Sometimes it can be really difficult to argue that studying a geography degree is more than just colouring in, but not when all your friends go home for the Easter break and the second year geographers travel to destinations all around the world! These include Hong Kong, Borneo, Barcelona, Cyprus, Copenhagen, Berlin, and the USA among others (next year I hear that New York City is on the cards too).
I’ve just got back from Hong Kong and it was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had. Field trips are undoubtedly a method of learning enriched with benefits beyond assignment content, and I’d really like to share some of the experiences I had and explain what a geography field trip is really like.
Travelling to Hong Kong was the easy bit, once I arrived I was immersed into a new culture, a different language and a new adventure. I travelled with a friend and we met our group (usually around 30 students on each trip) on a Sunday evening, ready to spend the next week exploring Hong Kong together. Mostly fresh-faced on the Monday morning, we met our three staff members and set off exploring the city and the area we stayed in – Sheung Wan.
In the afternoon, we were given instructions from our staff members to ‘find our way home’ to the hotel using maps of Newcastle – this is a concept called psychogeography, and encourages you to ‘get lost’ in the city. Though it sounds strange, it was my favourite activity of the trip – we spent hours wandering around the city and making discoveries such as the Star Ferry and a Chinese Food Market for lunch (we had no idea what we ordered). After a day of relaxed academic work, we were taken up to Victoria Peak in the evening and had a group meal which was a great way to get to know everyone really early on.
Unfortunately not all of our trip was focused on gallivanting around Hong Kong, we did have to present our ideas in an assessed presentation at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), receiving feedback on our work from both Newcastle University staff and also CUHK staff too. Although completing an assessment in another country was strange, we had 50% of our module mark back before we went to collect our data, so had a good idea of what we needed to do which helped us shape and develop our research plans.
My group had a focus around tourism and governance within the city, and after the presentations we had three full days to move around the city as we needed collecting data. During the evenings we were free to explore and socialise as we liked, and it was really exciting to be with a group of new friends exploring a new city.
The uni was really helpful and every student got £600 towards their trip, so that completely covered a lot of the trips in Europe and most of Hong Kong too, and you also had the freedom to book your own flights so you could stay on and travel further if you wanted (I travelled an extra two weeks around China).
There was also a great balance between work and fun, with some organised trips to tourist sites such as the Big Buddha and Victoria Peak. I can thoroughly recommend going on field trips with your course – I’ve made some amazing new friends, had an incredible experience and writing this assignment isn’t going to feel so dull if I get to draw from research experiences I’ve had half-way across the globe.