Audrey Zong, HKUST Exchange, Fall 2013
It’s been a slow start since my return from Hong Kong due to the extreme weather that’s caused hundreds of flight delays and cancellations for all airlines. Luckily, I have made it to my cozy, furnished apartment in Evanston, and taken the first two cancelled school days to settle in. While I’m tempted to go on endlessly about how fantastic Hong Kong and general Southeast Asia is, I remember to stop myself from talking someone’s ear off.
The biggest readjustments are socially. The culture difference is undeniably prevalent between that of Northwestern and that of the study abroad program. The study abroad group is inevitably closer because it is a smaller group of adventurous people. I can’t deny in admitting that there is a higher degree of open-mindedness, acceptance, and approachability of the students on the study abroad program than I feel and find at Northwestern, which is what made me love the program so much. These students, who are mainly from all-over Europe and the United States, come from different educational levels and cultural backgrounds, but easily meshed together with one another. It was inclusive, and everyone flowed. Even in going out, meeting new people was so interesting because everyone had unique backgrounds and cool stories. Admittedly, one of the key points of study abroad is to integrate into the culture of the country you are in. The cool thing about Hong Kong is, that these study abroad program students represent, in a way, the culture of the city. The city is so diverse with expats, volunteers, bankers, and teachers from so many countries. I can’t say I feel the same in talking about Northwestern. Certainly, we don’t have the advantage of a big city at our disposition, but I think we as Northwestern students can make a point to be a little more open-minded and understanding of others!
Another big adjustment is academics. After experiencing the semester system in Hong Kong, the quarters feel very rushed and much harder. People are bogged down already on the first day of school with readings and assignments for the following days or weeks, because, even though class just started, mid-terms are right around the corner.
Sitting in classes and walking down on Sheridan feels slightly different now. I feel like a different person, full of these experiences and secrets of an unknown treasure, and when people ask, I tell them to follow the path where X hits the spot.