Sewing up the cultural divide

Emily Rasinski

Two students study fashion, culture in U.S.

Ka Ki Li and Candy Chan are studying fashion at Kent State through an exchange program with their home university, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Credit: Andrew popik

Imagine attending school in a foreign land where people speak a different language, the weather is warm one day and freezing the next, strangers say “hi” to you on the street, the bus is your only form of transportation and small rodents called black squirrels roam the campus.

This is the scenario two students from Hong Kong, Candy Chan and Ka Ki Li, encountered when they arrived at Kent State Jan. 12.

Chan and Li are studying fashion merchandising here through an exchange program set up with their home university, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This program allows two Kent State students to study fashion design and merchandising in Hong Kong during the spring semester while two students from Hong Kong study here.

Chan said about 20 students in Hong Kong applied to study here and only two were selected based on academics, an interview and their overall personality.

They attend classes with American students taught in English, their second language.

They said one of the biggest differences in their classes is the length. In Hong Kong, each class lasts for two or three hours per day. Their schedule here is much looser.

Another difference the students said they have noticed is the style of teaching. They said in Hong Kong, they are taught more theory. In contrast, their classes here are more “practical.”

“For example,” Li said, “In Fashion Show Productions, we literally produce a fashion show. We don’t have that in Hong Kong.”

Shammi Chowdhury, an instructor in the School of Fashion, teaches the class. She said Chan and Li’s presence in the classroom is refreshing.

“We take things for granted here. It’s nice to see the excitement on their faces. They are very hard working, always willing to go the extra step,” she said.

Outside of the classroom, Chan and Li, who are also roommates, have noticed other differences.

“Hong Kong is like New York: It’s a big city,” Chan said. “The buildings are much closer and taller.”

One aspect of the city life they miss is the public transportation.

“Here without a car you can’t go anywhere,” Li said. “We take the bus, but the bus schedule is very poor.”

They said because of this, the pace of life is a lot slower in Kent compared to Hong Kong.

Chan explained that in Hong Kong, they ride the subway to get everywhere, and if they miss it, they only have to wait three minutes for the next one.

In contrast, if students miss the bus here, they have to wait a half hour for the next one. The bus also doesn’t run on Sundays, and the two carry a bus schedule with them at all times.

Although Kent may not be the bustling metropolis that they are used to, they both feel they will benefit greatly from the experience.

“Just studying in Hong Kong is not enough for a future career,” Li said.

In addition, Li said she hopes the experience will improve her English and make her a more independent person.

“In Hong Kong, I always need company to go everywhere with me,” she said. “Here, I can go by myself.”

Although Chan said she is already independent, she hopes this experience will add to that and give her more of an appreciation for what she left behind in Hong Kong.

“I will treasure what I have in Hong Kong,” she said, “That’s what I’ve learned and to appreciate what others have done for me.”

Contact College of Fine and Professional Arts reporter Emily Rasinski at [email protected].