During our first year at the University of Westminster, we were introduced to an opportunity to study abroad in a different country for an entire semester.
It was a special chance for me, and I was excited at the idea of learning new things, studying at a different university, and meeting new people in a place far from home. Our university offers a large variety of choices to study in different areas of the world. In July 2022, I received the confirmation of my acceptance into the exchange program at Baptist University in Hong Kong.
This wonderful experience started with the confirmation from the visa department, and soon after, I booked a one-way flight to Hong Kong. Having lived in London for the past six years, embarking on this journey made me a bit nervous, as it meant leaving behind the place, I had called home for so long.
Back in January, I made a big move to a brand-new place, and was it an adventure! The initial excitement came with a touch of loneliness since I didn’t know anyone there. Thankfully, things took a turn for the better within the first week when I met with Emma, my roommate from Chicago. Little did I know that she would become not just a roommate but a close companion throughout this entire journey.
In the first month, Emma and I embarked on countless adventures, exploring the vibrant streets of Hong Kong. Each discovery brought us closer, turning the once unfamiliar surroundings into a shared playground of experiences.
Since the beginning, Emma and I have created this greater relationship, and a couple of weeks later we met Sara, and we became inseparable. We also decide to spend an Easter holiday together in the Philippines. Thinking back on all these wonderful experiences makes me nostalgic and want to go back to the unique experience that Westminster University let me be part of.
Studying in a different country is an exhilarating journey, and truth be told, no one can fully prepare you for it. The freedom to choose my courses was a new experience, and I aimed to align them with what my classmates back at my home university were taking in the second semester.
Navigating through the workload and group presentations turned out to be quite time-consuming. Despite the challenges, the four months of intense study taught me invaluable lessons, particularly in time management and effective communication.
Working on group projects and presentations was tough, but it helped me get better at teamwork. It was a hard but valuable time that taught me a lot, not just about my studies but also about myself. Being abroad turned out to be a great teacher, making me better at managing my time and communicating effectively.
One of the best parts of this experience was the wonderful friendship I formed with a local student, Jenny. She’s a Hong Kong native who enjoys meeting new people and revealing hidden gems. One day, she took us to Aberdeen, the area where her grandparents grew up, and where she spent most of her childhood. Jenny shared the fascinating stories of the place, and we even went to a cafe where English wasn’t spoken, a spot not usually frequented by foreigners like us.
Meeting someone who grew up in the area, speaks the local language, and knows all the stories about the place adds a unique beauty to your experiences. Even if you’re not from there, you get to explore and discover things like a local. This turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me and something I was eagerly looking forward to during my time there.
We met her family and enjoyed a traditional dinner with them. Every moment was just fantastic. With Jenny’s help, we explored numerous places that, in my view, revealed authentic Hong Kong, the side you can’t experience as a tourist.
The major challenge I encountered was being far away from the people I care about and dealing with the time zone difference in Hong Kong (HKT), which is UTC+8. However, nothing is perfect, and challenges are a part of stepping out of our comfort zones and embracing new opportunities. At the end of the day, all the students who decide to undertake this experience face similar issues. Spending time together and supporting each other creates a unique bond with the friends you make during this experience.
In conclusion, I express my gratitude to Go Abroad of Westminster University for orchestrating this exchange program. The team has been immensely helpful both before my departure and during my time abroad. Their efficient teamwork and exceptional personal support have made this experience even more valuable. Living in Asia for a short period has always been a dream for me, and thanks to Baptist University Hong Kong and the Go Abroad team, joining and being part of this experience was not only easy but also incredibly amazing.
I sincerely hope that anyone considering a similar experience will find the courage and strength to embrace the moment. For me, this will be a wonderful memory that lasts a lifetime, providing unique knowledge both professionally and personally. I look forward to the possibility of joining more experiences with the Go Abroad team, and I hope that many others at Westminster University will choose to do the same.
Unsplash (2024) Beautiful free images & pictures, Unsplash. Available at: https://unsplash.com/ (Accessed: 08 January 2024).