Hong Kong Reflections
5 February 2019
Charlotte looks back on her first term abroad and reflects on her time at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and in Hong Kong so far.
Here we are: the end of the first semester. Time flew so fast I cannot believe we are halfway through the exchange already. The last couple of months have been really different over here. We got used to Hong Kong, to life on campus and to the Asian lifestyle, and things got easier generally speaking. We really feel like we settled down, and that this life isn’t just a short episode, but our life now. Hong Kong has no secrets for me anymore, and I have been wandering around the city so often it feels like home.
What changed the most compared to the beginning of the semester and made my experience even better is friendship. I feel like I know every exchange student on campus, and that I have built true, strong and long-lasting relationships. Life on campus made us so much closer than I expected: we literally spent 4 months with each other, 24/7. I never felt lonely or homesick, because right next door, I had friends to have fun with at any time of the day, or of the night. And while I was quite sceptical about the idea of having a roommate before coming, I am so grateful to have her now.
Looking back at these last few months, life has been pretty busy overall. After midterms, every day was just about having fun and enjoying Hong Kong, with the end of the semester approaching. The list of amazing travel destinations kept on extending, and the number of funny anecdotes kept on increasing. Every week was different from the last, and I had no routine nor obligations. I spent my days discovering Hong Kong’s hidden treasures, hiking or sightseeing. As a little taster: I visited Big Buddha’s temple by cable car, went camping in Hong Kong’s most beautiful beach called Sai Kung, hiking on a day-trip to Po Lo Sham, next to Shenzhen, and the list is endless. Next came the exam period, and with it, the usual library sessions. But overall the workload is very decent. Unlike UCL, exams are mostly multiple-choice questions, and the pressure is much more manageable. Did I mention the library view on Clear Water Bay is amazing?
Now that the semester is over, most of the exchange students are leaving. Very few international students are staying for a year, and it is the end of the experience for most of them. Although it is very hard to say goodbye to everyone knowing that they will not be there when you will come back, it also means I will meet as many people next semester. Next step for me: a family trip to Vietnam!
If I am to make a little retrospective on my experience so far, I would say that being an exchange genuinely changed my attitude and mind-set in general. Exchange life is only about having fun and experiencing new things, discovering as much as possible and meeting as many people as you can. I have been trying to make the most out of each and every day here, and this is what I hope I will take away from my year abroad.