Q: What did you do when you arrived at City University (CityU)?
A: When I first arrived in Hong Kong it was wet, humid and warm. I got to the student residence - or ‘rez’, as it’s known - checked in, and then made my way to my room, opening the door cautiously to reveal lying on his bed, my roommate. He was a cheery, slightly eccentric American, whom I became good friends with. He had already been there for a semester, and so gave me a tour of the campus and introduced me to a few people.
Q: What was the best part about your semester abroad?
A: For me, what I will treasure the most from the exchange are the people I met. I have never met so many people, with such speed and intensity in my life. It is the people that you meet that dictates the experience one has. My friends and I came to the conclusion that despite all that Hong Kong has to offer, we would not have had the continuously euphoric experience we had, if not for the people we met.
Q: Did you do any travelling?
I was incredibly lucky with the people I met, as we became a tight group from all corners of the earth. Together, we enhanced one another’s experience. With these friends I travelled to Taiwan and mainland China during Chinese New Year and Easter respectively, as well as Macau, completing ‘all of china’, so to speak.
It quickly becomes apparent that a semester abroad has an inbuilt filter, as those who are there have chosen to be there. It is a certain type of person who takes a semester abroad, meaning that the likelihood that one finds others with things in common is high.
The paradox of a semester abroad is that despite it being a university programme with an obvious need to study while one is there, it is not studying that the semester is about. The point of going abroad is as the cliché says, to broaden one’s horizons, to go out of one’s comfort zone, to make new experiences and ultimately to have an adventure.
Q: Did you take part in any activities?
A: Once I had settled, I got involved with the CityU rugby team as well as the English mentoring scheme. Joining the rugby team created a way to meet and bond with local students, by playing a sport we shared an enjoyment of. There is a strange dynamic between the locals and exchange students, one that initially came across as being given a cold shoulder by the locals. But perseverance in making friends with local students paid dividends and only enhanced my experience.
The reasons I joined the English mentoring scheme were similar. From both these experiences I not only had fun, but also got an insight into the real world lives of Hong Kong natives, as well as feeling more connected to and involved with the city in which I was living.