September 23, 2015
I’m going to be honest.
1) I was halfway done writing this blog post when my laptop suddenly shut off, and it didn’t save, so if I seem to be a bit annoyed, it’s because I am.
2) The first few days in Hong Kong were the worst. In addition to being homesick, dealing with the hot weather, and language barrier, I also had to find friends. It was very difficult to start conversations with people… I didn’t know what to say or do. I would tell my friends at home that I was lonely and it was hard for me to make friends here, and they would be surprised because they regard me as a very outgoing person. It may have been because of the new environment, or me having to deal with Drexel finals the first week here (so I had less free time), but I completely disagreed with them. I’ve always regarded myself to be a shy person, and I continue to think that. Going abroad to a completely new place and having to meet new people and make friends was exhausting.
Luckily, though, I was able to make friends (hooray!). CityU has some organizations such as the International Friends Club (IFC) and the English Language Mentoring Scheme (ELMS), which allow people to meet in small groups, which I was able to handle. For people who are shy, do not despair.
The IFC pairs local Hong Kong students with exchange students and aims to help the exchange students adjust to Hong Kong life. This may include hanging out around the city, teaching basic Cantonese, giving tips for living in Hong Kong, and more. I have no idea how often other people are in contact with their buddies, but I’ve been talking to my buddy, Tasha. It’s nice to talk to someone really easygoing, and it’s great that she can answer my random questions (“where can I find dumpling wrappers” and “where can I buy a swimsuit”). Having a local Hong Kong student to talk to is also beneficial because they know all the good eats. The photo included, actually, is from we last hung out at a restaurant. We ate Jenga brick toast with green tea ice cream. It tasted as good as it looks. 🙂
It’s also exciting because she is expected to study abroad, too — what’s more, she will study at Drexel in the upcoming winter term! So right now, she’s giving me tips to live in Hong Kong, and when I get back to the US, I can return the favor.
Something else I’m involved in is ELMS. A mentor is paired up with up to 6 or 7 people, and the mentor is supposed to help the mentees practice their English. It’s great because I am involved with something very similar at Drexel, a club called Worlds Speak Freely. We aim to help international students practice their English using games and casual hangouts around the city. I actually met with my ELMS group today. I have four mentees but have only met three of them , and it was only our second meeting, but I really really really like them! They’re really sweet, and really easy to talk to. Even though we were paired up, we all get along naturally, which is really nice. I really hope that they start to regard ELMS as hanging out with friends every week rather than weekly English practice.
My worries at the beginning (“I’m not going to make friends and I’m going to be ALONE”) were for nothing. I managed to make friends, and I’m really thankful for that. This is a reminder for all you shy study abroad applicants that although the first few days may be hard, you WILL get through it, and you WILL be able to meet amazing people who will value you as a friend. Don’t let your fear of the unknown stop you from exploring another country.