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Where Should I Study Abroad?

Meghan McKenna

The success of your semester overseas is about far more than just your destination. Returned student Meghan explains.  

People always ask me, “Why Hong Kong?”

Honestly, I didn't really care where I ended up on my semester abroad. I want to see the entire world and I looked at my exchange as an opportunity to see just a piece of it. Hong Kong seemed like a good hub for exploring Asia, and I saw comfort in the balance between Western and Eastern cultures.

But not every university student enters the exchange application process equally as impartial. Some people set their hearts of studying beachside in Australia or at a prestigious castle-like college in the UK. When their marks only succeed in landing them their second or third choice destination, they opt out of studying abroad all together.

That’s what happened to Amy. Before Amy was my best friend, roommate and go-to-confidant, she was the happy-go-lucky girl on my dorm room floor who wanted to spend a semester abroad in Australia. Fast-forward two years, and Amy’s academic average couldn’t compete against the long list of applicants. This may come as a shock, but there are more Canadians wanting to spend their winters in Australia than there are Australians wanting to spend their summers in Canada.

No amount of prep work will prepare you for the adventures ahead and that’s the great thing about travel.

Amy reluctantly accepted an offer from the University of Leeds. Europe would be cool, but spending six months in England’s overcast interior will always seem bleak when your expectation was to be surfing in saturated sunshine.

I encouraged Amy to hold back her bias and tried to explain that studying abroad is about more than where you are in the world. But in the end, she decided not to bargain her savings on an exchange she was unsure about.

After returning from four months studying in Hong Kong, here’s my best advice on choosing your exchange destination; do your research, but arrive with an open mind. No amount of prep work will prepare you for the adventures ahead and that’s the great thing about travel.

It wasn’t until I finished my exchange that I could explain why I chose Hong Kong. Looking back, I really didn’t understand what I was getting myself into. Had I arrived guarded and hesitant, I might have ended up on the next flight back to Toronto. But, by adopting a tolerant and easygoing attitude, I opened myself to meeting amazing people, learning incredible things, and having a lot of fun. In the end, the hardest thing I faced was heading back home and leaving it all behind.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Meghan McKenna

Meghan McKenna is a media theory and writing student at Ontario’s Western University. Meghan recently returned from a semester of studying with the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong.

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