It’s only been two weeks in HK, but honestly it feels like I have been here for a month!
I will admit, the first week here was tough.
And that’s normal because I was in a completely new place. Unlike at Cornell, I am not surrounded by the friends I have known since freshman year (some even since high school). I do not have the same encouraging and nurturing community from the various clubs and activities I am a part of back in Ithaca. I miss singing with Jazz Voices, attending FICCC (First Ithaca Chinese Christian Church), living with my PSP (Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity) brothers, and hanging out on the slope. I miss making a mess in the AguaClara lab. I miss our quaint little Ithaca and I miss being only a 4 hour bus ride from my family in NYC.
In Hong Kong, I am 8,040 miles away from home. When I first arrived, I didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t in any clubs or activities on campus. I didn’t know my way around Hong Kong or even the neighborhood I reside in. I didn’t even have a pillow!
But still, I try to take time to remember why I decided to study abroad and what I wanted to get out of my experience in Hong Kong. My three main reasons for coming here were to: 1) improve my Cantonese 2) immerse myself in a completely different environment and absorb all that I can learn 3) get to know the place my dad grew up in. I hope that by living my experience here as fully as I can, I will be able to apply the things I have learned here to my life back at Cornell and at home in NYC.
I am already getting a lot of Cantonese practice by going to a school that is mostly local permanent students and being exposed to Cantonese writing on signs everywhere every single day. I have made local friends (shout out to my awesome exchange buddy Winnie) and love practicing my language skills. This is teaching me to adapt to foreign environments. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and I can feel myself becoming even braver than before. I realized that I have become accustomed to being surrounded by friends and forgot how to make new ones. By placing myself in an entirely different country and on a campus with a diverse exchange student body, have been able to recall my rusty friend-making skills and develop new skills in communicating with different people from all over the world. These are skills that will transfer to the networking and team communication I will need to do in my career.
Here at UST, I am able to take classes with a different approach to teaching and learning. I am able to study under professors that I would never have met at Cornell and I believe that is a wonderful gift.
I have also been exploring places in Hong Kong that I would never have been able to see in New York or anywhere else in the US. I am learning to love my surroundings and appreciate the opportunity I have to live in a entirely different place for more than a week or two. I am excited to share the things I have learned about Hong Kong and all the places I have explored with my family when they visit in December.
I am an intensely homesick person. I love my friends, my family, and community. I love Cornell. I love NYC. I love all the people, places, and things that make up my home in the US.
But I think that being surrounded by all of the comforts of home all the time has made me a bit numb to the feelings of gratefulness and appreciation I should have for my life back home.
This trip has woken me up and given me newfound love for my home. At the same time, it has also encouraged me to take full advantage of this amazing opportunity in Hong Kong that I would not have been able to pursue without the help of the staff and faculty at Cornell, my friends, and my family.