When I decided to go to Hong Kong for my exchange year I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. I was really excited to see a different place and broaden my idea of the world. Yet, at the same time I was also absolutely terrified. Moving to a foreign country all by myself where I didn’t know a single soul, didn’t speak the language and also wasn’t very familiar with the culture took a lot of courage to do. Nonetheless, since I’m actually an international student at Sussex, and have also been on a summer exchange programme in South Korea, I think I’ve figured out some ways that have really helped me prepare before diving into this new world.
It is normal to face difficulties at first, but simply being assured that it will only get better from there is what keeps you going. That’s why it’s really important to make sure you are comfortable with your decision to study abroad. Here’s how!
1) Google Streetview
This may sound really bizarre but try searching up the area of the university you are thinking of going to. Take a virtual stroll through the streets and see what the neighbourhood looks like. Do the same with the area you will be living at. Try imagining yourself walking through the streets, going about your daily life and see whether you like what it looks like! Seeing the local shops and small streets lined with never-ending buildings in Hong Kong through Google Streetview really gave me a good idea of the things I would be seeing on a daily basis, thereby reducing the culture shock because I had a fair picture what I was getting myself into.
2) Instagram Hashtags & Locations
Hashtags are honestly a blessing when used correctly. I managed to find the Instagram accounts of many exchange students at the University of Hong Kong prior to coming here myself by searching for hashtags such as #HKU or #HKstudyabroad. You could do the same with the name of the dorm you are thinking of applying to, the area you want to live in or anything about the city you are planning to go to really! It shows you the city you are considering moving to through the eyes of its locals. What better way to imagine what life might be like there?
3) Student blogs
Seeing that you’re reading this right now you must have figured this one out yourself! Searching for student blogs at the university you want to go to is a great way of seeing what life is like for the students studying there. You will probably find blogs about what dorm life is like, the workload at uni, the best restaurants in the area, things to do in the city – the list is never-ending. Student blogs are gold!
4) Youtube Vlogs
Lastly, if you don’t want to read through massive amounts of text you can also search for video blogs on YouTube!
These are all platforms that help you familiarize yourself with the country/university you are thinking of going to and can give you a really good idea of what your life might look like if you decide to go abroad. At the same time, it can also show you whether it might not be something you want to go through with after all, if you don’t like what you see through other people’s experiences.
Although I too was nervous and anxious about going abroad, preparing myself like this definitely helped get me more excited than I was scared. And this is key when going on an adventure by yourself!