Being in my last few days in Hong Kong has been really tough. Most of my close friends have already and now only I am left, feeling alone in a crowded city. It reminds me a lot of my initial experience here, except that I am no longer new to the city and I no longer get lost (that much). At the least, during this period, I have had the time to reflect on how the last nine months have changed me and believe I can call this experience nothing short of life changing.
Learning to communicate.
Before arriving in Hong Kong, I was skeptical of how I would be able to adapt in a new place where I didn’t speak the native language. Ordering at restaurants by pointing at pictures or haggling with market vendors in broken English and Cantonese have been some of the most eye-opening experiences for me. It’s not until you get out of your comfort zone that you realize that there are many ways to communicate.
Breaking down cultural barriers.
Whether we admit it or not and whether we like it or not, our societies and media imprint certain cultural stereotypes into our minds. Understanding these stereotypes whether negative or positive is something that you only become better at overcoming the more you travel and meet people of various walks of life and are able to form opinions firsthand. Some of my best memories have come from conversations had with my Egyptian, Lithuanian, Filipino and local friends comparing lifestyles, beliefs, religions and languages that have taught me more than most of my university textbooks ever did.
Growing up and meeting inspiration.
I’ve lived on my own before, so that’s not the sort of independence I was lacking, perhaps more so it’s about life experience. Working abroad is very different from studying abroad. It’s no longer pass or fail. You have an obligation to your employer and to the employees you work with to show up on time and be prepared to put in your best effort.
Having the opportunity to work in another country has allowed me to thrive in a new environment but to also adapt to a new way of not only working but living as well. Furthermore, it has allowed me to meet people that have changed me more than anything, people of different backgrounds who each have unique stories to share. Then, there are those certain people that you meet in your life that really make you question yourself and spark a desire in you to be better. For this I am most thankful.
Initially I came to Hong Kong alone but it’s definitely not how I will be leaving. I will be leaving having formed an enormous network of friends all over the world.
While my current experience in Hong Kong has come to an end, I still remain curious and believe I have so much to learn from this place. At the end of these nine months, I'm not only taking suitcases with me but unforgettable memories as well as lifelong friendships and love. Hong Kong has given me so much and for now I believe it my turn to return home and spread this newfound knowledge.