Although some new students may be confused about what the week of no classes in October and March in the university calendar is about, “Reading Week” needn’t be as scary (or studious) as it sounds.
The University of Hong Kong marks the halfway point of each semester with a week free of classes, known more commonly as reading week. The name does not sound very exciting, and some wonder why an entire week needs to be dedicated to…reading?! But many members of the HKU community appreciate the so-called Reading Week for their own reasons.
Reading Week can be interpreted in many different ways and one’s plans can depend on whether one is a local or non-local student, full-time or exchange student, freshman or final year student, and student or faculty member.
The Local Student: Many local Hong Kong students seem to enjoy Reading Week as it is — a week of no lectures or tutorials, and some extra time to work. “Work” here may refer to studying for upcoming midterms and exams, catching up on homework and/or readings, finishing assignments and essays, or even getting a head start on the upcoming work. For a number of local students who have long commutes to campus everyday, Reading Week allows for a nice, long stay at home. And for those of them who live in dorms, halls or residential colleges, it allows for some time to go back home.
In addition to working and studying, some local students also allocate time for leisure activities — playing games, watching T.V. shows, catching up with friends, and doing sports. Sleep is also a luxury for all students regardless of where they’re from or which year they’re in. Some local students also take the time off to travel abroad for leisure or for service trips.
“To me, Reading Week is a break that makes life more chill,” said Ryan Shum, a third-year IBGM major.
The Full-time Non-local Student (also known on campus as international students): For most, Hong Kong is not their home town, so they usually use Reading Week to explore Hong Kong —be it visiting theme parks, beaches, or trying activities like hiking, camping or diving.
Many international students also travel around Southeast Asia. These trips, if planned carefully, can be relatively affordable.
Joon Oh, a second-year Arts major, said that he uses Reading Week, usually an off-peak travelling time, to enjoy cheap flights, cheap hotels and a needed escape from Hong Kong to refresh himself. Oh traveled to Bangkok for five days with four other non-local friends from HKU. The plan was quite spontaneous, devised a few days before Reading Week began.
In addition, non-local students who come from nearby Asian countries also use the time off to go back home and tend to some of their homesickness. In some cases, family members come to Hong Kong to visit them and use the week to tour around the city.
The Exchange Student: HKU students often assume that students who are on a study abroad programs in Hong Kong have the best Reading Weeks, filled with travels and adventures. This often does hold true – many exchange students come from countries far away from the region, and find that East and Southeast Asia won’t be as easily accessible from back home as they are from Hong Kong, and so, they seize the opportunity to travel and explore.
Nanette Taams, a third-year study abroad student from the Netherlands visited the Philippines with three other European exchange students. Taams said that after finding cheap flight tickets online, the group of four landed in Manila for a spontaneous backpacking experience.
Taams added that if she were a full-time student, she would definitely not have traveled. Instead, she would’ve likely stayed back to catch up on work or study. But as an exchange student, Taams sees Reading Week as “a week to travel and explore Southeast Asia.”
After examining various student groups and their Reading Week activities this spring semester, there is one group of people that many students still remain curious about, namely faculty members.
The Faculty Member: For some, a lecture-free Reading Week might not translate into a holiday. Dr. Dorita Chang from the Department of Psychology said her Reading Week is filled with research manuscripts as she puts her teaching and lecture preparations aside.
According to Chang, Reading Week can provide professors with an option to switch focus. “[I] get to enjoy other aspects of [my] job, [I] enjoy science,” said Chang. She added that professors, like students, appreciate Reading Week because it eases the stress of academics.
Ultimately, what to do during Reading Week depends on one’s own choices. The week carries a different meaning for everyone, but it would be difficult to find a member of the HKU community who does not enjoy this mid-semester breather from lectures and tutorials.