Summer is finally here, which for many people also means they finally get to go traveling. I used to think that I would finish my education and find a stable job to earn some money before I go travel the world. This seems to be a goal that many of us have. But I’ve realized that I actually don’t want to wait that long in oder to realize my dream of traveling. Why not just travel while being a student?
During my year abroad in Hong Kong I was able to visit seven countries in Asia that I never thought I would get to see so soon. It was an amazing and irreplaceable experience to be able to travel so much at this age when everything that we see and encounter influences and shapes us into the individuals that we are. Studying abroad, more than just expanding my academics, also allowed me to undergo immense growth in character. Cultural exposure is truly a valuable trait to have and you don’t have to wait for summer to come around in order to achieve this.
Bluinse Thomas is a Law with International Relations student, currently on a study abroad programme at the University of Hong Kong.
Congratulations guys, we’ve made it through another academic year. During this time I tend to get mixed feelings about returning home. Although throughout the year I usually miss home terribly, when it’s actually time to leave I feel somewhat hesitant. After all, university changes you in many ways and returning home as a different person can feel a little weird. So this blogpost is dedicated to how to deal with a change of environment, regardless of it’s a place that is already familiar to you or whether it’s going to a place you know nothing about. Continue reading
Living in Kennedy Town makes commuting to the University of Hong Kong a 15-minute stroll that I thoroughly enjoy doing every morning. Dropping by one of the local bakeries and grabbing some warm bread for breakfast on my way has become a routine now. I love watching people start off their day, the view from the harbour and just the generally warm weather makes me want to be outdoors all the time.
As a law student I had to add an extra year to my degree in order for me to go on exchange. While thinking about whether to really go through with this extra year, I was confronted by many who asked if it would really be worth “losing” a year, when I could be graduating and furthering my education or finding a job in that time instead. I had an answer for them then, and that answer remains the same now: an exchange year is anything BUT a lost year. Quite the opposite, you will gain a year of experience that nothing else can replace. And here’s why:
Studying abroad in a country where you presumably don’t have any family or friends (at least not at first) forces you to become independent quickly. You will need to take care of yourself and learn how to do many things in a short amount of time (bank account, phone contract, housing, rent, groceries, laundry – literally everything your family might have been doing for you up until now). Although this sounds like a lot at once, it’s actually a good thing. Within the first month abroad you will have learned all of this and will be equipped for the future when you may have to do it all again.
The life of a tourist is worlds away from the life of a local. Becoming a local in a foreign country means you will become familiar with the culture and way of living. It will change your perspective on the world and enable you to broaden the way you think, act and solve problems.
It will also allow you to view your home country in a different light. The customs and beliefs that you are used to can now be viewed from an objective point of view.
- Open Heart and Mind
Exchange students easily learn to become more open-minded. Being confronted by a foreign culture on a daily basis will teach you to understand and accept views different to your own. It teaches you to value and respect differences rather than simply tolerate them. This is an irreplaceable trait to have, even in future when you may be working in an international community where disputes and problems need to be solved beyond borders and cultures.
- Friends Around the Globe
Naturally you will meet people from all around the world, which also means you have even more opportunities to learn about additional countries and cultures and even more reason to travel further (chances of free accommodation are very high – I speak from experience!)
- Discover Yourself
Simply said, exchange is about growth. There will be moments when you are alone, but spending time just by yourself can really allow you to reflect on your character, beliefs, your experiences and what you have learned out of them. In the end, it is this kind of reflection that tends to produce the biggest growth and maturity.
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.