A semester abroad (although only a quarter at Northwestern), is probably one of the best experiences undergrads can have in their 4 years at Northwestern. Many times, people will talk about the places, people and food that you will experience and how all of these will make you fret the day that your semester comes to an end. However, as I learned these past 5 months, studying abroad is less of a one-time experience that you get to comment on to other people, and more the start of a relationship with a different part of the world.
After having studied abroad in Germany last summer, I decided that my fall quarter abroad should be in a location that I’ve never visited before, where I have no family, and where I didn’t speak the language. And so, Hong Kong appeared in my radar as a highly cosmopolitan, yet strange enough metropolis in the other side of the world where I could start my junior year of college.
Northwestern’s office for Undergraduate Learning Abroad was a constant partner throughout my process of applying to the university in Hong Kong where I studied and served as a resource during my time there as well. Before I left Evanston, I met with my advisor to discuss my plans for the semester and to learn how to transfer credits back to Northwestern.
Arriving in Hong Kong was like nothing that I’d experienced before. For starters, the airport is on a man-made island connected by a high-speed train to the very center of the city. As a global financial hub, streets around Hong Kong are always full of smartly-dress people going somewhere, no matter what time of the day/morning it is. The University of Hong Kong (HKU), is as different from an American campus as it gets. Instead of separate buildings spread around large distances, HKU is basically one gigantic building situated on a hillside overlooking the city. Moving around Hong Kong is also very easy, thanks to the MTR, one of the world’s most efficient public transportation systems.
The experience of being an exchange student at HKU was different compared to other universities in Europe and around the world because of the sheer scale of HKU’s exchange programs. Hundreds of international students descend upon the hillside campus every semester to study anything from engineering to law to biomedicine. The range of activities available for students at HKU around the city can be overwhelming for anyone not ready to be out and about for 12 hours a day and still having to hit the library once in a while.
Going to Hong Kong is something that I definitely don’t regret. As a said before, more than a simple experience I see it as the beginning of a long relationship with the city, which I think will return to in the near future.