It’s been a week since I’ve returned and wow are things different.
In these few lines of my last blog post, I would like to talk about how study abroad affected me as well as tell you a little more about Hong Kong. If you are thinking about studying abroad in Hong Kong or would just like to learn a lot more about it, I’d also want this to be your best resource.
First, here’s Hong Kong through my eyes.
“I became the most inspired and motivated I’ve ever been being in this program.”
The past 2 months have shown me the duality of both contemporary technology and traditional existing culture. Living two months in Hong Kong really allowed me to immerse myself in the culture.
One of the main reasons I chose my study abroad program is for its length; That is what allowed me to see more than just the touristy sites and popular areas. I made it a mission to go as many stops as I could on the MTR line to explore local life. The MTR is Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway that goes through the islands and almost anywhere you’d like to be in Hong Kong.
You can also access places through buses that could be very frequent but could also be very full, so you’ll have wait for a few rounds just to get a seat. Another way to get around is the double-decker buses which are much more frequent than the small ones and have a lot more space. Using the public transit system to explore, I was exposed to local life and people.
People living outside of the heavily populated city live very simply. Hong Kong has a great divide between the rich and the poor and is considered one of the most expensive cities to live in. Rent is SUPER high and everyday necessities are considered expensive as well.
Most fruits and vegetables are imported and therefore are very expensive, so my diet consisted of mainly meats and rice. The diet may very difficult if you’re a vegetarian or vegan due to scarce options. Although you can be surrounded by everything fried, greasy, sweet and salty, I have found that whenever I ate whatever the locals “ate” it tended to be very light and simple in flavors.
The locals are very kind and are willing to help whenever they can — and they truly appreciate it if you try to communicate in Cantonese. My bus drivers always gave me the biggest smiles whenever I just said a simple “thank you” in Cantonese.
Living in urban areas, you might not often feel like you’re in “China” or what you have imagined the Chinese culture to be because it is very catered to tourists. It is very populated and busy but once you step out of that bubble and into the surrounding villages, you’ll find people who barely speak English and a lot more simplicity and nature if that is what you’re more into. You’ll also find lots and lots of hikes!
Seeing old people living in the smallest of spaces — what you’d consider a space sufficient for a bathroom is often basically their entire homes — makes you appreciative of what you have, but also aware of what you don’t need.
Everyday life on Hong Kong is like this:
On the surface level, know that the malls in Hong Kong are humongous; especially those in the populated areas with levels up to 17 or more. You can eat a meal that is super expensive but you can also be full with a $4 dish in any local restaurant. The menus tend to only be in Chinese but pointing at pictures can get you far.
There’s always space in the MTR, no matter how crowded it is. People always push in; truly a skill, but you also do not need to try too hard because it comes every 2-4 minutes for most lines.
You’ll have enough beef noodle dishes, roasted duck and pig for a decade and do not be afraid of eating cow innards. You’ll probably find more peach flavored anything in Hong Kong than in your entire life and you’ll probably eat mango desserts until you’re no longer able.
You’ll forget personal space and you’ll have people walking in the small space between you and your friends rather than the large street next to your left or right.
Nature and the green you’ll see is probably the best and if you’re a lover of nature walks and hikes or city views, Hong Kong is definitely the city for you. Although I encourage you to go in the fall/winter rather than summer because you’ll get peppered by mosquito bites and sweat through every cell in your body. The city views you’ll find from hikes will be unparalleled and you’ll have a new appreciation for high tech bathrooms. You’ll definitely wish that your home country had bathrooms like Hong Kong where you can wash your hands, dry and dispose of garbage all in the same small square.
I experienced these things every and they’re what I’ll definitely miss from Hong Kong.
Lastly, I’ll also miss the program I am in. Through the research program I was exposed to a brand new topic — incontinence-associated dermatitis; I wrote about it in my last blog if you are interested in reading more about the program.
I was exposed to a brand new school environment. I’m a commuter student so I never got to live in the dorm and experience college life that way, so this was all very new to me, especially in an entirely different environment. I simply loved it but also learned a lot about myself living with another person.
Last but not least, I became the most inspired and motivated I’ve ever been being in this program.
What set my program apart from the rest of the study abroad programs was that it was a research program so … basically, I was surrounded by a lot of nerds, haha! The individuals that were in the programs were very motivated and determined to be successful; They focused on their research and how the program benefited them, whether it was with new skills learned or publications. Seeing the hard work and commitment others put in only fueled me to work harder.
I’m now back, happier than before and more passionate. I take the lessons I learned and my new “self-discovery” to better my experience at SDSU. And — despite how cliche it may sound — I did come back a “changed person.”
Sarah Shamasha is a biology major and psychology minor. She is studied this summer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for eight weeks.