Last month, third year student Alexander Brunner announced that he was terminating his study abroad in Hong Kong this semester due to the political unrest and safety concerns.
Mr Brunner, who is studying International Relations at the University of St Andrews, opted out of his study abroad for the fall 2019 semester at Hong Kong University in exchange for the National University of Singapore for the spring 2020 semester.
The protests in Hong Kong began in June after plans to allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China, with protestors demanding democratic reform and a protection of freedoms not seen in mainland China.
Explaining his decision to cancel his fast-approaching study abroad session, Mr Brunner told The Saint, “On the morning of August 12, I was returning to my family’s rental beach house after a morning ocean kayak fishing session. As I walked through the front door, the silence of my tip toes, was interrupted by the sound of the T.V. I had forgotten to turn off the night before.
“On the T.V. was breaking news that the Hong Kong protesters had gathered at the airport and reports of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) buildup in the bordering Shenzhen area. I think this was the moment where I decided to terminate my study abroad for this fall semester.”
While Mr Brunner remained optimistic throughout the summer as he closely monitored the situation and subscribed to the UK’s Hong Kong travel advisory network, he ultimately decided against travelling to Hong Kong for the next few months.
He said, “My flight was set for less than a few days, and while the University of Hong Kong was kind to offer shuttle services to and from the airport for study abroad students in light of the airport protests, I did not feel the conditions were safe enough for my travel to Hong Kong, and subsequent study abroad.”
Mr Brunner noted that he was grateful to the University of Hong Kong for the opportunity to study abroad, as well as the St Andrews Study Abroad team for quickly allocating him an alternative placement in Singapore for the spring 2020 semester.
Mr Brunner added, “I am content with my choice, although I have made a promise to myself that I will travel to Hong Kong in the future.”
Study abroad opportunities at the University of Hong Kong are normally available to students studying art history, biology, chemistry, comparative literature, computer science, economics and finance, geography, sustainable development, physics and astronomy, and international relations.
Typically, there are four semester places, or two full-year places, for students on the IR Abroad programme at the University of Hong Kong, as well as four semester or two full-year places for students on the St Andrews Abroad programme. However, it is not known if other students have been affected by the political protests in Hong Kong.
Protests in Hong Kong are still ongoing, although airport travel has not been severely affected since late August, when all flights were grounded at Hong Kong International Airport due to the severity of the demonstrations.