Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Life in a HKU dorm

Do you remember the feeling you got when you first moved into a dorm before your freshman year of college? The feeling of excitement, the sense of community? The idea that you were becoming part of a proud tradition for people of your age and station in life?

None of these feelings apply when you are a third-year graduate student moving into undergraduate underclassman dorms.

And I say this as someone who lived in the majestic Gropius complex during 1L year, but at least we had our own bedrooms, and mattresses that were more than 3 inches thick, and weren't sharing living space with 19-year old economics students who play 12 hours of World of Warcraft per day.

They're very serious about the dorms here. All of their materials suggest that you are expected to hang out with your hallmates. Like, constantly. And join clubs. They loooooves them their clubs here (also, on campus, they seem to love blasting cheesy American pop music, usually Christina Aguilera or Gwen Stefani, non-stop and at high volume...but that's a different issue). There's a hall song, and a hall war cry, and you have to be able to recite both. They also have these "high-table dinners," once-monthly formal dinners that you are required to attend. Like, if you don't attend, you must provide some kind of written explanation that offers a legitimate reason for your absence. And if you don't? There will be discipline. Probably in the form of a strongly-worded letter, but actually, they can deny you readmission into halls next year, and if you're especially egregious, kick you out midway through the year. Of course, neither of these threats hold any meaning for me, so my liability is limited to the strongly-worded letters, but still, just the principle of the thing. I dared to speak ill of the concept of mandatory formal dinners in front of some of the local students, and they giggled awkwardly and looked at me like I was blaspheming. To them, I guess I was.

I expect that if these formal dinners were optional, I'd probably attend most if not all of them, but because they are mandatory, I will be inventing Jewish holidays that require me to miss them. Jewish holidays that will also require me to travel to Thailand or Cambodia to celebrate them. It's in the Torah. Look it up.

We had our first floor meeting of the semester last night. When the floor representative, who was apparently elected last year and will be passing on his title shortly, started the meeting, everyone began to clap. They didn't need to be prompted, there were no stragglers, everybody immediately clapped. They held a vote on a day, time, and location for a floor dinner, and when the vote was completed, everybody clapped again. The rest of the meeting was relatively uneventful, though they did resolve to reconvene next week, so that they could elect a finance chair for the floor, who could then buy new kitchenware for the floor kitchen. No kitchenware could be bought without a finance chair, and no finance chair could be appointed without an election. Then the meeting ended and everyone clapped again.

Out of the 16 people who attended the meeting (not counting myself), 14 were rail-thin Asian boys with glasses, and everyone was either an engineering student or an economics/finance major. It was like being beaten over the head with a burlap sack full of cultural stereotypes, though everyone did seem exceedingly friendly and nice (though that is actually part of the same sack-'o-stereotypes too). But more significant for me was that every other hall resident was either a first- or second-year undergraduate, meaning the oldest person other than me couldn't have been older than 19. And yes, I realize that is only a 3-year age difference from me (almost 4...my birthday is next month), but it's not. It's a 5-year age difference, 5 important years: 3 years of college, 2 years of grad school, and what seems like a lot of missing common experience. The dorm thing just isn't so charming anymore, and certainly not under these circumstances.

And yeah, they just seem to take themselves a bit seriously 'round these parts. This notice was posted in our elevator:

Dear Morrisonians,

We saw some of our notices on the white board and lift have been scrawled. This is an unacceptable behavior as the white board on the ground floor and the lift is the most important promotion method for us to spread our message. Scrawling and giving "extra" information make our original message changed and mislead our hallmates somehow. This kind of action is not funny; I believe as a university student, we know what to do and what we cannot do. If further cases are found, necessary action will be taken.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Frederics, Fung Hon Wai
President, Morrison Hall Students Association

Again, so much to like here. The slightly Big Brother-sounding notion of "spreading our message." The only partially-completed thought process about people being misled..."somehow." The vague threat of "necessary action." This place has the most amusing official correspondence.

But why put up with it all? Simple: $700 in rent for the entire semester. Can't argue with that.


Emily Lo said...


I am definitely planning for studying aboard at HKU. Is the rent really $700.00 USD?

Also, any tips as to making HKU experience better?


emkay said...

I was reading up on HKU and found your blog entries about your time in Hong Kong. I'm studying abroad there as an undergrad for this upcoming fall semester and currently waiting to hear back about my hall assignment. It could be either the beginning of an enjoyable and enlightening experience, or a miserable time spent missing home and friends. After almost two years, how do you feel looking back at Hong Kong and HKU?

sgman said...
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