Which city were you based in?
During my fourth year of my double bachelor's in Business and Law, I studied abroad. I decided to go out of my comfort zone and apply to a university located more than 12 hours away by plane, in Hong Kong. My local university had different exchange program agreements with institutions around the world, so I thought it was a unique opportunity for me because I have always been interested in Asian culture, especially after I started learning Mandarin.
Hong Kong is located in the southeast of China and was a British colony until 1997. Its unique past makes this city a place like no other: a fusion between east and west, even with food, where you can find the most bizarre combinations like Yuānyāng tea (鴛鴦茶), a drink that mixes coffee and tea.
Why did you decide to apply?
Since I started university, I knew that I wanted to study abroad. I believe that living in a foreign country is an eye-opening experience, where you not only discover a new culture and way of life, but also learn many things about yourself. Moreover, I was eager to experience the high-quality education which Hong Kong is known for. The university I attended, City University of Hong Kong, is ranked among the 50 best universities in the world, and even though adapting to a different education and grading system was hard, I could learn a lot from it.
Applying was a tedious process and many documents were required, and when you think that you are done with all the papers because you have been accepted, you then have to take care of more important stuff (student visa, insurance, new phone number, bank account, accommodation...). It is a whole process in which I believe you have to be quite determined.
What did you think about your scholarship placement and what was your life like on a day-to-day basis?
Even though I could have chosen other placements, I have never regretted going to Hong Kong. My daily life was packed with classes, university clubs, social activities, sports, and travelling. Everything was exciting because everything was new. I met people from all around the world, discovered new places, and eventually culture shocks became not so shocking anymore. However, this lifestyle was also truly exhausting. Trying to balance study, social life, and sleep was hard, and I was often sleep-deprived. Nevertheless, completely worth it.
People say that Hong Kong is a cross between the movies ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, and I couldn't agree more. The famous Hong Kongese neon signs mixed with the tropical plants give the city a unique appearance, and I loved going out at night, where the streets were as busy as during the daytime, to see the night lights and stroll around the night markets.
What was the most enjoyable/exciting part of your experience in China?
When I think of Hong Kong I always think about food. It is definitely a city for foodies where you can find cuisines from all over the world: Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican, Thai, Indonesian... You name it, they have it. And of course, the famous dím sām (點心) served for breakfast in steamed bamboo baskets with tea — delicious. As you can tell, I gained weight while I was there, but these were kilograms of happiness, so it did not matter.
Besides eating, hiking became another enjoyable part of my life. In Hong Kong, almost 70% of the territory is parks and nature reserves. So it is not a surprise that hiking is a popular sport among locals. And it is also not a surprise being constantly passed by groups of elderly people who hike faster than you, and make you wonder if they are too fit or you are too out of shape.
What was the most surprising thing you learnt about China and/or yourself?
I learned about the Chinese working culture and how demanding it can be. Hong Kong is a financial hub in Asia; it is a city that constantly moves fast, and you move with it, which is good and bad at the same time. Like other major cities in China, Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps and demands you to be constantly working hard, no matter if you are a worker or a student. For instance, I remember I found myself many times studying at 3am in 24h study-rooms that were fully packed with students. Despite how stressful it could sometimes be, this made me appreciate even more the Chinese culture, with their endurance and hard-working mentality. And it made me push myself as well, proving that many times you are the one who sets your own limits.
How did it help you in achieving your goals?
As a business student, I was able to acquire knowledge about doing business in China, and it also helped me obtain a scholarship to study Mandarin in Taiwan, and later get an internship with a company in Shanghai. Overall, it encouraged me to keep learning Mandarin and explore the world. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I went abroad again, to study in Canada and Taiwan. Right now, I am back home in Spain, but I cannot wait to return to Asia and look for new opportunities, and of course, visit old friends.
Patricia Sanchez Vidal graduated from Law and Business Administration and Management at the University of Barcelona. She also has studied at City University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Dalhousie University (Canada) and National Taiwan Normal University (Taipei). You can find her on LinkedIn here.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not represent the views of European Guanxi.
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