Salzburg, Austria – Hong Kong, China: connected
A comparison of studying in these cities
by Harald Parzer
Paris Lodron University, Salzburg, Austria
Universities which offer the opportunity to study Ecology are established worldwide, two of them are The University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong and Paris Lodron University in Salzburg, Austria. The differences in distance, climate, culture, teachers and research methodology make these two places distinct and unmistakeable. I am a visiting student from Austria.
The first thing an Austrian in Hong Kong discovers is the climate: for someone who is used to living in a temperate zone, one needs several days to get accustomed to the wet and hot season. However, once you are used to it you will start to investigate the people and environment: high biodiversity and different adaptations have created a remarkable and quite different group of organisms in Hong Kong e.g. mangroves, wild monkeys, civets, praying mantis, 400 tree species with families like Euphorbiaceae, pangolins, corals; shrimps, crabs, snakes and terrapins in streams; fruit bats … you will have to open your eyes if you want to see even a subset of these.
To get more familiar with the species and their ecology, it was a very good idea to contact the Postgraduates and to ask to go with them out into the field. Who else could explain their research better than they? (thanks a lot, by the way! ).
However, not only the environment differs: if you want to make comparisons between the universities you should start with a student’s life in general. In Salzburg there is no campus, the halls are independent of the universities, and the library and courses are open and free to everyone, even non-students. If you are living in a hall this is just your shelter (from the rain, the wind and the snow) without "culture": hall songs, high table dinner or orientation week. Because of the lack of a campus, fewer facilities are offered compared to HKU: no Sports Hall, no Audio-Visual Department, no Amenities Centres, no Personal Development Centre etc.
BUT: you have to pay very little in student fees. There is no restriction to doing Masters or PhD, everyone can do these. The Postgraduate and Undergraduate programmes are distinct and separate and you can choose lectures from every level. You can choose your own timetable (with a lot of lessons) and complete your compulsory lectures whenever you like. However, in the first three semesters you have to attend the same lessons as all other Biology students in Salzburg (genetics, physiology and ecology) to get the basics.
There are also a lot of elective courses offered, which can be done just for interest: e.g. Biology of Fishes, Biology of Mammals, Introduction and Identification of Lichens,… . many identification courses are available.
To finish the Bachelors degree you have to attend at least ten days of study trips. Every year there are different ones offered: bird watching in Eastern Austria, a lot of botanical trips in- and outside of Austria, every second year a marine course in Croatia and a big ecological field trip outside of Europe, this year to East Africa. To get familiar with Austrian ecology, short one day field trips are offered throughout the year.
Also different from HKU, you do not have to do any project (or dissertation), just two weeks of working outside the university, in an area related to your subject (e.g. in a zoo). The project is a great possibility to do praxis, to learn how to solve problems, to do something really interesting and (maybe) to get to know your supervisor.
The Professors in HKU are generally more willing to tell you about their research, offer you a lots of ideas and papers and you feel much closer to them than those in Austria, whose research you do not know much about.
Another good idea in HKU on how to get a wider view is to attend the seminars, for Post- AND Undergraduates. The Postgraduates talk about their research, and everyone can ask questions or give comments. In Salzburg (mostly) you do not know what most Masters and PhD students are doing, unless you know them personally.
Although the Internet is common in Salzburg University there is nothing like the Learning Support Centres found in DEB.
If you want to take a look on the website (note that as there is no ecological department, ecology is divided into (a) Botany and (b) Zoology) :
Since we have met a lot of people who really supported us we wanted to say "THANK YOU" to the Ecology Department, especially to:
Anita & Ariel & Elsa