So, in my final year of university I spent 6 months abroad in Hong Kong and it was easily the craziest, most surreal and rewarding adventure I have ever been on and if I’m being honest, I think I’ll be hard pressed to top it.
My decision to go to Hong Kong was sort of spontaneous/last minute/a bit rash; I’m not really much of a planner either, so although I did some research into the region, I still arrived in Hong Kong not knowing what to expect. Even now, I struggle to put into words what Hong Kong is like or even how I felt when I first arrived and then throughout my time living there. But I think ‘in awe’ is a pretty good place to start. I was in awe of the immense skyscrapers; I was in awe of the views; I was in awe of the sheer number of people swarming around literally everywhere you went. And that was all within the first 5 minutes of landing – trying to drag my too-heavy suitcase through seemingly endless crowds wearing a jumper in 38 degree weather whilst trying to take everything in was the first of many challenges on my semester abroad. The second was trying to get that same suitcase up to my flat. On the 4th floor. With no lift.
Let’s just say it took more than one attempt and a lot longer than I’d like to admit.
Although that was insignificant, it aptly describes how I felt a lot of the time: a bit overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone. It goes without saying that Hong Kong is vastly different from Southampton; I was lucky that I had a landlady who was keen to teach me all about the cultural traditions and festivals. I was also extremely lucky in that I only had 2 days a week where I had to be in lectures or seminars so I had lots of free time to explore the island, and I never ran out of things to do. I visited museums, festivals, jazz bars, beaches and on a lot (some migh say too many) of hikes. Even going down to Mong Kok on a Saturday evening was an experience (one that I cannot even begin to describe – you just have to see it for yourself).
Not only did I travel around Hong Kong but I also had the chance to go to Vietnam and Borneo, both places which I never imagined I’d get to see and love (Brunei especially, such an incredible place, just wow).
When I first considered studying abroad I had some misgivings because the thought of being away from my Southampton friends was…maybe unbearable is a bit melodramatic but there was definitely FOMO (fear of missing out). But – and looking back it was stupid of me not to consider this beforehand – I met so many genuinely lovely people abroad who I consider to now be some of my closest friends, lifelong friends even, that I feel like I’ve really lucked out. And even better, when I returned to Southampton for my final semester I made a huge effort to make up for lost time and ended up having one of the best semesters of my whole uni experience.
My final year was easily one of the best years of my life and my study abroad in Hong Kong played a huge part in that. I just wish I could go back and do it all again, honestly cannot recommend it enough.