Let me preface this post by saying, the following posts are from my time studying abroad during my junior year of college at Emory University. I had the opportunity to attend the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from Jan 2010 until June 2010, and it was the scariest and best thing I’ve ever done. It was when I was bitten with the travel bug, and seriously understood how much larger the world is beyond the US borders.
When I first wrote these blogs, they were for a group of friends and family back in the US, so I could share my experiences with them week by week. I’ve kept the original dates of all these posts, and I hope you enjoy my trips down memory lane. Without further ado, let’s go to Asia!
January 29th, 2010
Some people travel several hundred miles away from home to college. I ran several thousand miles away, to Asia!
Where best to begin? At the beginning of course – from the second I stepped on my first flight from St. Louis to Chicago, Chicago to Hong Kong, China, things got interesting. I’ll spare you the gory details, but mechanical issues in Chicago resulted in a 28-hour “delay,” and an already stressed me (sans cellphone, as the plan was to get a SIM card the second I landed in Asia) got way more stressed out and landed a day late in China. Oh yeah, and it was 1 AM local time when I landed.
When I arrived at the university around 3 AM, some kind, local students who were out wandering (why the hell they were out for a stroll at this time of night, I had no idea, but couldn’t have been more glad they were: they spoke English), helped me find the correct dorm and communicate with the staff woman on duty (who, naturally, spoke no English) that I was there to check in. I wasn’t in my room until 4 AM, and, completely exhausted, unpacked hastily, and made a bee line for my bed. Just as I was about to pass out, my Austrian roommate came bursting in completely drunk (but also very friendly) after a night of partying in the club district. Fantastic! Welcome to Asia. I quickly came to love Katrin once we re- met when she was sober the next morning, but the first meeting was really something memorable.
My first full day in Hong Kong was a whirlwind of events: classes, find the right lecture hall for orientation, meet a bunch of other exchange students, find a place to buy breakfast, order breakfast with someone who doesn’t speak the same language, etc. To top it all off, I felt totally unsure if I’d ever get the hang of this multi-tiered, sprawling university set in the side of a hill on the bay of Kowloon. Or for that matter, the bustling metropolis that is Hong Kong, just a bus or subway ride away from my university. Even though HKUST is a English-language university, the language barrier everywhere outside of classes certainly wasn’t helping me feel any more in my element.
To give an example, I stood on the top of my dorm which looks directly out onto the bay where all the little fishing boats and private boats were cruising and wondered to myself: “Have I just made the best or worst decision of my life?” It was yet to be determined.
But I hoped it would get a little better each day, and I’d meet some interesting, fun people along the way.
Have you ever taken a chance like this? I wouldn’t trade my decision to take a study abroad semester for anything in the world, but it was incredibly scary at the same time.
Stay tuned for more soon!