“I’m Livin’ In”

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During one of my weekly chats with Elvis, my language exchange partner, he mentioned that there are three things that each student of CUHK “must do” before graduation:

  1. Date the opposite sex
  2. Join a student society
  3. Experience life in a student hostel

At the moment, I am definitely missing out on the first two, but one out of three isn’t bad: life in the hostel is awesome. Life in my student hostel, the Adam Schall Residence, has been a bunch of fun and very pleasant at the same time. I feel especially lucky because the time I arrived on campus is about the time the renovations to this residence was being completed. On the first day I was moving my luggage into my permanent room, there was still work being done in and around the hostel and there would be for weeks to come. So in more ways than one, the place is full of life and always improving.

Every day, the hostel is tended by a regular team of workers who are all very kind and helpful, especially one lady who tends to my hall who I only know as wah je (華姐). Besides the regular housekeeping and handiwork (which from what I hear from my friend in another college is quite the VIP treatment), she is also generous. I thought it was strange that she handed me a sweet potato one day and a baglet of chicken wings. Initially, I thought there was something special going on that day but in fact it was her own. This isn’t even special treatment to the American either: another day she wouldn’t let my roommate head out the door without a jacket so she lent him her own. She doesn’t speak English but it’s fun to try to talk to her, even if it’s just ‘hello’.

Besides the staffers who mill about, there is also the resident student association living among us. To me, they appear to be a family of students who take up the job of working with the staff, organizing and running activities throughout the year, and basically take care of the hostel and the residents. My guess is there is a new group of a dozen or so students who takes the job each year since I was welcomed by one group when I first moved in, but in recent days, the events have been overseen by a new group. A lot of these events consist of free giveaways: whether it be free snacks or free mouthwash, they like to show that they take care of you.

The spacious pantry on the second floor is really the best of the hostels in United College, I think.  There’s a lot of room for hanging out and chatting here and also downstairs in the commons.

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Our student association, which call themselves daai tong ga (大湯家), like to put out food for everyone to enjoy and it really stirs up a crowd. Here, the pantry is packed.

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But really, not everyone gets to enjoy it as I find that everything is gone by the time I wade to the front of the crowd. I really only wanted one piece, but judging from all the cooking pots I see during these events, I guess the custom is to just take as much as they want.

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Here’s my friend Andy demonstrating some old fashioned Chinese calligraphy (書法). He let me try it, and I managed to write a few characters with my right hand.

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I wasn’t expecting a guy like Rex here as one of my roommates. He enjoys classic rock and playing the electric guitar. Sometimes it’s just noisy, but he’s got skill one can appreciate.

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I think when you’re in a place like a student hostel, you can’t help but absorb what is around you because there is so much going on and so many different people that you can simply hang out with. Also, between the custodians, the student association, and my friends, I feel very well taken care of. When I am at home, I really don’t feel like I am on my own. But now that I am here on my own in Adam Schall, I still don’t really feel like I am on my own. I like the fact that I am among friends I can rely on, that it feels like home here, and that I don’t have to be on my own in the strictest sense of the phrase. Life in the hostel is pretty swell.

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