Addie, a Maths and Economics student, had always wanted to to know what it was like to live in a culture that was totally different to hers. So, when she reached her second year at university, she decided to apply to study abroad.
Although her parents took a lot of convincing, the application process was fairly straightforward, and she was offered a place a few days after applying. Before she knew it, she was boarding a one-way flight to Hong Kong.
Meeting Lifelong Friends
Before her trip, Addie was nervous about making new friends. However, she soon realised this wouldn’t be a problem because of the strong social scene at her university:
“There is a thing called “hall culture,” which means there were many competitions between my hall and the surrounding ones in sport, dance, cheer and more. I got involved in this, which helped me establish myself in the school community. The societies were very inclusive too. Although most of the activities were done in Cantonese, people were willing to help me understand and even taught me basic Cantonese.”
Addie enjoyed exploring her surroundings with her new friends. They often ate out in the evenings, as this was cheaper than buying groceries, giving her the opportunity to sample lots of delicious local cuisine. She also took time to visit surrounding countries, including South Korea and Taiwan, other parts of Hong Kong, and even cycled from Sha Tin to Tai Po. She rewarded herself at the end of the ride with a BBQ with her friends.
These adventures helped Addie learn to leave her comfort zone more often, and increased her confidence so much that at the end of her trip she could haggle in the markets in Cantonese!
A New Way of Learning
Although her course included content that she was familiar with, it took some time to get used to the different teaching methods. In Hong Kong, there is a strong focus on independent learning, and students tend not to ask many questions in class, preferring to figure out the math problems on their own. Through this challenge Addie developed the skills needed to work under pressure, and also figured out the best way for her to learn. These new skills reflected well in her results in her returning year.
Addie’s Advice to Anyone Going on a Study Abroad Adventure:
“Don’t be afraid to experience something new. It is nice to experience things on your own but don’t spend too much time on your own. It is easy to get homesick if you do, so reach out to others to experience things with you! Secondly, don’t just stay in the most comfortable parts of Hong Kong. There are many places to visit that aren’t known. I found out about these places by going out with my friends who are from Hong Kong. Also, if you are struggling with something, make it known to a friend or someone trusted at the university. Nothing’s worse than keeping something to yourself when it’s bothering you. Lastly, enjoy the journey. Sometimes there are challenges, but you will look back on the happy memories you made for years to come!”
Contributed by Megan Brickley