One of the major factors behind a successful study abroad experience is knowing a reason that primarily motivates you to study abroad. Because, if you don’t know why you want to spend an entire semester in a foreign land and a university, it becomes really difficult to make the most out of the opportunity. For some, the primary reason is to explore the culture, while for others it’s the food, and there’s no end to this list. But in this post, I will talk about my motivations to study in Hong Kong (HKUST) and how it’s helping me to make the most out of the opportunities.
Being an international student at Drexel, one of the main reasons that motivated me to choose Hong Kong over all the other options is the dilemma that I had faced while applying for the colleges for undergrad. After a lot of filtering and brainstorming, I was primarily considering a few options in the US and a couple of universities in Hong Kong. The primary motivation to choose the United States was its tech-friendly culture and internship opportunities, whereas I was inclined to the universities in Hong Kong (one of them being HKUST) because of their stellar global rankings in Computer Science. At the end, I picked Drexel over all the other options (I am glad!) because of its exciting co-op experience and decent Computer Science program. After joining Drexel, when I attended a study abroad 101 session, I was immediately sure about spending a semester at HKUST and completely eradicated the US vs Hong Kong dilemma through the experience. And the rest of it goes without saying. I applied to HKUST, got accepted, and here I am.
But what difference does it make to attend a globally well-ranked university? Maybe the professors, classes, and the resources. But, most of all, it’s the opportunity for research. As I was already involved in the undergraduate research at Drexel, I definitely wanted to get involved in a research experience at HKUST. Therefore, as soon as I got accepted for the program, I hunted for professors, looked for their projects, and emailed the one that best matched with my interests. I wasn’t expecting an immediate or positive reply because most of the times professors are really busy or they might not necessarily have ongoing projects to accommodate undergraduate students. Luckily, the professor that I had approached replied to my email and invited me for an interview with his postdoctoral researcher. I was really excited and couldn’t believe it for myself. Yet, I calmed down and prepared well for the big day. Finally, all the hard work payed off, the interview went well, and he offered me a research position over the phone call itself. We discussed a few details about the project that I was supposed to work on and I agreed to get started on it before the official start of the exchange program so that we could do more serious work once I reach there. As per the directions, I tried finishing a lot of work during the summer break, and that really helped me once I reached here. Because of the amount of work I had put in earlier, we were able to immediately get started on the main project and today, I spend equal amount of time in the lab as I do in the classes. Also, I have bonded really well with the professor and other PhD students in his lab. Believe me, it isn’t an additional stress or burden. In fact, I am loving what I am currently working on and it feels amazing to have discovered what you like. More importantly, the network I have built here with the professor and his PhD students will help me to stay connected with the university and do remote research even when I’ll return to Drexel.
This is one of the best examples of how my clear motive behind studying abroad helped me to make the best out of the opportunity. Definitely, as study abroad is meant to be a fun experience, I wouldn’t suggest spending all your time in the university doing research or for any other reason. It’s equally important to get involved in the local community and explore the unknown country that you are spending time in. But it’s always useful to strengthen your global network and get involved in the things that might be really useful for your career in the long run.