Before I write a lengthy essay about my time abroad, I would like to caption a couple of photos which brings back memories to me every time I look at it.
This photo is when me and a group of friends camped overnight at a beach and went cliff jumping. The water was cold, but it was tons of fun and I had to hike very far to get here, something I am very proud of doing because I was exhausted by the time we arrived.
This photo is of me and my German friend Jan at the National Museum in Taiwan. We got bored of wandering inside the museum, so we decided to be tourists and take some selfie pictures for memories sake.
My friend John took this picture of me at Kata Beach in Phuket, Thailand. I have never been to a more awesome beach in my life. The water is crystal clear, and the sand was very white and clean.
We went here two days in a row for lunch in the Philippines. I am a huge fan of Korean BBQ, and if I were to tell you that this all-you-can-eat pork belly and side dishes, with a pitcher of ice cold sweet tea only cost $6 USD, you would not believe it. It was delicious.
I don’t think I have ever been so close to so many bulls that could probably knock me off the ground if they charged at me. It was great to be so in touch with nature, and the other side of the world. I will miss Sapa very much. My couple of days here has humbled me and has made me realize how much better Americans have it than in many parts of the world with the higher standard of living.
As my Polish-born British friend Martin had never had Chinese dim sum in his life, I thought it was my job to show him the delicious food that could be found in the Chinese tea cafes. This was at Hang Hau, one of the closest stops off of the bus from our campus.
It saddens me to be writing this final reflection blog because it means my semester abroad has finally ended. However, with that said, I am able to cherish a lifetime of memories, a global network of friends, and a plethora of new perspectives to understand the world. Being abroad in Hong Kong has truly opened up my eyes to the world. It’s very interesting to think of the world as more than just the United States. And frankly, it can be hard to visualize that without physically experiencing the bustling metropolises that Asia has to offer. So it is important for one to actually be there because that is when he or she will really start to understand other people and places. After living, eating, and immersing myself in numerous other countries during my weekends and breaks from Hong Kong, the possibility of living abroad has also become real to me, and this has never existed prior to my exchange program.
Moreover, living in America, one does not get the same level of travel accessibility to other countries as compared to Europe and Asia. Whereas someone living in Asia has the whole continent almost all within a couple hours of flight time, someone in the U.S. does not have the same options. There’s only Canada to the north, Mexico to the south, and all other options within a short flight are pretty much limited to domestic travel.
On an off note, as an Asian-American living in the United States, sometimes I have had trouble understanding my racial identity. But going to Asia transformed that in a largely positive way. I now feel that the title of being Asian-American is very distinct and provides me with a best-of-both-worlds uniqueness.
In any event, being away from the home I have known for so long has made me very independent, open-minded, and understanding of different cultures. Through the times I had been solo backpacking in China, to solving the problem of my foreign friends’ language barrier in communicating with local Hong Kong people by actor as a translator, and diving headfirst into completely foreign cultures, all these experiences have been life-changing. And it would have never been possible had I not considered spending a semester studying in the heart of Asia’s financial center.
And to anyone questioning whether he or she should study abroad, my advice is: don’t hesitate and do it. The chance to be living for a semester to a year in a different country may never come up again. The benefits greatly outweigh the potential cons. It seems that everyone comes back as a much better rounded person, even different. And in my case, I have learned more in four months here (including academic courses, travel experience, other people, etc.) than I have in the last couple of years. Without sugarcoating my four months, I would still say it was the best time of my life, and I am so thankful for Northwestern University and the faculty who helped me along the way, the Gilman Scholarship, and my friends and family into making this dream of being abroad a reality and a stepping-stone into a professional career.
And as a Chinese proverb states, “It is better to have traveled ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.”
Thank you everyone.
Victor J. Liu