|Live and Study Abroad • Hong Kong
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Tips for you to make the most of your overseas experience; and to overcome challenge and hardship (You may also want to refer to similar tips for outgoing people from HK)
First of all, you should tell yourself you have made the biggest step by stepping out of your comfort zone and decided to move to a different country where everything IS DIFFERENT from the world you know. So no matter what kind of challenge and hardship you will be facing in the next few months or years; you will be able to overcome it! Don't let the small drawback or tiny obstacle to stop you and affect you. Even the track for sportscars or racing horses is not 100% even. The path leading us to our success is full of surprises and that is why life is exciting. Be prepared for it and also be confident that you can do it; you will arrive to the finish point one day.
Before we go any further...
How can you make the most of your experience
Now, let's do some assignment. Take out a paper (or open a writing program) and answer all the questions I have for you below. You may want to write it down because it will be very useful and meaningful for you to refer to them later; not only during your life abroad, but also when you return and after.
Why do you want to live / study abroad?
Yes, what makes you to make such a big move?
Are there any people involving in your decision making process?
Why are you going to HK?
Why do you think HK can realize your goals?
Why are these goals important to you?
What do you think a successful living / studying abroad experience is?
What are the difficulties you are expecting (please don't tell me you are not expecting any)? How are you going to solve them?
What are the things that you think you will be excited about?
Have you been to overseas before? Did you enjoy it, or how did you overcome your problem there?
Have you live with a roommate before? Moreover, were you guys staying in a small place?
How do you deal with people misunderstand about you?
How do you deal with people who are different from you?
Understanding about Yourself
What is 'your nationality' (American, Japanese, German...) ?
What do you think people in HK think of people of your nationality and your country?
And who are you? How would you describe yourself? Are you comfortable to describe it to people you meet the first time?
Are you comfortable to talk about your religion, education, political view, society?
What is the popular culture there? Sports, music, movies, etc.. what people do in their leisure time?
Understanding about the Destination
What is the political system of HK?
What about the economy, education, history, geography, food, life, religion, sports...there?
Do you know the native language? Are you going to learn a few words before you go?
While You are Abroad
What are the things that you like about HK?
What are the things you don't like?
Are these things you have expected during the planning stage?
How do you feel as a foreigner here?
Do you think the locals treat you like a foreigner? Why is that?
And what do you mean the locals treat you like a foreigner? What have they do?
Do you think locals understand your culture correctly?
What are the similarity and difference they have on your culture as referred to the things you wrote down during the planning stage?
Why do think there are differences? Do you think you or your country can or should change them? How?
Or honestly, do you hang out with locals at all? If not, why?
What do you think are the differences between local culture and your culture?
Have your living style been changed and how?
Do you like any of these changes? Why and why not?
Do you think you are having a better life here than at home?
Do you miss home and what do you miss about?
Do you consider you have immersed with the local culture? Or you still feel dis-connected?
What does your daily life look like now? Is that what you were thinking of during the planning stage?
Are you still keeping up with things happening at home?
Are you achieving any of your goals? If not, what you can do to help with the situation?
If you are going home soon, how would you tell your friends in HK and what would you do with them before you leave?
Going back Home
What are the goals you have achieved?
Why are there goals that you could not achieve? Is it because they were made on your misunderstanding of HK during the planning stage; or you have not tried hard enough?
Have you achieved anything that you did not plan for?
Would you have a different plan if you could start it all over again?
Have the lives of your family or friends changed much after you come home?
What do they think about your experience overseas and the new you?
Do you consider you have become a new you?
How does it feel being home again? Are you excited that you can go to your famous restaurant again?
Are you missing your life in HK? What are the things you miss?
Have you adopted any new lifestyle that you got in HK back home?
Do you want to go back to HK?
Have you changed any of your perceptions about your culture and your country? Are you going to change your family and friends?
Have you changed any of your perceptions about HK; and are you going to change your family and friends as well?
Congratulations on finishing the assignment! You know what, now you can make good use of all your answers and produce a personal journal; which you can share it with your family and friends or even with people across your country. So that more people can be benefited from intercultural understanding; and our world will become a better place!
If you have missed the orientation
Contact the student / international office. The staff there will probably give you a personal-condensed orientation / tour. Don't just sit in your room and worried. It sucks enough already when you have missed the chance and know nobody in the new place. It is even worse when you have problem just finding your classroom on your first day.
Buying books, computer, software...
Always check for student discount.
Prepare for the un-prepared
Yes, it is a dream comes true that you will be going to another country for a significant period of time, but not all dreams are sweet. Especially if you have not think thoroughly and nightmare will hit you anytime because you are not guarded from careful thinking.
Keep in your mind that these things may happen at anytime while you are abroad, and it is absolutely normal:
You will become emotional
You will suffer from homesickness
You will not get along with your roommates
It takes time for you to find your place and you have to work hard to get there
Your long-distance relationship will not work
It is hotter / colder than you think
If things REALLY don't work out (you are not safe in the school / country, your grades drop and you and your teacher can't find a way for your to bounce back, etc.), it may be time for you to consider to go to another school or go home. It is another hard decision to make, but don't hesitate to make it if it is necessary. Just remember to talk to the professor, parents and friends to understand your problem better before you make the decision.
Living in the Dorm / Hostel
It is almost 99% that you won't have a choice or have limited choices which dorm you will stay in school in HK. The best way to deal with it is keeping an open mind. If you are open and friendly, every dorm will become the funniest dorm on campus.
As you may know HK is a small place and living density is high. So the student village you will be living in may be more populated than your entire hometown. The good thing is you can meet people and make new friends easily. There is always something happening inside the buildings.
Hostel space is limited in HK so rooms are always full 365 days a year which makes early check-in basically impossible. Usually the schools in HK will allow you to arrive one week before school starts. If you live off campus, perhaps you may negotiate with your landlord.
If you are arriving with your parents, they may do something accidentally embarrass you. Talk to them instead of making it a big deal. Just remember they are about to say goodbye to you, it is normal that they may act strange.
If you know the contact information of your roommates before moving in, try to contact them and plan for what to bring or how to decorate your room together. So that you all can save some effort from bringing similar things. After all, it is always a good thing to say hello before you meet each other.
Things you may ask each other before you meet or at the first time you meet:
What are your hobbies and interests?
How was your high school?
Have you ever shared a bedroom with someone before (not when you travel and stay in a hotel)?
Where are you from and how is it like?
What are the things you don't like to be asked?
What are you going to study in this school and what are you looking for?
Are you planning to do any sports or join any club?
What is your lifestyle, as the sleeping times, habits, etc.?
You prefer verbal communication or we can put up a message board?
Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, will they come visit you (often)?
The Roommates' Bill of Rights (The College Dorm Survival Guide)
Clean living quarters mutually
Personal safety and security of possessions
Comfortable sleep and study conditions
To be asked before their possessions are used
Stay true to their own values
To agree to disagree
Access to residence staff
Comfortable in their own living space
Respect each other and each other's privacy
Communicate openly with each other and discuss potential conflicts before they get out of hand
Keep living space neat and clean
Maintain each other's safety
Maintain a comfortable environment for sleep and study purposes
Compromise as appropriate
Abide all residence hall rules and regulations
To make friends in the dorm:
Keep your door open when you are inside
Or simply take the lead, organize some activities for your neighbors
If you wanna see a movie or play video games, organize a movie night or tournament instead
Be friendly and smile all the times
Let everyone know your name and your face by putting a picture and a message board on the door
Stop using IM or Email if you just want to talk to the guy or girl next door (few doors away)
Take up a job in the dorm if there is something available, or ask for permission to create one such as, recycling campaign director, hall newsletter organizer, language exchange partner.
Talking to the locals in your dorm:
Ask what are the upcoming holidays and what they will do
Ask about the meaning of their names
Ask them about the country
Ask them what they are making if they are cooking in the kitchen
Ask them to teach you a few words in their native language
It is time to check-out
Know about all the check-out procedure and be a responsible resident one last time
Clean your room
Donate things that you don't need and won't take home
Take pictures of your dorm, roommates and friends
Sign a memory book
Make a dorm-alumni group
Make a dorm / floor T-shirt
Say goodbye to everyone!
No matter how strong and out-going you are, you will be hit by homesickness at some point. Especially when thing doesn't go very well. Homesickness does not only refer to your 'home'. It can be things you are familiar with, people you have met, and the environment you are used to. Therefore, even if you do not have a close relationship with your home, you will still hit by homesickness.
However, it also means that it is a very common thing happens when people travel overseas. It is not because you are weak or you are in bad luck that homesickness only hits you. It doesn't. It hits everyone.
Talk to your friends and family at home; be brave to tell them you are homesick. Once you have let it out, you will feel better. Also talk to your new friends. They are right there now so they can lend their shoulders to you. Talk to other international students as well. They are probably on the same boat so you can comfort and support each other.
Try to connect to something that makes you feel like home; like watching a soccer or basketball game, have a meal of your country's style, join the local expats club, etc.. Otherwise, try to develop new hobbies and interests. Learn how to play Chinese Chess or Mahjong, watch some HK movies, etc..
When you pack, remember to bring some pictures of your home, family, friends, pets and anything that attached to your life with you. Songs that you always listen to, TV shows and movies, etc. They will remind you that you have people supporting you from home and they are happy to see you have the chance to explore the world.
As mentioned in the other parts of the Website, you should expect you may have problem with your roommates. Especially when you come to HK, student rooms are small and your roommates are very likely growing up in a totally different culture. Not only you should expect you may have problem with your roommates; you should also never expect you and your roommates can become very good friends; or they will be very happy to have an international student as their roommate. They are just ordinary people like you. They just hope to have a reasonable roommate to share the tiny space together and who will respect each other.
If you can expect that you will have problem with your roommates, you will be able to deal with it; and be happy when it does not turn out as bad as you think.
Hostel life is decided in such a way that we become mature through conflicts. We learn how to work with other people first by pissing them off. It is a series of destruction and re-construction process; but it doesn't mean everyone has to go through this. Now you know it is very easy to have problem with your roommates, you should be smart enough to avoid it.
Talk to your roommates and tell each other what you like and you don't like. Set up rules and make sure you will observe them. If you guys can be open and talk about everything at the beginning, you may never have any problems with each other at all. Only if your roommates are unreasonable people, then you will need to seek help from the school.
Last but not least, you may have found out a lot of things from his or her Facebook, Twitter, Instalgram, etc., before you actually meet him or her; but don't jump into conclusion until you have actually met him or her; and most importantly, talked to him or her.
Get involved as much as possible
But at the same time, make good time management. As you are coming to explore and everything is so new and interesting to you; try your best to engage in every opportunity offered. Meet as many local people as you can and then decide who you will keep hanging out with later. Participate in all the cultural and social activities at the beginning which enable you to try and decide what interests you the most. Don't use any excuse to reject anything at first.
Do something different from what you will do at home everyday. If you have toast for breakfast at home, try having congee or dim sum. I am sure you will say it is unbelievable that people have congee or pasta for breakfast; but why couldn't they? And are you dare to try it; or are you afraid you will like it after?
"Break some bones!" Yes, it is a phrase I heard when I broke my nose at 7 years old. I didn't cry at all; still my teacher said I should be proud of myself because now I have become smarter. I knew how to avoid falling from a tree and broke my nose again. I am not trying to tell people to become careless and act stupidly; but sometimes you have to take a risk in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes you may fail and get hurt; but you won't die (unless you are really acting stupidly). Instead, you become stronger and you will be able to succeed in your second try.
HK is a safe place. Feel free to take the train and get off at a random station. Explore the area and watch the people's activity there. Do it again and again. As long as you are still in the urban area you should be able to find your way home.
There are over 80 stops on the MTR service; not just Central, Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui. Also there are thousands of restaurants in HK, not just McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.
That said, don't forget to get involved in school which is the easiest place to get involved! Join some clubs and you may as well know the staff advisors of the clubs. If you are an exchange student, your professor may not have chance to know you a lot. Joining a club will be a good chance to know some teaching staff in school. They may be great resources for you to find internship or job later in this foreign country later.
Just don't over-involve, you also need time to go to class, do homework and study!
Things I can do (or Parents / Teachers can do to help young people) if I cannot go live / study abroad
Learn a different language
Language plays a major part in forming a particular culture. It is one of the key identities of a unique culture. If you go to learn a new language, not only you will be able to explore some new language structure, but also new form of writing, sometimes new alphabets, characters, symbols, etc. Besides, you will also know about the culture, the daily life, the traditions, the food, the literature of the people and speak in that language.
When you go to learn a new language, the teacher is usually a native speaker and a native from the region where the language is spoken. He or she will be a very good source of information every time you have question about that particular culture; and you should ask him or her a lot of questions so that you will know more and more about that culture.
Once you have reached a basic level of using the new language, it will further open you to a wider resource and opportunity in understanding that culture. You will be able to listen to songs and watch movies in that language and about that culture. You may also have chance to meet and talk to more and more people of that cultural background. So once you have mastered a new language, you are already half-way abroad.
Encourage your parents, teachers, schools or organizations to think globally
Not everyone can go live / study abroad so we should do as much as possible to provide opportunities to help them to contact and understand the rest of the world. You can raise the following in a class / staff meeting next time:
Suggest to organize assignments, trips, studies which include other cultures. Ask students to find out how people in different parts of the world celebrate New Year; not only in your country for example. Take students to see a Chinese Opera instead of Broadway Musical sometimes. Organize food gatherings of different cuisines for your staff activities.
Give a world atlas (or ask your parents / teachers to get one) to your students or children; and read with them from time to time. Even better, get a world almanac. Ask them to make presentations of different cultures / countries.
Involve in charity work or activity regards international concern
Charity work and movement related to global issues will enable you to know more about what is happening in other parts of the world; and may also give you the opportunity to meet people from other countries. In this globalized 21st Century, there is no more excuse for anyone, especially young people, to have zero idea about what is going on around the globe.
Support the international section of your school or organization
If you are a student, join the international society and work for the international office, to organize activities for international students and become friends with them. Support them in getting-used to the new environment and begin 'cultural exchange at home' together. If your school has a decent number of international student, it will enable you to 'travel around the world and have contact with all the cultures in the world' even without boarding the plane and spending a nickel. You will also have friendship from around the world which you can continue even after you finish school. Your friends from around the world will update with you things happening in their countries and become a source of information if you decide to visit their countries later.
If there are overseas colleagues in your organization, be-friend with them, be a good host and learn about their cultures.
August, 2017 (Version 6.0);
since January 01, 2007
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