Hong Kong – Culture Shock, Chicken Feet, & That One Thing No One Talks About…
4th Year BA Management with Leadership with International Study student Maja Lunsjo shares her experiences and advice from her year abroad in Hong Kong…
My name is Maja, and I study Business Management and Leadership at Exeter University. Well, I suppose I should say “studied”, as I am graduating in two weeks time! I am one of the lucky students who spent my year abroad in Hong Kong, and trust me; it was the best decision I have ever made. I am writing this blog post because I wish to first of all shed light on just how incredible and life changing this opportunity can be, but I also want to address a few things that I think are important to be aware off when you embark on such a journey, and try answer some questions that I know can be hard to ask. Hopefully, but the end of this short post, you will be as convinced as I was that studying abroad as a part of your degree is the chance of a life time!
My decision to study abroad was easy. This opportunity was the main reason I chose Exeter in the first place. I went to all the briefing talks about how to prepare, where to find support, and how to deal with culture shock. Having lived in numerous countries including the United Arab Emirates and Sweden, I have to admit that I considered culture shock to be irrelevant to me. Turns out, no one is immune to culture shock. I remember my first day in Hong Kong, standing on a sidewalk and staring up in the sky where the skyscrapers towered over me. It was exhilarating, but frightening at the same time. That is one of the main attractions of a year abroad; it takes you to the edge your comfort zone, the edge of your “normal”, and then it takes you beyond it. Just weeks after arriving, those things that I had considered amazing, different and scary when I first arrived became my new normal, and as a result I searched for new experiences. I made a great group of new friends who shared my passion for travel, and we would regularly seek out new places to go to. During my year I didn’t only experience Hong Kong, but I got to see the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. I even got to travel to the gambling hub Macau; a country that until that year I didn’t even know existed! My comfort zone kept growing, and after having spent month’s squealing at the sight of a chicken foot, I found myself in a Chinese restaurant, picking up a chicken foot with my (well mastered) chopstick skills and taking a bite. And I liked it. It tasted just like chicken!
However, as amazing as year abroad is, and no matter how strongly I would advise you to go, it goes without saying nothing comes without some lows. This is when we get to that thing which people tend to be so afraid to talk about, but which is still a big factor to many people when spending a year abroad; Relationships. I can’t tell you how many people, girls and guys, I saw both turning down their opportunity to go abroad, or leave Hong Kong to go back and be with their partner (FYI; only one of those couples that I know are still together now a year later). It is understandable that if you are in a relationship, you may have second thoughts about going abroad. It means you won’t be able to see them as often, the time difference means communication difficulties, and if you are at University together you may not graduate at the same time, and have to do another year apart. Let me be the first to tell you, none of those reasons are good enough to turn down a year like this. Many of my friends were in a relationship and went abroad anyway, myself included. Out of those couples, and there were many, I honestly cannot think of a single one that has ended their relationship. It is important to remember that if you are in a relationship and you decide to go abroad, you will be surrounded by peers in the exact same situation as you, and they are a great support network, trust me! Out of all the couples I know who went abroad, we all said the same things when we came back; (1) That was a lot easier than I thought it would be, (2) I can’t believe how fast it all went, and (3) Yes, I would definitely do it again!I guess what I am trying to say with this post is that going abroad was the best year of my life, by far, but it was also one of the most challenging. I made lifelong friends, I saw so much of the word, and I got to really push myself out of my comfort zone to test my limits. On top of that, I am 100% certain that my year abroad was the key to me landing my dream graduate job that I am scheduled to start this coming September, and if that isn’t a reason enough to go then I don’t know what is. My best advice to anyone going abroad is to think beyond your actual location. Hong Kong was my base, my platform if you may, but my year abroad experience was the result of the doors that platform opened, such as my further travels and the people I met. You cannot ever be fully prepared, because no matter how many briefing talks you go to or travel guides you read, you cannot truly know what exactly your year will have to offer until you leave. That is why each year abroad is completely unique, and I urge you to see what yours will bring.
In the end, I want to leave you with this extract from my travel blog, which I kept whilst abroad. Hopefully this post will both help encourage you and prepare you for this incredible opportunity.
Lots of love,
Hong Kong; I Love You.
2012, 05, 15
Let me start by saying that this has been the best year of my life. I have met the most incredible people, seen the most incredible places and have an absolutely insanely good time! I could not have wished for a better year abroad, and I would do it all over again if I could. I have fallen in love with this city and everything it has to offer in a way I didn’t think was possible. I have had the opportunity to share it not only with all the friends I’ve made here, but also with my family, my boyfriend and friends from home. I have travelled all over Asia and even picked up parts of a new language. In short, I have had the time of my life!
So to Hong Kong and all my friends here,
I’ll miss you
I love you
I will see you soon!
Maja studied abroad in 2011-12 and spent her year abroad at Hong Kong University (HKU)