By Moon Wong

Founded on 4 November 2008, the International Student Association of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (ISA CUHK) aims to unite all international undergraduate students in CUHK, as well as serves as the bridge between the University and students with different backgrounds.

Through holding various activities, the ISA strives to create opportunities for students to meet people from all over the world, understand cultural diversity, and build connections. The ISA also assists international students in adapting to the new environment and endeavors to give them a homely feeling on campus.

The biggest and most exciting activity of ISA is the annual International Orientation Camp just before the beginning of the year (Unfortunately, this has to be held in the virtual world this year). To kick off the new academic year well and to help freshmen get a taste of HK culture, ISA organises the traditional Dai Pai Dong where international students have dinner at, well, a dai pai dong. Another noteworthy event is the ISA Boat Party, where students enjoy a beautiful summer day on the sea. Apart from that, the committees organise their own activities throughout the year, though ISA usually has a gap in Nov/Dec and around April when everybody is busy preparing for exams. This year, ISA is planning to hold some sporting events, a cultural mini carnival, a Christmas party, and to put an emphasis on introducing local culture with a great Chinese New Year celebration. Sadly, at this point it is hard to tell which of these they will be able to pull off.

At this difficult time, ISA managed to connect international students through publishing the ISA newsletter regularly and launching videos on their newly-opened YouTube Channel — ISA CUHK. In the newsletter, you can find information on the ISA’s upcoming and past events, announcements, relevant news concerning the university, membership privileges. If you are interested in learning more about this international family, don’t hesitate to subscribe to their newsletter by scanning the QR code! Meanwhile, their YouTube channel serves as an interactive platform to give international students insights on life in both CUHK and Hong Kong. The videos lately uploaded mainly introduce the procedures you have to go through upon arrival in Hong Kong, as well as feature how some students spend their time during quarantine. Do go take a look if you would like some inspirations!

An Intereview with the Executive Committee

Why would you become an exco of ISA?

Sven: As I had been to Hong Kong during my high school for exchange, this city is not completely new to me. Yet, nobody could have imagined the situation of Hong Kong in this academic year. I felt really welcomed during the Ocamp held by ISA. It would have been an absolute catastrophe without this event. Even though my first year has been far from perfect, I have received lots of help and would like to pass this on. To me, ISA is like a family, and I hope other international students feel the same way as I do.

Pooja: Having been living in Hong Kong for seven years, I have the advantage of being a local. The only problem I encountered in university was the lack of bonding between the locals and the internationals. With my knowledge on local resources that can build the connection, I felt that I had the obligation to help shape some common ground between these two bodies. Through organizing and mediating events with local associations, I hope to foster the relationship among CUHK students.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as an exco?

Sven: Due to COVID-19, our committee has never met each other. We got elected through Zoom. It is a lot more difficult to have effective communication and high productivity. Apart from that, many planned activities cannot be implemented. Yet, we are given a lot of chances to make changes, bringing a unique year to students. For example, we have to move our Ocamp to the virtual world. This is definitely an opportunity to push us to think out of the box.

Pooja: As everyone is in different parts of the world, we can’t get to know the others properly. We rely a lot on Zoom and face-to-face interaction is very limited. Luckily, it gets better day by day and we have become more familiar with one another.

What would you like to achieve in the remaining commitment period?

Pooja: ISA has the power to integrate the locals and the internationals. I would try to work with the student unions of different colleges and explore the possibility of holding events together. Due to language barrier, most international students cannot become exco in the SU. Still, I want to make them feel included by joining the events and having a more thorough understanding of how it’s like being a HongKonger.

Words for freshmen:

Sven: Listen to senior students. Try to work hard from the beginning, but at the same time do not work too hard!

Pooja: No one could have expected the situation today. Let’s take this as a life experience. Just remember that we are all in this together. Hopefully these bad times would pass, and we all can have a great time in university.