

What’s better than a hands-on experience and the sharing of living space with a few other students of different backgrounds? And by that, I do not mean only dipping your feet in the water, but living full-on for a whole semester or even more.

In the academic year 2016/17, the University has launched a new programme called “Off-Campus Peer Support Ambassadors (OPSA)”, which means YOU, as a seasoned resident in Hong Kong, will be hosting some other exchange/non-local students who are also living off campus and be honoured with the name of “Student Host”.

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What do I get as a Student Host?
You get subsidized for your hosting services and even better, most of your accommodation fee simply by being a Student Host.

Let’s talk a bit about what a Student Host does.
There are two main roles that a Student Host performs — as a local guide and a peer. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, most exchange/non-local students want to know what the local experience is like. The Student Host is the first person they meet and the one person they rely on to build an impression of the local experience.

Also, it is usual to experience cultural shock and homesickness. The Student Host is the person who provides help to these students who are “away” from the University dorms to assimilate to the local culture, develop a sense of belonging, and even live like a local. This is to be done through the sharing of information such as living tips, housing options, job, internship, further study and scholarship opportunities, a variety of fun-filled social gatherings with other peers and even non-local alumni in Hong Kong.

Is all of this spiel not convincing enough? Check out what OPSA’s participants think and seek it for yourself!
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Charry (Student Host)
“Campus integration between local and exchange students is still rare despite the large number of exchange students. It is easy to have class or join activities together, but hanging out as friends is more difficult. OPSA can solve this problem.”

Ilia (Student Host)
“I would have never imagined knowing a random area like Tsuen Wan like the back of my hand, especially since I don’t speak the language nor do I know the city too well at the beginning. But now, Hong Kong has become my home and my OPSA experience has enhanced this.”

“It has also made me understand a lot more about expatriate experiences which are shared by people who struggle to understand how the city works at first. I believe to truly explore a place, one needs to go out from the generic tourist spots and reach out with a guide’s help; and to be that guide is really nice.”

Lili (Exchange Student)
“Living with a local host (Charry) has allowed me to see a more real side of Hong Kong, especially in the cultural aspect.”

“Charry has really inspired us to explore further and deeper into the local scene e.g. visiting local markets to buy groceries and dining at small local restaurants.”

Zoe (Exchange Student)
“Living in Tsuen Wan has also given me an authentic Hong Kong experience in comparison with the westernized Hong Kong Island – it’s really interesting to immerse in a rather local community and this has definitely influenced me in my everyday lifestyle such as food.”

“It’s extremely easy to meet other exchange students and to build your own ‘campus community’ due to the facilities provided and the feeling that you are hardly ever alone as you share a unit with a few other CityU-ers.”

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Interested?
Did anything spark a bit of your interest in OPSA? If yes, then what are you waiting for? If you want to help exchange/non-local students to fully experience and adapt to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and at the same time enrich your own global mind-set, OPSA is something you shouldn’t miss!

You are also welcome to contribute your ideas and let us know your needs. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by email.