Welcome to…HONG KONG

Hey everyone!

So today actually marks my third week here in Hong Kong!

During the first two weeks, we had to partake in a two-week seminar style course, in which different lectures who work in fields pertaining to different aspects of HK society (e.g. economy, immigration, human rights, etc.) gave lectures to us. I took this seminar with the other students in the 3-Campus program, as well as a few guest students who came from either Hong Kong or Bangkok, Thailand.

And then this past Monday is when I started my summer internship! I will make another post letting you know about my thoughts and feelings after being one week in.

Now, I’m just going to talk about my initial and general perceptions of Hong Kong in general.

Hong Kong is an interesting place. I had heard about it in passing many times in my life, and have even met a few people from Hong Kong, but never really had much interaction with anything about it.

The first thing I can say is that Hong Kong is a very big financial hub. I would imagine that many people working on Wall Street who are looking into an international experience would easily get transferred to a Hong Kong branch, and vice versa.

Another key thing to know about Hong Kong is that it’s highly political. Often times I had heard people say China and Hong Kong are “different”; and I never really understood that until I got on the ground. Hong Kong was formerly under British control, and was only returned to People’s Republic of China officially in 1997. Even so, it has since existed under a “one country, two systems” framework, meaning that Hong Kong has a separate government from the PRC, but do have to answer to Beijing at the end of the day. But there are significant tensions surrounding how much the PRC respects this “one country, two system” agreement, especially when topics like freedom of speech, human rights and universal sovereignty are considered. In my short time here I have been able to gain more knowledge about these issues both in and outside of the classroom, considering that July 1 marked the 20th anniversary of the “handover” of HK from Britain to the PCR, and served as a key time for protesters from all kinds of factions to come out and air their grievances.

Now that I am dedicated to an office cubicle, I am really hoping to have more time to churn out more posts in the manner that I would truly like to. Look out for more posts, as well as some links to my YouTube channel where you can see the videos I have made about Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and more!

Thanks for reading~!

Pushing Aside My Guilt

I apologize for not being very consistent in my posting. I got here to Hong Kong just over a week ago, and our schedule has been very backed since. That combined with my barely-working computer has limited the amount of time I get to spend typing things up. I’m hoping that starting from next week I’ll have more time to document my thoughts and experiences!



This particular post speaks towards my guilt. This has been a feeling that I have carried for over a decade, and if I were to speak frankly, I don’t see it going away any time soon.

Since I was 8 years old, my parents made a big move that changed my family forever. While I won’t go into it too much, it should be said they kind of entered a new career, one that demanded a significant amount of time and energy and work (from the whole family) to make it work.

I have alway felt bad for my parents, particularly my mother. She works tirelessly to make things work, and always kept a good face on during times of hardship. Because of this, I always put aside my own desires and freedoms in order to help her. As a young child, I didn’t really feel these sacrifices. But as I got older, I found myself torn between branching out to enjoy my own life, or staying by my mother’s side to help her with her work.

I have felt this even more over the past couple of years. These days, I don’t go home during the semester except for Christmas break. And the past two years, I have spent the entire summer away from home. I am always ecstatic about being on my own and pursuing things of my interest, I constantly have a lingering nugget of guilt about the workload that my mother has to burden mostly on her own due to my absence.

The summers have been the worst. For the past two summers, my dad has traveled to Nigeria for at least two months, really leaving my mum to manage all the necessary tasks on her own. My mum is a bit older (56 y.o.), so I have been feeling really bad about her having to take on all the work on her own. I worry for her health and her safety, so the guilt really hangs over me.

While I know my mum wants me to go off and grow from new experiences, I know that she selfishly wishes I was with her. When at home I take on a significant workload, alleviating a decent amount of work and stress from her. With both my father and I absent, she has to do everything on her own. When I talk to her on the phone, she constantly repeats “Oh, if only you were here…”–which doesn’t do much to help with my guilt. >.<


I always have to remind myself: I need to live my own life. This very much goes against my upbringing, as Nigerians believe that your life is not just your own, but also your parents’, your siblings’, and your community’s. In my context, that means that as my parents’ child, it is imperative for me to sacrifice to help my parents with their work, since all of our lives are so tightly interconnected.

But of course, that is not the American mindset. And for this, I try hard to adapt the latter culture. I want to be able to do things that I want and I like without feeling bad for it–because should I really feel bad for wanting to live my life, and do things that make me happy?

I think that’s all for now. Thanks so much for reading!

Networking and Helping Others

—sorry for the late upload! I wrote this piece about three weeks ago o.0 But I think it’s really significant so I still wanted to post it. Enjoy!!—


This past week has been pretty busy for me, as finals started for me on Thursday. This being said, it seems that I can’t help but jump on any opportunity to procrastinate. :3

Hear me out. I do not typically procrastinate, but when I do, I do it in a method that I like to call “rational procrastinating”. Meaning that I’ll procrastinate on one assignment by doing another, or something else that seems worthwhile (so I don’t feel bad that I’m not doing things that I should).

On Saturday, this meant meeting up with some people in the name of networking.

There was one woman in particular I wanted to meet; she is an Indonesian woman, and started her own business in South Korea. She has been here for over 13 years, and speaks fluent Korean.

So basically, she is a role model for me. I had met her briefly once at another event I went to, so I was excited to be able to meet with her again.

The subject of this post, however, is not about the meeting I had with her, but mores the encounter that I made through her.

When I went to meet her, she was accompanied by two other Indonesians–one male, one female–whom she was sort of mentoring on how to boost their resumes to be able to get a job in Korea.

We all went to get a brief meal, which was pretty basic; standard small talk, awkward silences, things of the like.

When it came time to part ways, we ended up splitting in two groups, as my role model and the Indonesian boy lived on one side of town, and the Indonesian girl and I were headed in the opposite direction.

And it was that 35-minute commute that transformed my day. The girl opened up to me about her troubles, her insecurities, her past and her fears. At one point she was crying in my arms. What was supposed to be a 35-minute commute ended up being an hour and a half-long session of me consoling her.

It honestly was a powerful experience for me. I was able to relate perfectly to most of her feelings, and could use my experience to help her manage her own. She was overwhelmed with emotion; she said that I was the first person whom she had spoken to this about, and for the first time since moving to Korea 7 months prior, she didn’t feel so alone.


I’m basically writing this all to say:

I could have been studying. Hell, I probably should have been studying. But arguably, study abroad isn’t only about coursework; it’s also about meeting people and having experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t. And in this particular experience, it also was about networking, and having an impact on others. Which are two things that I genuinely value. There are few things in this world that satisfy me like being able to help others does, especially when that help comes directly from the lessons I learned on my own while overcoming my own struggles. And having been able to do that was much more worthwhile than revisions of powerpoint slides.

Thanks for reading.

Still Trudging Through The Semester…

So many of my friends back in the States have asked me:

“When will you be home?”

And it’s an absolutely reasonable question. Looking at Facebook and Instagram posts, many people who left the States for study abroad experiences have already returned home. However, my particular journey is long from over!!

This is mainly due to two reasons. The first is quite understandable: Korean university simply operate on different schedules than those back in the US. Rather than starting the semester in mid-January, classes here began in the first week of March; consequentially, the semester last until around the third week of June.

The second reason is a bit more unconventional, and that’s because it is due to the unique nature of the specific program that I am having my study abroad experience through. It is a “3-campus program”–meaning that I will be spending time in three different countries at 3 different universities during the span of my whole time away from home. If you remember, my initial posts on here were coming to you from Tokyo, Japan, where I attended lectures at Keio University; that was the first destination. And currently, I am completing the academic semester in Seoul, South Korea at Yonsei University–that makes two.

So after leaving here in late June, I will be shipping off to Hong Kong, where I will attend class at HKU as well as complete a summer internship. Because of this, I won’t be making it home until mid-August (right in time for the start of the fall semester…!).

So yes, a long journey is indeed still ahead of me. As my peers back home are currently packing up their books for the summer and trading in their calculators for sunscreen, I am still feeling the brunt of the semester’s workload, and trying to gear up for my finals.

I honestly don’t mind it much. It’s just different. Different isn’t bad; it just takes some adjusting to. For me in this situation, that means telling my body that it’s not time to go into ‘summer slumber’ mode, and finding ways to keep myself motivated as the warm weather starts to set in.

Thanks for reading!


South Korea–A Country for Two

What do you know about Korean youth culture?

Perhaps the first thing that comes to your mind is Kpop. Actually, for many, it may be the only thing that comes to mind. So I wanted to introduce another aspect that is not very transparent to outsiders.

And that is couple culture.

I don’t think this is a thing that really exist in the west. I mean, of course we have couples, and of course you can find plenty of couple activities. But there is no per se “culture” of being a couple. As a matter of fact, I think I would be correct to say that these days, being single is actually celebrated more than being in a relationship back home.

This is not the case in South Korea.

I remember my friend who had moved back to Korea for some time was describing it for me before: she didn’t realize how single she was until she moved back to Korea.

Now being here on the ground, I completely understand what she meant.

The first thing to be noted is that Korean culture places heavy emphasis on companionship. I don’t mean just in relationships, but just in general. Things here don’t get done to often alone, especially activities like eating. So for youths, you will often find Koreans clustered together with their friends, colleagues/coworkers, or–hence the topic at hand–their significant other.

Here are some aspects of couple culture that are absolutely unmistakeable here in Korea.

  • Hand-holding/PDA. I suppose I was a bit surprised by this coming here. Back home, I always heard that since Korea is a fairly conservative country, Public Displays of Affection is a severe no-no. It may be because I am in a university area, but there is PDA EVERYWHERE. Lots of hand-holding, snuggling, and kissing right in the streets (especially at crosswalks).
  • Matching outfits/accessories/anything. One of my big pet peeves back home is when parents dress their twins in the same exact clothing (I mean, they are individuals, for crying out loud!). So you can imagine my horror when I discovered this trend. I see how it can be cute on some levels, like when couples have matching bracelets or matching phone cases. But it goes so much farther than that. It is not uncommon to see couple dressed completely identically, head to toe. This is especially easy since here in Korea, a large amount of clothing are actually unisex.
  • Cafe culture. This is actually a culture on its own, but it fits very nicely into couple culture as well. When Westerners think ‘cafe’, we may think of someplace ordinary like Starbucks, that serves coffee and offers a nice simple environment to do work. However in East Asia, cafes have emerged in a different manner. Many cafes are themed, and even may offer fun activities. For instance, you can very easily find animal cafes (dog, cat, raccoon, goat, sheep, etc.) or Hello Kitty cafes, or even find others that let you make phone cases, jewelry, and things of the like. Because of this, these cafes have become great date venues. You are bound to run into

Because couple culture is so prevalent, you see couples EVERYWHERE. I really mean this. You cannot escape couples. Especially this time of year, where the days are nice and the flowers are blooming. Even my Korean 성생님 (teacher) complained about this a lot.

But it’s an aspect of Korean youth culture that is well and thriving here. And you could even say that this culture is starting to be backed by the government; because of the nations declining birth rate, government bodies have been encouraging marriage to the younger generations. One has to admit though that it is really rather interesting, especially since this is pretty unique to Korea (don’t assume Japan is like this too; my Japanese friends were horrified and annoyed by it when they came to visit :3).

Thanks for reading!



My Brekkie Struggles

Back home in the States, there has seemed to evolve two types of people: those that eat breakfast, and those who do not.

For me, breakfast has become a necessary part of my day. I used to be also not eat breakfast, but in high school I started trying out different eating habits in attempts to find a diet to supplement me during rigorous athletic seasons. It was then that I tried out eating breakfast, and have been hooked ever since.

In college, where I was on a meal plan, I very easily fell into a structured routine: wake up, work out, shower, then hit the dining hall before heading off to class.

Another thing that I’ve come to really love about breakfast in America was how easy it was for me to make healthy food choices during this meal. I’m a pretty picky eater, so I don’t eat things like egg or sausage. So my breakfast was relatively simple: oatmeal, a muffin or a piece of jam-toast, and a couple servings of fresh fruit. Maybe I would sometimes switch things up, getting a waffle or some cereal (unfortunately,  no biscuits for me–New England apparently doesn’t know the difference between ‘biscuits’ and ‘hardtack’), but usually I relied on this fueling me up before starting my day. And to put it simply, I absolutely loved it.

Now let’s transition.

In Korea, these things don’t really exist.

And by “these things”, I mean “breakfast foods”. It’s funny to me, because I used to hate the concept of “breakfast food”–because it implies that there are certain foods that are not considered acceptable to eat in the morning. I remember my delight when in middle school, I visited Nigeria and found there was no such category. (“You mean I can eat plantains for breakfast, lunch AND dinner?”) But after my trip to the Dominican Republic this past summer, I found comfort in America’s breakfast category; unlike the foods generally saved for later in the day, breakfast foods were not as heavy on the stomach, and could be taken on the go. Things that

So you could say that the main food from back home I’ve been missing are breakfast-type foods: biscuits, waffles, oatmeal, and such. (Cereal has apparently started to gain ground here, but I don’t usually eat it.)

I’m trying to develop a breakfast regimen that consists of bread and fruit, and perhaps aloe vera juice (my most recent obsession). This isn’t ideal though, since I really am trying to avoid bread (I LOVE bread…it’s a problem ><). But we’ll see how things go. If all else fails, I still have 학식 (Korean food) to fall back on, which I have absolutely no complaints about(:

Midterms Week

—Midterms Week was last week! I had this going but didn’t get to post it (for obvious reasons). Enjoy!—

Here at Yonsei University, it’s midterms week, and the stress around campus is palpable.

Coming from Cornell, I’m not used to midterms. Back in Ithaca, we instead hold preliminary exams, or “prelims”. For most classes this typically ranges from two or three exams scattered across the semester before finals. And being here has made me really appreciate that set-up.

The most important thing about our prelims-style is that each course generally operates on its own schedule. It’s up to the discretion of the professor to space out these exams as they see fit. Hence there is no dedicated week in which all your exams will happen, like they do it here at Yonsei. I have found this to be incredibly frustrating and stressful, not only for me but also for many others, even the native students.

Granted, we do have what’s referred to as “prelim season” in Ithaca; that being the two or three weeks that many courses which happen to operate on similar schedules have their exams. But this often just means that you’ll have maybe two prelims one week, one the next, and maybe another and a paper due the next week. I personally prefer this spread out exam scheduling–I hate stress, especially when it is piled on into a specified period of time (shout-out to 3-hr Orgo Labs).

The only upside to the Midterm Week scheduling here is that during this week, there are no classes (excluding my Korean Language Intensive course, which insists on meeting every day). Because of this, I had many friends who took trips away, ranging from Japan to Thailand, or just someplace outside of Seoul. As for myself, the most eventful thing I did was hit the submit button to turn in my last final on Friday morning. And considering how stressful the week was, I was more than content with sticking around in Seoul this time around.

황사: “Yellow Dust From China” MYTH

Here in Korea, we are starting to enter the spring season. While spring is associated with lovely things such as warm weather and cherry blossoms, the other thing that is on people’s minds during this time is 황사.

‘황사’ is often translated into English as “yellow dust from China”.

When I first heard about this, I was entirely confused. Being raised in a mid-eastern US state, and having been a victim of severe seasonal allergies as a child, when I hear the words ‘spring’ and ‘yellow dust’ used in conjunction, my mind automatically thinks ‘pollen’. So I found it very odd; why were Koreans blaming China for pollen…?

As my ignorance was replaced with knowledge, I realized that it isn’t pollen; it’s pollution. However, my initial thoughts about blaming China apparently were not entirely misplaced.

It turns out, while yes, some of this air pollution is blown over from China, much of it actually is domestically-created. South Korea’s Ministry of Environment even admitted last year that at most only 50% of it can be attributed to external sources.

So what are the main culprit’s of Korea’s pollution problem?

Part of the reason is Korea’s reliance on coal power for its energy. And a NASA-sponsered project found that massive manufacturing factories in places like Ulsan can be specifically identified as contributors to the pollution.

A few years ago I actually worked in a research lab that studies particle matter (PM), so I do know a bit about this stuff. And it’s scary, because for fine PM, once you inhale that stuff, there’s no way to expel it from your lungs. And I think it’s a shame that there’s not more attention and outcry about it here. The whole world knows about the drastic air quality states in places like India and China. But South Korea somehow manages to fly under the radar–even though one morning last week its capital city managed to clock in the second-worst air quality in the world, right behind New Dehli, India.

I suppose the first step would be to squash the China myth. By blaming it on them, the government is able to sidestep being held responsible for the horrible air quality and thus avoid doing anything about it. In the wake of a political upturn, perhaps once Koreans are educated on the truth about 황사, they’ll be able to mobilize and demand their environmental and health rights to be respected and upheld.

Grieving times.

On Monday, around noon, I was walking back to my room when I received a notification from a group chat.

“Does anyone know what happened…? There’s a police line…with about 10 police.”

In a few moments I was able to understand what she was talking about: once I arrived at my dorm, there was a police van outside, with many people standing around the lobby.

In the hours after that, more information continued to be revealed.

First that a girl in the dorm had been missing for five days.

And soon after, another devastating news: A body had been found in the said missing person’s room.

One of my fellow classmates here on exchange from the US as well was now dead.

A police report concluded that the death was due to natural causes. While this puts to rest the chilling thoughts of suicide or foul play, the weight of the tragedy still remains.

For me, I can’t help but to deeply sympathize for the family members. In Nigerian culture, there are few things that are considered as bad of an omen as having to bury your child. As my mother puts it: “Imagine…they send their daughter off on a plane with suitcases, and she comes back in a body bag…”

Here at Yonsei, we will be continuing to pay our respects in the wake of this terribly unfortunate incident, and I ask that you also keep the family of my former classmate in your thoughts as they endure their loss.

Being social is exhausting.

Many people think I am an extrovert.

And I understand this assumption. I genuinely enjoy public speaking, so I handle myself very well with people. I can easily spark conversation with strangers in any kind of setting, and even am confident about carrying on intimate conversations with people born generations before me.

Based on what I described, it probably does sound that I am an extrovert.

But I promise, I am not.

For me, socializing is exhausting. I don’t hate it per se, but I hate the energy that it requires. And because of that, I often time rationalize myself into avoiding it.

In addition, I have this odd love-hate relationship with people. This is to say that I really love people. I love watching people; seeking to understand how people form their motives and morals, and make their decisions; learning about peoples vulnerabilities and small quirks and all the small things that go unloved or unappreciated.

But at the same time, I hate people, genuinely avoid human interaction as much as possible.

It’s odd and confusing, I know. To bring it back together, though, I typically regard myself as an ‘outgoing introvert’.


My reasoning for mentioning all of this is mainly just to shortly talk about the social exhaustion I mentioned above that I’m currently enduring. Being in a new place, it is natural that I need to do a lot in order to establish myself comfortably–including in terms of friends and a social life. That means lots of introductions, lots of the same questions over and over, and lots of superficial basic conversations to get the ball rolling. Just my cup of tea.

I especially struggle a bit with this because I really love my own company. Those who know me well know that it’s not uncommon to find me sitting in my room, alone, in the dark (because why waste electricity?). Literally as happy as I can be in the company of myself. Back at home, when presented with the choice to go out and forcefully chat with uninteresting strangers, versus sitting in my own company, 4/5 times I opt for the later. Add on inconvenience of transversing from Point A to B and the frigid weather that usually graces Ithaca, NY most of the year, and you can come to the correct conclusion that I don’t spend to much energy socializing. So to be suddenly ramping up the amount of human contact I have here has really been having its effects on me.

Another layer of this social exhaustion emerges when I factor in keeping up with people from back home. I don’t have too many people I keep in contact with, but those I do are spread across an entire spectrum in terms of physical and personal closeness. I have family members in the US, UK and Nigeria, very dear friends in France, Canada, China, Mexico, Ecuador and the UK, on top of colleagues back in Ithaca. And since the people I need to keep up with range from friends and family members, to mentors and other academic affiliates, it seems like I am always in need to contact one person or the other. Which, again, never fails to leave me socially exhausted.

This definitely was something about traveling that had never crossed my mind–have you ever had a similar issue?