Semester Abroad in Hong Kong

City view of Hong Kong from The Peak

Hi, my name is Debra Cohen. I studied abroad in the spring of 2018 in Hong Kong. It was an experience of a lifetime. I have lived in many different places but nothing quite like HK. When I first decided to go, I was really struggling with all the many decisions I had to make and all the plans I had to figure out.  But if I had known what studying abroad was going to be like, I maybe wouldn’t have stressed and complained so much😊. So, for any of you thinking about studying abroad, I’m going to try and explain my trip as best I can and give some tips to make it a bit less stressful.

Hong Kong is an English-speaking Special Administrative Region of China that was colonized by the English in the early 1900’s. It is located in a cluster of islands in Asia and the city is built into the side of mountains. In the city center there are massive tall sky scrapers and buildings. A wide river (Victoria Harbor) runs between two islands with a ferry to take passengers across.

 

Transportation is very simple between the very efficient MTR, slow but scenic tram, or cheap taxis. I enjoyed taking the double decker tram on days when I wasn’t in a rush and wanted to see the city. Sometimes I would take a good book with me and sit on the upper deck by the back window and chill. I used taxis mostly after going out on the town to LKF.

Now I’m not promoting partying, but Hong Kong is known for it bars and clubs. And what’s more, 18+ can drink out there! So, go but don’t go too crazy. Actually, our apartment had a local bar downstairs from it and we spent a bunch of our time down there and got to know the locals pretty well. If you ever end up there, go check out quench bar in Kennedy town, I believe we made it on the wall 😊.

We lived at unisuites. They are very cute apartments located in Kennedy town just a short metro trip or decent walk to school (LOTS of stairs). I loved our apartment and location compared to some of the dorms. However, the dorms were a quarter of the price and if you lived there you made instant friends, something that was a bit more challenging for us because we were kind of out of it.

About HKU (Hong Kong University). I loved the school. HKU is a very big school with many different faculties. Which means whatever field you go into you will most probably be able to find the classes you need. The classes themselves I found a bit challenging being that I was in the science program but honestly, they are very doable if you put in the work. The teachers are ready to help you and they do give very clear instructions on what they expect of you. My favorite class was lab for organic chemistry. They really expect you to know your stuff and a expect tentative lab report at the beginning of each lab. It is also where I became good friends with my lab group. They have an excellent program for exchange students which is where I made most of my friends. Before the school started, they have different trips set up for the exchange students to meet each other and explore the city and the outer regions. These short trips are some of my fondest memories of Hong Kong. The campus itself is very large and beautiful with lots of study spots and many different restaurants. I spent a lot of time with my friends on the top floor of the arts building on the grass or in the very large library where they had gorgeous views of the city and the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, about the traveling. While studying there I visited a few different surrounding countries. It was always easy to find people to travel with being all the exchange students traveled A LOT. There was one girl I knew who literally just traveled for a month strait. I do not recommend this because missing that much school work was probably not a good idea. My first trip I did was to Cambodia and Thailand. Such beautiful countries. Cambodia was a 2nd/3rd world country while Thailand was a bit more built up in some places.

In Thailand, we stayed in Bangkok first and saw the castles and then went on to Phuket where we got to see the most beautiful islands.

Phuket, Thailand

In Cambodia we went to the temples and at night we went to the night markets. This whole trip cost about $200-300. These Asian countries are so very cheap. For example, our lavish breakfast costed $3. Flights out of Hong Kong are also pretty cheap.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next trip I went on was to Vietnam. It is the most beautiful and underrated country. We biked down the coast for the whole day on motor bike and the views where breathtaking. We went to a small beautiful old village in Hoi Ann and did some shopping. I then parted ways with my friends and stayed in the executive suite of a hotel for the rest of the week for $200! It was finals week and wanted to study in luxury lol.

Vietnam

My last trip I took was to Beijing in Hong Kong. I want to say it was the highlight of my trip, but I really enjoyed every aspect of my journey so it’s hard to choose. I went with an exchange student I met on my trip. We climbed the great wall of china all the way to the end, 20,000 steps! It was not easy. We explored the old city and we went to the summer palace. Beijing was a very interesting city and we mostly took the subway which took us about 1 hour to get home and we had to change 3 trains 3x! stay closer to the center of the city if you plan to go.

Great Wall of China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying abroad is for everyone and anyone who wants to live life to the fullest. It’s an experience like no other. If one cannot do a full semester, they should definitely do the faculty led trips but there is nothing like the full semester study abroad trip. When you live in a country for a whole 5 months you really get to know the place you’re living in. You get a feel for the culture and the history of the city. You are forced to learn your way around and it becomes your home. I can’t wait until I have the chance to go back. I miss it terribly.

 

 

Ciao ragazzi from Italy!

Ciao ragazzi (hi guys)! As cliché as it may sound to say, my study abroad experiences in Florence, Italy has genuinely been an absolutely life changing experience. From gaining the confidence to travel to new places, to learning how to speak a new language, to stepping outside my comfort zone, studying abroad has truly been one of the best decisions I have made to date! Aside from exploring and taking in Florence this semester, I have traveled to so many other incredible places within Italy, including the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Bologna, Rome, Venice, Verona, and so much more! By far, one of my favorite places I have visited was this cute small town within the Tuscany region of Italy called Montepulciano- it was a beautiful hilltop town with delicious food, and some of the nicest people I have ever met! I also took a solo trip to Sicily in October during my school’s fall break, where I had the chance to “find myself” so to speak, gain so much independence and confidence in my abilities to do things on my own, and the opportunity to meet family I had never met before! Outside of Italy, I have also traveled to Paris, Barcelona, and Dublin, and I have one more trip outside of the country to Interlaken, Switzerland planned for this upcoming weekend!

One thing that I have learned from studying abroad that is so valuable is that you only live once, and that life is short, so you should always take every opportunity to experience something new that you can, even if it means making some sacrifices along the way! Do I have days where I miss home or want to hop on the next plane back to the US? Absolutely! But being away from my loved ones is a sacrifice I made to experience so many different places and cultures, and that is completely normal and all apart of the study abroad process; in fact, I’d even argue that it’s somewhat healthy to miss home. Without missing home, you can’t grow or make comparisons between the culture you are so used to, and the new culture you are being immersed in! Plus, whenever you are feeling homesick, your family and friends are only a phone call, video chat, or social media post away- and remember, study abroad only lasts a few months – one year depending on what program you select- think of what a small portion of your life that is in comparison to your whole life that you still have ahead of you! In other words, yes, it can be difficult to be away from loved ones while studying abroad, but it is only temporary and the people that care will always keep in touch, and there’s so many ways to keep everyone at home in the loop, from blogging, social media posts, and online photo albums! Personally, I have been utilizing Google Photos to document my study abroad journey thus far. If you are interested in keeping up to speed with my latest adventures, you can look through my Study Abroad Google Photos album at this link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/F53bJVp2JXtAHT21A

 

So, my advice to you? STUDY ABROAD! You will NOT regret it!

Thanks for reading everyone!

 

Best Regards,

Marisa Bonamassa-Cimino  ’18 (December)

Reflections from Italy

“This trip was my very first trip out of the country.  What really made me sign up was the fact that I would be traveling with classmates and my own professors, whom I feel safe and comfortable with; I believed that having this sense of comfort and security would allow me to stress less and have the opportunity to see so much more than I would be able to if I took this adventure on my own. This was the first time GCU used the CAPA Global Education network, and I believe if it was not for the kind, adventurous, dedicated, and caring representatives that helped us travel, eat, translate, and explore, this trip would not have been the same.  The entire trip, we knew we could depend on the women that traveled with us to get us to our destinations safely and promptly, in addition to finding the best places to eat for our price range, and choose the best museums, churches, and excursions.  Yes, I took over 2,000 photos on this 11-day excursion, but I took photos without even looking most of the time, so that I could take everything in in person, then look back fondly when I got home.  The things only my memory can hold include the richness of the food, like fresh cheese and seafood, the thrill of traveling on standing buses, the view from the highest buildings in the city, the view of the magnificent structures while looking from the ground up, the feeling of being somewhere so different and so awe-inspiring, a feeling I will never forget.”

Kassy Kasternakis ’18

Reflections from Nicaragua

Going into this experience I did not know what to expect. I was feeling so many different emotions. I was scared, excited, anxious, and so much more. When we first arrived, it was late at night after a long day and I was tired. I couldn’t really see what was going on and it looked scary to me. When we got to the rooms I was also feeling very skeptical about everything. It was not what I thought it was going to be. I definitely had a down moment that night and was praying the next day things would get better. It did (: After all the orientations, I had a better understanding on what was going on and that weekend we got to explore the country and have some fun. The lagoon was the best day and my favorite day there. It really was paradise. After having so much fun that weekend, it was time to get to work. I was excited at this point to help in the community and help people in the clinic. We got to go to the pharmacy and many of the medications the people needed were unavailable which was sad. We also got to go to triage, which was a lot of fun. We got through so many patients and I really felt like I was helping out and was able to use my skills to help the nurses and to help the patients get a better experience. We also went to homecare, which was such an eye-opening experience. All of the people let us into their houses and were so welcoming. The houses were so small and in some homes, there were many people in the house. I can’t even explain what the houses looked like, it made me speechless that these people lived on so little. They were so kind and so appreciative of us, it made me feel so good that I was able to do something for them. We also had many days of working hard in construction to build the clinic. We got a lot further than we thought we would, helping the clinic be built faster for them. The only thing that bothered me was how skinny all of the animals were, I wish I could have taken them all home and give them the love they deserve. Speaking of food, I am so happy that I am no longer eating rice (and I don’t like beans so that didn’t help much). It is just a different culture and their priority was to feed themselves and their children instead of the animals. At the dorms, we did not have any TV and there was the bare minimum everywhere, so all of us got very close.  Every night we would sit outside, talk, color and listen to music. I made closer relationships with people and new relationships with those I never knew before. It was so nice going on this trip with such a wonderful group of people that I got to share this experience with. It is hard because there are so many details about the trip that is almost impossible to put it all in words, but it’s great that I have the others that I can talk about the trip with and have those memories together that only we understand. I would do this again in a heartbeat. It was such an amazing trip that people need to experience to understand.

~ Sarah Vallee ’18

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Ciao! I had the privilege of studying abroad in Florence, Italy. From my daily espresso shot in the morning, runs across the Ponte Vecchio, strolls in and out of new museums and luxury fashion stores, mouth-watering cuisine, entertaining nightlife, learning a new language, being awed constantly by the rich architecture and artwork within the city, being fully immersed into a new culture, living in an adorable apartment with roommates from all over the world, and staying in a central location that is easy travel to my next destination is a few of the reasons why I loved studying abroad in Florence. While abroad, I learned how to “adult” and seek opportunities for myself. For example, if you get a full weekend trip at a competitive discount only one hour before departure – pack your bags and run for it! I enjoyed visiting the south to north end of Italy, London for Fashion Week, Munich for Oktoberfest, Greece for some fall break island hopping, Budapest for the history, Austria for their world-famous Christmas markets and “Sound of Music” tour, and Switzerland for the Alps and chocolate of course! Beyond the Italian lifestyle and travels, academically I was challenged and I really enjoyed my Italian professors. Florence easily became my home away from home. The experience I received from studying abroad is rare and I will be talking about my four months in Italy forever. If you choose to study abroad you will find your experience to be one of the most humbling and liberating experiences you will encounter in college. There is no better time to travel and continue your education globally. For now, I will count the days until I’m back in my home away from home or traveling to my next destination…

By : Lisa Milburn ’19  (Studied abroad Fall ’17 in Florence, Italy)

A once in a life time opportunity!

In the Fall semester of 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Australia! This experience exposed me to an amazing culture. It was really awesome to become part of Australia’s life for 4 months. I have a heightened perspective of the world around me, and it helped me realize that the routines I experience everyday in the United States isn’t the end all be all of my life. Australia is a beautiful country/continent and I am so lucky to have lived and studied there for such an extended period of time. I recommend studying abroad 100 percent and I would definitely go again!

-Daniel Smoke ’20 (studied abroad Fall ’17 in Gold Coast, Australia)

Study Abroad Australia, Most Memorable Experience of my Life.

Throughout my semester abroad, I really emerged in the culture and experienced many things that the country had to offer. I went to Australia. I went to an amazing university named Bond University, which was located in Gold Coast, Queensland. Personally, going into this “Last Minute” decision, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. After taking long flight after flight, and adjusting to the time zone, I was in full effect. Living on campus, making friends with people from all over the world, and going out a little too much… I was literally living the dream. I managed to make more friends in Australia than I probably made in the last few years here in the United States. The way they taught classes in Australia was even better than school here, in the U.S.. I passed all of my classes and went to explore some amazing places all over Australia. Sydney, Brisbane, Straddie Island, and dozens of beaches throughout Queensland.  I managed to do everything on my bucket list. If anyone is thinking about studying abroad and they don’t know whether or not that they should, DO IT. This experience was the best I’ve ever had, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I still keep in touch with the friends I made over there on Snapchat and Facebook, and most likely will go back in the future. Australia left me with some amazing friends and memories, and I definitely left Australia with a piece of me.

– Evan Boyce ’19  (studied abroad Fall ’17 in Gold Coast, Australia)