My name is Breanna Thomas and I have recently come back to Southern Cross University after studying a semester abroad at the City University of Hong Kong. Before, during and after my exchange semester had finished I had many people asking me why I wanted to study abroad and why I chose Hong Kong over all other destinations. For me, it was simple; I had never been placed outside of my comfort zone and I wanted to experience something exciting, interesting and new – without having to postpone my studies. After a brief meeting with the international exchange office at SCU Lismore campus I realised I had a lot to think about but I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Before I left Australia I was feeling confident and as though I would have no troubles at all on my journey. However, my first day was less than ideal. I arrived and it was approximately 42 degrees and I wasn’t prepared for how small my room would be. I knew nobody and felt so isolated and alone. But these feelings only lasted until the next morning when I made my first friend and I didn’t have a single negative thought after that moment. I stayed in Hong Kong on student residence for four and a half months and I can easily say it was the best experience of my life.
All within my first week I met people from over 30 different countries and the locals were more than welcoming. We would go on all sorts of adventures together from boat trips in small fishing villages, to hikes, to celebration festivals and everybody was always invited. While Hong Kong is still very much an Asian destination I was still overly surprised to see how Western culture has influenced them and how many expats were living there. My favourite thing to do on my days off were go to small towns with the local friends I made and try all the different street foods – even if I didn’t know what I was eating, everything was delicious! Cantonese is easily the hardest language I have ever tried to learn however lucky for me the vast majority of locals speak at least a small amount of English and everyone is happy to help you learn if you're willing to give it a try.
As far as culture shock goes, I felt more of a shock when I returned home. It took me at least two weeks to feel settled again. I was missing the friends I had made overseas and felt so out of touch with all my friends in Australia. However now all negative feelings have passed and thanks to the world of technology I am still able to keep in contact with all the wonderful people I have met. My semester abroad has opened my eyes to the world around me, made me more understanding and accepting of other cultures and has given me stories I will be able to tell for years to come. If I could recommend anywhere for someone to study abroad it would absolutely be Hong Kong. My only regret is not extending my stay there and I can not fault this destination or the university in the slightest. I am forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to study abroad and encourage everybody to do the same.