I am leaving Hong Kong to go back home tomorrow, and I can’t help but reminisce all the memories I have made during the past year. Looking back, choosing an academic year abroad was the best decision I’ve made in my life. I have learned so much, made new friends from around the world, and experienced a journey of a lifetime during my time in Hong Kong.
First semester in Hong Kong was fantastic but I have to say the second semester was even better. During the first semester, I felt like I was just an exchange student trying to do all the touristy things. I mostly hung out with other exchange students, and I didn’t have the mindset of being part of the local community. However, during the second semester, I truly felt like I belonged in HK. HK felt like home to me, a natural part of who I am. I could finally take the subway and bus to go to places without using Google Maps. I also knew all about the secret passageways on campus that could lead me to class more quickly. I took an introduction to Mandarin class that now, I know how to introduce myself in Mandarin. On top of that, I had a group of friends (local and exchange students) that truly made me feel at home.
One thing that this academic year abroad is has taught me is that putting myself in new settings and and experiences has allowed me to learn and grow in ways that I cannot fathom. It’s definitely going to be hard and uncomfortable, and even awkward, at first, but this is the best way to grow outside of your comfort zone. I would never consider myself a social person before this trip, and I actually dreaded about going to social events to make friends. However, I have made truly amazing friends by stepping outside of my shell, going to bonding events, and even initiating hanging out again.
Besides that, I finally decided to take a Mandarin course. I didn’t take it my first semester because I was scared about how hard it was going to be. However, I have to say the course was my favorite course I have taken during my time abroad. It was so cool and mind opening to learn a new language and culture, and I felt so proud of myself at the end of the semester when I actually knew how to read 130 characters and how to basically introduce myself. In fact, when I was walking on campus, a tourist couple approached me and asked where how to get to the subway in Mandarin, and I actually knew what they were saying and pointed them to the way to the subway. That was honestly my proudest moment last semester, not gonna lie.
This whole studying abroad experience has been a dream within a dream. If you ask me how many countries I’ve been to last year, I would have only said 2 (US and Vietnam, as I was born in Vietnam). Ask me now and I can say 17 countries!!! Traveling has been my new passion and I cannot get enough of it. It has taught me how to become more open minded and especially independent. Learning about new cultures and values has made me feel much more appreciative and grateful for the things I have in life but has also made me more amazed and fascinated about the world out there. I now want to combine my love for multimedia and traveling and make a career out of it. I want to end this journal by giving the most sincere shout out to FEA and the generous donors for allowing me to have the biggest epiphany and journey of my life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who had made this dream of mine become reality!